Ben Schonberger interviewed for Sightline article

Ben Schonberger was recently interviewed by the Sightline Institute for an article titled “Portland’s new design rules could kill housing–but they don’t have to”

Ben Schonberger, a senior planner with Portland-based Winterbrook Planning, said that in his observation, the uncertainty of the subjective Design Commission review process leads most builders to avoid it if they can.

“If you are savvy and skilled, you aren’t afraid of design review and can build that into your schedule,” said Schonberger, who also sits on the board of the housing affordability advocacy group Housing Land Advocates. “But we need all kinds of developers, not just those who are willing to go through the pain of design review.”

Objective design standards and subjective Design Commission review can both have a useful role, Schonberger said: “raising the floor” of urban design by ensuring that the very worst buildings don’t go in.

Objective standards alone, he said, can steer projects away from common problems: “Your building isn’t going to have blank walls, your building isn’t going to turn its back on the street, your building is going to have some articulation.”

But Schonberger said he doubted that either subjective Design Commission review or objective design standards will ever lead to more truly excellent buildings.

“What makes incredible buildings are passionate, interested, well-capitalized builders,” Schonberger said. “It’s just like any business—there are good ones and there are bad ones. If they’re not really interested in appearance, it’s going to be crappy no matter how many times you go through the design review process.”


You can read the full article here.