By: Leah Fisher, Neighborhood Planning Program Manager
Every wonder why the city grows and changes in the way it does? Why certain building size and uses like retail or industrial end up in one part of the city and not the other? Are you familiar with Comprehensive Plans? Comprehensive Plans are policy documents that shape where and how a city grows – you may already know the City of Portland has recently updated its Comprehensive Plan. After years of blood, sweat, and yes, even tears, the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, second in history for the City of Portland, will go into effect May 24th, 2018 at 1pm!
Why should you care? Well, if you care about city-wide issues like equity, climate change, infrastructure investment, and housing affordability you may care about the policy that is driving these decisions and how those decisions were made. Or maybe you care what you can do with your own property, whether a coffee shop can open up around the corner from you, or where new employment opportunities or parks will be available in the future. These too are guided by the Comprehensive Plan, land use map, and associated zoning updates that work to implement the vision of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan (Plan).
Do we have your attention yet? Whether or not you think Portland’s Plan is the bee’s knees or just another stack of paper on the shelf at city hall, it will absolutely impact everyone in some way. And in a city changing as rapidly as Portland, with an anticipated influx of 260,000 new residents and 140,000 new jobs by 2035, we are more likely to see its impact sooner than later.
In all, the process that led us to May 24th’s effective date is the outcome of eight years of work starting with The Portland Plan and transitioning into four years of comprehensive planning and outreach work conducted primarily by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability with the support of all bureaus, city leaders, community members, and other stakeholders. City Council adopted the plan December 2016 and it’s been in review by the State of Oregon until now. To learn more about the legislative process the Plan went through, read this 2017 SE Uplift article.
To dive into the background, the planned transition from the 1980 Comprehensive Plan to the updated Plan, associated projects, and the 2035 Comprehensive Plan itself, go here. If you are interested in exploring changes to land use and zoning on your property or city-wide in a more interactive way, visit the City’s Map App (see “Zoning Map” to view all zoning, and “Zoning Map Changes” to see changes only). The Map App also includes interactive maps for related Early Implementation projects and follow-up projects that will ensure the Plan is implemented smoothly.
Still have Questions? Maybe we can answer those below, or feel free to contact Leah Fisher at SE Uplift by phone or email.
Q. I still don’t understand what a Comprehensive Plan is.
A. Comprehensive planning is a process that determines community goals and aspirations in terms of community development. The result is called a comprehensive plan and both expresses and regulates public policies on transportation, utilities, land use, recreation, and housing. Comprehensive plans typically encompass large geographical areas (like a city or county), a broad range of topics, and cover a long-term time horizon – typically 20 years or longer. The process and required content of this plan is regulated by the state in which it resides (i.e. State of Oregon). While there are basic requirements outlined by the state, a city may go above and beyond those requirements, as Portland has done in its 2035 Comprehensive Plan.
To learn more about Oregon’s requirements, go here. To learn more about Portland’s Comprehensive Planning process read a couple previous SE Uplift articles that cover the 2035 Comprehensive Plan in this 2015 article, and later in the process in this 2016 article.
Q. I know about Comprehensive Plans, but because of state requirements do they change much from decade to decade? What’s so special about Portland’s new 2035 Comprehensive Plan?
A. Some goals have remained the same; the new Plan continues the commitment to linking land use and transportation decisions. It also continues Portland’s commitment to compact development, with active employment centers, expanded housing choice, and access to parks and open space. But it expands the reasons for, and approaches to, improving Portland as a place that is walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly with active main streets. The Plan has also shifted to emphasize equity across the city. As far as how uses and look of buildings may change, most use (i.e. residential, retail, industrial, commercial) allowances will be retained, however, there are new floor area ratio (FAR) and height limits, and there is additional FAR and height that will be granted for affordable residential and commercial space. New drive-throughs will be prohibited in most cases, and there is a new landscaping requirement in new mixed use zones among other changes. To see more watch the City of Portland’s Lunch and Learn series on the 2035 Comprehensive Plan.
Q. I am interested in learning more, but reading through a thick document is painful, is there another way?
A. Yes, you can read a couple previous SE Uplift articles that cover the Plan in this 2015 article, and later in the process in this 2016 article. You can also view the City’s 3-part Lunch and Learn series on the 2035 Comprehensive Plan.
Q. I looked over the Plan and the Map App, and don’t like what I see, can I change the outcome before its effective date of May 24th, 2018?
A. In short, no, the time for changes to the Plan has passed. Depending on what concerns you have, here are follow-up projects in the pipeline that you may still be able to weigh in on, and it’s important to remember that much of the land use changes will only be realized if the property owner chooses to take advantage of the opportunity. Because the plan is a vision or road map, there may be other ways to influence the outcome as it gets implemented. Contact Leah Fisher at SE Uplift to discuss further if you have additional questions.
 City of Portland, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. 2018. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/57352
 City of Portland. 2035 Comprehensive Plan. December 2016. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/2035-comp-plan.pdf