What is ReCode? 

ReCode is an ongoing project to update the city’s zoning regulations. Zoning dictates what land can be used for. For example, to build a city park, the land has to be zoned to allow for a park to be built. In order to open a coffee shop on the corner, that building has to be in a zone that allows businesses. It also regulates what type of housing can be built in which neighborhoods.

Why is the city doing this? 

Portland’s Plan 2030, the city’s comprehensive plan, lays out ambitious goals, including significant new housing development, climate resilience, easier access to public transportation and much more. To begin to take steps toward making these a reality, the city has to change its zoning laws so that more dense, easily accessible housing can be built in Portland.

What are the goals of ReCode? 

There are a lot of goals the city has for this process. The most important have to do with housing. The city wants to create more “15-minute neighborhoods,” where groceries, schools, parks and anything else someone might need in their day-to-day life are accessible within a 15-minute bike ride or walk. That means changing zoning laws to allow for more density, so that more people can be closer to the things they need.


Have any other cities done this? 

Yes. Boise, Idaho, and Austin, Texas, are just two examples of cities that have recently overhauled their zoning regulations in an effort to make way for more housing.

Who gets the final say on what changes are adopted? 

The changes are first approved by the planning board, which then refers them to the City Council. The council makes the final call.

It feels like this has been going on a long time. When did this process start?

The process was split into two phases, the first of which began in 2017, when the city approved a new comprehensive plan. ReCode was identified as a crucial step in meeting the housing goals laid out in that plan. The first phase of ReCode wrapped up in 2020. Now, the city is nearing the end of Phase 2.


Why has this taken so long?

The first phase of ReCode was mostly organizational. The city’s zoning regulations hadn’t been fully overhauled in 50 years. The rules were laid out in a document that was nearly a thousand pages long. A lot of the regulations had been written on a typewriter, and some of them were confusing and contradictory. For the first few years, the city focused exclusively on rewriting that document in modern language that’s easy to understand – and change. The City Council approved those changes in 2020.

In 2021, the city got started on Phase 2, which entails actually making changes to the existing zoning. That process was even more complicated because the city needed input from consultants, residents, business owners and developers to understand what changes would be most impactful in making room for growth in Portland.

When will it end? 

City staff hope to bring the overhauled zoning regulations before the City Council sometime this fall. Once the council approves the new zoning, ReCode will be complete, though zoning laws can always be changed and updated.

Can the public get involved? 

Yes. The city plans to hold a series of events this summer in which residents can offer feedback on the proposed changes. The city has released the proposed changes on its website, and residents are invited to get in touch with feedback.

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