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Commonly Asked Questions from Neighbors

Below are the most commonly asked land use and transportation-related questions I get from neighbors in the SE Uplift community. Review your question and answer and contact SE Uplift if you still have questions or want to discuss your inquiry further. 

Most trees require a permit for removing. Larger tress may even have strict restricts or large fees. To better understand your tree, go to the Urban Forestry’s website for information on tree removal or trimming.  https://www.portlandoregon.gov/trees/60087

Yes, please do! Portland is working hard to expand its urban forest, given the many benefits trees provide. The City even offers free or subsidized trees through a number of City programs and through partnerships with non-profit organizations like Friends of Trees. 

Trees contribute to bio diversity, reduce the need for stormwater infrastructure, clean air, can help slow traffic, reduce the heat island effect and create beautiful places to be in. It’s no surprise the city would encourage planting of trees. Go to the Urban Forestry’s website for information about tree planting. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/trees/60087

Friends of Trees is an amazing local organization that offers heavily discounted trees and even plants them for neighbors! Learn more on their website here

Once an application for demolition is submitted to Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS) there is an automatic 35-day delay before a permit is issued. If you live within 150 fee of the demolition site, you should get a notification letter from BDS within 5-7 days after the application date. If proper notification doesn’t occur, contact BDS at 503.823.7300 and record a complaint of noncompliance. For information on permits issued on properties, visit www.portlandmaps.com and either click on the “permits/cases tab” or go to the “gallery” and select “Residential Demolitions” for a map of all in the city. 

Additionally, the City requires most residential structures build in or before 1940 to be deconstructed instead of mechanically demolished. This allows for reuse of some materials and better abatement of toxic building materials. Learn more here: www.portland.gov/bps/decon/deconstruction-requirements

During the 35-day delay period teh demolition contractor must perfor asbestos and lead-based paint surveys. You can ask the contractor to show you the results of the surveys. If results are not made available, you may call BDS to file a complaint. You can also contact OSHA (responsible for worker safety at sites) at 503.229.5910 and Construction Contractors Board (CCB) at 503.934.2229 and ask for immediate resolution of noncompliance and that surveys be completed and made available. 

If surveys show presents of either lead or asbestos, you may ask for the abatement plans. If the owner/contractor does not comply, follow the same path as for surveys, including calling OSHA and CCB. You may also contact the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at 503.229.5982 for confirmation of asbestos abatement notices and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) at 971.673.0440 for confirmation of lead abatement notices. If abatement is not registered at either agency, ask for an immediate hold on permit issuance by BDS until hazardous materials issues are resolved. 

The best way to protect yourself during a neighboring demolition is to determine whether the home or duplex will be deconstructed or mechanically demolished. Deconstruction of structures prevents toxins from being released in the air unlike mechanical demolition. If the structure will be demolished you should get a notice at lease 5 days before any demolition activity. Notice BDS if this does not occur. Cover all vegetable gardens and children’s play equipment with plastic and close all windows and doors within 300 feet of the site.  If the structure and debris are not kept wet by the contractor to minimize dust. If you have severe health conditions, you may choose to leave the property during the demolition if possible. 

For more information, review the “what are my rights” in the tab above. 

The best way to prevent the demolition of a culturally or historically significant structure in your neighborhood, is to know your neighbors and make your neighbor(s) aware that you (or someone you know) is interested in buying the property if they ever wanted to sell. People sell their homes for a variety of reasons, as is their right. However, knowing your neighbors and making your interests clear can be the most effective way to stop the sell to a third party who plans to demolish it.

If you become aware of a pending demolition by a mailed notice, word or mouth, or by going onto Portlandmaps.com and viewing demolition permits in the “gallery” section. Individuals and groups can also potentially stop a demolition once a permit has been issued by appealing it using the process described on the demolition notices. The appeal process costs money and requires justification for saving the structure. Ultimately, someone will need to purchase the home from the current owner and market rate. This is possible, and has happened, but it’s a challenge.  

