PORTLAND, Ore. – A single-story, 92-year-old home on a large lot in the Eastmoreland neighborhood is slated for demolition to be replaced by multiple houses, seemingly counter to the area’s zoning but allowed by city regulations regarding underlying lot lines.
The house, located at 3738 SE Nehalem St., was built in 1923 and sits on a 7,500-square-foot lot. It is 630 square feet in size and is built on a brick foundation, according to city records. City and county records indicate the property is owned by Anita Ferron and has been since 1998.
Adjacent to the house is a large garden on the property.
On April 29 the city received an application for demolition of the 92-year-old house. The contractor is listed as Renaissance Custom Homes, registered to Randal Sebastian at 16771 Boones Ferry Road in Lake Oswego. The applicant is Kevin Partain of Urban Visions.
In place of the house, the developer plans to build multiple new units.
The property is located within an R5 zone, which dictates a maximum density of one residential unit per 5,000 square feet in future land divisions.
To determine whether a lot can be divided, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability provides an equation: take the square footage of the site (7,500 in this case) and divide it by the maximum allowed density (5,000), which produces 1.5 for the Nehalem Street property. In this case the rule is to round down, the BPS explains, meaning this property cannot be divided while adhering to maximum density requirements.
However, none of that applies with the Nehalem Street project as the developer is not applying for a new land division but rather to reopen “lots of record,” lot lines that have existed for decades on record underneath the current platted 7,500-square-foot lot.
These underlying lots are, provided they were originally platted prior to July 26, 1979, grandfathered into the regulations and mean there can be development on lots that are smaller than the now-minimum size requirements within a particular zone.
On May 19 the city received a public registry application on the Nehalem Street property to “re-establish line between lots 7 & 8 and shift line to the west.”
These underlying lot lines are visible on the explorer feature of PortlandMaps.
Re-establishing those underlying lines would divide the property into the historically platted three equal 2,500-square-foot lots. If the current 7,500-square-foot lot had been vacant for more than five years, the developer could build on each of those three lots (2,400 square feet would be the minimum required space in that case).
But, as per Zoning Code 33.110.212, because the current lot has a house on it the reopened lots of record must be at least 3,000 square feet in size (essentially, there is a five-year moratorium on utilizing some of the allowed underlying lot uses if a house must be demolished). This is likely why the developer has applied to move the line between lots 7 and 8 to the west, effectively splitting the property into what could potentially become two roughly 3,750-square-foot parcels.
On May 19 the city received applications for construction of two new houses on the property, each a two-story house with an attached garage. The demolition delay of the single-story 1923 home expires June 4.
The underlying lot regulations, which effectively and legally circumvent established zoning regulations that new land divisions must adhere to, are likely to be utilized at another upcoming Eastmoreland demolition by the same applicant and contractor as the Nehalem Street project.