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Formerly the home of Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth, the Portland Land Matters blog explores citywide land-use concerns, such as home demolitions, with the belief that development should create an improvement.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Developer makes mistakes; city determines neighbors should suffer the consequences

That's just one of the headlines that could have been written recently in this continuing development debacle. When the state Land Use Board of Appeals made its ruling last month requiring specific changes to Wally Remmers's 4-story 50-unit project on Northeast Fremont between 44th and 45th avenues, some characterized the required changes as "minor," even "trivial." If that were true, why is the developer unable to make them? The plans, now in their third revision, still show a non-code conforming drywell and a wheelchair ramp that further demonstrate the building is too big to meet code. Trim nearly 4 feet off the northern edge of the building, however, and everything fits.

Cheap, fast & out-of code: Wally Remmers goes too big in Beaumont-Wilshire.
Before LUBA: The trellis and wheelchair ramp both extend too deeply into the setback meant to protect residential properties to the north.

After LUBA: Revised plans show a shortened trellis above a wheelchair ramp that, because of the beyond-maximum building footprint, reaches too far into the setback, per code. 

A detail of the revised plans shows a shortened trellis that complies with code—and the now partially uncovered, and noncompliant, wheelchair ramp jutting too far into the setback. 
Putting aside the question of competence and integrity on the part of city staff who thought no one would notice their late pardon of some of the developer's noncompliance, why can't the developer use the people working for him to apply their creativity and smarts to fixing problems, rather than trying to shove them under the rug? What would LUBA think of this evasion of justice?

Beaumont-Wilshire neighbors did nothing to deserve an out-of-code project unless you count creating a decent place to live and do business. Already neighborhood residents are bracing for the traffic, parking, and other expected burdens of a building that's out of scale and bringing unmitigated impacts to a congested east-side thoroughfare. Shame on Wally Remmers for taking a choice opportunity and burdening everyone else with the results of his poor business strategy. If you continue to build in the face of serious challenges, it's a gamble that you sometimes can lose.

The building now stands as a monument to one developer's hubris and the city's inability to show leadership in confronting that unbridled greed. How much longer can Portland afford to continue defending a noncompliant project; where are the benefits to anyone except the developer who most likely takes his profits out of town?

Noted journalist, activist, and well-loved former Gov. Tom McCall died a little more than 31 years ago, and he'd probably roll in his grave at the situation developing around Portland's east side for months now. It recalls words he said in 1982 (substitute "Portland" for "Oregon" and "out-of-code monster buildings" for the "stinking smokestack"):
"I'm simply saying that Oregon is demure and lovely and it ought to play a little hard to get. And I think you'll all be just as sick as I am if you find it is nothing but a hungry hussy, throwing herself at every stinking smokestack that's offered."

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