Last night the Eastmoreland Neighborhood announced they would be staging a “park-in” to keep yet another demolition from occurring. Here’s the text of their announcement from their Facebook page:
The developer at 3620 SE Rural has circumvented the ENA’s 120 day delay for demolition and plans to raze the house tomorrow morning. A park-in to block the bulldozer may be the only way to prevent this violation of public trust and to prevent the work-around to our hard won delay. The park-in will be at 8am tomorrow morning at 3620 SE Rural to block the developer from tearing down this home. Cars need to be in place by 7:00am (or so). Details below:
This PM , neighbor Winky Wheeler received a door hanger demolition notice that the subject house at 3620 SE Rural will be demolished tomorrow effectively violating the 120 day delay imposed by the ENA. The details and confirmation of the delay may be found below. In conversation with Kareen Perkins who administers title 24 for the City she explained that the developer (among others) had found a work-around for the delay.
Yesterday, July 15, the applicant withdrew the demolition permit with the 120 day delay and pulled the permit applications for both houses applied for some weeks ago effectively violating the intent of the regulations. The neighborhood association was not notified of the event by the City as no notification is required. Following the withdraw of the original applications, the applicant filed for a permit for one house and received simultaneously a demolition permit with no delay.
The developer is operating within the one demolition for one permit application loophole that developers have maintained in place with the support of Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the DRAC (Development review advisory committee that is largely staffed with building owners and developers). The DRAC meets at 8 AM tomorrow-1900 SW 4th. Attendance is encouraged.
The developer previously applied to reconstitute and divide 3 substandard lots for narrow lot housing. That request has not yet been approved although other aspects of those permit applications were substantially approved. The application for the lot split challenged by the ENA was one reason for asking for a delay of the demolition. Emily Sandy at BDS is responsible for that review.
City Official emails for commenting on this and other demolitions are:
CHARLIE HALES, MAYOR, (503)823-4120
NICK FISH, (503) 823-3589
AMANDA FRITZ, (503) 823-3008
STEVE NOVICK, (503) 823-4682
DAN SALTZMAN, (503) 823-4151
This morning, indeed there were several cars parked in front of the home, making it impossible for a bulldozer to access the house. This action certainly attracted the media as representatives from TV, radio, and print news were all on hand. After a brief discussion on a nearby side-street, Robert McCullough, the head of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association and Randy Sebastian, the head of Renaissance Homes, agreed to a one week delay of the demolition. As noted in their announcement above, the primary concerns here are not about the individual demolition, but how it was approved and what the new house(s) will look like in relationship to their neighbors and the neighborhood. It is clear that the City’s recently adopted demolition delay period has some pretty serious loopholes, the biggest of which is that there is no delay if a developer wants to demolish and replace a single house with another single house. In this case, Renaissance readily admitted to the media that they will eventually build at least two houses on the property, even though their circumvention of the delay period was based on only a single house replacing the existing one. So while cooler heads have prevailed for the moment, the frustrations over demolition policy continue.
The current policy regarding demolition in Portland is not working. But beyond that the situation with this house exemplifies a disturbing trend in the city. Builders keep snatching up such homes, like this one on Rural Street, knowing that they can build something bigger and new, and then sell it for a significant profit. The result is that a house that is perfectly sound and usable (but probably in need of some refreshing), as well as somewhat affordable ($375,000 in this instance), will be replaced by a home or homes ranging from $500,000 to over $1 million. If neighbors are outraged about this sort of “change” it isn’t just because a new house is coming in, it is because the more this happens the less affordable these neighborhoods become, meaning that young families and such are completely priced out of the market and forced to look for housing elsewhere and further away from the city center.
Another issue here is the complete lack of consideration given to the existing homes. During the park-in this morning, Mr. Sebastian mentioned more than once how the house on Rural Street was “functionally obsolete”. If we are to accept the argument of functional obsolescence then we may as well tear every old house down, because what the developers really mean is that the house is just old and, since they are in the business of building new, it doesn’t fit their business model.
There is also an environmental sustainability factor here that must not be forgotten. Every time we knock down these older homes tons of building waste is sent off to our landfills. In too many instances little or none of these materials are recycled in a meaningful way. It is not enough that the news homes replacing the old ones are LEED certified. Reports have shown that older homes can be made virtually as energy efficient as the new ones and that in doing so, the river of demolition debris is greatly mitigated. It is absolutely amazing that in Portland, a city that loves to tout its sustainability work, there is continued support for the wanton destruction of the environmental and social (i.e. livability and sense of place) legs of the three-legged sustainability stool.
On July 31st at 2:00PM, the Portland Landmarks Commission will be making a presentation to the Portland City Council on the demolition issue. We hope that many of our fellow historic preservation and neighborhood livability supporters will attend this presentation at City Hall (1221 SW 4th Ave.). The City Council needs to see that people really care deeply and are upset by what is happening in Eastmoreland and many other Portland neighborhoods, so much so that they are beginning to act with park-ins and it is possible that other forms of civil disobedience may not be far behind.