Six out of 11 members of Portland's Planning and Sustainability Commission oppose Mayor Charlie Hales' proposal to preserve larger lot sizes in desirable Eastmoreland, Hales' own neighborhood just south of Reed College.
In an April 20 letter to the Portland City Council, planning commissioners say the effort to establish minimum lots sizes of 7,000 feet in Eastmoreland (up from 5,000 feet) has created the perception that decisions about where to allow greater density in the city's Comprehensive Plan are being driven by the socioeconomic demographics of current neighborhoods.
"With a no vote you will confirm a basic principle and trust in the Comprehensive Plan," members André Baugh, Mike Houck, Chris Smith, Teresa St Martin, Maggie Tallmadge and Michelle Rudd write, "and citizens of Portland will participate equally in zoning for a better Portland for all."
Robert McCullough, the formidable president of Eastmoreland's neighborhood association, says residents are trying to ward off tear downs by developers who can build two homes on lots that allow higher density—those designated R-5.
(Technically speaking, developers can squeeze houses on lots that are smaller than 5,000 square feet in R-5 zones and, in R-7 zones, can squeeze in houses on less than 7,000 feet.)
"We're hearing this is all about affordability," McCullough tells WW, "but the fact is we're knocking down affordable homes and building unaffordable homes."
McCullough responded formally to the April 20 letter in his own April 21 letter to the City Council.
"At the heart of the letter is an argument that any exceptions to city zoning codes based on Eastmoreland's careful[ly] researched and documented application for R7 should be rejected on racial and equity grounds," he writes. "The reality is that while virtually identical cases were granted on May 12, 2015, Eastmoreland was the exception to the criteria applied elsewhere."
The Portland City Council will vote on the proposal—amendment 74 to the Comprehensive Plan—on May 11.
But public testimony on the amendment and all others closes at 5 pm Wednesday, April 27.