City debates cutting park fees for small homes, hiking for big ones

Posted by on April 24th, 2015 at 10:27 am

N-NE-SE Portland Good-Bad-Ugly Houses 84

Backers say the proposal would encourage smaller, more densely built houses.
(Photo: Mark McClure)

For years, almost every new home built in Portland has paid thousands of dollars into a city fund that pays to buy and develop parkland. But so far, the size of the home hasn’t affected the size of the fee.

If it were built today, a 900-square-foot bungalow would pay the same $8,582 parks fee as a 3,100-square foot 4-bedroom.

But in a proposal that could shift the local economy toward building smaller homes — and potentially provide a boost for bike infrastructure funding — the Portland Parks Bureau is suggesting that its fees on new homes become proportional to the number of people who are likely to live in them, based on their square footage.

Under the Parks Bureau’s most recent proposal (PDF), its fees on a single-family home of 1,000 square feet or smaller outside the central city would fall from $8,582 to $6,773.

Fees on a home of 2,500 square feet or more, by contrast, would shoot up from $8,582 to $13,185.

Another change: instead of dividing the world into “multi-family” and “single-family” units and charging more for single-family homes such as freestanding houses and duplexes, the new fee structure would base rates only on size.

Eli Spevak, a local developer who supports the idea of scaling fees, said Thursday that after failing to secure three votes at a city council meeting last week, the proposed parks fee changes have “gone backroom” as undecided city council members weigh their options.

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Development fees, known in Portland as system development charges or SDCs, cover some of the city’s transportation, water and sewer costs as well as its new parks expenses. As local developers have scrambled to build homes fast enough to serve the flood of new would-be Portlanders, SDCs have been swelling city budgets.

That’s been good news for bike-related Parks Bureau projects like Gateway Green and the Columbia Slough Trail.

Now, the Parks and Recreation Bureau (backed by its current and previous political bosses, city commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish) is proposing two changes to its fees. First, it’s proposing the new calculation method that would include, for the first time, scaling fees by building size. Second, it’s proposing a hike to the total amount of revenue the fees would raise.

Ultimate North Portland Family Loop-18

The Columbia Slough Trail has been funded in part by
parks fees.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Jim Labbe, a biking and natural space advocate with the Audubon Society of Portland, said Thursday that higher parks fees would be a big boost for bike infrastructure.

“There’s going to be money for North Portland Greenway — if it’s going to be built, it’s going to be partially built with park SDC funds,” Labbe said. “If the city ever gets to the point where they ever do singletrack, it’s going to be partially funded by SDCs.”

But higher parks fees also threaten to drive up development costs in a city where a decade-long housing shortage has driven rents and home prices skyward.

Some say the proposal to scale the fees by home size could take some of the bite off that problem for smaller units.

“We should definitely be encouraging those kind of units by lowering their costs,” said Ben Schonberger of Winterbrook Planning. “When you have just a big dumb flat fee model that charges the same SDCs regardless of unit size, that encourages people to build as big as possible.”

Justin Wood, associate director of government relations for the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, said that he has concerns about the legality of the scaling method, but not the general concept.

“I like the principle,” he said. “Everything else when I build the house goes up and down based on how big the house is.”

He said that if the fee increase were lower, the scaling proposal might not be a major issue.

“If the fees had come out less I don’t know that there would have been the general pushback that you have now,” Wood said.

Wood and Schonberger both said, however, that even if the fee hikes are approved, developers aren’t actually likely to kill many projects over several thousand dollars in fees.

“They put that in their giant spreadsheet of costs and think about it, but it really comes down to much bigger issues like zoning costs and parking requirements,” Schonberger said. “Those factors are going to be a lot more significant.”

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118 Comments
  • Chris
    Chris April 24, 2015 at 10:41 am

    What would be really great is if the SDC charges actually paid to develop/improve parks in the areas where these houses are being built. As it is, the money is typically pooled and spent elsewhere, leaving neighborhoods with lots of development parks deficient, despite all the fees paid by new development.

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    jeg April 24, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Do I have this right? It would be for mid rise developments with condos/apts as well as single family homes? If it is both, I think this may have the consequence of forcing smaller units in big projects and forcing families to the suburbs… It might not help us. We need family units in these apartment buildings; urban living is compatible with children and families.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) April 24, 2015 at 10:49 am

      You have it right, jeg.

      One argument you might hear from folks like Spevak is that Portland has no shortage of family-sized units; it’s got plenty of single-family homes, most of them built in an age when there were a lot more families in the country. Today the developed world has many more empty-nesters and no-kids couples. The shortage we face is of affordable family size homes, because the housing shortage has led to groups of adults with two to four incomes among them bidding up the prices of single-family homes in the desirable pre-car neighborhoods. This is tending to push non-wealthy families further out.

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      9watts April 24, 2015 at 10:55 am

      forcing families to the suburbs…”

      Why do you say this? I live in a 650 square foot house in inner SE, that I am quite certain was home to many sequential families since it was built in 1894. My family lives in it very well, wouldn’t have it any other way. There is no iron law of square footage per person, despite the fact that many people act and talk like that. Large families live in vastly smaller spaces than Middle Class US folks have come to expect, the world over.

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        jeg April 24, 2015 at 11:01 am

        Good point, but it’s a balance. I don’t think you’re going to shoehorn most 21st century families into smaller spaces. In fact, saying such would be political suicide to the cause of providing dense housing in city center and around metro area.

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          9watts April 24, 2015 at 11:28 am

          “I don’t think you’re going to shoehorn most 21st century families into smaller spaces.”

