In a surprisingly close vote, Portland's appointed Planning and Sustainability Commission approved the current recommendations of the Residential Infill Project on Tuesday.
The vote sends the controversial proposal to rezone most of the city's single-family neighborhoods for up to four housing units on most residential lots to the City Council for consideration this summer.
The 5 to 4 vote was much closer than had been expected because most of the commission members had previously said that increasing residential densities was necessary to accommodate the tens of thousands of additional people expected to be living in Portland over the next 20 year.
Commission members had many questions for Bureau of Planning and Sustainability employees staffing the project about the recommendations during the March 12 meeting. They included concerns raised by opponents who worry that developers will demolish existing homes for larger projects, undermining the character of existing neighborhoods.
"It is counteractive to affordability and development," homeowner and developer Robert Bonnah said. "It places such limitations on developers and homeowners. It doesn't make sense."
There are still some big questions as to how many new housing units this policy would create. An independent study by the Johnson Economics consulting firm said up to 24,000 units would be built over the next 20 years. But a staff analysis said the number was only 4,000. That estimate was not publicly known until The Oregonian reported it shortly before the meeting.
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