No. Existing buildings are rarely built to the maximum height and area that the zoning allows. For example, houses in the R-1 zone (Low-Density Residential) can be up to 30 feet tall (2-3 stories) and can occupy half of the area of the lot. For a typical 60’ x 120’ lot, that would be a 7,000 – 10,000 square foot house. The C-2 commercial zone that lines much of south Willamette Street allows buildings that are 120 feet tall (10-12 stories), cover 90% of the property, and have no setback.
The distinction between existing buildings and zoning can be confusing when single family houses are built on properties zoned for higher density, such as R-2 (Medium-Density Residential). Today in South Willamette, there are 40 properties zoned R-2 with single family houses on them and 32 properties zoned R-3 with single family houses on them.
Zoning is a tool the city uses to regulate development within the context of our larger land use plan, or blueprint for growth in the region, the Metro Plan. In 1982, the Eugene-Springfield Metropolitan General Plan was adopted, establishing basic Plan Designations across the entire Metro Region. These designations, such as LDR - Low Density Residential, HDR - High Density Residential and COM - Commercial, were established as a regional policy to guide future zoning changes. Where city zoning is in conflict with the Plan Designation, property owners typically have legal grounds to rezone their property to a zone consistent with the Plan Designation. Today in South Willamette, there are 36 properties currently zoned R-1 that have a Plan Designation of MDR – Medium Density Residential or higher. The South Willamette planning process started with the Metro Plan as a guide to determine, with the community, where taller buildings would be appropriate in the district, and then developed an implementing zone focused on design standards and compatible transitions.