          Remember that in the 21st Century US, most of us don’t actually live in what we used to think of as families (4+ people). More than sixty percent of all households in the US today (2012 #s below) consist of 1 or 2 persons. Add a third, and we’re already over three-quarters.

          1 person = 27%
          2 person = 34%
          3 person = 16%

          “The share of households that were married couples with children has halved since 1970, from 40 percent to 20 percent, according to the report.”
          http://www.ibtimes.com/living-alone-more-us-residents-forming-single-person-households-charts-1401580

          I find this particular debate odd. The housing stock in Portland (and most other cities in the US for that matter) includes hundreds of thousands of large houses; houses built for either larger families of yore, or for economic reasons that reward developers who build bloated buildings. To me the problem we face is the opposite of what you are decrying. The average house in Portland today is far larger than what aligns with today’s demographics (see above). The idea that favoring smaller apartments today would somehow lead to problems strikes me as extremely remote.

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            jeg April 24, 2015 at 11:48 am

            You’re supporting these fees and obfuscating the NIMBY trap behind them. Your argument is the one that strikes me as odd. We need to have less regulation. The only regulation I support is discouraging McMansions (bigger house than was there before after razing). Everything else needs to be allowed because we have a shortage. Additionally, this will force micro units and studios and one bedrooms. Those *WILL NOT* house families. I think you know this is the case and are being disingenuous because you hope the pro-density crowd doesn’t understand the nuance of this new NIMBY policy.

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              9watts April 24, 2015 at 11:56 am

              “Those *WILL NOT* house families”

              Why is it so hard to have a conversation with you? Did you read my post to which you are ostensibly responding?

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                TonyJ April 24, 2015 at 12:01 pm

                Jeg, 9watts is no NIMBY, I can vouch for him entirely on this. He’s not a blind follower of the church of growth, either. He, like most of us, does have nuanced and well thought out opinions. If you want to actually converse with him, or others, you might have to not look for gotchas and make so many assumptions. Just a suggestion.

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                jeg April 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm

                I’m sorry, but this is literally the lives of the poor and middle class at stake here as well as our ecosystem if we end up sprawling. So, I am quite sure I want to be as direct as possible when someone is trying to imply a family will live in a one bedroom reasonably.

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                9watts April 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

                “…to imply a family will live in a one bedroom reasonably.”

                Your reading comprehension leaves much to be desired, jeg. As does your interest in having civil conversations where we both, ideally, come away having learned something we may not have known before.

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                jeg April 24, 2015 at 12:44 pm

                And you are supporting NIMBY policies that will destroy this city.

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                davemess April 24, 2015 at 2:14 pm

                You see jeg, there are many in Portland that feel that some of the density-minded ideas you are supporting will “destroy” the city.
                Being so hard-nosed in these discussions won’t win you many allies or convert anyone with a different opinion than you.

                And I’m sorry, but it’s going to be a VERY long time in this city before a substantial portion of the “poor and middle class” can move back into the central area of town. Are we seeing a strong migration of “poor” folks moving to Portland?

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                jeg April 24, 2015 at 2:18 pm

                We must build to support income inclusive neighborhoods, not exclusive rich enclaves.

                And I’m pretty sure my point is to reach the people reading that share my opinion and to motivate them into action because there are fools trying to ruin their city by preventing density and income inclusion through absurdist and intentionally complicated policies.

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              davemess April 24, 2015 at 12:25 pm

              So do you want to deregulate the UGB, or is that one okay too?

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                jeg April 24, 2015 at 12:29 pm

                UGB protects ecosystem and farmland. The UGB is amazing. It stays. In fact, it should be stricter and not provide a 20 year supply; I think that’s a mistake.

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              Gary April 24, 2015 at 3:42 pm

              You seem to be concerned with general concepts and not this specific proposal. I see a proposal that assigns a flat SDC up to 1,000sf. Why are you harping on the horrors of studios and micro-apartments? A 1000sf unit in an apartment building is quite a bit of space that can easily accommodate smaller (3 or 4 person) families, even “21st century” ones.

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            Jeg April 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm

            Also, we need to raze some of those big houses for midrise developments.

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        tj April 24, 2015 at 3:10 pm

        Counting garage, shed, basement?

        With housing we always talk in extremes. 650 sqft w/o storage is tiny for a family. 3,100 sqft is huge.

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          9watts April 24, 2015 at 3:15 pm

          For comparative purposes this is how we classify houses, by the square footage considered living space. On a 33′ wide lot, a driveway, much less a garage, are pretty much out. Yes there is a basement.

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            davemess April 24, 2015 at 4:45 pm

            Interesting you would mention that. I was just reading over the zoning for new “skinny” lots. 25 feet is the mimim width and if the front facade of the unit is less than 22 feet an attached garage is not allowed in the front (seems like I’m seeing this broken more and more around town). So you can get away with no driveway in the front if there is access to one in the back (via a cross street or alley).

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              Robert Burchett April 25, 2015 at 8:09 am

              The minimum width for a garage limitation is a seismic code thing. You can’t stack upper floors of a skinny house on a garage space without adequate width of shear wall on the front. So if you see people doing that–

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                Opus the Poet April 25, 2015 at 10:33 am

                I can see many ways to stack two floors over a skinny house that will still withstand an earthquake motion going across the long axis of the building. It’s an engineering thing, working around the big hole in the structure can be done, but it’s more work.

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      JML April 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

      I live in small condo community with shared outdoor common space right next to a park. My neighbors include several families living in small units (<800 square feet) including a family of five, happily living in a car-lite lifestyle.

      You absolutely don't have to have big homes on big lots to have families and a good urban life. Smaller homes with more and better shared open space, including quality parks nearby, is what you need. That's exactly the opportunities and choices Commissioner Fritz's park SDC proposal would allow.

