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.

Friday, September 18, 2015

We plant them. They cut them down.

With a tentative agreement reached with the developer to buy the site where three giant sequoias stand in Eastmoreland, it's time to look at some lessons learned. (Even so, vigilance is required because the Remmerses have been known to say one thing and do the opposite, as yesterday's skirmish showed: In the midst of negotiations the trucks showed up with chain saws, and protesters rallied to turn them away.)

This is what failed land-use policy looks like: 22 police officers called in to protect
one developer's "interest" in chopping down 150-year-old trees. Portland neighbors likely will
get the bill; they already endure all the costs of this destructive style of
development citywide.
On the way home to my neighborhood, I saw Renaissance Homes/Columbia Redevelopment harvesting signature trees at Northeast Edgehill Place and Fremont Street with nary a protester in sight:

Chain saws take it away in the Alameda neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the city of Portland sends out the following flier with its water bills, encouraging people to plant trees. Every schoolkid knows trees pump out oxygen for us to breathe and provide habitat, but there are other compelling reasons to keep them standing. Where are our water and environmental services bureaus while wholesale deforestation takes place?

As one who has participated in many Friends of Trees plantings, I wonder why neighbors would or should spend so many Saturdays putting do-good trees in the ground when they're razed just as quickly for new development that brings no benefit to the neighborhood.

Eastmoreland, as organized as neighbors are there, worked tirelessly to beat back the would-be developer of the site at 3646 SE Martins St. They had help this week from neighbors citywide. As many have pointed out, less affluent, less engaged, and less proactive neighborhoods would have a hard time doing the same.

We do, but the city won't protect them.
Check out your neighborhood association, which the city likes to say is our most effective conduit for protecting neighborhood interests. When Bob McCullough of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association was asked why he was at the SE Martins site risking arrest earlier this week. He simply said, "This is my neighborhood. This is what I have to do." Many neighborhoods don't have such accountable and strong leadership. Does yours? If not, what can you do to help? If every neighborhood had a land-use rapid response team, we'd be ahead in this game.

Eastmoreland's fight may be over, but there will be more citywide.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

When trees fall in an urban forest, do our leaders hear the sound?

Even the passerby interviewed by television journalists for the tree story on KOIN tonight notices the unequal requirements of tree protection for some developers over others. For years the city worked on a highly anticipated tree plan that was meant to solve Portland's deforestation trend; now it turns out developers only have to pay $1,200 per tree to fire up the chain saw.


This story came out the day I finally made the pilgrimage to see the huge trees awaiting the Remmers chopping block at 3646 SE Martins St., one block south of Woodstock Boulevard. We reached them close to sunset, when the neighborhood kids took to a bit of after-dinner ball next to the chainlink fence. The fence makes it hard to get close to, never mind touch, the three giant sequoias that took root there some 150 years ago. Since the Civil War era, they grew to more than 20 feet around and top out at around 150 feet.

Take a drone tour of the overstory here. Better yet, visit these impressive oxygen generators in person before they're gone. You hardly ever see huge trees like these in a city. If Remmers has his way, our kids never will.

If you decide to bear witness to, and document, their fall, sign up here.

While you're contemplating a trip to the trees, dash off a letter to your elected leaders about what a giant mistake it is losing these sequoias, along with the rest of the mature urban canopy that's been harvested to make room for mass-produced plan-book construction.

 (As an aside to buyers of this type of new housing, please plant trees! Consider heading up a tree-planting effort for your neighborhood to contribute foliage and privacy to the environs; most developers raze every green thing on a site to make way for new construction. It's hard to replace long-lived great shade trees that generations enjoyed, but here's a group that helps get people started.)

Why do we need trees? Because they exemplify beautiful living history, and we need to breathe.