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.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Believe this—"I want to buy your house"—and no more

As the thousands of readers of this blog know, a typical Portland home demolition exerts too heavy a price, whether it's loss of affordable housing, lack of hazmat control, or destruction of mature urban tree canopy and neighborhood character—just to name a few—all for one company's outsize profit. But perhaps the worst thing about this irresponsible era, as we close another record-breaking year of demolitions, is the saddest: The developers lie.

Examples abound, but here are a few that stand out:

Elderly homeowners are told by one developer that their house will be renovated, not demolished, as happened recently on 31st Avenue. Understandably, they are now too embarrassed and heartsick to go public about it; all they can do is pack and say goodbye to their shelter of 50 years, where they raised a family as previous homeowners had, before a trackhoe deletes it from collective memory.

A purchaser of a North Portland home pledges to neighbors that he'll move the house, assuaging them until the time limit for a demolition delay request has passed. And lo, here comes the Dumpster.

Instead of a promised crosswalk, the neighborhood gets a curb cut
and an unpermitted A-board sign partially blocking it.
Or Wally Remmers, who threw up an out-of-code building in the heart of Beaumont Village (tenants call it "The Wart"), claims a crosswalk is part of the project in an early meeting with neighbors when it was hoped a compromise could be achieved. A crosswalk would have done a lot to help pedestrians—his tenants, too—and vehicle traffic coexist on Fremont Street, an increasingly dangerous thoroughfare for numerous neighborhoods. All his lackey architect can do at the meeting is look momentarily surprised, then nod along. (Stay tuned for a report on a recent court case determining an architecture firm's responsibility in code-dodging construction.)

Or how about the developer who claims he's a "fixture" at neighborhood meetings, working "tirelessly with the community before the first nail is pounded"? Right. This is the same developer whose company conned another senior out of her home and then submitted for permits under her name so as not be discovered before the demo could occur.

Not long ago, developers were part of our neighborhoods, or at least cared enough to come to the neighborhood meetings to show renderings, discuss their plans, and gather feedback. They knew neighborhood support helped their business. Developers were rightly proud of improvements they were making, especially if in cooperation with neighbors. Now the speculators plying Portland usually call from out of town, showing up at meetings only when required and cruising the neighborhoods in unmarked trucks. Every time I see a For Sale sign, I see a house that's going down. 

Maybe the lies aren't the worst thing about these demo days. What's even worse is we believe them.

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