Questions & Answers

Topic sections:


Click the poster to see it larger.

Answers are based on response from the City of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services staff unless noted as Contributor. Contributors are reliable expert sources not representing the City, such as residents of other historic districts in Portland with deep experience in working with their neighborhood and with the City’s review process.

The answers reflect the experience of reviewing past applications using existing regulations and are not advice for a particular application.

As used here, a “contributing resource” is a property identified as having architectural or historic character that contributes to the historic significance of the district. Typically contributing resources are those built during a “period of significance” and/or having associations with significant people or events. All properties change over time. It is not necessary for a property to retain all its historic physical features or characteristics. The property must retain, however, the essential physical features that enable it to convey its historic identity.”Alterations that diminish a property’s integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, or association may impact a property’s eligibility. In a historic district, these alterations are generally limited to exterior modifications that are visible from the public right of way. There are many instances for renovations to occur, including those visible to the public that do not diminish the overall integrity or eligibility of a property.

Non-contributing resources” are properties that do not have architectural or historic character that contributes to the significance of the district; that were built after the period of significance; or were built during the period of significance but have been altered to the point of no longer retaining their original historic character.

Questions about the Historic District nomination process

The short answer is to review the project timeline. ( To understand more fully, consider the project as having 6 phases.

Phase 1 Preliminaries: Research leading to the decision by the ENA Board to advance the project considering the advantages and challenges and providing a high level of publicity to alert the neighborhood to the decisions. Alert the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for their advice.

Phase 2 Organize: ENA Board authorizes the Land Use Committee to assemble a managing team to coordinate the process. This includes designing an interview process for architectural historian consultant selection, identifying a project budget, and negotiating contract terms with the selected consultant. Following consultant selection, develop a communications strategy to inform and educate the neighborhood. Inform the City Landmarks Commission and request advice.

Phase 3a. Based on the level of support registered at the public meeting, the Board decides to proceed with developing the district application and authorizes the consultant and consultant trained volunteer teams to complete the inventory and photo documentation of every property, create a deep history for a sampling of characteristic examples, and make a preliminary determination of eligibility (contributing/noncontributing) based on integrity of the resource and other factors. Then begins the formulation of the historical narrative for the significance of the district. During this phase the historic district communication team continues the information and education process through a website, email, social media, and print media.

Phase 3b. Draft Nomination and Initial Review. With survey work substantially complete, the accuracy of the survey work is checked, the eligibility data is mapped and an in depth narrative of the history is researched and developed. The district boundary is determined by the concentration of contributing (or significant) resources, the period of significance established by common historical and thematic characteristics, and the architectural and social significance is identified in the historic context. The survey and narrative documentation are assembled as the draft nomination submittal to the SHPO. This is the basis for the draft National Register nomination. The SHPO accepts the document as eligible for consideration, establishes a project website for the proposed district, and the draft is made public. The initial 75 day review cycle begins.

During the initial SHPO review, adjustments are made to the narrative, eligibility, and the district boundary. Characterization of properties as contributing, non-contributing and other data is reviewed by stakeholders who may request corrections to the survey work at any time prior to final approval by the National Park Service. A revised draft nomination for the historic district is made ready to be presented in a well publicized meeting to all neighborhood stakeholders. This is submitted to both the local government - Portland Landmarks Commission (PLC) as well as the Statewide Commission for Historic Resources (SACHP) for review in preparation for one of their tri-annual meetings. The historic district communication team updates websites and related publicity. The City of Portland provides advisory written notice to all stakeholders concerning the proposed district.

Phase 4. Draft Nomination Review. The draft nomination is presented to the PLC for discussion, public testimony, and advisory recommendations from Commissioners. At the close of the initial review period, a presentation by the applicant's consultant, testimony supporting and opposing the nomination, and reports from the SHPO and SACHP review team is heard by SACHP Commissioners. The SACHP deliberates and makes a binding vote to terminate, postpone, or advance the nomination to the National Park Service based on technical criteria as well a qualitative judgement. A second public review period of 90 days begins. The applicant (ENA Board) issues a non-binding survey/poll of all eligible property owners within the proposed district boundaries to assess the support and opposition for submitting the nomination (by federal law, opposition requires 50% plus 1 notarized letters to terminate). Based on the outcome of governmental reviews described above and considering the results from the survey/poll, the ENA Board decides to terminate, postpone, or advance the nomination. Unless opposed, the consultant team continues work with the SHPO to finalize the proposal.

