Category Archives: Infill Development

An Epidemic of Demolitions

By Cathy Galbraith

Something insidious is happening and Portland’s traditional neighborhoods are seeing the cumulative effects of the growing epidemic of the demolition of single-family homes. There is something at work here…perhaps it’s the combination of house “flippers,” people who like closer-in locations but want a house that’s brand new…BUT how can the costs of acquisition, demolition, and new construction be anything but enormous? Perhaps that’s beside the point. What we do know is that in early-December, 2013 the city had already issued at least 230 demolition permits for the year-to-date. Residents in SE and NE Portland have sounded the alarm bells, knowing all too well that among the impacts are the continuing loss of the qualities that make up a neighborhood’s character and its physical identity.

The epidemic is even likely worse, since the city of Portland defines a “demolition” as the complete removal of a structure. Any number of what most of us would consider a “demolition” before building a new house is something different—if any part of the first house is left standing—like a single partial wall. That wrinkle lets a builder off the hook for public notification of neighbors; permits for these projects can even be classified as an “alteration” or an “addition,” not a “demolition.”

In an era of growing understanding that “the greenest building is the one that’s already built” how can Portland be heading in exactly the opposite direction? Perhaps it’s just another aspect of the “growth is good” mantra that permeates the Comprehensive Plan update…and the perceived city tendency to bend over backwards to allow (some would say encourage) admittedly unusual proposals like the 56 “micro-units” that will replace ONE single family home on NW Thurman Street. The Comprehensive Plan update is intended to address the next 25 years…at the rate we are going, how many houses will we lose just in the next five years?

Portland is a city that’s rightfully concerned about important environmental issues like its “carbon footprint.” In mid-2012, before the demolitions epidemic, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Preservation Green Lab” (based in Seattle) published a study on the environmental benefits of historic preservation, including the finding that for a new house in PORTLAND, it would take 50 years (!!!) to overcome the impacts of its construction. Among its findings, it presumed that Portland would demolish 1% of its building stock over the next 10 years. The study concluded that by retrofitting and reusing them—instead of demolishing and building new energy-efficient ones—it could meet a whopping 15% of Multnomah County’s total CO2 reduction targets over the same 10 years!

There are no easy answers to the housing demolition epidemic, but we will be calling people together soon to attempt to find some resolution. Please watch our website (www.VisitAHC.org) or sign up for our e-news to learn more about this new initiative.

1 Comment

Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Sustainability

The Latest News About Houses at SE 27th and Hawthorne

Yesterday, the Portland City Council agreed to a waiver of fees and allowed a zoning change, clearing the way for one of the two endangered homes on SE Hawthorne near 27th to be relocated. The re-zoning allows the Montgomery House at 2625 SE Hawthorne to be moved to a lot on SE Madison – behind the Rivermark Credit Union. It will then be converted into 6-7 apartment units.

The Buckman and HAND neighborhood associations, along with numerous concerned neighbors, worked tirelessly to bring this situation to a positive conclusion. This is just the sort of scenario that shows why Portland’s neighborhood association system is such a valuable resource.

It is unfortunate that the second house (2607) could not be saved. It is already in the midst of being deconstructed, so at least some materials from the home will be reused.

The new development on Hawthorne that is replacing the two homes will certainly not be the last of its kind. There are several current and former single family residences on main thoroughfares throughout the city and they should all be considered – at least to some extent – endangered. Most of these homes are not unlike the two on Hawthorne, in that they are not designated historic and have little protection against new development or demolition. Many of these homes – such as the wonderful concrete block house at SE 38th and Division (which is currently for sale) are also neighborhood landmarks. Perhaps it is time to take another look at these buildings and see if there are creative ways in which more can be preserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development

Update on Endangered Hawthorne Houses – Public Meeting

Back in August we reported on two endangered historic homes on SE Hawthorne at 27th. Redevelopment at this site is moving forward and now it appears that one of the homes may be saved from deconstruction and moved to a nearby lot.

