Salem Oregon Building Height Restrictions

Over the years I had heard from a variety of sources that there was "a law" that prohibited any structure being built that would be taller than the Capitol. It made some sense that one might not want to block the view of Salem's most prominent landmark, but "a law"?

To find the answer I went to City Hall and talked with the City Planning & Building Codes Departments. Here are Salem's building height restrictions as they relate to zoning:

Single Family Residential - 35 feet
Residential Multiple - 35-70 feet
Commercial General - 70 feet
Commercial Retail - 50 feet
Commercial Office - 35 feet
General Industrial - 70 feet
Industrial Business Campus - 70 feet
Industrial Park - 45 feet

The zone where exception is the rule, is the Central Business Zoning District in downtown Salem. This area is a jagged patchwork of downtown blocks. In this zone, height restrictions are ruled by building codes. This is not to say that a 30-story building could be constructed without review.

All city departments including public works, parks, airport and others including planning and building codes would be reviewers of any potential project. Local politics would also probably play a role, as it does in most anything that affects Salem residents. Additionally, there is always a question of economics and finance.

In short, it's my opinion that Salem's Tallest Building since 1878, the First United Methodist Church, will continue to hold that honor far into the future.

Jon Hazen
October 2001

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