Get Ready for the Everett Home Takeover

Eight skinny homes, all market rate. Parking’s only a consideration at this point.

Skinny Home MapComing soon to a lot near you.

Everett Custom Homes announced last year that they intended to develop homes on a vacant lot at SE 65th and Holgate. They proposed up to seven or eight homes, fully intact with alleyway access and detached, rear garages. The proposal sparked some debate as to whether the character of the houses would fit the neighborhood, as well as the impact more high-priced homes might have on the area’s affordability.

And then there was parking. And that worry might be growing for nearby residents, as the detached garages originally included in the plan have suddenly disappeared from the most recent submission. And with other design features requiring potential code modifications, there’s increasing concern about the merits of the project. The current designs have triggered a Planned Development Review due to the narrow width of lots—24 feet in most cases—and side setbacks from each of the property lines. In essence (from my understanding), they are seeking the ability to build more houses than building code currently allows.

Here is an excerpt from the Design Review:

       “In addition, a Planned Development Review is triggered since Lots 2 through 7 are proposed to be less than 25 feet wide and developed with detached housed (33.611.200.C.2.b). The applicant also requests Modifications to reduce the side building setbacks (33.110.220) for Lots 1 though 8. The applicant requests a reduction in all the side setbacks that are interior to the site from the required 5 feet to 4 feet for the building walls, 3.5 feet for bay window and eave projections.”
Skinny Homes

Density can be good. Don’t get me wrong. It keeps us city folk from encroaching too much into forestlands, watersheds, and other natural areas outside of the urban boundary. It also adds to the housing stock, which (in theory) helps maintain affordable prices. (Though, that’s probably just theoretical in inner-SE.) There’s also a rationale behind development that encourages the use of alternative forms of transportation (read: limited or no parking). And in some cases, the fight against infill may be a tad overblown. Let’s also not forget that the current state of the vacant lot brings its own set of problems.

But for those most directly impacted, that all might not mean as much. And with parking already scarce on this particular block (a six-unit apartment building is finalizing construction across the street), it seems like what was once just an issue for folks on Division street to debate has suddenly crept into the Foster environs. And when a developer gives a concession to the neighborhood in good will and then conveniently takes them away without notice, perhaps questions/objections are worth posing.

What say you?

Is this kind of development good for Portland? The neighborhood? Does it ward off rising home prices or just speed up gentrification and further erode the affordable housing stock? Too crowded or not dense enough for an urban neighborhood?

Have at it, folks…but keep it civil.

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20 Responses to Get Ready for the Everett Home Takeover

  1. Ben Waterhouse says:

    I’d be happier to see townhouses going in here. I really don’t understand the point of a detached home on a 24-foot lot, since it (a) costs more to maintain than a townhome and (b) those 4 feet of dead space between the buildings do no good to anyone, and could be put to much better use—as, say, a garage. The worry over parking strikes me as an overreaction, though. There are much denser parts of town where parking is still no real issue. It isn’t as though an additional 12 homes will suddenly turn FoPo into Nob Hill.

  2. I tend to agree. Though, it’s odd how the perception of townhouses makes them more tolerable.

  3. Julie Wang says:

    That part of the block is pretty tight with parked cars. I noticed the new apartment doesn’t have parking either. I have this pipe dream that the cars parked on this narrow street makes the drivers slow down but we get A LOT of speeders down 65th.

  4. Emily says:

    Removing the garages seems sneaky and squeezing In so many skinnys without addressing parking seems greedy. I agree that we need infill. Particularly closer in. Outer SE neighborhoods like powelhurst Gilbert are already shouldering FAR more than their fair share of new construction without the infrastructure to keep up. But there needs to be thought put into the livability of the neighborhoods.

  5. Alex Reed says:

    Yay, more people near the Heart of Foster, hopefully spending money at the local businesses there!

    I’d be fine with this on my block. Although some of us homeowners like to pretend otherwise, the parking spots on the city street in front of our houses are just that: on the city street, and free for anyone to use.

    I would hope that the City is fairly liberal with handicapped spaces so that people who truly need a reserved parking spot in front of their home can get one. Does anyone know about City policy on that? For the rest of us, walking a few hundred feet (max) from our car to our house probably does us good!

  6. steph says:

    Are these plans final or is there a place we can give input. I am concerned about the 6 unit apartment without parking which is right next to the old County Building that is going to be developed for businesses without parking.

    • Li says:

      You can submit comments to the planner listed on the notice. I think comments are due 9/26. Note that the application is for the subdivision, lot width, and setbacks. Parking will be reviewed when the building permits are submitted. Current revised plans (neighbors should have received then in the mail) show a 9×24 parking pad for each house (enough for two cars parked in tandem), and the street parking will be retained because there won’t be curb cuts for driveways. I’m guessing detached garages would be extra if the buyers wanted them. They typically add $10-15k to the purchase price so not including them keeps the price a little lower.