If you are concerned about these homes or have questions about the development, the Buckman Community Association will be discussing the issue at their monthly board meeting tomorrow evening.

Here are the meeting details:

Location:  Multnomah County Boardroom – 501 SE Hawthorne

Time: 7:00 PM

For more information about the Buckman neighborhood click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History

Survey Seeks Your Opinions on Parking and Design of New Apartment Buidings

Amid growing concern over the lack of parking requirements for new apartments being built around town, the Citywide Land Use Group has prepared a survey on the subject and is now seeking public input.  There are only a few days left to fill out the survey, but it is important that city leaders understand how new apartments, however much-needed, are having a major impact on Portland’s traditional neighborhoods. As an example, we will soon be losing two classic homes over on Hawthorne, all in the name of density. Streets like Division and Williams Avenue have also been seriously impacted by new apartment construction.

But this issue is not just about the parking either. Some of the survey questions get at other issues related to design and zoning and how new construction impacts adjacent and nearby neighborhood buildings.

If you are concerned about such issues, please take a few minutes and complete the survey.

The deadline to fill it out is Saturday, November 10th.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

1 Comment

Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Sustainability

Historic Preservationists to Attend Upcoming City Council Meeting

At the Wednesday, March 7th, 9:30AM meeting of the Portland City Council, historic preservationists from around the city are planning to gather in support of reforms to the historic design review process and fee structure. This comes in the wake of recent concerns raised in the Buckman neighborhood (and elsewhere) over the exorbitant fees for even minor exterior changes to a building in a designated historic district.  Preservationists are encouraged to show up and show City Council that these places matter – even if you don’t wish to testify.

There’s more information at this Facebook event site.

2 Comments

Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History, Modernism + The Recent Past, Schools, Sustainability

An Update on the Proposed Buckman National Register Historic District

In the city of Portland there is a dearth of methods by which a neighborhood can work to protect their historic integrity. One of the only options is to seek a historic designation. With this in mind the Buckman Historic Association has been working tirelessly for more than two years to draft a nomination for a portion of the neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places. This movement was in response to several redevelopment projects in Buckman that were whittling away at what was the first suburb in East Portland.

In recent months their work has come under fire, mostly from those concerned about the exorbitant fees charged by the City of Portland for their historic design review.  Such fees could apply whenever a major exterior building alteration is proposed.

In response to various news reports, the BHA has released the following announcement about where things stand with their proposed historic district nomination:

When the effort began to form a historic district in Buckman, we had two main goals.

1. Improve neighborhood pride and cohesiveness
2. Protect our neighborhood’s historic resources and unique character through demolition review and design review.

After much feedback, we find that many residents are opposed to the concept of a historic district, mainly because of current design fees and the design review process. Additionally, we have discovered that demolition review only delays demolition, and does not halt it. We had also hoped it would be possible to develop our own design guidelines for the district. The city, despite having standards that are hard to interpret and, therefore, hard to enforce, does not want any help in developing new design review guidelines.

In the meantime, the Buckman Historic Association has committed to work with other Portland historic districts and historic preservation groups to campaign against the outrageous design review fees. We can’t say how long that might take and our success cannot be guaranteed. However, the historic association and volunteers have put in countless hours towards this project and the nomination is nearly complete. We are on track to have the application ready to hand in on March 1st. We don’t want to see our efforts go to waste, or to have to start over from the beginning at some future point, but we also see that continuing as planned would be harmful to the neighborhood.

A solution has appeared!

We have a chance to preserve our work, while also taking some time to pause, to bring the community together and to address the issues causing in ways we all find agreeable.

Our work can be submitted as a “Determination of Eligibility” (DOE), rather than as a nomination for a historic district. This gets our work on record but does not have the restrictions of a historic district. In the meantime, the state, and possibly the landmarks commission, would review and evaluate the DOE. No regulations would be imposed by the city. No design reviews. No demolition reviews. No new fees. If approved as a DOE, it would not become a full nomination until we initiated that process, which would involve outreach and the same review timeline as a historic district.

