Changing the Rules

At Orange Splot, our biggest impact will come not through the homes we build.  Rather, it will come from helping communities change the rules of the development game.  Here are a few examples:

AARP Livable Communities (National)

Since 2015, Eli has provided technical assistance to local AARP Livable Community chapters across the country to expand housing options, with a focus on accessory dwelling units and other forms of middle housing.  Engagements include: Burlington, VT; Chicago, IL; Omaha, NE; Lexington & Lafayette, KY; Des Moines, OH; Boston MA suburbs; Denver and front range, CO; Philadelphia, PA; and Oregon.  Similar work for LISC, CNU and NeighborWorks is helping to influence the rules of the game in San Antonio, TX; Atlanta, GA; and the Twin Cities, MN.

State of Oregon

In 2022, Eli served as a legislative appointee to the Joint Task Force on Resilient Efficient Buildings, tasked with evaluating and proposing policies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with Oregon’s built environment.  Here’s the executive summary of recommendations, including a link to the full report.

Screenshot 2016-03-17 12.43.32City of Portland

Eli is a member of Portland’s Planning Commission.  Leading up to that, he served on the Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) since January, 2016, including as Chair from 2020-21. The PSC is responsible for advising City Council on long-range goals, policies & programs for land use, planning and sustainability. Through public hearings and discussion of issues and proposals, the PSC develops recommendations to share with City Council regarding work such as the Comprehensive Plan, Climate Action Plan, and Zoning Code.

Starting in July, 2015, Eli served on the Residential Infill Project Stakeholder Advisory Committee (RIP SAC) to help evaluate Portland’s single-dwelling development standards, specifically the scale of new houses and additions, narrow lot development, and alternative housing options that can help keep costs down while increasing the variety of housing options available to Portlanders. RIP SAC members provided expertise and advice, identified issues, and made recommendations to Bureau of Planning & Sustainability staff to inform updated draft code language that was later adopted into the zoning code.

He served on the Detached Accessory Structure code update focus group, coordinated with community groups in N/NE Portland to comment on the Comprehensive Plan, advocated for scaled system development charges, and prepared policy papers, including a “Plank of Progressive Planning ideas for Portland that won’t Piss Off the Neighbors.” Eli also recently served as a member of Metro’s Equitable Housing Work Group.

In 2012, Portland launched a planning process to update its Comprehensive Plan to guide City policy for the next 20 years. As a member of the Residential Development and Compatibility Policy Expert Group (PEG), Eli provided input on rules for residential development in areas outside of designated Centers and Corridors.

Build Small logoSmall House Advocacy

The most important residential green building measure, from both the perspectives of CO2 and waste generation, is to simply build smaller homes. Yet various regulatory, financial, and other incentives continue to steer the market towards larger homes, even as average household size decreases. Starting in 2009, a dedicated group of small home advocates has worked to remove regulatory and financial barriers to smaller homes. Advocacy by this group resulted in a waiver of System Development Charges on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), relaxation of the size limits of ADUs relative to primary dwellings, publication of appraisal guidelines for ADUs in the peer-reviewed Appraisal Journal, updated scoring systems in green building programs to acknowledge the environmental benefits of smaller homes, the launch of a website dedicated to accessory dwelling units, and a series of “Build Small – Live Large” summits.

Over the years, the venue has changed: from living room gatherings of the Tiny House Society – to DEQ-facilitated meetings of the Space Efficient Housing Working Group – to Metro-convened gatherings of the Build Small Coalition.  But at every stage, volunteers, architects, builders, and planners have teamed up to legalize, design, popularize and build smaller and more climate-friendly homes.