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Design guidelines

Illustration of Chinatown/Japantown historic building

Design guidelines are intended to aid designers and developers in understanding Portland’s urban design expectations and to aid them in preparing for the urban design review process. The review process ensures that these expectations will be met for all proposals in Portland.

Design Guidelines and Design and Historic Review

The Design overlay zone (d-overlay) is applied to higher density areas of growth to ensure that new development is designed for people, forwarding the goals of Portland’s Comprehensive Plan.

Designated historic areas (landmarks and districts) are subject to historic resource review to ensure significant historic and cultural elements are not lost during alteration, addition, and new construction projects.

As new buildings are proposed, City code requires design and historic review for areas and individual buildings that are important to the city’s growth and character. Design and historic design review evaluate proposals against the design guidelines applicable to the relevant area and type of proposal.

Fundamental Design Guidelines: Approval criteria for areas within the Central City

All areas in the Central City Plan District (except industrial zones) are subject to design review or historic resource review. The approval criteria are the Central City Fundamental Design Guidelines and applicable Subdistrict or Historic District Design Guidelines, depending on the geography.

Overall guidelines for the Central City

Subdistrict design guidelines for design overlay

Design guidelines for historic districts

Community Design Guidelines: Approval criteria for areas outside the Central City

The approval criteria for sites within designated design districts are the design guidelines adopted for that area or district. But most d-overlay sites are not within designated design districts. Therefore, their approval criteria are the Community Design Guidelines. The Community Design Guidelines also apply in designated Conservation Districts.

Design guidelines for design overlay outside of the Central City

Design guidelines for historic districts outside of the Central City

Certain historic districts outside of the Central City have district-specific design guidelines that apply to alteration, addition, and new construction proposals: