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.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Developer aims to turn problems into payday

So much for making long-term investments in the neighborhoods: Developer Wally Remmers took some choice sites in Portland neighborhoods and squandered their potential with "greedy buildings." Speaking of the g word, he's asking just $13.6 million for the Beaumont Village building (and an additional $13.5 million for the other two properties), but neighbors likely will live with these projects and their outsize impacts forever.

The paint's barely dry on Wally Remmers's much-contested and non-code conforming 50-unit building on Northeast Fremont between 44th and 45th avenues (shown above, at left), and he's already putting it up for sale along with two other recently built projects that have rankled neighbors. It's not the first time he's ducked out early on a development, leaving expensive difficulties in his wake. Let's hope any buyers do their due diligence.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A case of "greenmail" stuck it to Eastmoreland

Developer to neighbors: Drop the LUBA appeal,
or kiss those huge evergreens goodbye.
With Beaverton developer Wally Remmers chasing projects headlong throughout Portland—how long can all the foul balls stay up in the air?—he finally might have hit a wall in Eastmoreland, where a large-scale building proposal for 3058 S.E. Woodstock Blvd. is encountering the usual neighbor resistance, only this time it's in the blue-chip part of town. 

Watch some of the drama go down Thursday, April 10, at City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave. [UPDATE: As of Wednesday afternoon, April 9, the hearing was postponed because neighbors had reached a proposed settlement with Remmers; as last reported on the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association website, neighbors were offering up to $150,000 for Remmers to leave the Southeast Woodstock Boulevard property alone—presumably on top of the original purchase price?] 

This could be the start of a nice new business strategy for Remmers & Co.: Buy low, threaten big, and cash in high. If only Beaumont-Wilshire had similarly deep pockets; neighbors here have struggled for almost two years to defend ourselves from a Remmers project that shouldn't have been permitted as designed.

Regardless of the details of Eastmoreland's wide-ranging dispute, it did have some echoes of Remmers's building in Beaumont-Wilshire, namely preferential treatment for a developer, hazy code history, and radically different visions clashing over the future of a neighborhood. 

One wonders if the city of Portland has succeeded in chasing most of the quality developers away. How much longer can the city and its taxpayers afford to spend so much energy and resources on a guy who's gathering up the choice sites around town, then squandering them with "greedy," even noncompliant, buildings? We can do better, and do business with those who also care about Portland's neighborhoods. To quote the news ticker off the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association website
"The neighbors working with Vic Remmers on the 'greenmail' issue have worked hard, but Remmers continues to want almost $200k to leave the Moreland Lane [the site that's subject of Thursday's City Hall hearing] property alone. The discussions have generally been courteous except for one somewhat ominous email that includes ... 'In regards to your current LUBA appeal, if you prevail and we end up having to tear up Moreland lane to add the sidewalk, we will have to tear down those 3 huge evergreen tree’s that are currently are being saved. I understand that you are trying to give us a hard time and make this difficult for us, but I really think you will be unhappy with the results if you were to prevail with that appeal. Those tree’s are magnificent and provide shade for your basketball court and your backyards.'"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Build it, and they will notice

Congrats to Wally Remmers for the mention in the current issue of Portland Monthly, which focuses on the city's neighborhoods. Remmers's Northeast Fremont project is called out as "a bloated 50-unit box" and a classic example of a "greedy building."

Designer-developer Kevin Cavenaugh, who works hard to put up interesting architecture that's an asset instead of a burden to the neighborhoods where he works, coined the term. In the story he elaborates: 
“Everybody knows a greedy building when they see it. The design follows a formula, no matter what neighborhood it’s for. They’re lazy. As a developer, everything you do to make a building better makes the numbers worse. So if you start from maximizing profits, you don’t give yourself an opportunity to do great or even good buildings."
The only thing to add in Beaumont-Wilshire's case is that the Northeast Fremont building's not just greedy, it still doesn't comply with code and shouldn't be occupied until it does.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A little googling turns up the irony

All's ducky down on Wally Remmers's farm, where you could park 31 of these things.
Fools' Day aside, here's something actually funny. About this same time last year that activists from all over Portland were packing City Hall and meeting rooms to argue for rules that require some parking in large apartment buildings—and while developer Wally Remmers was telling us it was a different world and no one owned cars anymore—he was simultaneously singing the opposite tune at his property on Sauvie Island.

A year ago Multnomah County was entertaining Remmers's (thru his attorney Michael Robinson) pleas to allow him to build a beauty of a parking lot—31 spaces, all paved—at his island acreage. For a "farm worker break room." Sweet! All of the Remmers/Sackhoff apartment dwellers and their neighbors tired of looking for parking around their homes, here it is! We just need a shuttle bus.

County staff questioned why such a fine parking facility was necessary for a farm, especially because no one was supposed to actually live on-site or, gosh forbid, hunt ducks thereabouts. That won't happen because Remmers signed a voluntary compliance agreement saying so, which is hilarious because we see from the record how well he does with mandatory compliance (for that, keep reading, and enjoy the fact that he sometimes forgets to obtain permits, say, for a sizable addition to the aforementioned break room).

Build first, protest later. Sound familiar? If all this doesn't quack you up (sorry), you should see the response Remmers and the city recently submitted to neighbors' second petition to the state Land Use Board of Appeals. In it, the developer and city describe the state body's first ruling in neighbors' favor as a mere "suggestion" for fixing the poorly designed project. So that's why they ignored it.

It should come as no surprise

Now collectible! I assume they will correct the date along with the name change.

Another sign of yore

This was in my pile of vacation e-mail or I would have posted it earlier—


Fremont Corridor signage dedication scheduled

Forming a unique public-private partnership, the city of Portland and developer Wally Remmers have decided to enact a name change for the commercial corridor in a Northeast neighborhood. By summer all of the Beaumont Village signs along Northeast Fremont will be removed, then reinstalled with ones reading "Remmers Village."

"We think this is a change whose time has come," Phil Sharlow of Bureau of Development Services said. "It's all we could do to show how much we appreciate him as a customer." City planner Bill Benda, who along with other city staff works closely with the developer and his architecture and legal teams, said: "We've bent over forward and backward for Wally Remmers, and want to see more of his projects that stamp out neighborhood character. Beaumont-Wilshire can serve as a showcase for our vision of Portland's future."

The release finishes with details of the unveiling of the first Remmers Village street sign, appropriately sited at his signature project on Northeast Fremont between 44th and 45th avenues, at 6 pm today, yes April 1.