What's happening now

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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

See how the power plays

Exhibit A in Beaumont-Wilshire: The making of a monster. As recently released city-developer documents show, neighbors have a stake but no say.

These cold nights are perfect for cozying up with the latest record of the permit decision under which developer Wally Remmers continues to throw up his oversize project on Northeast Fremont. All the observers who think this is a done deal and not worth the fight (or funding it)—that's exactly what Remmers wants you to think, and why he's plunged headlong into construction all this time even in the face of serious legal challenges. Perhaps there should be an ordinance against building anything that's subject of a Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) action, so that all parties have incentive to fix what's wrong and get a move on. We wouldn't be where we are, as late as we are, if Remmers/the city (now a hand-in-hand outfit—read on) had allowed our appeal to move forward unimpeded from the get-go.

I digress. In the record it's stunning to see a minion at Remmers's architecture firm basically telling the city what to do: In her e-mail she entreats that they needed to "get an appeal approved for this violation . . . . I know it sounds crazy but that is how the lawyer [for Remmers] wanted us to deal with it." That "us" is your city staff, working hard to help a brazen developer skirt a clear LUBA ruling requirement. That's how the hands behind the curtain directed city staff to generate a waiver for the developer's nonconforming drywell out of a secret meeting. It gives us pause.

The Bureau of Development Services ought to set up a satellite office in Salem so long as it uses the state judicial venue of LUBA as its quality assurance mechanism. Building in Portland is a choice opportunity; bending over backward for roughshod, out-of-town developers such as Remmers makes it clear he's as much in control as he is a customer. And you know what they say: The Customer Is Always Right. Right?

When I pay taxes, I feel like a customer, too. Except now it appears I pay them to an agent of Remmers's rather than an entity that's supposed to protect neighbors' interests (i.e., apply code) while overseeing Portland's growth spurt.

Milwaukie's Masonic Lodge, recent site of a film festival focused on "Place," including a forthcoming movie on the rash of controversial development across Portland's east side.

That's Density with a dollar sign.

Filmmaker Greg Baartz-Bowman talks with audience members before the screenings.

Filmmaker George Wolters oversees an extensive Q&A afterward.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Developer's idea for permitting hassle: Don't bother

This fellow probably thinks he has to get a permit.

On a recent project last month in Southeast Portland, Wally Remmers & Co., masterminds behind the oversize building on Northeast Fremont, didn't even get a permit to start their excavation work. Who can blame them? After their flawed, noncompliant project on Northeast Fremont was given the nod, and then vigorous defense by the city, why would they do the legwork or pay the fees to do what they want? These folks are starting to own the town.

Just don't tell all the rubes wandering the first floor of the Building of Development Services who think they have to dot i's and cross t's—and pay fees— to build their projects.

The adjacent property owner to Remmers's project on Northeast Fremont gave access to build the project, so long as neighboring tenants' parking was protected.

Who needs to keep promises?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Beaumont Pillage Apartments lives up to the name

Not worth windows: Brutalist, oversize, and
out-of-scale, Wally Remmers's project
goes after the charm of Beaumont Village.
Despite the snow and cold, neighbors came out last weekend for a State of the Neighborhood confab to talk about improving local development. The neighbors who participated represented a wide range of generations and professions; all this expertise and experience brings plenty of skill and enthusiasm to the task of proactively protecting Beaumont-Wilshire and building a better future. I particularly enjoyed hearing one longtime resident talk about the days—only some years ago—when City Council really was an extension of neighborhood activism. People worked together for the same cause of making Portland a great place to live.

Somewhere between the strategizing and the killer salmon skewers hot off the barbecue, we also raised a chunk of money for BWNRG's legal bill for taking neighbors' appeal of Wally Remmers's 4-story 50-unit project on Northeast Fremont to the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). Thank you to all who showed up and to all who have supported us in the past and still do (click here to donate online).

Meanwhile, we continue to take the story of Remmers's non-code compliant building, and the city's defense of it (at taxpayers' expense), to other neighborhood associations in Northeast. East-siders all have an interest in a functioning Fremont Street, and with no safety or traffic measures promised to mitigate the building's impacts, the thoroughfare will become even more congested and unsafe.

After some weeks of waiting, we finally have a meeting scheduled with Commissioner Fritz and Bureau of Development Services staff—looking forward to it. These folks are instrumental in the course correction.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, filmmakers Greg Baartz-Bowman and George Wolters unveil the movie that chronicles this rogue wave of development. You can watch the trailer here; for the whole thing, trek to the Milwaukie Masonic Lodge and get an eyeful of what's been going down across the city, and what neighbors are doing to counter it. Who knows, maybe you'll even get a glimpse of Wally's World with the faux windows and BWNRG activists.

See you at the movies!