|A message to the creative small developers in Portland, if any are still around.|
FIR—the Field Issuance Remodel Program—may be part of the answer. This is the special program at Bureau of Development Services (BDS) that gives the major players the first-class frequent-flyer red-carpet service. I'm not privy to the perks, obviously, but I believe this is how developers are able to submit for land use changes under the previous property owner's name(s), which helps. After all, neighbors' attitudes toward some land division down the block are different when it's "Aw, my longtime neighbor Ethel wants to divide her property for her grandkids, how sweet" versus yet another couple same-same big & cheap houses squeezed together on a piece of land that used to feature a well-sited 1950s ranch.
Once "Ethel" disappears off the title, and portlandmaps.com, the bulldozer's done.
Or how about the way that code compliance items never stick to the FIR bunch, the state of their project sites, and the devil-may-care attitude for following regulations big and small? FIR protection helps. (Note that the city auditor found BDS inspectors lacked oversight—FIR sure, because "inspectors can evaluate proposed projects on-site," per the program brochure.) No wonder even BDS staff call FIR out as "something [BDS chief] Paul Scarlett will have to answer to"—it's further proof that the playing field for Portland housing development is so skewed any newcomers and the homegrown can't get a fair shake. Now all we're seeing is a near monopoly of the developers with the plans neighbors least want to see pasted over the landscape.
The smaller, more creative developers must be tired of being outbid, and if they are not among the FIR favored—good luck.
News we can all use
The Portland Chronicle reports on upcoming development projects with a clear eye and straight-ahead voice. It's written by a small group of journalists, which explains the quality of the reporting. For now, and considering the power and coziness of Portland developers, they want to remain anonymous and continue their journalism careers.
Despite the lack of bylines, the site is a boon to those of us interested in local development and a great source of news about what's going down, and up.