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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.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

It's a long way from conceptual to actual, and the devil may be in lack of detail

Some illuminating questions and answers have come out of the open houses dedicated to proposals brought about by the Residential Infill Project (more info and background here).

Among the queries heard from the keen audience at the East Portland Neighborhood Office event:

• "Is this the proposal for developers or for homeowners?"
• "I have $90,000 in student loans, is there anything in this proposal that would help me afford a house?"

I did not hear how the first query was answered, but for the second, planning chief Joe Zehnder said the proposals will not help with affordability.

City planners Morgan Tracy (left) and Joe Zehnder take questions at the
East Portland Neighborhood Office on July 13, one of several outings
for proposals issuing from the Residential Infill Project.
The building bonanza of the last several years has seen housing prices skyrocket, further proof you can't build your way to affordability (even more proof: New York City). You can, however, make creative use of the vacant land that remains—as the planning department reported, we have twice as much as we need to meet density goals until 2035. In the meantime, let's adapt solid old buildings for new uses, and treat the vacant sites as opportunities to show new development can benefit the entire community. Wouldn't we all love additional great neighborhoods to live in and explore?

Even more worrying for the loan-burdened student at the East Portland event, if we continue to lose single-family homes at such an astonishing rate, there will be ever fewer of them available to buy. The city's current demo-favorable policies decrease the type of housing that respondents in a Metro study overwhelmingly favored: the good old detached home. Read on for stats about places whose streetscapes are dominated by single-family homes and yet they're not dumping them into landfills because "in density we trust."

One of Portland's dense new buildings that went up in a hurry recently caught fire, just three years after opening. The fire, according to the news report, "disabled the complex's fire detection systems." Eighty residents were displaced, but are probably counting themselves lucky.
                                          Courtesy Patrick Hilton/Citylove

Neighbors dig into data

Patrick Hilton of Citylove crunched the numbers the city gives for population forecasts and desirable density increases. Slides from a recent presentation show some of his findings. He found we already have sufficiently dense neighborhoods—even higher than what seems to be the city's target—so why keep demolishing already?

                                                                      Courtesy Patrick Hilton/Citylove
                                                                      Courtesy Patrick Hilton/Citylove
                                                                       Courtesy Patrick Hilton/Citylove

Small setbacks spur creative response

Roseway neighbors who in the wake of new construction faced a window staring into their breakfast nook devised this privacy screen:

                                                                                    Courtesy Randel Perkins