  7. Jim Heuer says:

    The problem, folks, is in the zoning. R2.5 has been imposed on your neighborhood by the City (2500 square feet of lot per residence, typically 25′ wide) even though the historic plat in your area set 4000 square feet per lot (40′ wide). The City should have created an “R4” type zone to apply to your area, but it didn’t. The result is that any 2 houses in your neighborhood can be demolished and replaced with three “skinny” houses, completely within the code. Without a new type of zoning for your area, you will see continued pressure over the next 20 years for demolition and replacement. But don’t feel like you’re being singled out by the City: 20% of all single family houses in Portland sit on land zoned for higher density. Wait for a bulldozer coming to a neighborhood near you!

    • Alex Reed says:

      I guess one man’s “R2.5 imposed on the neighborhood by the City” is another’s “Voter-desired R2.5 zoning approved by the City.” I live in Foster-Powell and I like the couple blocks of step-down R2.5 zoning off of Foster/Holgate in that area. It allows for more density near our commercial hub and for more housing options.

      Portland has lots of single-family homes on full-size lots and more and more condos and apartments, but few townhouses, rowhouses, and skinny houses. These housing types fill a need for relatively affordable housing for families and I support the City’s zoning in this location for that reason and because I think the potential for infill and modest density increases is good for the neighborhood.

      • I’m not as concerned with building/population density or parking as much as I am about how future development in this neighborhood affects affordability. It’ll be a big issue moving forward if we seek to maintain a certain character. I’d be much more inclined to support developments like this if there was inclusionary affordable housing.

        • malexreed says:

          Sure, inclusionary zoning would be great. But it’s against state law currently, so I think our current choice is between some all-market-rate development or none. I choose some. I agree that new development has the potential to drive up prices in our neighborhood. But, I also believe that new development in the metro area has the effect of keeping metro-area prices from rising as fast – and I think the overall size of that effect is much bigger than the neighborhood effect. In a vast simplification, I think our current choice is between (1) no new housing –> a few more low-income people can afford to live in our area, but a bunch fewer can afford to live in the metro area; and (2) some new housing –> a few less low-income people can afford to live in our n’hood, but a bunch more can afford to live in the metro area.

      • Cora Potter says:

        Except attached single family housing is the least desired form of housing by a lot – according to Metro’s just published housing preferences study.

        Of the people that currently live in single family attached housing (8% of total respondents) only 11% actually prefer that housing type (ie most settled for townhouses – probably thinking it was temporary) and of all the respondents, only 7 percent would actually choose that housing type if they had their pick .

        In comparison, 65% of the respondents live in single family detached and 87% of those prefer their current housing type and 80% of all respondents would choose that housing type if they had their pick.

        • Jeff says:


          I tend to agree with what you’re saying. And I also think some development like this can be good for our neighborhood.

          However, I’m not sure that framing it as “some all-market rate development or none” is the most accurate. I’d like to think the only options for that site aren’t just the current proposal or nothing. And just because there aren’t inclusionary housing laws set into place, it doesn’t preclude a developer from seeking tax credits or exemptions to build affordable units. I’d also like to think there is room for neighborhood concerns and needs to be heard/addressed/considered by a developer, rather than just maximizing profit.

          In the end, I’m not against this proposal. I’d just like to see it be the most beneficial for the neighborhood. Opinions will vary on what that is, but for me it’s about sustainability and diversity. I feel like ensuring some level of affordability will be key in that area.

          Cheers to good discussion.

        • Alex Reed says:

          Interesting! I hadn’t seen that result of that report!

          I have to say, of the few rowhouses and townhouses in Portland, very few are places I’d like to live, so that result makes sense to me. Mostly they’ve been squeezed into non-walkable areas in recent decades, while in my opinion, denser housing needs walkable stores, shopping, jobs/fast transit to jobs, and public spaces to be truly desirable to a wide swathe of the population. I’ve seen rowhouses and townhouses in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and San Francisco that I would absolutely love to live in, and it’s because they’re affordable(ish) (OK, not San Francisco) single-family-size residences on the edge of very vibrant neighborhood centers and close to fast transit (and downtown, for that matter).

          However, I do think most of the results of that survey are not super useful because the tradeoff questions are vague and don’t seem to be the focus of the survey. I think most people, including, for example, urban Japanese and European people and Manhattanites (to mention some dense and desirable first-world areas), would like to live in a single-family house if it could be in the exact same spot and for the exact same price as an apartment or rowhouse that they’re living in. I mean, sure, I’d love to have a quality single-family house walking distance from everything, including my job and vibrant downtown nightlife, for a low price. I’d also like a pony and a unicorn. It’s the tradeoffs that give more insight into people’s operational housing preferences.

        • Alex Reed says:


          I think you’re right, I was presenting the options as too black-and-white. If I see a proposal for an inclusionary modification to this or another development in our neighborhood I’ll probably support it.

  8. Pingback: Happy Weekend, Foster People! | Foster-Powell. A neighborhood blog.

  9. Nacelle says:

    I think the neighborhood most benefits from upgrading the housing stock so I am glad to see this lot developed with detached homes. The current plan without garages is a disappointment to me and I view it as below standard. Homeowners need secure storage for all kinds of things not only automobiles. My opinion is that it would be better to reduce the number of homes and put in shared driveways with garages for each house.

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