      JML

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        9watts April 27, 2015 at 9:40 am

        Don’t tell jeg. His head will ex…
        I mean, he will experience cognitive dissonance.

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    rick April 24, 2015 at 10:43 am

    McMansion homes need to pay big time.

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      9watts April 24, 2015 at 11:01 am

      I’ll say.
      I wonder—if we’re going to the trouble to adjust the fees—why they are not more steeply scaled. If we are serious about wanting to encourage smaller structures, and more of them, why not have the fees reflect this?
      In other words set the per square foot charge to rise as house size increases.

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        soren April 24, 2015 at 11:54 am

        “In other words set the per square foot charge to rise as house size increases.”

        This.

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        davemess April 24, 2015 at 12:27 pm

        I”m curious why the city would want to encourage smaller structures? And we’re not talking about changing zoning. A 1200 ft^2 house can fit just as well on an R5, 5,000 ft^2 lot as a 3,000 ft^2 house.
        Why would the city want to actively encourage a less valuable house that it can collect less property taxes from (barring the house isn’t in one of the crazy under taxed neighborhoods like Boise)?

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          9watts April 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm

          “I’m curious why the city would want to encourage smaller structures?” I can think of many reasons I would want to. I’m not saying that the people who make these decisions for us at the city level would agree, but I’d start with the demographic shifts I mentioned above. We are, mostly, not families, not physically well suited to filling up all these large houses we’re surrounded by. We can fill the with stuff, but that is a different matter.

          Secondly, smaller houses at least in my neighborhood translate into the possibility of adding another (small) house in the back, or front. That would be a win for density: two small houses vs 1 large one. Also the economics for the occupants I think work out better, given the huge number of one- and two-person households we are accommodating.

          “Why would the city want to actively encourage a less valuable house that it can collect less property taxes from.”

          Well I would like to think that decisions like this at the city level would not be reduced to maximizing tax receipts. The City is not a business, after all.

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            jeg April 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

            “two small houses vs 1 large one.”

            Not if one big house equals the same amount of residents as two small ones. That’s not density, that’s just poor land use and low rise sprawl in the making.

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            davemess April 24, 2015 at 2:22 pm

            Yeah, I kind of agree with jeg here. While your living situation is impressive on many fronts, you are an outlier in today’s society. The vast majority of people want to have some more house space as their family grows (or even if they just stay as one or two people). I think the major selling point of smaller houses is their lower price point (which is rapidly raising or disappearing).

            If you don’t think the city is mainly driven by tax generation, I think you’re much more of an optimist than I.

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              9watts April 24, 2015 at 2:31 pm

              “The vast majority of people want to have some more house space as their family grows (or even if they just stay as one or two people”

              How do we know this? I realize this is one of those pat assumptions we carry around with us, but I’m not at all sure we can point to person X’s purchase of a large house and say that this is the one he preferred. Were there smaller ones that were otherwise comparable? We know that there are dozens of perverse incentives to building larger and every larger houses, that reward the builders, the banks, the mortgage pimps, the city administrators, the contractors, the materials suppliers, etc. But this is very different from what you’re saying which is that basically everyone would rather have more house, all else being equal.

              “If you don’t think the city is mainly driven by tax generation, I think you’re much more of an optimist than I.”

              I have no idea. But it wouldn’t have occurred to me to think that this is the primary driver. That would seem farcical, to be quite honest. How many swimming pools can you eat? What happened to the myriad competing values: community? livability? resilience? justice? equality?

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                davemess April 24, 2015 at 4:48 pm

                I also think tax generation (esp. with our screwed up skewed property tax system) is large driver for lot splitting in the city. I in many way it is being done under the guise of increases in density.

                I think if you do take price of out a home purchase, even less people would be buying smaller houses though (which are on average cheaper). But as you point out we don’t have a lot of data to say either way.

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    MaxD April 24, 2015 at 10:46 am

    “instead of dividing the world into “multi-family” and “single-family” units and charging more for single-family homes such as freestanding houses and duplexes, the new fee structure would base rates only on size.”

    If I understand this, this would encourage building more super-cheap, tiny studio apartments and fewer 2-bedroom apartments that work for families. A lot of young people are moving to Portland, if we want them to stay (and keep their skillssets here) we should be encouraging a wider variety of housing including 2 and 3 bedroom.

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      ted April 24, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      A tiny studio and a modest family home with two bedrooms under 1000 square feet would pay the same impact fee. Go to a larger home under 1500 square feet, outside the central city the fee would increase from $6773 to 9499.

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    Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 10:50 am

    More anti-density NIMBYism from Amanda Fritz. Charging multi-family buildings more will discourage building the apartment complexes that Portland sorely needs to alleviate housing shortages.

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      George H. April 24, 2015 at 11:03 am

      It’s important to note that she lives in a very posh area, the West Hills. She likely has a nice large lot and a house with a very ample floor plan. What she’s proposing is contrary to how she gets to live.

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        Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 12:11 pm

        Also known at FYIGM.

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        soren April 24, 2015 at 12:11 pm
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          George H. April 24, 2015 at 1:05 pm

          What a shock – she lives in what looks like we’ll over 2,000 square feet. And at the same time is dictating that all the little people live in tiny homes. She’s a hypocrite and it’s another reason she needs to be shown the door in 2016.

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            dan April 24, 2015 at 1:56 pm

            Looks like a horrible McMansion. Can we all agree to be done with Ms. Fritz?

