An Exchange with Mayor Hales’ Office re “Lots of Record” and “Lot Remnants”

…per Bob Schlesinger’s “Take Action” page on FixPortlandZoning.com.  I was having trouble putting this up on Facebook, so I figured I’d put it on the blog-page for the Fight site, and it would appear!!


——– Forwarded Message ——–

Subject: RE: Portland Residents Demand that the city fix its obsolete and broken zoning regulations!!=FOLLOW UP
Date: Tue, 7 Jul 2015 21:56:08 +0000
From: Reyes, Cindy <Cindy.Reyes@portlandoregon.gov>
To: Steve Keller <styve61@gmail.com>
CC: Hales, Mayor <mayorcharliehales@portlandoregon.gov>

Steve,

Thank you for your email to Mayor Hales’ office. I am responding on his behalf.

As the Mayor mentioned during his State of the City address,  keeping great neighborhoods great and extending the benefits of livable urbanism to more of our city neighborhoods is one of his priorities. Despite the workload presented by the many ongoing planning efforts such as the Comprehensive Plan Update and Central City Plan, the Mayor has instructed the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to begin an update to the City’s development standards. That work is currently underway and is included in the FY 2015- 2016 budget to complete the project in an expedited manner. This project will be a large undertaking with many opportunities for public input. We welcome that input to aid our work.

Please know your concerns have been noted.

Best,

Cindy Reyes
Constituent Services Specialist
Office of Mayor Charlie Hales
P: 503-823-4120
E: cindy.reyes@portlandoregon.gov

www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor
————-

From: Steve Keller [mailto:styve61@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2015 4:52 PM
To: Hales, Mayor; Commissioner Fritz; Commissioner Saltzman; Commissioner Fish; Novick, Steve
Subject: Portland Residents Demand that the city fix its obsolete and broken zoning regulations!!
————-

Hello Mayor Hales and City Council members,

There is a new site up that recommends a very practical approach to addressing the rampant demo-development that has take Portland by storm in the past five years, and it is http://www.fixportlandzoning.com/.  The lax enforcement of land-use regulations must cease, now, because “all Portland neighborhoods are now under siege by a growing number of reckless developers who have learned how to game the system to maximize profits.”  The site is another valuable resource for residents concerned about the destruction of the Portland they know and love.  In offering some very simple changes to the zoning code, the site can also be a valuable resource for local government officials, who hopefully recognize and exalt in their responsibility to protect Portland neighborhoods and districts from greedy developers, and other players (permit-expeditors, contractors, banks, excavators, et.al.), intent on razing as many properties, to put up McMansions that cost 2-4 times what the former houses cost, simply to pad their pockets, giving nothing back to the city.

Rather than rephrase the great content on the site, I urge you all to read every page, and to consider the simple steps that need to be taken immediately, to curtail this wholesale destruction of the city of Portland.  A key page, on the proposed solutions is here…

Below are details of the steps the Portland City Council should take immediately to curtail the most serious abuses in citywide residential single dwelling redevelopment.

Remove All “Lot of Record” and “Lot Remnant” References

There are 21 references to the term “lots of record”,  7 references to the singular “lot of record”,  9 references to “lot remnants”, and 14 references to the singular “lot remnant” in Title 33.110 Single-Dwelling Zones in the Zoning Code.  All of these terms should be removed as well as the phrase “or combinations thereof” when they reference the above terms.

The term Lot” is defined in Title 33.910 Definitions as follows:

A lot is a legally defined piece of land other than a tract that is the result of a land division. This definition includes the State definition of both lot, (result of subdividing), and parcel, (result of partitioning)

The term Lot of Recordis then defined as follows:

A lot of record is a plot of land:
• Which was not created through an approved subdivision or partition;
• Which was created and recorded before July 26, 1979; and
• For which the deed, or other instrument dividing the land, is recorded with the appropriate county recorder. 

Since a lot of record was not created through an approved subdivision or partition, it is not a legal lot by definition.  It has no place in the zoning code.

Lot of Record is perhaps the single most destructive term in Portland’s single dwelling zoning regulations.   It has directly spawned the out-of-control epidemic in demolitions by allowing lots to be divided without regard to the intent of the neighborhood zoning in place.

The term “Lot Remnant” is not far behind.  A lot remnant is defined to be a portion of a lot that has 50% or less of the area of the original platted lot, created after a lot line adjustment.   This term also has no place in the Zoning Code.   Building on a stand-alone lot remnant should only be possible if the remnant meets the qualifications of any full lot in that residential zone.   For example, if a remnant in an R5 zone is 5000 sq ft or larger, only then should it qualify for building a dwelling.   In that case, it does not need to be mentioned in the Code as a special case.  No special treatment for pieces of a lot !

Insure Scale of Houses Fit Their Neighborhoods – An Easy Formula

The spacing, size, footprint and style of houses in Portland varies considerably, by neighborhood, and even within neighborhoods. Achieving a definition of what is compatible with neighboring properties will require careful study and input from numerous sources.   The current minimal size, setback, and footprint regulations do nothing to address these issues properly.

Meanwhile, buildings that clearly do not fit their surroundings continue to be approved, resulting in overall degradation of each and every neighborhood.

There is a very simple solution that will work, at least until these issues can be thoroughly vetted.    A formula that averages measurements of height and scale to lot dimensions of existing houses on the city block where development is proposed can be used to specify requirements.   It is not unwieldy to measure the required parameters in a small region like a single city block, and then average them.

We will publish actual details of a suggested formula here soon and list the sections of the Zoning Code it should replace. Stay tuned.

Truth in Zoning.   No Exceptions for Minimum Lot Sizes

Zoning designations in the city code must be clear and understandable without having to search through the forest of exceptions, related sections, alternative sections, and so on in the Zoning Code.  The best way to do this is to eliminate all references that do not conform to the standard base R Zone minimum lot size definitions, which, without exception should be:

Residential 20,000 sq ft    R20
Residential 10,000 sq ft    R10
Residential  7.000  sq ft    R7
Residential  5,000  sq ft    R5
Residential  2,500  sq ft    R2.5

Let me get this off to you before 5p, in the hope that you might catch it on the way out of the office, and consider it over the weekend.  I would recommend driving all around your neighborhoods, or those wherever your weekend activities take you, and look at the changes being forced on neighborhoods of single-family residences.  Please also visit my Fight site (linked below) and there are a number of other resources with links in the sidebar that will provide a quick education in the perils the city faces.

Thank you,

Steve Keller
Fight Portland Demo-Development!!