The Buckman Historic Association and neighbors opposing the historic district have joined together to share our views and to work towards finding solutions. Over the next few months, we’ll send out information, announcements and updates as we talk to our local politicians and plan gatherings, workshops and events. And as we head towards elections, the Buckman Neighborhood Association and other organizations around the city will host candidate forums and we encourage you to attend and participate.

As homeowners and renters, we all care about our community and are invested in seeing that Buckman is livable, safe and vibrant. Our neighborhood may not have the big houses and broad lawns of some of the other historic neighborhoods, but, as Portland’s first suburb, Buckman has a diversity, history, proximity and character that, very likely, drew you here, too.

It’s a shame that the BHA effort faces opposition to what is the only current  solution for protecting this historic Portland neighborhood – a solution suggested by the City to the BHA. We should also recognize that buildings and neighborhoods don’t have to be opulent expressions of the gilded age in order to be historic. In fact, the city we live in and love was mostly built on the backs of those who lived in neighborhoods such as Buckman, Eliot, and Brooklyn. It’s time such neighborhoods received proper recognition.

24 Comments

Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History

A Few Northwest Portland Preservation Tidbits

In case you’re unaware, the historic Portland Custom House in NW Portland is up for auction once again. Most recently the building has been used as a police station in the TV series Grimm. With three days left in the online auction, the latest bid is $1,720,000.  Let’s hope that we finally see this wonderful landmark put to a more permanent re-use.

Also in NW Portland, plans are well under way for a major redevelopment at the Con-Way site. It sounds like they are still ironing out some of the details, but perhaps new development on the site will take some pressure off of other parts of Northwest Portland, where infill and redevelopment projects continue to impact historic neighborhood fabric.

On that note, a couple of projects will soon change a bit of NW Flanders. On one side of the street (2125 NW Flanders) plans are moving forward to lift a house up and install a driveway and a tuck under garage. Meanwhile, across the street a house is likely to soon be replaced with a small apartment complex. This project has been on the table for some time and the current proposal is much more compatible with neighborhood scale. Too bad however that the existing home will likely be demolished.

Perhaps they could move the existing house to the aforementioned Con-Way site? 

Leave a comment

Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development

2011 in Review – and in Rhyme

A long time ago the Galaxy Restaurant – not far away
Was slated for demolition, but remains empty to this day

Soon the Hollywood Theatre will have a new building adjacent
But is the building’s design compatible or complacent?

For now Storrs’ paraboloid remains hyperbolic
As Columbia River Crossing talks have become vitriolic

Lovers of old architecture are still stymied by demolition and deconstruction
Is it worth losing our history for a small tax deduction?

The sad loss in Richmond of a home known as Waverly
Means a new private park that doesn’t seem very neighborly

In Vista Brook and Oak Hills people swoon over Rummer
To diminish these neighborhoods would really be a bummer.

And as Buckman pursues their historic district
Design review fees have some neighbors ticked

On the South Waterfront there’s a vacant garage for the old Greyhound fleet
To see this building saved would certainly be a treat

The new Claybourne Commons will have an impact in Moreland
But the loss of The Woods is more than some can stand.

A surplus old library could see a new civic use
A shining star on the horizon in a neighborhood that’s withstood much abuse

Historic preservation myths abound about NIMBYs and Obstructionists
We’re really just lovers of the past not phony historicists

And what of the oldest buildings in our city so fair?
Hallock-McMillan and others – it’s great to know that people really do care

And oh yes, the Portland Plan is still on the table
With your help we’ll keep Preservation there – For as long as we are able

The Bosco-Milligan Foundation – Architectural Heritage Center

Wishes you a Happy New Year!

1 Comment

Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History, Modernism + The Recent Past

What’s Going on at “The Woods”?

