A specific proposal: density abutting parks

by | Jan 8, 2015

Thanks to several meetings and constructive discussions with neighbors and policy makers on my proposal to bump up density around the borders of neighborhood parks, I’ve crafted this updated proposal for inclusion in Portland’s Comprehensive Plan:

(1) The Map

  • Direct Planning staff to propose density increases from single family to low level multifamily (R2 or R1) zoning along borders of ~8 large neighborhood parks with great transit access already identified through staff’s internal review.  In some cases, this zoning boost would simply bring existing multifamily development into compliance.
  • Allow neighborhood groups or large land owners of property abutting active neighborhood parks to ‘opt in’ for density increases along park borders.  There might not be much time for this left in the current process, but it would support implementation in situations unlikely to be contentious.

(2) The Text

  • Add a policy to increase allowable residential densities for properties abutting neighborhood parks and other active gathering spaces.  Specifically, direct Portland’s Planning Dept. to review zoning around the perimeter of all new neighborhood parks while those parks are under development.  Timing of zoning change implementation should be coordinated with opening of the new park.

One motivational example of why we need to be thinking more about park-oriented development:
Portland is about to finish constructing Kʰunamokwst Park near where I live.  It’s looking beautiful and will be an awesome addition to the neighborhood, conveniently less than a block from Rigler Elementary School.  Immediately to the east is a church and parking lot on a 1.6 acre parcel, zoned for low density residential homes (R7h).  I know nothing of the church’s plans.  But if it should ever close or move, it would be a total shame from both an equity and livability perspective to see a few large, inevitably expensive, homes on large lots built there, right next to this great park, as would happen under current zoning.   And this is for a relatively small park with not particularly good public transit access.  Pasted below are a couple screen shots for reference.  With all the energy going into designing and building this park, more people at a wider range of incomes should have the chance to live next to it!

The comprehensive planning process is one of our few opportunities to be proactive in situations like this.  I hope Portland will use this lens when reviewing zoning around other neighborhood parks in our great system.

Zoning (note park is surrounded by yellow, for low density single family development)

Zoning Map images showing park surrounded by yellow, for low density single family development

Kʰunamokwst Park aerial

Aerial photo of future park (left) surrounded by single family homes and abutting a large church property (right), zoned for large homes on large lots