Lake Oswego has begun to unpack the complexities of House Bill 2001, as members of the city's Middle Housing Advisory Committee recently dove into proposed recommendations for how to bring city code into compliance with the law.
The advisory committee and members of the Planning Commission joined the Lake Oswego City Council in a study session Nov. 16 to provide direction on the next stage of the process to adopt compliant code that's consistent with Lake Oswego's neighborhood character, livability and sense of place.
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.
Back in May, 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 didn't recommend — or develop middle housing siting and design standards specific to the city to regulate middle housing opportunities. During this meeting, staff also received direction to form the 13-member ad hoc citizens advisory committee to provide policy guidance to the planning commission for HB 2001 compliance.
Cascadia Partners was brought on late last year as a consultant to conduct research of neighborhood conditions and patterns to generate both a qualitative and quantitative analytical understanding of the city. As part of the process, neighborhood associations were brought to the table and hundreds of residents completed a survey relating to neighborhood development patterns, character and architectural history. There was also an audit of the city's comprehensive plan and development code. All of these findings helped inform the middle housing report and recommendations.
And just last month, the middle housing committee's work wrapped up.
Four topics related to the proposed recommendations got focused attention: preservation, scale and character, landscaping and stormwater and affordability and accessibility.
When deciding the recommendations, the committee needed to receive two-thirds support from voting members to include it as a formal recommendation.
Recommendations included revising the definition of "demolition" to include remodels that remove more than 50% of exterior walls; defining duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes to include detached units in addition to the more commonly seen attached units; applying existing single-family housing garage and driveway design standards to townhouses; regulating open space for detached units in the same manner as attached units; and providing financial incentives for middle housing projects.
There was no consensus on a handful of items like creating landscaping requirements for single-family and middle housing development to mitigate the impacts of increased density.
Erik Olson, the city's senior planner, said Senate Bill 458 arose over the summer while the committee was in the middle of its process. The bill addresses land division in residential zones, and Olson said concerns surfaced during the rulemaking process about middle housing homeownership opportunities.
He added that the bill would require the city to allow lot divisions that facilitate middle housing through an expedited process that clears the way for them be owned and sold individually.
Councilors voiced questions surrounding detached and attached units.
Councilor John Wendland asked whether, if a duplex, triplex or quadplex were separated, it would be considered a single-family house.
"I've never been in a state or any entity anywhere where a duplex does not have an adjoining wall," Wendland said.
Olson said it's a new concept and the difference is that there would be multiple units on one lot if they were detached. The state is allowing cities to define duplexes as detached units if they choose, according to Olson.
Councilor Jackie Manz asked about homeowners associations with covenants, conditions and restrictions. Olson said restrictions passed prior to 2019 that prohibit duplexes, triplexes and the like will remain in place.
Manz also asked about unincorporated areas, and Olson said Clackamas County has to abide by HB 2001 requirements.
Planning and Building Services Director Scot Siegel said some of the recommendations were not minimum requirements or mandates of the bill.
"Those are certainly within your discretion or direction to tell staff and the Planning Commission as to whether those are work tasks for us to complete by June 2022," said Siegel, adding that some of the recommendations like creating accessible or affordable units will likely be addressed under House Bill 2003. "I'm a little concerned about trying to take on too much scope."
The council decided to focus on the minimum requirements first and then address the leftover recommendations at a later date.
"This is a gigantic topic to talk about in a short amount of time," Wendland said. "I have concerns, though, that the charter of this group was to really get us, to inform us, with (HB) 2001, and that unto itself is a big enough project without taking on additional things."
Mayor Joe Buck said if there was time, he wanted to further examine the recommendation to redefine demolition by the June deadline.
"That seems like an easier one, if you will, and one that causes us a lot of heartaches," he said.
There will be multiple Planning Commission work sessions to prepare draft code and the next community forum on this topic will be at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9.
For more information on the recommendations, visit the city's website.
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