Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, October 10, 2014

Planning Dept. Oops No. 3

Explain this one.  Please.
3.  What is a duplex?  Is a duplex a single "unit" or 2 "units?"  How much should the city charge in SDCs for duplexes?  

From the Lake Oswego Community Development Codes:
Duplex:  A building on a lot designed to contain two dwelling units and used for residential purposes.

Dwelling, Multi-Family:  A building on one or more lots designed to contain three or more dwelling units that share common walls or floor/ceilings with one or more units. The land underneath the structure is not divided into separate lots. "Multi-family dwelling" includes structures commonly called garden apartments, apartments and condominiums.
From Oregon Residential Specialty Code
Dwelling.  Any building that contains one or two dwelling units, used, intended or designed to be built, used, rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied, or that are occupied for living purposes.  

Dwelling Unit.  A single unit providing complete individual living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.  


In the First Addition on D Ave. at 2nd St., there is a lot in the R-0 zone.  This zone allows multifamily development - no limit on number of units as long as envelope and interior dimensions are met.  This development claims to have 4 duplexes, that is 4 structures with 2 dwelling units each, for a total of 8 dwelling units on the lot.  

The buildings are separated by a space that is barely wide enough for a person to walk through so each building has 2 units.

The problem is not the number of units on the lot as it is a R-0 zone.  But given that a single lot has 4 structures and functions more like a multifamily development (shared drive and shared parking under the uphill buildings), are these really duplexes or is it a multifamily development?

1.  Duplexes only need planning department (ministerial) approval; a multifamily development must go through design review.

2.  The SDC fees are higher per unit for duplexes than for multifamily.

If a builder can call the structures duplexes, he/she can get through the approval process quickly and easily, but the fees per unit will be higher.  If it is a multifamily development, the approval process takes longer and is more complicated, but the fees per unit are less.  What to do?

The planning department and Deputy City Attorney to the rescue!  Simply lower the fees for duplexes no matter how many are on a single lot.  Now the builder can have his/her cake and eat it too.  If it looks and functions like a multifamily development, just separate the buildings into 2-unit structures and voila!  Everything is cheaper and easier!  At least this is what was proposed in a hearing before City Council last Tuesday.  The end result was that the City Council asked that the Planning Commission make a determination on what this odd duck development is, and make a finding on land use and fees before Council makes a final decision.  A wise move.  This is what should have happened in the first place.  Better yet, the planning department and/or Deputy City Attorney could have figured out that this was a multifamily development and acted accordingly.  You figure out their motivations - by now I'm too cynical to be charitable.


  1. Thanks USC for posting the ongoing foolishness being perpetrated by City Attorneys Boone and Powell and the Planning Dept. The FAN/Forest Hills Neighborhood Assn. has been fighting the ever more ridiculous interpretations of the R-6 front porch requirement (which is actually very clear) by the Planning Dept. for years now. The front porch stuff is in our Neighborhood Plan and was implemented by the ordinance creating the R-6 zone. For years these fine bureaucrats have been telling us that plans don't carry any legal weight. Unfortunately the message they are sending us loud and clear is that the city codes don't matter either and they'll interpret them any damn way they feel like, thank you, and the poor schlub residents who don't like it can go to hell.Just watch last Tuesdays City Council meeting. Who is actually running the city?