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        Carlsson April 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

        That is incorrect. I’ll bet you’ll find her home and many of those surrounding it is worth much less than the homes in a large swath of SE and NE Portland. There is this myth that SW Portland is a bastion of the rich and it’s just not true. Subtract the 97221 and 97201 sip codes out the the equation and you’ll probably find more homes in the sub 400k range over here than the swath between 82nd and the river, and Powell to Prescott. I would LOVE to live in the 97214 area, but it’s simply a better value in 97219.

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          Paul Souders April 24, 2015 at 3:54 pm

          My 5-person household just moved from 97219 to 97202 and I can attest to this. We went from 2200SF on a double lot to 1000SF on a half lot at nearly the same price.

          Very few families even in crunchy Portland will do this.

          Multifamily (or multi-unit) development isn’t anathema to raising a family but in aggregate if we’re discouraging single family units in the city don’t be surprised when families choose suburbs. There are high-density single-family solutions (rowhouses, plexes, etc.) but Portlanders seem strangely averse to them. As usual we’ve polarized this “debate” into “single family McMansions” vs “high rise micro-studios” (or maybe “1920s bunaglows with an ADU in back”)

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            9watts April 24, 2015 at 4:02 pm

            “if we’re discouraging single family units in the city don’t be surprised when families choose suburbs.”

            The point I’m interested in here is that, demographically, families the size of yours, to take your example, should *not* be the focus of our housing policy, since they represent such a miniscule and shrinking fraction of the current population. What sense would it make to hold onto this demographic example, design our policies around it as if it were the norm, represented the majority, when almost everyone has moved on, now lives with far fewer people?
            And since square footage is the unit we’re discussing here, is anyone really suggesting that we today have fewer large houses than large families in Portland? Because I find that *very* hard to believe.

            Finally there is the existing vs. to be built housing stock. When you say ‘discouraging single family units’ you’re presumably focused on new construction. But what about the distribution by size of the existing housing stock?

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              Paul Souders April 24, 2015 at 4:43 pm

              We violently agree. My family is an outlier, which is the point. Portland 2025 will look nothing like Portland 1975 or Portland 1925.

              Whatever policy we collectively choose will require tradeoffs. If we don’t choose, the Free Market™ + legacy policies will choose for us. Right now it’s choosing teardowns. Status Quo favors detached single family dwellings but with skyrocketing land values that means McMansions that fill the lot.

              The built stock is tapped. This is why 2000SF/double lot in outer SW = 1000SF/half lot in inner eastside = 3500SF/2.5x lot in Milwaukie. I just bought a house, I can tell you all about it.

              I can’t reckon how the changes to parks fees would accomplish this BTW so this whole discussion is kind of academic.

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                9watts April 24, 2015 at 4:46 pm

                You suggested that you and I are both outliers. But what if we’re not, or not as many standard deviations from the mean as you think/we’re led to believe? These are complex decisions with many variables. It can sometimes be hard to conclude much from our one (or two) examples 🙂

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              davemess April 24, 2015 at 4:54 pm

              I don’t know if I would call 37.4% (couples with children and “other family households”, based on your national numbers) (and add in another 29.1% for couples without children) of the population a “minuscule” percentage of the population.

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                9watts April 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm

                That wasn’t what I was saying. I was referring to households of 5 people. We’re past 90% of all households by the time we get up to 5 people.

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                ted April 24, 2015 at 11:55 pm

                In 2010, out of ~250k households in Portland census gives:
                # in each household — # of households — population — %
                1 — 86k — 86k — 15%
                2 — 84k — 168k — 29%
                3 — 35k — 106k — 18%
                4 — 26k — 102k — 17%
                5 — 10k — 51k — 9%
                6 — 4k — 25k — 4%
                7+ — 3k — 24k+ — 4%+

                2010 census gave a population of 583k, subtracting the 7+households would have 45k people, 8% of the city. Could that be right? That’s a 13 person average.

                More than 90% of households have less than five people, you’re right. But closer to a fifth of the city lives in households with five or more people.

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                9watts April 25, 2015 at 6:14 am

                Thanks for those figures. And you’re right about the *population* figure being higher than the *household* figure. Good point.

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      Todd Hudson April 24, 2015 at 11:07 am

      “If the city ever gets to the point where they ever do singletrack, it’s going to be partially funded by SDCs.”

      Justifying this by pandering to mountain bikers is such a nice touch.

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      jeg April 24, 2015 at 11:24 am

      Unfortunately, I agree with you. Fritz is being a slimeball. How can she deign to obfuscate a move that will cause sprawl?? And then tie in mountain biking as a carrot? Insulting as all hell.

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        Dimitrios April 24, 2015 at 12:11 pm

        The singletrack comment was made by Jim Labbe, unless I missed another comment by Fritz on the issue.

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      soren April 24, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      When I think of Amanda’s “let them move to the suburbs” zoning policy stance a different ism comes to mind (it starts with “class”).

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      maccoinnich April 24, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      I’ve had my disagreements with Amanda Fritz, but this not an density measure. Quite the opposite.

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        jeg April 24, 2015 at 12:49 pm

        Enlighten us, then, instead of stating a vague sentence.

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          maccoinnich April 24, 2015 at 1:04 pm

          In any zone where density is limited by Floor Area Ratio there is a fixed amount of building envelope a developer can build (and they usually max it out). A hypothetical site might support 100 units at 1,500 sq ft or 200 units at 750 sq ft. If the developer decides to build the larger number of units they will pay a much lower SDC per unit. Right now they pay the same fee whatever the size of the unit. Indeed if they were to build 750 sq ft units in the Central City under the new methodology they’d actually pay less per unit than they do now. It therefore incentives the construction of more, smaller units… ie higher density.

