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, April 22, 2016

How green was our city

                                                                                   Courtesy Lisa Zap Kiraly
Let the demo-delay derby begin

Last spring, the city dithered over new demolition-delay rules to address neighbor outcry over record-breaking numbers of demolitions, with the promise that a year on, the rules would be revisited and fine-tuned if necessary. Of the dozen or so appeals that have been filed, not a single house has been saved. If the process for filing for the appeal was less onerous, and developers plying Portland had more heart in negotiations, perhaps the delay could help preserve some units of our rapidly disappearing store of affordable, unique, and well-built housing.
Portland Hearings Officer Gregory Frank (second from right)
listens to Concordia neighbors present their appeal for a demo
delay in their neighborhood, a request that was granted in

At last week's meeting of the Development Review Advisory Committee group tasked with demo-delay follow-up, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement's Paul Leistner delivered a rousing speech in favor of "participatory democracy" even while delivering the sad news that it may not be until July that Portlanders can be assured streamlined and timely notice on what's coming down in their neighborhoods. Six months ago, nearly the same discussion occurred.

Bravo to the neighbors who brave the demo-delay process, because it's our only tool until we forge a better one. Tell City Council how you wish it could be more effective, for example by restoring the 120-day delay Portlanders used to have at their disposal to save affordable homes, and all the good stuff that comes with them (trees, open space, craftsmanship, to name a few). The longer amount of time would help encourage developers to the negotiating table, and provide enough time to effect a sale. In one demo-delay case, the would-be buyers simply ran out of time to consummate the deal, and the house was lost.

Change is in the air

Courtesy Eastside Portland Air Coalition
Erin Brockovich made a point at the Air Forum earlier this month of making sure we knew what we had to do.

With hundreds of Portlanders enraged about the toxic "hot spots" cropping up in their neighborhoods, and hundreds more in the fallout zones around homes demolished by mechanical means, public health and safety moves to the fore. There's more about Brockovich's talk here, along with additional scenes from the well-organized and packed event that took over the aptly named Revolution Hall.

Along with Brockovich, many local activists spoke on other aspects of the cause, including Tamara Rubin (right), whose film, MisLead: America's Secret Epidemic, exposes the preventable but irreversible condition of lead poisoning.

Pirates keep plying

A gang of three (from left), Jeff Fish, Nancy Thorington, and
Maryhelen Kincaid, eases the way for teardown builders.
While activists organize, teardown builders keep hammering away, including a push for a last-minute amendment to the Comp Plan that threatens thousands of homes citywide. The Development Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) meetings continue to offer a solid education of the commerce-at-all-costs perspective. At a DRAC meeting earlier this year, Bureau of Planning staffer Shawn Wood had no sooner finished presenting on the proposal to deconstruct homes when developer Jeff Fish launched into a litany of complaints about how deconstruction would take longer, cost more, and so on and on. It was enough to make you want to build on vacant land.

Fish, a former chairman of the committee, has its ear, and good friends, too, where he needs them. Here's what some of those friends are up to.

Everett Custom Homes brings a triple dose of suburban style
to Northeast Portland. Call it "Tualatine."
Yet more proof that suburbanites are working over Portland;
sidewalks aren't for walking, right?

Erosion concerns are here.
Three walls and you're out: Randy Sebastian socks it to 'em
on Northeast Fremont.