Just Like Lots, Solutions Are Few And Far Between

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The Portland city government’s official position is their new base zone design standards are a response to past construction standards that have negatively impacted the livability and safety of surrounding neighborhoods

January 01, 2000

The Portland city government’s official position is their new base zone design standards are a response to past construction standards that have negatively impacted the livability and safety of surrounding neighborhoods.

 

Courtyard plans, such as this one from Nigro Associates in Las Vegas, are one possible solution to base zone design standards.

Builders and developers argue that as city lots get smaller and density increases, it has become increasingly harder to build to buyers’ tastes. This leaves many builders in Portland frustrated as to how to comply and still make a profit. Rick Michaelson, a real estate developer and vice president of the city’s planning commission has a few suggestions. The first is to develop condominiums wherever possible, allowing more flexibility to create shared driveways or parking which is hidden from the street. Another idea is development along inner courtyards away from the street, which are fed by a common driveway.

Those are far from cure-all remedies in Portland, as land has become scarce within the city’s urban growth boundary. Builders have had to develop and build on many lots that have been previously passed over because of size, odd boundaries, location or topography.

Builders also bristle at the suggestion of smaller single-family homes or owner-occupied duplexes with single-car garages for each residence. They cite numerous consumer surveys and buyer trends suggesting today’s homeowner prefers at least a two-car garage. Even one-car families seem to deem the extra storage as necessary.

All this leaves many on both sides feeling as if they are at an impasse. Steve Abel, a land-use planner for the past 20 years and president of the Portland City Planning Commission, is a bit more hopeful.

"Many plans being built outside the urban growth boundary won’t work within city limits right now. But with a little tweaking, many of them will." He also concedes that many buyers are demanding two-car garages, but that in many cases on small lots, one-car garages are often more acceptable. "These current problems don’t mean we can’t come up with solutions together."

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