Historical

332 NE 22nd

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Building Data:  Neighborhood: Kerns Year Built: 1924 Typology: Plex / Two Story / House format Units: 4 Stories: 2 Site Area: 5,000sf Building Area: 3,600sf FAR: 0.72:1 Zoning: R1 Is it Legal? YES

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Kerns
Year Built: 1924
Typology: Plex / Two Story / House format
Units: 4
Stories: 2
Site Area: 5,000sf
Building Area: 3,600sf
FAR: 0.72:1
Zoning: R1
Is it Legal? YES

This lot’s zoning could in fact accommodate one more unit. R1 allows 1 unit per 1000sf of site area, and this is a fourplex on a 5000sf lot. The building even has a detached 2 car garage to the side (potential adu on top?).

Note the fact that the front of the building faces the long side of the corner lot. As we saw in the previous post, there are unique advantages to corner lots for small multifamily buildings. By taking advantage of a double length frontage, a building can maintain a proportional relationship with the street that is pretty comparable to that of a single family house on a standard mid block lot. An additional advantage to corners is the amount of curb frontage for on-street parking. There is easily enough room for 5-6 cars to park on around this building, whereas on a mid-block lot there would only be frontage for two. Corners can thus mitigate some of the burden on this scarce resource.

Coming in at slightly less than 900sf each, these are very generous apartments. They could conceivably house a small family consisting of a couple with one child in each unit. That’s not quite as far fetched as it might sound either; the first post-war suburban tract homes in Levittown were as small as 750sf!

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4017 NE Rodney

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Building Data:  Neighborhood: Boise Year Built: 1911 Typology: Duplex-Stacked Units: 2 Stories: 2 Site Area: 5,000sf Building Area: 2,472sf FAR: 0.5:1 Density: 17.5 du/net acre Zoning: 1 (1du/5000sf of site area) Is it Legal? YES

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Boise
Year Built: 1911
Typology: Duplex-Stacked
Units: 2
Stories: 2
Site Area: 5,000sf
Building Area: 2,472sf
FAR: 0.5:1
Density: 17.5 du/net acre
Zoning: 1 (1du/5000sf of site area)
Is it Legal? YES

2017-2018 NE Rodney is an excellent example of the classic stacked duplex typology. While this one appears to have been constructed as a duplex, many of Portland’s stacked duplexes were the result of conversions. Many of these conversions occurred during WWII when the city was experiencing a severe housing shortage due to the influx of war industry workers. Note that unlike today, the newcomers were, by and large, blue collar workers.

This type of duplex has trade offs. The ground floor unit has more access to the yard than the top unit, but in many cases, a usable attic is available to the second floor. Sound transmission through the floor can be an issue. On the upside, the floor plans are pleasant and efficient, with much less space wasted on redundant circulation. We’d wager these units’ interiors are pretty similar to single story bungalows of the same era. Additionally, the shared yard and shared entry facilitate community.

Contemporary side-by-side duplex.

Contemporary side-by-side duplex.

Very few of these seem to get built today. In fact, we have located only one contemporary stacked duplex thus far. Developers seem to favor side-by-side duplexes. These can be sold as single family attached houses, which are an easier deal for small unsophisticated builders who do not want to build and hold. They are also easier to park.  

Site Plan

Site Plan

 

2022 NE 8th

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Building Data:  Neighborhood: Irvington Year Built: 1949 Typology: Duplex/Cryptoplex Units: 2 Stories: 1 Site Area: 5,000sf Building Area: 2,476sf FAR: 0.5:1 Density: 17.5 du/net acre Zoning: 1 (1du/5000sf of site area) Is it Legal? YES

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Irvington
Year Built: 1949
Typology: Duplex/Cryptoplex
Units: 2
Stories: 1
Site Area: 5,000sf
Building Area: 2,476sf
FAR: 0.5:1
Density: 17.5 du/net acre
Zoning: 1 (1du/5000sf of site area)
Is it Legal? YES

Introducing the cryptoplex! As the name implies, this is a stealth duplex. Viewed head-on, this appears to be a very ordinary cottage-vernacular single family home. Step to the side, and you’ll see a second front door, perpendicular to the one seen from the front. The two entries share a common approach and front porch. On paper, this duplex is pretty indistinguishable from the twin house we profiled a couple weeks ago. Its stealthy nature is a unique design feature, and we feel it warrants its own sub-species classification in our housing taxonomy as a result. We’ve located three of these so far, but we suspect there are many more, hiding in plain sight.

Oblique view showing door placement.

Oblique view showing door placement.

 

There are other approaches to the cryptoplex, which we’ll explore later, but note for now, that this one, by virtue of main entry location, maximizes interaction between tenants and fosters community.

Cryptoplex Layouts. Case study house left. Portland development code standard with separated entries right.

Cryptoplex Layouts. Case study house left. Portland development code standard with separated entries right.

The Portland development code has encouraged duplexes in corner lots in all residential zones for some time now. However, the code standards require entries on perpendicular faces. On the positive side, this policy activates both facades, and ensures that buildings don’t turn their backs on one of the street frontages. The downside is that it misses an opportunity to create community. On mid-block sites, the latter seems like a win-win. As more of the city gets upzoned to multifamily, this approach is worth exploring and potentially codifying in our zoning code.