Development happens at varying scale throughout our neighborhoods. Small alterations 

Larger developments will trigger the City’s Neighborhood Contact requirements which, depending on the size of the project, may involve:

  • Notifying the neighborhood association, district coalition, business association and school district of the project;
  • Posting a sign on the site; and
  • Holding a public meeting.

Information about the project will be displayed on the large sign posted on the property. You are free to contact the developer to ask questions, or find out if/when a public meeting is scheduled so you may provide constructive feedback and ask questions about the project. Keep in mind, development is allowed (by right) in many cases so the more respectful your communication and requests, AND, the earlier you are able to connect with the developer/builder, the more likely your considerations may be incorporated into the design and build. 

It’s also important to know that the neighborhood contact process occurs BEFORE the formal application process starts with the Bureau of Development services, so if you contact BDS with questions, they may not have information about this project. More information here

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is responsible for planning, building, managing and maintaining an effective and safe transportation system that provides people and businesses access and mobility at the local level. Most roadways, sidwalks and parkways in our neighborhoods are owned by PBOT. More information here

TriMet is the regional transportation agency that builds, manages, and maintains regional transit facilities like our light rail and bus systems. They are responsible for operations of our transit system and any associated facilities. More here. TriMet builds and operates the regional system that is planned and approved by Metro. 

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is responsible for planning, building, managing and maintaining our state-wide transportation facilities. Some of the major roads traveling through Portland are actually owned by ODOT (e.g. Powell Blvd. and 82nd Avenue). More information here

Each agency works independently and collaboratively to manage our transportation system. Understanding what agency has ownership over the roadway, sidewalk, or facility you are interested in is important since each has its own set of rules, priorities, decision-makers, and funding streams. 

You can go to www.portlandmaps.com and type in any address to understand the current allowed uses for a property. The zoning description for your property is just a starting point. There may be unique characteristics about the property that might further restrict what you can do, such as your lot is a bit smaller than 5,000 sq.ft., it’s within a Historic District, or there are large trees on the site. These may require further investigation. 

You can call the Bureau of Development Services Zoning Hotline to ask property-specific questions at 503-823-7526. They can also be reached via email using the BDS Web Mailbox or bds@portlandoregon.gov. This is a good resource for general zoning and property information or process related questions.

The best way to connect with your Neighborhood Association or Coalition District is to go to their website and connect via the means they have identified. Most are eager to connect with neighbors and will respond with in the week. If you are not hearing back, it’s likely these amazing volunteers are short-handed. In that case, call or email your Coalition Office to determine the best way to connect with a Neighborhood Association. 

The Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) is Oregon’s only statewide, grassroots, tenant-controlled, tenant-rights organization that educates, organizes and develops the leadership of low-income tenants. CAT is a phenomenal organization for renters with questions about your rights. But they are also a great organization to get involved with if you are a social-justice minded individual or group who wants to support tenants. https://www.oregoncat.org/

CAT has been involved in a number of recent city and state-wide tenant protection efforts such as placing a cap on the amount of rent increases that can happen annually, ending no-cause evictions, and protecting tenants against unfair screening and security deposit practices. 

The Portland Housing Bureau provides local and statewide resources for landlords and tenants. Find tools, links, and agencies you can contact for help on their website here

The best way to stay in tune on specific projects or topics of interest is by signing up for each projects “listserv”. This can be done by searching the project and adding your name to the list on the project page.

A monthly snapshot of land use planning work going on in your neighborhood is updated monthly and available on the BPS News site here. 

Land Use & Transportation Development Resources

Portland Maps: View maps from the City of Portland with zoning, permit, and demographic information about crime, schools, parks, properties, transportation, the environment and more. 

Portland Map App: Future plans and policy that impact land use. Projects are typically under review and public can make comments through this site during open comment periods.

Next Portland: Writes about large projects and major alterations happening in Portland that are in the design phase or under construction. 

Other Resources: Explore other resources available to our Land Use & Transportation Representatives. Nerd out here! 

We are here to help

Questions, concerns related to land use decision, Bureau meetings, notices, planning efforts, demolitions? Contact the Neighborhood Planning Program Manager: Leah Fisher, leahf@seuplift.org (503) 232-0010 ext. 313.