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Jim Heuer

Mr. Potestio's comment about abolishing R5 zoning (single family homes on 50' X 100' lots) is interesting given the actual statistics on housing in Portland. He seems to think that R5 zoning is an enemy of our density goals and expanded development of multi-use residential structures.

The facts suggest otherwise. If there is a culprit among Portland zoning categories that inhibits greater density it is clearly the R10 and R20 zones, which together account for 22% of our single family zoned land but only 11% of our houses. If the R10 and R20 lots were rezoned as R5 and built out fully, it would add 20,000 new single family houses with no net increase in total City of Portland land area or expansion of the Growth Boundary, greatly relieving the upward pressure on prices of single family homes in the City.

On the other hand, homes on R5 land number some 75,000, and have an average age of 74 years, suggesting that a large majority were built well before the automobile came to totally dominate urban transport. Basically, the fabric of our R5 and R2.5 zones with strips of street-car commercial buildings along major thoroughfares is easily capable of supporting greatly reduced car use, providing that fast, convenient public transport is available, and that well-designed buildings fill in along those corridors without destroying the character and quality of life of their surroundings.

What is also neglected in the criticism of the R5 zoning is the fact that nearly 13,000 single family homes on 5000 square foot lots already sit on land zoned for higher density. Evidently, it is not enough for Mr. Potestio to see those 13,000 homes (with an average age of 84 years and an average distance from downtown of just 3.5 miles) be destroyed, but he would argue for the destruction of another 75,000 homes. Is this REALLY what Portland needs and wants?

It is time that the thoughtless advocates of density above all, be taken to task and made to explain just exactly what they expect the future to look like and why they advocate that so much of Portland must be destroyed in order to get there. If they continue to advocate for the mass replacement of single family homes by apartment blocks, then they also need to suggest how our building and zoning codes, plus local architectural practice, can make multi-family housing really attractive for families with children and others who currently strongly prefer single family housing.

There is lots of land in Portland zoned for RH, R1, CS, and other zones which would permit substantial sized apartment and mixed use residential/commercial construction... with nothing on it. If the future of Portland is really one of massively expanded apartment construction, and such a future is really so much better for the City than its current fabric of great historic neighborhoods, then why are prices of homes in those neighborhoods being bid into the stratosphere while vast swaths of RH and other high density zoned land sit empty?

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