Phase 5. Nomination Approval. Once the SACHP has recommended that the nomination be advanced, the SHPO proceeds with further review until it deems the recommended corrections and improvements complete. Unless the applicant objects, the nomination for national historic district is forwarded to the National Park Service for their review for the NPS 45 day review. This time is the final opportunity for eligible owners to comment or object. At the end of that cycle, the NPS may approve the nomination or return the nomination for additional improvements.

Phase 6. Protections. Following approval, local government is required to protect National Historic Register properties. This will occur in steps.

There are State and federal guidelines and regulations regarding the inventory of historic resources and the development of National Register nominations for historic districts. The National Register Bulletin 16a: provides instructions at the Federal level. The State guidelines for surveys are found here: These are the guidelines that AECOM, our consultant, is following in preparing the survey and nomination application. If you have questions concerning the historic district nomination process, the ENA recommends calling Diana Painter, Architectural Historian, National Register Program Coordinator, Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) 503-986-0668.
The ENA Board considering the interests of preserving the much loved character of the neighborhood is sponsoring the project, providing volunteers to support the project, managing the project, and most important informing and engaging the neighborhood.
The ENA historic district communication team, relying on the expertise of our consultant, public officials, and residents from other historic districts provides information and education through public meetings, a website, email, social media, and print media about the advantages and challenges of inventorying, listing, and living in an historic district in the National Register of Historic Places. These efforts have included:

-Well publicized presentations by 3 historic district consultants at a regular ENA Board meeting as part of the selection process along with earlier presentations at Board meetings.

-An overview presentation, panel discussion, and Q and A, widely publicized and very well-attended, to orient the homeowners and to weigh neighborhood sentiment;

-Public meeting with the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission to obtain commission input;

-A public information website to serve as a clearinghouse for information concerning the historic district project;

-Articles in ENA newsletter concerning the historic district project;

-Informal discussions held with neighbors by neighborhood volunteers during the historic resource inventory and our annual Fourth of July parade;

-Neighborhood history walks lead by neighborhood historians;

-Restore Oregon public workshop to provide extended Q and A to a neighborhood and city-wide audience.

To understand the viability of a historic district, the ENA has funded an historic resources inventory that will largely be conducted by trained neighborhood residents. The inventory will be reviewed for accuracy by architectural historians retained by the ENA and that will ensure accuracy. The field inventory will help to verify the date of construction, historical integrity, and architectural characteristics of individual resources and make a recommendation on whether the resource contributes or does not contribute to the historical integrity and significance of the inventory area. Once completed, the survey data will be compiled onto a brief report with maps that will depict the initial recommendations concerning contributing and non-contributing status. The report will also propose a historic district boundary. The report will be submitted to the Oregon SHPO for their review and comment and it is anticipated that some changes to contributing/non-contributing status may occur and be posted on the historic district website. Those resources that are situated within the proposed boundary will then be included in the development of a National Register nomination for the historic district. The results of the survey will be shared with the neighborhood at an ENA-sponsored neighborhood workshop. After the workshop, a non-binding poll of all properties within the proposed boundaries will be used to determine the level of support for submitting the nomination. Based on information from the poll, the ENA Board will decide to terminate or advance the nomination. If advanced, the consultant team will continue to work with the SHPO to refine the proposal.

If advanced by the ENA, the National Register nomination will be submitted to the Oregon SHPO in November 2016 for placement on the February 2017 agenda of the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation (SACHP) which considers National Register nominations for the state. A public meeting sponsored by the ENA will precede the SACHP meeting and the SACHP meeting itself will be public as well. Additional meetings of the SACHP may be required. If approved by the SACHP, the nomination would be revised to address the SACHP’s comments and is then forwarded on the National Park Service’s (NPS) National Register program for review.

