R5 Development in Portland | Getting Creative

10 Replies

Hi BP Community,

I just recently purchased a property in Portland, and am looking to get some advice on getting creative with development of the property, as its a bit of a unique situation.  

Property details: R5 zoning, 5700 sq ft lot, 2 bed 1 bath 750 sq ft home (plus attached garage) currently on lot, corner lot with a more than half of the property being bare land well-situated for development on corner lot.  The property is in Mt Scott-Arleta area, situated right in between two R2 zones, and fairly close to FOPO. 

Development ideas: the ultimate goal will be to keep the current home on the property and build on the bare land on the property. I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with this fairly unique situation? I'm interested in converting the existing home into an ADU with the city as it's under 800 sq ft, and building a primary residence on the bare land. With the new residential infill rules coming out around corner lots and multis in R5 zones, I'm also interested in the prospect of building a small 2 unit on the bare land, but this may be a stretch to get approved with the city. The city has also told me that I can look into spot-zoning if I would like to apply for the zoning being changed to R2, but with no guarantee that it'll be approved.

Anyways, any thoughts and experience shared would be much appreciated!  I'm also interested in sitting down with developers who have experience in this area to discuss the future development process. 



would not do rezone those are tough anywhere in Oregon and are rarely approved work with what the current guidelines are.. your on the right track  corner lots there are a lot you can do with them.

go in an sit with a planner and go over various scenarios then pick the one that works best for you.

City of Portland can take forever on some of this stuff.. I am coming out of the ground right now on one that took me almost 3 years to get approved  TEAR down and build 3 new homes..  very frustrating city to work with.

While figuring out what you want to do with it....you could probably park a tiny house on it to make some rental income.  The city of Portland is no longer enforcing the RV/Tiny House laws.  I have a tiny house (that I built) parked on my property outside of Wilsonville.  We airBNB it, and are averaging $1500/month.  (We just started it in September)  If you google search "covo tiny house co" you can see the unit we're renting out.  

Much appreciated, Rob! I’ll definitely check your place out. I like those tiny homes.. It would be a fun/interesting/challenging project one of these days.

Be sure to check with the city of Portland if you want to do short term rental in a tiny house.  You'll need to get a permit (easy) but someone has to live at the property at least 270 days/yr. to rent for less than a month at a time.   You'll also need to register as a business and pay lodging taxes.

Surprised no one has mentioned that you can put a duplex on a corner R5 lot. Also check both Portland maps and the map app (search map app Portland) to see if there happens to be a dashed line and you can do a lot confirmation, and/or whether zoning is changing. 

If you submit plans now, you might be able to squeeze through with current zoning and not be subject to the 2,500 square foot (actually .5 FAR) maximum. Meaning you could permit a 3,500sf SFR and convert existing house to the official ADU (if it's situated on the lot in a certain way).

I've seen builders somehow manage to split a corner 5k sf lot in R5 into two 50x50 lots, each with a large detached SFR. Lot division, not confirmation. My guess is they used a loophole of the duplex rule and instead put 2 houses in.

If you can do that, what I saw this other builder do (in the 500 block of N Morgan St) is make the ground floor its own guest suite with living room, bedroom, and bath, but no kitchen.

It would be rad if you could permit this ASAP, then after the RIP, go back in and permit each guest suite as an ADU. That's 4 units on what was one regular R5 lot. But you'd have to act fast.

Also R2 may confer relatively little advantage after the "Better Housing by Design" zoning is enacted (unless you want a bunch of microunits). BHD will halve allowable FAR in that zone, but eliminate unit maximums. So you'd be able to build up to 5,700 total square feet on the whole lot, as many units as you want, with caveat that a building over 19 units is subject to IZ. 

Still, that's less square footage than R5 would allow today, pre-RIP. 

Hey Account Closed, great advice here, thank you!  Very helpful stuff. 

I do actually have an underlying lot line on my property, but it runs through kind of a narrow strip of the property. It's about 19' x 100'. Do you know if the ability to split the lot based on underlying lot lines is limited to those lot lines - or does that open up other possibilities with lot division?  I assumed it was the former, but not completely sure. 

Good info about the upcoming changes. I know that the place is currently in the A overlay zone, and will be in the new zoning replacing this with the RIP. I see some interesting components of both. I like the idea of building an SFR with a separate living space on ground floor, too.

@Taj T. I'm Sr Construction Manager for a builder in the Willamette valley. We build a sweet little 2200sf duplex (1100sf / side) with a 40x58 foot print. We also build 400, 600, 800 and 1000 sf SFR's. If you are interested in more info, I'd be happy to help. I'm not in sales, but could get you pointed in the right direction if you are interested.