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            Jeg April 24, 2015 at 1:12 pm

            Units =\= density. Family housing = density. Kids and parents. You are either intentionally or unintentionally conflating the density of tiny units for the actual density of people. More family units mixed in will INCREASE population density. A bunch of single people in studios will be lower density. This is why NW has actually LOST density over time. People are keeping more square feet for themselves.

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              maccoinnich April 24, 2015 at 1:17 pm

              Read the methodology report. A doubling of unit size doesn’t tend to come with a doubling of people in it.

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                Jeg April 24, 2015 at 1:21 pm

                So we shouldn’t try to provide low income mid rises for families because a report that was formulated before we had made a dent in our shortage said people are squatting on bug houses?

                The logical fallacy here is that if we DONT build units for families, they won’t move to the city at all because there’d be nowhere to house them as you regulated that type of housing away by inducing too many tiny apatments.

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                maccoinnich April 24, 2015 at 4:28 pm

                To be clear, I have no objection to the construction of 3 bedroom units designed for families. All I was saying is that to characterize this SDC proposal as ‘anti density’ is not fair.

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                Jeg April 24, 2015 at 1:24 pm

                Also, a single family home is differebt from an apartment unit that is more affordable than a mortgage for a family. People can’t afford bungalows in this city because they are the cause of our shortage in the first place. Only the rich can afford them, then they squat: that explains that statistic.

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                9watts April 24, 2015 at 2:47 pm

                Your single-minded focus on families is at odds with demographic reality, jeg. As I tried to suggest earlier, this idea that household = families is no longer applicable to the majority of households in this country.
                The quotes below are from here:
                http://chpcny.org/our-projects/single-person-households/

                “One reason why it is difficult for policymakers, and the market, to digest these astounding numbers is because of our confused definition of ‘household’. Since the 1950 census onward, ‘household’ became synonymous with ‘family’. Data splits households into ‘family’ and ‘non-family’ categories, relegating single people and their housing need as an oddity.

                This idea of household=family also keeps our housing supply frozen in the 1950s. It even permeates our housing vocabulary, as in ‘multi-family buildings’ and ‘single family homes’.”

                “The first change has been the government – and the market – beginning to understand that the single population is incredibly diverse and is not going away. There is a preconception that single people are young and transient and just on their way to becoming a real household; a family. In fact, in New York City, only 19% of single person households are under 35 years old. 20% are 35-55 years old and just over 50% are over 55. People are marrying later, or not at all. Half of all marriages end. And the single elderly have very little options in the private marketplace.”

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                jeg April 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

                Family can be roommates. And that’s part of the way people will be able to afford close in and increase density– Thus, we need multi-room apartments. “Family” units. Just because it’s unrelated people doesn’t mean it isn’t a cohesive group.

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                gutterbunnybikes April 24, 2015 at 9:32 pm

                There is nothing rich about my situation, or most my neighbors. And if by squat, you mean live and raise my children then I guess I’m guilty.

                Why don’t you all complaining about the price, move to areas where the price is better? Yeah, the neighborhoods aren’t the “cool” ones you want to live in, but hey you can do like the rest of us current squatters did in those “cool” neighborhoods long before you ever wanted to move into.

                Buy a house cheap in a dumpy neighborhood, improve the house, clean up the neighborhood, get involved in the local politics and schools, and then as you say “squat” on it- or as I’d say – enjoy the fruits of your years upon years of daily labor building up the crappy neighborhood into something people are going to complain about not being able to afford years after your arrival.

                You see these great neighborhoods that are sooooo coool now, weren’t developed that way. The developers moved in when us poor 20 somethings moved in and started running the dealers out of the neighborhood, cleaned up the syringes, planted our gardens, opened our galleries, cafes, second hand stores, and other small businesses – at which point after all the hard work is done, the developers move in.

                You see it isn’t developers or politicians that start the gentrification process. Its the poor ambitious kids just out of school, the young artists, and recent immigrants that do all the hard work. They clean up the mess, run the criminals out, and give the neighborhoods the style that attracts the developers.

                There are still bargains out there, and the UGB pretty much guarantees you’re going to win in the long run. Start looking east and further north. St. Johns, Kenton, Cully, Montavilla, Gateway, Parkrose, Foster/Powell, Lents…All just sitting there and all showing the classic signs of neighborhoods about to take off – some a little more than others, but it’s been starting in these locations for the last couple years, but you don’t have long- Division didn’t take long and a few I mentioned will be the new Divisions/Mississippi within 5 years.

                I’ve been apart of it (-what do they call it now) “youthification” three times now, and seen it happen at least twice that many times since I’ve moved here 23 years ago. And I was very aware of the potential of my little house and it’s neighborhood 16 years ago when I bought it.

                I’ll still be “squatting” in the same SE bungalow I’ve been in for the last 16+years in another 16. So if/when you decide to take my advice you know where to come looking to thank me for the great advice because you like “squatting” on your little house that all the kids want to move to but can not afford. And I’ll crack open a bottle of Champagne and we can complain about all those entitled whippersnappers drooling over our little cottages.

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              davemess April 24, 2015 at 2:41 pm

              It’s very debatable if there is strong desire for “family-style” apartments (esp. at the prices that the central city does/will command).

              Were you around when we were debating this?
              http://www.oregonmetro.gov/residential-preference-study

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                jeg April 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm

                By not building them, you are intentionally creating a hostile environment for families. Cities are meant for families. We need family housing. It definitely needs to be subsidized SOMEHOW to allow for affordability, but adding more units will also stabilize rents.

                City center can be affordable if we just BUILD.

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                9watts April 24, 2015 at 2:49 pm

                “Cities are meant for families.”

