Simple Changes to Portland's Zoning Code
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 Record" is 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.
Note that a lot of record was not created through an approved subdivision or partition. It is an archaic construct that bears no relationship to the property that resulted from the actual land division, and which became the tax lot. 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 or archaic lots of record !
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
We will list actual references in the Code that will need to be changed in an update soon.