It should be noted that the historic district boundaries and contributing/non-contributing status may be revised to address comments from the Oregon SHPO, SACHP, and NPS at any time during this process so it is important for neighborhood residents to remain engaged in the nomination process as it moves forward. Please check the historic district website above for project updates.

Requesting Corrections or Changes to the Eastmoreland Historic District Property Descriptions To further ensure the accuracy of the nomination Individual property owners, who have evidence to indicate that information in the individual property listing or the main body of the nomination is inaccurate, are asked to please provide their additional information as described below. For individual properties, the following information must be included in your requested correction:
  • Property’s address
  • A photograph of the house/garage/details/landscape features that are the source of the requested edit. Photographs may include historic photographs that show how the property has evolved (or not evolved) over time. A sequence of snipped Google Streetview images from between (2007-2016) may also help if changes have occurred recently.
The following additional information is not essential but will be helpful and most appreciated:
  • Copies of any building permits that demonstrate the scope/magnitude of exterior building modifications (just documents that demonstrate where changes occurred).
  • A copy of a Sanborn Fire Insurance map of your property that shows how the property site plan was shown in the mid-1920s and again in 1950. These are available under the research tab of the Multnomah County Library website.

In an historic district, what changes would I be able to make on my property? [Note: This section does not apply unless design guidelines are adopted.]

No. Paint color selection will not be part of the design guidelines for Eastmoreland and colors are not regulated through historic resource review. Repair and maintenance are also exempt from historic resource review.
[Note: This paragraph does not apply unless design guidelines are adopted.] A qualified yes. An addition, up or out, to a non-contributing resource is like any other provided that it is in keeping with the character of the existing resource and guidelines for the district. For contributing resources, the same standards apply — except that larger additions that impact the street-facing elevations will be held to a more stringent standard. The purpose of historic designation is to preserve the integrity of the existing historic resources; however, alterations and additions may be approved if they do not adversely affect significant features or compromise the historic character of the resource.
[Note: This paragraph does not apply unless design guidelines are adopted.] An accessory dwelling is allowed as long as the design is in keeping with the character of the existing resource and guidelines for the district. If the ADU is an interior remodel with no exterior impacts, it would not require a historic resource review.
[Note: This paragraph does not apply unless design guidelines are adopted.] Alterations to both contributing and non-contributing garages are subject to historic resource review, unless exempted by 33.445.320.B. and guidelines for the district.
Yes. Interior alterations are not subject to historic resource review. Historic resource review would be required if the interior alterations resulted in an exterior alteration such as relocation, introduction, or removal of a window or door, for instance.
[Note: This paragraph does not apply unless design guidelines are adopted.] In general, compatibility and context is valued over differentiation. A design that contrasts significantly from the existing character is less likely to be approved. Historic resource review is discretionary and will depend on a number of factors, including where the addition is located and compatibility with neighborhood-specific guidelines.
Generally no. Fences, street walls, patios, plant selection, and low-level decks are not subject to historic resource review unless local guidelines specifically address these issues.
[Note: This paragraph does not apply unless design guidelines are adopted.] No. 33.445.320.B.11 provides a path toward exemption for solar panels. Neighborhood guidelines may affect this as well. The exemption depends on the siting of the house and the design of the solar array. The purpose is to ensure that solar panels are minimally visible from the street.
[Note: This paragraph does not apply unless design guidelines are adopted.] Yes, through the historic resource review process. See the next section.

Historic Resource Review (HRR), Cost and Process

Section 33.445.320.B is the zoning code section listing the 22 exemptions from Historic Resource Review including: repair, maintenance, ADA facilities, and many others. Repair and maintenance have been expressly designated in the legislative history of this section of the code as including painting previously painted surfaces and re-roofing standard asphalt shingle roofs. (Contributor)
Yes. There are three types plus Type IV, the demolition review for contributing structures. See next question or dig in deep at Section 33.846 of the zoning code.
Historic Resource Review fees are based on the valuation of the scope of the project, beginning at $250 for the most common types of reviews. Typically the fees are equal to 3.2% of the valuation of exterior alterations in addition to other land use and plan review fees. Except for constructing a new building, the fees are based only on the value of the exterior work. For example, if remodeling a kitchen that includes the relocation of one exterior window, the valuation only applies to the relocated window, not the cost of the interior remodel.

