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, September 3, 2014

We want our city back

As long as folks continue to check this blog, I will continue to post useful info. Neighbors and community leaders concerned about the demolition wave will gather at a summit from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, at Grant Park Church, 2728 NE 34th Ave.

This week it became clear that no one at City Hall will stand up for Portland, including the city's own mayor, in facing the Bureau of Development Services, whose special treatment for certain developers--and a style of development--is rapidly erasing architectural history and reducing neighborhoods' stock of unique, affordable housing.

This isn't Portland. Is it sustainable to throw away 98 percent of the demolished homes, usually made of materials far superior to what is now available? Are the replacement homes an improvement? Isn't it a waste, too, tossing into Dumpsters homes that are, on average, 87 years old? Shouldn't a "green" city care about the irreplaceable loss of mature urban canopy decades in the making? How are density goals met if the majority of demos result in a single-family home, only one that is way bigger, with a postage-stamp yard?

Very few home buyers looking for a toehold in the market are able to scoop up modest properties for all cash, as the mostly out-of-town and exploitive developers do, nor can they afford the $700k result.

Neighbors and community leaders also are seeing past the stall tactics of the city-blessed and developer-led Development Review Advisory Committee, which had been charged with making necessary changes to code in response to neighbor outcry. After months of meetings it managed to come up with a voluntary notification process for demos. In late July the leader of the committee confessed the committee probably couldn't arrive at a definition of "demolition" that would work (for developers), so better perhaps to leave it unclear. Here's a hint: If it takes a bulldozer and the house disappears, it's probably not a "remodel."

One thing is clear: The city is on track to set a record for demolitions this year (and that doesn't account for the aforementioned "bulldozer remodels," not tracked under the demo column). So long as the playing field rewards greedy, often thuggish developers, Portlanders and their neighborhoods continue to lose.

The summit next week promises to be a proactive, productive response generated by a groundswell of alarm over the city's devolving standards. If the mayor can't make the changes that he promised, it's up to us to demand them--and to wonder who owns our leadership.

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