In October, this column continued its series on accessory commercial units (ACUs). This is the fourth and final installment.
The legend of Hewlett Packard’s origin begins, effectively, in an accessory commercial unit (ACU), with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard developing an audio oscillator in a garage in 1939.
It was not the first company, or the last, to begin in that way:
- Google was begun in a garage, which Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented from a friend, Susan Wijcicki, in September 1998.
- The first Apple computer was developed in 1976 by Steve Jobs – in his parents’ garage – with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne.
- Microsoft started in a small garage in Albuquerque, where Bill Gates and Paul Allen first developed programming and operating systems for IBM.
- Jeff Bezos created the first version of Amazon in his garage in Seattle.
- Walt and Roy Disney even created their first films in their uncle’s Los Angeles garage in 1923!
Yet, in the Concordia neighborhood, it’s unclear to what extent this – or other forms of ACUs – would be legal today.
The residential zones are governed by Table 110-1 of the Portland Title 33 Zoning Code. It states none of the residential single-dwelling zones allow for retail, office or other commercial primary uses.
It does allow for accessory uses that comply with all development standards. But those development standards do not allow for structures within the front setback that would allow for pedestrian-oriented businesses fronting the sidewalk.
On sites served by alleys – because zero-setback buildings are allowed to front on alleys – it’s possible to build structures there containing accessory uses. However:
- Hours are limited to 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
- No more than one nonresident employee is allowed onsite.
- Service is limited to eight customers per day.
- No retail services are allowed onsite.
- The dwelling and site must remain residential in appearance and characteristics.
So, there are very limited types of commercial uses that would be legal under the existing code. Budding entrepreneurs would have to fit within these restrictions. Otherwise, they would not be able to engage legally in their commercial activities in residential zones.
As mentioned in the previous installment in this series, there are good questions to be answered about where – on lots, on which lots, in which parts of the city – ACUs should be allowed. There are many ways to answer these questions, and no necessarily right or wrong answers.
There are just different conclusions that people can come to through the process of community dialogue. Yet, in the Concordia neighborhood, it’s unclear to what extent this – or other forms of ACUs – would be legal today.
Neighbors interested in discussing ACUs further are welcome to join the monthly meeting of the Concordia Neighborhood Association Land Use & Transportation Committee. Find details at ConcordiaPDX.org/CNAMeetings and ConcordiaPDX.org/lutc.
Garlynn Woodsong lives on 29th Avenue, serves on the CNA board and is an avid bicyclist. He also is a dad who is passionate about the city his son will inherit. He is the planning + development partner with Cascadia Partners LLC, a local urban planning firm. Contact him at LandUse@ConcordiaPDX.org.