Each application begins with a completeness review targeted to last 14 days, but that may last as long as 30 days. After an application is deemed complete, a public notice is mailed to neighboring property owners and the neighborhood association.

A Type I Review for alterations that affect less than 150 square feet of façade area is $250. The review requires a two-week comment period, after which time a decision may be issued. There is no appeal period for a Type I review. Review time for a Type I review is about 35 days. For more details, see the City's process description.

For Type II Review for exterior alterations (no new footprint) the minimum is $991 rising as a described percentage to $5,066. For a project that expands the footprint, fees begin at $2,078 and rise to $5,818. A Type II application requires a three-week comment period. After the decision is issued, there is a two-week appeal period. Ideally, the total review time for a Type II review is about 56 days. For more details, see the City's process description.

Type III Review applies to new construction and may equal a minimum of $9,381. A Type III review is longer, requires a public hearing, and is unlikely to be required for anything less than construction of a new single dwelling or larger building. For more details, see the City's process description.

Disclaimer: These numbers are a guide; individual projects may result in different amounts. Fees are in addition to fees charged by other service bureaus for reviews normally associated with the plan review and building permit process. Depending on planner workload and the complexity of the proposal, review periods may be longer than anticipated.

The city’s Bureau of Development Services (BDS) provides historic resource reviews at the administrative level. For larger Type III applications, BDS staff reviews and guides the application through the land use process with the Historic Landmarks Commission serving as the approval body. The Historic Landmarks Commission also serves as the appeal body for appeals of Type II historic resource reviews. (Staff-level Type II reviews can be appealed to the Historic Landmarks Commission for $250.) Applicants may meet with the neighborhood before or during the application process. The neighborhood association, as well as any member of the public, may provide written comments in response to any land use proposal.
The appeal process for Type II and Type III reviews assures homeowners a path forward in the event of BDS bureaucratic overreach. It also provides the Neighborhood Association with a degree of leverage in their negotiations with BDS in Type II and III cases. The community can and will have a voice in future development through the NA Land Use Committee. It is the responsibility of the NA to exercise its rights of appeal cautiously and intelligently. Out of over 400 cases, the Irvington Community Association has filed appeals on only two occasions, and won both of them -- and those were on major, substantive issues of BDS policy. There have been a couple of appeals filed by property owners across those 400+ cases. The ICA supported BDS on one of them, and took a largely neutral stand on the other. There is no question that appeals add dramatically to the timeline, so it is in everyone's best interest to work toward solutions that don't trigger an appeal.

Note: Type I reviews are NOT subject to appeal to the Landmarks Commission or to City Council. The Preservation Community gave up the right of appeal on those reviews in return for an accelerated timeline for the approval. (In theory they are appeal-able to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), but the cost and delay of such appeals makes that a non-option for typical small Type I review cases. (Contributor)
In addition to the HRR application, applicants submit product information and drawings and, especially for larger projects, drawings provided by design professionals. In other cases, homeowners have successfully submitted hand-drawn sketches that clearly showed what is proposed. Also see the Lunch and Learn #1 Slide Presentation from July 15. (Contributor)

How will Historic District status affect the neighborhood?

