Lake Oswego Planning Commission seeks council input on HB 2001
While it may seem like cities across Oregon have ample time to come into compliance with House Bill 2001, the work is convoluted and quite complex.
HB 2001, which was approved by the Legislature in 2019, requires cities with more than 25,000 residents — or within Metro — to allow "middle housing" like duplexes, triplexes and other multi-unit, clustered housing options to be built on land zoned for single-family homes.
During the May 18 Lake Oswego City Council meeting, the planning commission discussed and received direction from the council on recommendations relating to work around the bill.
Specifically, city staff and the planning commission asked for guidance on whether Lake Oswego should adopt state-modeled codes — which staff doesn't recommend — or develop middle housing siting and design standards specific to the city to regulate middle housing opportunities. Staff also wanted direction on what's referred to as an "Infrastructure-Based Time Extension Request," which if granted allows local jurisdictions to delay middle housing in areas where infrastructure is currently significantly deficient or is expected to be that way by Dec. 31, 2023, which staff also did not recommend due to limitations it would place on the city. The third piece of guidance staff wanted direction on was whether a 15-member ad hoc citizens advisory committee should be created to provide policy guidance to the planning commission for HB 2001 compliance.
"The state has established different ways that cities can reach compliance with siting and design standards, including a straightforward approval process for cities to show that their middle housing design standards are either the same as those outlined in the Model Code or that they are the same standards that the city applies to single family detached housing," a staff report for the May 18 meeting read.
The City Council ultimately gave the nod to all of the recommendations proposed by staff.
Last July, the council unanimously approved a grant agreement with the State Department of Land Conservation and Development for HB 2001 planning assistance. The grant money went toward consulting services for the city's planning under HB 2001, which included drafting model code and minimum requirements to be compliant with the bill.
Since then, Cascadia Partners — the selected local consulting firm — have been conducting work agreed upon through the grant, providing information on neighborhood development patterns and HB 2001 requirements for a community planning process to comply with the bill by June 30, 2022.
"There are many sections of the Lake Oswego code that will have to be amended," said Jamin Kimmell with Cascadia Partners, adding that the city is not unique in this respect and that it requires digging into the code to bring it into compliance.
After undergoing a community engagement process that involved a survey and speaking with neighborhood associations, Kimmell said people were concerned with the character of neighborhoods, trees and landscaping, as well as spacing between homes.
Kimmell said while more middle housing might lead to more tree removal, the city could design regulations to steer development toward even more tree preservation than what's happening with single-family homes. Smaller units like cottage clusters may become more "economically attractive," he said, as these types of homes could be better formed around existing trees. One recommendation, Kimmell said, was to provide new regulatory incentives for tree preservation.
Community members also noted that landscaping was important and recommended requiring more front yard and foundation landscaping for all new infill housing than the city currently does for single-family housing.
Further, residents expressed distaste when garages were displayed prominently on the front facade. Kimmell said code could be strengthened to minimize visual impact of garages and driveways.
Tearing down existing homes to create middle housing also prompted concerns, and Kimmell recommended providing incentives for middle housing developments that preserve existing homes.
Preserving an existing home is "more likely to result in a compatible development if some form of what was there before was kept," he said.
While affordable housing is one of the goals with HB 2001, one of the recommendations from Cascadia Partners is to look at opportunities to incentivize affordable units.
Mayor Joe Buck asked about how regulations that override provisions of HB 2001 — like covenants, conditions and restrictions — would play into the implementation of the bill.
Kimmell said the existing covenant adopted prior to the passage of the bill will remain enforceable.
Councilor Jackie Manz asked what could be built on a 5,000-square-foot lot zoned for single-family use.
Kimmell said they're required to allow duplexes if the lot is zoned for single-family homes, but whether triplexes, quadruplexes or other types of homes are allowed will depend on the minimum lot size, which the ad hoc committee would give recommendations on at a later date.
Councilor Massene Mboup said he thinks when the state started working on HB 2001, it was with affordable housing in mind.
"They realized housing is an issue in America and in many urban areas and they wanted to work on that," Mboup said, adding that building more middle housing doesn't mean it's going to be affordable, so the city needs to be careful when creating new code.
Planning commissioner Helen Leek, in response to Councilor Aaron Rapf's question around middle housing driving property values down, said developers will build homes based on the direction of the market, but with Lake Oswego having such high land values, developers will build more expensive homes.
Leek said she thought the bill was synonymous with affordability but in Lake Oswego, that's not the case. She said adding middle housing will change the fabric of areas in the city and some trees will come down in the development process.
"It behooves us to really craft something that really works for us," Leek said.
Staff will return before the council in June with a proposed work plan for phase two.
For more information on the work around HB 2001, visit the city's website.
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