As we reported here at Portland Preservation back in August, the owners of most of the block adjacent to The Woods music venue at 6637  SE Milwaukie Avenue, have plans for a major redevelopment that includes 21 lots and the demolition of  the existing homes at 1606 SE Claybourne and 1605 SE Glenwood.

You can download the Bureau of Development Services’ staff report on the proposed project here: http://www.portlandonline.com/bds/index.cfm?a=359358&c=42262

While the initial redevelopment proposal outlined in the staff report did not meet BDS approval, according to PortlandMaps.com it appears that in October the project was given the go-ahead.

Now comes word that The Woods may be closing in January, unable to afford a proposed rent increase. As it just so happens, the owners of The Woods property are the same as those proposing to redevelop the adjacent block, Claybourne Commons, LLC. While it seems that the future of The Woods building may be in question, back in August, their redevelopment proposal noted that The Woods building would be saved and only houses would be demolished. This may be good news. While it is too bad to lose the houses that are perfectly habitable, it would be a huge loss for the Moreland area to lose The Woods building, a former funeral home built in 1928. While the building is a neighborhood landmark, it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places and therefore has little protection against demolition if such action is ever proposed. Let’s all hope they don’t change their minds and decide to demolish The Woods building too.

4 Comments

Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History

Public Comments on the DRAFT Portland Plan Due by December 28th – Where’s Historic Preservation?

Written public comments for the draft Portland Plan must be submitted by December 28th. Bosco-Milligan Foundation executive director Cathy Galbraith presented testimony at a recent public hearing on the Portland Plan, expressing concern that nowhere in the document is the term historic preservation even mentioned.  In fact, there is only one reference to “historic resources” to be found in the draft document – a big disappointment to those who have worked tirelessly over the past few years to keep the conversation about historic preservation moving forward.

In addition to concerns over the lack of mentioning historic preservation, here are some other excerpts from the Bosco-Milligan Foundation’s comments about the Portland Plan draft. Please consider sending your own comments to the city before the 12/28 deadline.

Entirely absent from the Plan is any acknowledgement of the existing Historic Resources Inventory

The issue of “community character” in the traditional neighborhoods is a concern that was raised time and time again in the earlier Portland Plan workshops. The omission of this concern throughout most of the Plan is an oversight that needs to be addressed now.

The Plan’s segment on Complete Neighborhoods cites (page 101) the need to “increase housing in areas with services” while ignoring the earlier description that these areas are primarily built out. 

We do want Portland to at long last be a leader in social sustainability (page 10) – as important as and equal to environmental sustainability that has been the focus of much of the city’s efforts. Avoiding displacement and understanding and preserving historic and cultural connections should be an overriding goal of any equity agenda. The once-celebrated Albina Community Plan (1993) led to the start of displacement in N/NE; it was well-intentioned, but has long been described as “aspirational.” What’s relevant for the Portland Plan is that many of the lofty “action steps” that have gone unfulfilled in the Albina Community Plan read much like those in the proposed Portland Plan.

The Plan includes a city role in “helping to catalyze complementary local development” (page 25) for expansion of PCC Cascade, and “Develop new land use investment approaches to support the growth & neighborhood compatibility of college and hospital campuses in the comprehensive plan update” (page 47.)  Our concern is the expansion through demolition and displacement that has been typically practiced by these institutions. A more important first step should be the public deliberation and adoption of institutional “master plans”, before it’s presumed that college and hospital campus expansions will be undertaken without detriment to the surrounding neighborhoods.

The historic preservation community, property owners in Portland’s Historic Districts, and developers are now assertively raising the issue of the city’s unreasonably high historic design review fees, in particular; the $3,000+ application fee for individual landmark designation has already proven to be a disincentive for designation, with a total of two such applications in the past nine years. Portland’s historic design review (and landmarks designation) fees are higher than all other Oregon jurisdictions and higher than for any comparably sized municipality throughout the U.S.

2 Comments

Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Modernism + The Recent Past, Schools, Sustainability