Like most cities, Portland requires lots to be at least a certain size to be developed. Standard lots in the older parts of Portland are typically 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep. Lots less than 36 feet wide are considered “narrow” lots. In some neighborhoods, lots were created in 25-foot-wide increments. These are called historically narrow lots. The land was subdivided long ago into twice as many lots as is currently allowed in the R5 zone and they do not meet current minimum lot size or width standards.

What is currently allowed

In 2003, the City of Portland established a minimum lot size of 3,000 square feet and a minimum width of 36 feet for an R5 lot to be developed. An exception was made for lots smaller or narrower than these dimensions, which can only be developed if they have been vacant for at least five years. In places where historically narrow lots are present, these lots offer another housing type option: smaller lots for smaller houses. Two side by side narrow lots can offer two detached narrow houses, two slightly wider attached houses or two units in a duplex.

Proposal: Allow new houses on historically narrow lots near Centers and Corridors within the R5 zone.

  • Allow new houses on historically narrow lots that are located near Centers and Corridors
  • Do not allow new houses on historically narrow lots that are not near Centers and Corridors
  • Require units to be attached on sites where an existing house was removed
  • Allow tandem houses (flag lots) when retaining an existing house

Narrow lot proposals: Example of a house on a site comprised of three historically narrow lots., Areas near centers and corridors, allow detached houses on vacant lots and require attached houses where a house was removed., Or, in areas near centers and corridors, historically narrow lots could be reconfigured to flag lots when retaining an existing house., Historically narrow lots outside of areas near centers and corridors could only be built upon if they meet current R5 dimension requirements.Click to enlarge

Narrow house garages and parking

On a 15-foot-wide house, a 12-foot-wide garage dominates the front façade, removing opportunities for street facing widows on the ground floor. The area of the garage also increases the size and depth of narrow houses and subtracts from first floor living area. Driveway curb cuts also remove available on-street parking. Under the draft proposal, parking access could be shared, or provided off an alley in the back.

Proposal: Do not require on-site parking and do not allow front-loaded garages for detached houses on narrow lots and historically narrow lots.

  • Retain current allowances for alley loaded garages or shared driveways to rear parking
  • For attached houses on narrow lots, front-loaded garages would be allowed when tucked under the first floor and the driveways are combined
  • Retain current parking requirements for all houses on standard lots

Download the Residential Infill Project draft proposal booklet.