                Where do you get these notions?

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                Adam H. April 24, 2015 at 2:56 pm

                Cities are meant for people.

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                jeg April 24, 2015 at 3:02 pm

                Let me clarify. There’s a strong propagandist movement that says, “only suburbs are meant for families.” I am simply saying cities are just as safe for families.

                But I absolutely agree. Cities are for people, and many of these family units, if built, could support healthy roommate situations, and thus high density.

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                davemess April 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm

                Portland has for the most part bucked the trend of “only the suburbs are meant for families”. And many of the families that live in Portland stayed in the city because of the availability of single family homes. Transform the city to mostly apartments and you may push many of those families away.

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                9watts April 24, 2015 at 5:31 pm

                “Transform the city to mostly apartments and you may push many of those families away.”

                Hm….
                See this is what I find dubious, not to say inflammatory. If, like the rest of the US, we have 10% of households that are >4people (ref Paul Souders’ example above), and if we had a massive, unprecedented 20 year push to build apartments EXCLUSIVELY, I still doubt that the supply of large houses would atrophy in the manner you suggest above.

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                davemess April 25, 2015 at 12:00 am

                I was purposely being “inflammatory”, to try to counteract some of the “all or nothing” type of talk on here. I don’t think it will happen either.

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      JML April 27, 2015 at 9:25 am

      I don’t think this is correct. The per-unit SDC for multifamily units is less than for single-family home. Also some affordable rental units are exempt from the SDC.

      Amanda Fritz is not anti-density. In fact I think she understands that poorly planned and designed density- including density without adequate public open space- it the real threat to building the compact, walkable, and affordable neighborhoods in which increasing numbers of people want to live.

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    hat April 24, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I would like to see a scaled-in moratorium on central city surface parking lots over 10 spaces. Landowners with these properties (particularly the vast deserts in Inner SE and NE) would have an impetus to start developing this land since parking lots would no longer be profitable.

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      jeg April 24, 2015 at 11:02 am

      YES.

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      oliver April 24, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      I’m sure there are plans afoot to remove the height restrictions along Naito in order to put in some massive new buildings on all that property City Center Parking owns opposite waterfront park.

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      Chris I April 24, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      Simple solution: make the value of a parking lot identical to a 2-story building built on the same space. There will be zero incentive to keep the lot as vacant or surface parking when their property taxes increase fourfold.

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        hat April 24, 2015 at 1:56 pm

        Can you expand on this? Why 2-story? Has this idea been floated elsewhere?

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          Matt April 24, 2015 at 4:39 pm

          Probably a cleaner way to do it would be to charge surface parking lots the same per square-footage of land they own as the average of the adjacent plots of land. That would be the simplest way to encourage growth upwards.

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      JML April 27, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      Or perhaps a land-value tax like Portlanders and Oregonians were debating exactly a 100 years ago:

      http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/single_tax/#.VT7dRc7duT8

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    Alex Reed April 24, 2015 at 10:59 am

    I like the idea of scaling by size but the implementation actually doesn’t do that very well, especially for smaller multifamily units and bigger mcMansions. All units below 1,000 sq. ft. – from a 200 sq. ft. micro-unit which would probably be uncomfortable for a couple to the 950 sq. ft. 2-bedroom that my boyfriend and I lived in very comfortably with another couple – would be charged the same amount (only depending on location). Same for all homes above 2,250 sq.ft. What about just a straight per-square-foot charge?

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      paikiala April 24, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      The examples provided come out roughly to about $6/SF. The trick is many utility spaces are the same size (kitchens, bathrooms, laundry) and the living spaces increase with larger homes. Discounting utility spaces might help smaller units, but once you start with exceptions, the applicants will start designing ‘creative use’ of utility spaces.

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        9watts April 24, 2015 at 12:19 pm

        “once you start with exceptions”
        I know. That is a problem. A chief reason the Street Fee was such a Soviet disaster in the making. But I don’t think this is a reason not to scale things to favor small.

        “The trick is many utility spaces are the same size (kitchens, bathrooms, laundry)”

        Not in my experience. Kitchens vary dramatically in size from modest to ostentatious, and the *number* of bathrooms also is not fixed.

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        Alex Reed April 24, 2015 at 12:58 pm

        Paikiala, the way I read it, they’re not examples, but flat fees within size classes. This means the top and bottom classes include huge variation in per-square-foot cost – e.g. it’s $13.50/sf for 400-sf units and $3.00/sf for 3500-sf units.

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          JML April 24, 2015 at 2:21 pm

          Alex,

          As I understand it the reason why an SDC cannot be a straight flat square footage fee is that it has to be tied to the number of people (growth) who will be served by a particular the public infrastructure (in this case parks). Portland Parks used data from PSU to empirically link the size of units to the number of people living in them.

          JML

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            Alex Reed April 24, 2015 at 3:48 pm

            Yes, according to https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/520092 p.6 they based it on the American Community Survey square footage data collection categories – but do data collection categories have to be policy destiny?

            According to the data the City shows, the number of people per unit increases continuously with square footage across the categories. This leads me to think they should take a trend line off of the data (for example: based on the data, the number of people increases by .7 for every 1000 square feet added in the central city) or an overall average number of persons per square foot. Those approaches are just as simple, and seem a lot more fair than this stair-step policy (with flat landings at the top and the bottom) that continues to incentivize huge houses at the expense of small units.

            I ran a couple of quick trend-lines and got charges of $4.27 per square foot for central-city and $5.30 per square foot for non-central-city developments.

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    Bjorn April 24, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Does the city have any data showing that the square footage of a house tracks closely with the number of people living in it? I think that might be true to some extent, but I bet it isn’t a great predictor, especially if across different parts of the city.