The historic resource review guidelines will be based on analysis of existing neighborhood patterns, neighborhood input, and national preservation standards that may supersede local zoning regulations. Houses considered non-contributing may be demolished or substantially altered, but in design they will conform to historic resource review guidelines. Speculative exterior remodeling and additions will likely decrease due to increased time and expense of the historic resource review process. In general: The aesthetic qualities, character, and scale of Eastmoreland will remain intact.
Demolitions of contributing properties will virtually end except for owners who are very determined and willing to undergo a public process, including City Council hearing, to gain approval. Those houses considered non-contributing can be demolished without any special reviews. However, the historic district guidelines will apply in rebuilding.
For a contributing resource, any proposed major alteration that would result in a significant change to the exterior of a historic resource would be subject to Historic Resource Review. Alterations that result in a significant loss of historic materials or the overall integrity of a contributing building would likely not be approved through the Historic Resource Review process.
There are no additional fees for demolition of noncontributing resources. However, any new construction would need to be approved through Historic Resource Review.
No. If anything the existing and proposed zoning and market pressures are likely to result in replacement housing that is significantly larger and less affordable than protected existing housing. The “housing crisis” in any case is not for lack of buildable land, but for lack of available housing in well located areas that most people can afford.

Portland Historic Resources Code


Historic District Design Guidelines

The Oregon Goal 5 rule requires demolition protections for all National Register historic properties. It also authorizes local jurisdictions to create design guidelines for local or National Register historic districts. This will provide immediate demolition denial and high level review by City Council for the contributing houses in the historic district. [This paragraph no longer applies to Eastmoreland or Laurelhurst]. Once an historic district is made part of the National Register the default Historic Resource Review HRR process relies on standards in Section 33.846 both for staff review and for Landmarks Commission review of larger projects. These allow a high level of discretion in interpretation. An example of an Historic District with the default 33.846.060.G guidelines is Irvington. There were some problems with this process early on but with the revised approach the reviews are more favorable in recent years. Local design guidelines, if approved, will be derived from the historic analysis and narrative associated with the defining characteristics of the district. Our expectation is that design guidelines will provide clarity in how preservation standards are administered and a level of flexibility in adapting to changing technology such as solar panels, windows, as well as standards for remodels and additions. The process for developing local historic district guidelines will involve a separate process requiring neighborhood buy-in for the guidelines. There will be an extended period without Historic Resource Review. An example of an older Historic District with design guidelines is Kings Hill: Kings Hill Historic District Guidelines.
1) The survey and/or nomination materials can be updated/changed to reflect a change in status until the nomination is submitted to the National Park Service. Once listed, a change in status can be applied for if modifications are made to a property that make it either newly contributing or newly non-contributing.

2) Once listed in the National Register by NPS, the city will require review for future modifications that fall under the City's design review requirements. If a building permit for modifications is pulled prior to the NPS listing of a historic district, the city would honor the "pre-listing" permit and the modifications could be made.

3) If modifications occur between the time of the survey and historic district approval that damage the historic integrity, it may cause the property to be removed from the contributing category. (Contributor)

Historic Resource Review (HRR), Cost and Examples [Note: This section does not apply unless design guidelines are adopted.]

The City of Portland, through its philosophy of "fee support" for the Bureau of Development Services, has in place many fees -- for land use reviews, life safety and structural reviews, trade permits, system development charges, etc. The least of these are Historic Resource Review fees! We might all agree that some HRR fees seem excessive, but in context of all building-associated permit fees, they are a relatively minor cost for the overall benefit to the neighborhood... when they are incurred at all.

The Type I HRR review has a fixed maximum fee of $250. Type I reviews apply to: a) projects that are entirely "restoration," regardless of size; b) most external ADU projects; and c) projects where the alterations affect less than 150 square feet of surface area. The latter has been interpreted generously by BDS to favor selection of the Type I path where reasonably possible. (Contributor)
Historic Resource Review charges and rules apply ONLY to the modifications made to the EXTERIOR of the structure. You can spend a million dollars on your interior, and if you don't affect the exterior there is NO HRR. If that same million-dollar remodel causes a couple of windows to be modified or relocated, and the total square feet of those windows is under 150 (which actually covers a number of windows) the HRR process is a Type I, which costs $250. Period.

If your million-dollar project spills over the 150 square-foot limit in exterior modifications -- let's say there is a dormer to be added to the second floor which, with the windows gets over 150 square feet of exterior wall, the fee is still based on the cost of the exterior alterations ONLY and will start at $925 since there is no increase in footprint (Tier C pricing).