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2234-2240 NE Everett

Building Data:  Neighborhood: Kerns Year Built: 1924 Typology: Duplex / Twin House Units: 2 Stories: 1.5 Site Area: 3,184sf   Building Area: 2,268sf FAR: 0.7:1 Density: 27.3du/net acre Zoning: R2.5 Is it Legal? No

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Kerns
Year Built: 1924
Typology: Duplex / Twin House
Units: 2
Stories: 1.5
Site Area: 3,184sf  
Building Area: 2,268sf
FAR: 0.7:1
Density: 27.3du/net acre
Zoning: R2.5
Is it Legal? No

This house in the Kerns neighborhood represents a typology that’s relatively unique to Portland. We’re calling it the Twin House. This is a species of duplex, with a form resembling a contemporaneous style of single-family house. In this case, it’s a bungalow. It is basically two small bungalows, mirrored down the middle for bilateral symmetry. The more common stacked duplex is a fixture of cities across the country and was very popular in the first decades of the 20th century.

Typical stacked duplex, Kerns Neighborhood

Typical stacked duplex, Kerns Neighborhood

Twin houses like this offer most of the benefits of single family homes: semi private yards, generous open space, lots of access to air and light via three window walls. They also have an interior parti that is basically that of a single family house with many examples, such as this one, having stairs leading to bedrooms upstairs, and a private basement for laundry and storage.

2233-40 NE Everett site plan.

2233-40 NE Everett site plan.

This example is not a legal use on its site. It’s zoned R2.5, meaning 2500sf of lot area minimum is required per unit. This twin house is built on a smaller than standard lot (3,184sf), so it is a non-conforming use.  If it were on a standard 50x100 lot it would be legal.

Historic twin houses are typically rental duplexes, as opposed to what we call a row house, with fee simple or condo ownership, though this can and does occur on occasion.

We will xplore more examples of the Twin House in the near future.

 

 

4063-77 NE Cleveland

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Building Data:
Neighborhood: Boise
Year Built: 1944
Typology: Plex / Single Story / Bungalow format
Units: 4
Stories: 1
Site Area: 10,000sf
Building Area: 2,470sf
FAR: 0.25:1
Density: 17du per net acre (35 for one lot) Zoning: R2.5 (2 units on a standard 5000sf lot)
Is it Legal? Technically Yes

This is a variant on the bungalow court building type, in it’s smallest variety. Each unit has at least two window walls, and the end units have three. Front and back doors exit directly into the open air, giving this many of the formal benefits of a single family house. This building is single story, so it’s unlikely a developer would do it today, as we have no zones that cap height at one story, and an investor would be foolish to “leave money on the table.”

While it is legal to build this building on this lot under current zoning (R2.5) it’s worth noting that this is a double lot. The four-plex fits entirely on one half (a 50x100 lot) and only it’s garage and backyard occupy the second lot. However, on a 5000sf lot, it would definitely be illegal to build this, since it would be twice the allowed density.

If zoning permitted, a second small building or a couple ADUs could potentially fit on the west half of the site, including converting the existing garage.

If zoning permitted, a second small building or a couple ADUs could potentially fit on the west half of the site, including converting the existing garage.

Note the corner condition. This works because the long side of the building faces the street, along the long side of the lot. This can only happen when the long side of a lot faces a street. It wouldn’t work as well on a single lot mid-block.

Oddly enough, the building straddles a lot line rather than sitting on one half of the site. Imagine it rotated 90 degrees and sitting on the northern half. That’s what I would do if I were building this, but somebody did it this way, for… reasons.

 

303 NE 22nd

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Building Data:  Neighborhood: Kerns Year Built: 1926 Typology: Plex / Bungalow court format Units: 4 Stories: 1 Site Area: 5,000sf Building Area: 2,520sf FAR: 0.5:1 Density: 35du/net acre                                 Zoning: R1 Is it Legal? YES

Building Data:
Neighborhood: Kerns
Year Built: 1926
Typology: Plex / Bungalow court format
Units: 4
Stories: 1
Site Area: 5,000sf
Building Area: 2,520sf
FAR: 0.5:1
Density: 35du/net acre                                 Zoning: R1
Is it Legal? YES

This is a style of apartment that was very popular in the 1920s, and it’s easy to find examples in Portland’s inner neighborhoods. We call this type of multifamily building a bungalow type apartment. It’s a close relative of the bungalow court, which we’ve profiled in other posts. These buildings give residents many of the most attractive features of single family homes – a front door facing the street, a back door, at least two window walls (three for end units), and in some instances, even a private basement. 

303 NE 22nd site plan.

303 NE 22nd site plan.

These really only work on corner lots, since their orientation places the doors along the long side of the building. Of course, you could do this on a mid block site, it would just be a lot less appealing. Additionally, the 150 lineal feet of curb allows room for about six cars to park (this particular case study building actually has a single car garage!). Bungalow four-plexes like this are often highlighted as exemplars of missing middle, but it’s worth asking whether or not this typology is something today’s builders would create, given the choice. We’ve found precisely one modern example of this type. Far more prevalent are three story townhouses with garages occupying most of the ground floor.