Oregon land regulators seek more compact, fair housing — and maybe less parking

Portland Star Trek Pedalpalooza ride riders arrive at Woodstock Park in southeast Portland, led by Joe Gavrilovich, dressed as Captain Kirk and waving the Vulcan hand sign for “Live long and prosper,” Thursday, 5 August 2021.

Hanin Najjar/OPB

Oregon’s growth management agency is moving forward with new rules to spur denser residential development, more robust bike networks and less car parking in new developments.

The sweeping new development rules are designed to produce more compact communities where people rely less on cars and trucks in their daily lives and to provide more housing for people who have been marginalized.

“We’re not trying to ban cars, but our investments are really focused on automobile use,” said Robin McArthur, outgoing chairman of the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission. “If we can balance that and expand the transportation network to give people the ability to walk and cycle and use public transit, in addition to their single-passenger vehicle, that’s a really good choice. what people can do.”

After a lengthy hearing on Thursday, the commission decided to delay finalizing its rules until July. But it passed temporary rules so it could begin distributing planning funds to local governments in Oregon’s eight metropolitan areas. The rules have been criticized by several business groups, as well as city and county officials across the state who have protested that they need more time and money to work on revamping their zoning plans.

Oregon has long had a unique urban growth boundary system that protects farms, forests, and other open spaces from sprawling urban development. This in itself has led to more compact cities than are found in most states. And three years ago, Oregon became the first state to abolish exclusive single-family zoning, allowing up to four units on those lots.

The new set of rules for climate-friendly and equitable communities would take another step in this direction.

All eight metropolitan areas would be required to designate “climate-friendly zones” covering at least 30% of their new housing development. Homes in this area would be multi-family homes or small single-family homes on small lots. They would have good public transport, cycling and walking links, and would be close to shopping and other services.

Cities would be required to plan “robust” networks on which people can safely ride bicycles or other small means of transport for trips of up to three miles.

In addition, local governments would be required to reduce many of their ordinances requiring commercial and residential developments to have a certain amount of parking space. Critics of America’s heavy reliance on the automobile have for years charged that minimum parking mandates lead to excessively large lots that take up too much valuable urban space.

Cities could have a variety of options in how they want to reduce parking rules. They could leave it up to developers or landowners to decide. They might also consider charging for curbside parking or letting people give up free parking at work in exchange for extra cash.

Reduction of greenhouse gases

The new rules were developed in part in response to Governor Kate Brown’s 2020 executive order calling on more than a dozen state agencies to do what they can to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. ‘State. The growth management agency also decided to work closely with affordable housing providers and racially diverse groups to craft the new rules.

“We’re really trying to promote more equitable communities,” McArthur said, adding that having a wider range of housing in communities will lead to more diversity within them.

The new rules come as the state grapples with a severe housing shortage. A state report last year estimated that Oregon was short by more than 110,000 homes to meet demand.

Several business groups have said additional regulations could make it harder to solve this housing shortage.

Jon Kloor, president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, said his community is looking at all possible tools to increase housing supply.

However, he added, “the Albany Chamber is confident that adding costly and onerous new rules and regulations on land development and construction will only exacerbate the problem.”

Officials from the Oregon Farm Bureau and a manufacturers’ association said they fear the rules will divert resources from road construction and make it harder to get their products to market.

Mary Kyle McCurdy, associate director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, countered that building more housing on the outer periphery of metropolitan areas is not the right direction to go.

“We need more housing within our urban growth boundaries where people are already going to school or work,” adds McCurdy, whose group has long supported strong growth management controls. “Business as usual with more housing developments on the outskirts or across expanded urban growth limits is not good for the climate and does not provide affordable housing.”

On Friday, the committee also voted unanimously to elevate Anyeley Hallová to committee chair. The Portland promoter was the first black member to serve on the commission in its nearly 50-year history.

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