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      dan April 24, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      I suspect you’re right, but this is not necessarily a negative. If you’re going to live in a 3,000 square foot house with just two people, you’re going to pay an SDC commensurate with 5 people or whatever the “expected” population of that house might be. Seems reasonable to me — a disincentive for a big house with few people.

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      maccoinnich April 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Yes. You can read it on page 9 of their methodology report https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/520092

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    davemess April 24, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    “Wood and Schonberger both said, however, that even if the fee hikes are approved, developers aren’t actually likely to kill many projects over several thousand dollars in fees.”

    This is the most important statement in this article. Even with the current “high” development fees we’re still seeing high levels of development.
    I also highly doubt that this will increase the amount of < 1000ft^2 houses being built. Saving a few grand on a development fee is silly, when developers know they can make tens of thousands more building bigger houses.
    I think we'll continue to see only a minuscule amount of smaller home development.

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      gutterbunnybikes April 24, 2015 at 11:46 pm

      Bingo, the added costs are just rolled into the mortgage. It’s really not that big of a deal to the developers and considering the of the bigger houses in Portland, it won’t be to the buyers either.

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    Psyfalcon April 24, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I like it. Today’s houses are much larger than they have been in the past.

    That extra space is not free. It costs more to build, buy (bigger is better?) and to heat or cool, and maintain. Its a bigger roof to replace, or more windows to clean (2 floors up).

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    Brendan April 24, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Isn’t the real issue here lot size. If the goal is higher density then what you want is more people per square foot…of land. Not more people per square foot of house. I don’t see how a small house on a 1/8th acre plot with say 3 people living on it is any better than a ‘mcmansion’ on the same plot. At least not with respect to bikability, transportation, community etc.

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    J_R April 24, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Like others, I’m generally in favor of smaller, more energy efficient housing, located in close proximity to services and employment. I abhor long auto commutes and suburban sprawl. I also believe that people should generally pay for what they consume, but favor a somewhat socialist approach to providing and funding services for the good of all members of society.

    That said, I’m not so sure of the proposed change in parks SDC fees. For one thing, I’m not at all convinced that larger dwelling units necessarily result in more use of park facilities. Does the owner of a 2500+ sf home really get twice the benefit of the one with a 1000 sf home? If the difference were 20 to 30 percent, I could be more readily persuaded on the equity of use argument.

    What’s the rationale for charging less in the central city? Is there less need there? Is there an acceptance that there will be no more parks in the central city? Isn’t the development of parks in the central city more expensive due to land costs, if nothing else?

    What would be the administrative costs and how would this be applied? Does the garage or basement count in the size? It’s pretty easy with new construction, but what about your remodeling or addition to an older house? If I add 500 square feet to my house, would I be paying a $2000 + or – parks SDC fee? What if I converted my attic without a permit? What if I expand my garage for my workshop? What will I have to pay if I do one of those “remodels” where only a wall or two is left standing? There will undoubtedly be all kinds of exceptions or interpretations. All will cost money and staff time to implement. Some will have unintended consequences (like not getting permits).

    There’s something to be said for the existing very simple system.

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      gutterbunnybikes April 24, 2015 at 11:51 pm

      Remodels are an interesting loophole, at least in commercial. I’ve been on at least one job that were considered a remodel and literally only one steel column of the old building was left to build off of. Though honestly that building was in Beaverton, not Portland.

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    James Sherbondy April 24, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Yeah, if you hate the McMansion style infill happening, you’d best be as opposed to this as much as you possibly can. Do you really think the city would ever pass any type of ordinance limiting infill house sizing when they stand to lose money from it? An extra $5-10K on a $750,000 dollar bill isn’t going to discourage the person who can afford a home like this from buying a large home. It’s akin to the price of gas going up a few cents and expecting it to curtail driving.

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      9watts April 24, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      “when they stand to lose money from it?”

      I must be missing something here. Our city is not a corporation. Why should their decision-making *always* be oriented toward whatever yields the highest return/the most (additional) tax receipts? Is that how city governments operate? I sure hope not. Yikes.

      If fiscal prudence, continually growing revenue streams, were really so high on the list, I don’t think our city leaders and decision-makers would be blithely ignoring the looming threats to our carbon-based lifestyles.

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        jeg April 24, 2015 at 2:26 pm

        “yields the highest return/the most (additional) tax receipts? Is that how city governments operate? I sure hope not. Yikes.”

        I suspect you’re anti-tax saying something like this. You do know why Detroit is the way it is, right? Sigh… The answer is it happened because of a collapsing tax base as the population collapsed. Adding people increases revenue which makes it more efficient to serve a large number in a dense area with transit and other multimodal options. Densifying also protects the environment, which in the long term will recoup the tax fees anyway. Our ecosystem is our most precious resource.

        And, the beauty of this is, if we can manage to get property taxes to make sense again, which I am pushing for strongly, once we’re dense enough, a city becomes self-sustaining on taxes.

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          9watts April 24, 2015 at 2:33 pm

          “I suspect you’re anti-tax ”

          Why do you keep speculating about what slot to put me in. You’ve so far struck out every time. Maybe try a different tack?

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            jeg April 24, 2015 at 3:23 pm

            Mostly because you have some very meandering views, and I am pretty resolute about mine with the intent of preserving the ecosystem and encouraging income inclusive hoods.

