A Historic District, In Name

This piece from Preservation magazine looks at how historic districts in Portland fall short in preventing incompatible uses.

"But there's a fly in the historically accurate color palette. A decade ago, when Montgomery and Byrnes fell in love with the tree-lined streets and century-old houses that define the Irvington Conservation District, their decision to buy the house was strongly influenced by the 'Historic Irvington' signs they had noticed throughout the area. 'What we're really upset about,' Montgomery says, 'is we thought the signs meant the city would protect the character of the neighborhood.'"

"Now Montgomery has realized those signs were just signs. Because despite Irvington's conservation district status, development there threatens to damage the neighborhood's distinctive look."

"In Portland, a regional governmental agency known as Metro is responsible for maintaining that city's urban growth boundary. 'So Metro has to comply with the state,' says Gisvold, 'and cities and counties have to comply with Metro. And Metro has established minimum density requirements that cities and counties have to meet.' Largely, it's those density requirements that unintentionally threaten Portland's historic districts."

"Currently, if a proposed development in a historic district meets zoning requirements, there's little residents can do to stop its construction-even when they feel it's oversized or out of character with their community."

Full Story: Trouble in Green City



Diana DeRubertis's picture

This is an excellent article

Illustrates an interesting conflict between neighborhood character and increasing density.

Article misses the mark

In Oregon the more restrictive regulation always trumps the less restrictive one. It's true that Oregon's planning system is dictated at the state level, but a local jurisdiction can always make stricter rules. The author implies that historic districts' hands are tied by the state-wide planning rules. This is not the case. Also, it is important not to mistake density requirements for lack of proper design review. There are plenty of examples of historic neighborhoods all across this country that have a mix of historic structures of different densities. In fact, historically, mixing densities within neighborhoods was much more common than it is today. The problem here is not Oregon's land use controls, the problem is lack of proper design review.

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