Another example: For a $225,000 ADU addition in a basement, the Building Permit cost is under $5,500. Without the ADU exemption, the cost would have added $8,000 for the System Development Charges alone. The HRR fee? $250.

Again, the valuation used for determining value and fees for HRR is based on the City's estimate of the cost of those alterations to the exterior that are covered by the HRR process ONLY, regardless of the cost of interior work. (Contributor)
Historic Resource Review charges and rules apply ONLY to the modifications made to the EXTERIOR of the structure. Fees for Plan Review and Building Permit fees are based on TOTAL project cost -- and apply to all remodeling and new construction regardless of any Historic Resource Review or Historic District designation. For example, for a substantial addition where the footprint of the house is expanded by over 500 square feet , Tier G does apply. Most remodel/addition projects will be well within the threshold of the Type II review of $437,000 (see Section 33.846 of the zoning code for the fee schedule) with the maximum HRR fee of $5,250.
For demolition, non- contributing structures pay the standard demolition-related fees. Most NEW construction (e.g. completely new house or very large expansion) will trigger the Type III review, and associated fees. Where significant fees can be incurred is in development of new infill development in Historic Districts, but again it is a fraction of the overall review and permit fees and will act as further discouragement to speculative infill in the Eastmoreland District. (Contributor)

I would like to know more about the background of the historic district project and the ENA Board decisions.

Not in secret. The Land Use Committee and the Board had worked with the City and the neighborhood for several years on an expanded plan district proposal before the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability withdrew support for the proposal during the winter of 2015. Quoting from page 6 of the Fall 2015 ENA Newsletter... “Frustrated with the lack of support for a Plan District, the ENA Board has authorized the Land Use Committee to lay the groundwork for application for Eastmoreland as an historic district joining the 14 other historic districts in Portland. This will require a significant infusion of money and volunteer effort and is likely to offer only protection to a portion of the neighborhood. For the area covered it will build on the standards developed for the Plan District.” Subsequently, in January 2016 the Board was briefed on the advantages and disadvantages of living in an historic district and provided with a rough estimate of cost to do so.

During the February 2016 Board meeting the Land Use Committee was authorized to interview and solicit proposals from three qualified historic district consultants. All presented at the widely advertised and well attended March 17 Board meeting held at Reed College. Following those informative presentation interviews, the Board was presented with an overall project budget of approximately $55,000 during the April Board Retreat. A non-binding vote at that meeting authorized negotiations with AECOM to enter into agreement and authorized a budget of $10,000 to carry the project through a first phase focused on the May 26 public workshop. At the regular April Board meeting the approval was again ratified with a single dissent. The agreement with AECOM was signed in April 22, 2016 and work began.

The May 26 Proposed Historic District Workshop was designed to educate the neighborhood about the advantages and challenges ahead. It was publicized with every available medium including a lengthy article in the Spring 2016 ENA Newsletter. The workshop was held in Duniway school and attended by over 250 neighbors who, by any measure, were supportive of the Board’s direction. During the May 2016 Board meeting the Board voted to proceed with the second contingency in the AECOM agreement authorizing the architectural survey of the neighborhood and related expenses.

Other concerns

Current code stipulates that in the event of an earthquake, if the building is deemed an immediate danger by BDS, it may be demolished without historic resource review. Also,assuming the damage is not significant, repair is exempt from historic resource review. BDS also considers certain seismic retrofit work (seismic straps at the basement level of single dwellings provided they are painted to match the foundation) to be “maintenance”; therefore, this work may be exempt from historic resource review. Beyond that, the code does not specify whether other regulations are lifted or enforced in the event of a cataclysmic event.
Yes, they were reviewed for content and accuracy and in many cases found to contain misrepresentations and errors of fact needing correction. These concern the impacts of living in an historic district, quotes from critics, as well as the accusations that the Board has not been keeping the neighborhood informed. Click on this link to the KEF website excerpts reproduced in the order of their web-page organization at the end of July 2016. Our reviewers' comments are highlighted.