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              9watts April 24, 2015 at 3:46 pm

              Thanks for the explanation, for responding to my question. But perhaps you can appreciate that your discomfort with what you perceive to be my ‘meandering’ views prompts you to fling epithets at me: anti-tax, NIMBY, disingenuous, promoting sprawl. What purpose does this serve? Do we learn from each other that way? Deepen our understandings of these issues?
              Your stylized, black and white views of all this:
              Families! Density! Build! = UP
              Regulations! NIMBY! Small Apartments! Housing Shortage! Meandering Views! = DOWN

              do not permit much (any?) give and take. You characterize your views as resolute, but I’m inclined to see them as closed, as having all the answers.

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              davemess April 24, 2015 at 5:03 pm

              what you call “meandering” the rest of us call “our views”. VERY few people in the world are as easily pegged and dogmatic as you claim to be.

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        James Sherbondy April 24, 2015 at 3:23 pm

        This is the same city that put parking convenience above safety. You may be right and their intentions are pure, but I’m skeptical. Perhaps paranoid. Why even bother with the whole thing if it’s not about maximizing revenue? It’s not like a person living in a 5000 SF mansion is going to use more park services than a person in a 1200 SF home, is it?

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        J_R April 24, 2015 at 6:09 pm

        Seeking the highest revenue is probably the result of the citizens wanting the most services. The citizens’ wish lists always add up to more money than is available. If the elected officials seek to maximize income, they can say “yes” to more constituents.

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          9watts April 24, 2015 at 6:47 pm

          That is an interesting theory. That line of thinking would seem like something worth talking about at greater length. It has some logic to it but I wouldn’t want some bureaucrats just making it up on their own and organizing our city’s affairs around it without any input from the public. This just seems much too important and fundamental to be cooked up in a conference room.

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  • kiel johnson
    kiel johnson April 24, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Do ADU units have to pay this fee?

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      J_R April 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      If you click on the link to the pdf, above, it refers to the current fee for ADUs, but says they are exempt until July 1, 2016. It certainly implies that the proposal for revised fees would apply.

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      Carlsson April 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      The city has been waiving SDC fees on ADU’s for the last couple years. I have not heard of them changing that policy any time soon.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) April 24, 2015 at 3:04 pm

        As J_R notes, the ADU waiver will go away next year unless council acts to extend it. It’s been extended once. Might or might not be again.

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      David Sweet April 24, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      The City waived all SDCs for ADUs for three years starting in 2010. In 2013, they renewed the waiver for an additional three years. There is some feeling on the Council that the waiver should not be renewed when it expires in 2016, but time will tell. Besides parks, SDCs are also charged for water, sewer, and transportation. If ALL SDCs were scaled according to size, the waiver would not be needed as much to encourage construction of ADUs.

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        JML April 24, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        I agree. I think the ADU exemption should be phased out. ADUs appear to be increasingly built and used for Air BnB’s and other rentals and thus do not always end up providing a more affordable housing option for residents.

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    JML April 24, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    “But higher parks fees also threaten to drive up development costs in a city where a decade-long housing shortage has driven rents and home prices skyward.”

    Park fees are not driving the increase for the most affordable units. Since 2004 Portland has led cities in the region and state in exempting some affordable housing from SDC charges.

    Commissioner Fritz’s current Park SDC continue to waive fees for affordable ownership serving 100% of median household income. Affordable rentals would be exempt for those serving 65% of median household income.

    The Homebuilders (of McMansions) show their false colors when they oppose park SDCs in the name affordability but then turn around and advocate for reducing them on the least affordable homes first.

    The question for the City Councilors tempted to cave to the Homebuilders lobby in the name of affordability:

    Will you reduce fees on big homes first or will consider raising the exemption for affordable rental projects?

    Or will you recognize that complete communities need parks and affordable housing and we should not pit these public goods against each other?

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    bjcefola April 25, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Fritz wants to encourage small homes?

    http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2015/02/under_amanda_fritz_portland_de.html (emphasis mine)

    City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees the Bureau of Development Services, told the department’s staff in a memo this month that it needs to “raise the bar” in certain land-use reviews. In particular, she said, staff members should put more emphasis on considerations like neighborhood compatibility, the preservation of trees and availability of on-street parking.

    […]

    So far, the shift is most evident in an area where Fritz and developers have tangled before: skinny houses.

    So she wants to encourage small houses, but only where there is unlimited on-street parking and the houses are compatible with existing homes. For someone to say they want to build new housing but only in fantasyland is pretty much the same as them saying they don’t want to build new housing at all.

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    rachel b April 25, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    My concern with all the new development and the hard push for growth and accommodation is our obviously ailing infrastructure and our lack of financing to address it. So, yes–higher SDCs, please. Also–Portland’s decision-makers should have the will and the power to limit growth until we’ve got our infrastructure ducks in a row. Anything less is reckless.

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    JMak00 April 27, 2015 at 1:24 am

    What foolishness…just a scheme to wring more money out of some people, plain and simple, because you can. Because you can use the government to hurt hose you envy.

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    ac April 27, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Brendan
    Isn’t the real issue here lot size. If the goal is higher density then what you want is more people per square foot…of land. Not more people per square foot of house. I don’t see how a small house on a 1/8th acre plot with say 3 people living on it is any better than a ‘mcmansion’ on the same plot. At least not with respect to bikability, transportation, community etc.
    Recommended 6

    Many speculative developers try to maximize the allowed zoning envelope in order to maximize the advertisable “space” and amenities. They then cheap out on the design of the structure and the materials for both shorter timing of construction and higher ROI for the sale. This process ends with a building out-of-scale to its surroundings and made with crappy intentions and materials.

    But then, with our low housing inventory, people who otherwise know better still buy this crap at a premium to get into the right school district or to be closer to downtown.

    I don’t think it’s the zoning code’s fault. It’s our fault for buying this half-baked development.

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