What UNR does, and why

Portland grassroots group United Neighborhoods for Reform seeks to stem the demolition of viable, affordable housing and its replacement with expensive and inefficient large single-family homes. Our demolition/development resolution, developed through significant neighbor outreach, gathered endorsements from 43 neighborhood associations citywide. We also regularly take our message to City Hall, starting in December 2014, continuing in 2015 on Feb. 12, June 3 (UNR presenters start at 51:20), Oct. 14 (UNR at 1:07:35), and Nov. 25 (UNR at 1:05); in 2016 on Feb. 17, Nov. 9 and 16, and Dec. 7; and in 2017 on May 17.

"The time is always right to do what is right."
—Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving thanks to activists citywide who volunteer time and energy to neighborhoods, and to everyone who makes the meetings

Mr. Pinchot's advice could help here & now.


As Mill Park and Reed join the group of neighborhood associations supporting United Neighborhoods for Reform's demolition/development resolution, it's time to provide more background on the effort. (For a separate overview of the issues and the players involved, read Brandon Spencer-Hartle's excellent summary on the Restore Oregon site.)

Installment 1 on this blog answered the question What is United Neighborhoods for Reform?

2. What does United Neighborhoods for Reform do?

United Neighborhoods for Reform (UNR) aims to curb the loss of affordable housing and to encourage more positive development in Portland neighborhoods. Through a demolition/development resolution drafted after a series of summits, UNR promotes and presents reasons to make change, and suggests how to do it.

After releasing the demolition/development resolution on Nov. 1, 2014, UNR representatives took it to neighborhood association meetings citywide. Dozens of presentations have been made, with neighborhood associations showing support for neighbors' voice in building Portland's future. (Check top right for an updated list of endorsing associations.)

We continue to garner support and field offers of help; we will need even more as we near Dec. 17, when we take the resolution to City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave., at 3:30 p.m.

The destruction of affordable housing decreases economic diversity among neighbors and accelerates gentrification, among other impacts. Other losses typically include elimination of mature tree canopy, reduced access to potential for solar energy, high-quality building materials sent to the landfill, and more.

UNR would like to help Portland regain its reputation as a "green" leader in sustainability and thoughtful planning. Thanks also go to the Development Review Advisory Committee for its preliminary work on these issues; we're making headway for improved investments for all.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Map changes almost daily

With more than 20 percent of the city's neighborhood associations in support
so far, the demolition/development resolution aims to green up Portland.
Highlighted areas on the map above show the neighborhood associations that have endorsed the demolition/development resolution. Some of the neighborhoods have seen a lot of demolitions, some have not, but all want to keep the city's unique store of affordable housing and see more beneficial development.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Welcome, Arbor Lodge, Eastmoreland, Marshall Park, Russell, and West Portland Park

A sign of other times serves for now. For the story
behind it, listen here.
More neighborhoods are endorsing the demolition/development resolution, asking for change in how Portland trashes its unique, affordable well-crafted housing and in what goes up in its wake.

It was more than a year ago that Mayor Hales spoke out about the quality of construction shooting up citywide, "I want to reconsider the question of what we are allowing for infill in single-family neighborhoods. What is happening now, in some cases is costing us a lot of public goodwill," he said. "It's a bad bargain."

A year later and with input from residents of 37 neighborhoods and endorsement from 21 neighborhood associations, United Neighborhoods for Reform presents a resolution with answers to the question. We've done the hard work in the year since the mayor himself identified the problem—it's time to move on it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Good news comes with bad news

Mount Tabor and Pleasant Valley join the growing number of neighborhood associations that have endorsed the demolition/development resolution.

At the same time, at this morning's meeting of the Developer Review Advisory Committee (DRAC), the group endorsed a recommendation that reduces the option of a 120-day delay of demolition to 30 days. The 120-day delay has been in the code for decades; why change it now?

When DRAC was tasked with addressing the outcry over the record-breaking loss of unique, affordable housing, no one dreamed the group would take the opportunity to weaken rules already on the books that offer neighbors/neighborhoods the chance to save houses. It makes it all the more clear that the neighbor voice has not been part of the decision-making process, and that the resolution—developed after significant outreach citywide—serves the city better.

The resolution is neighbors' voice for change. If it does not move forward, we are left with the developer-dominated DRAC making the decisions, and those decisions only benefit developers. Under DRAC's recommendations, we could see even more demolitions and a continuance of the Great House Harvest hammering the neighborhoods.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hayhurst and Hosford-Abernethy join up

Activists (from left) Rick Michaelson, Ruth Roth,
Joleen Jensen-Classen, Nancy Neswich, and Frank Dixon
talk about what it took to save some good old houses in 1989.





Add two more to the group of neighborhood associations endorsing the effort for fewer demolitions and more positive development citywide.

Last night's panel at the Architectural Heritage Center featuring activists from the "Overlook Miracle," when 23 people were arrested trying to save old homes in Northwest, proved inspiring and instructive. Portland has a long tradition of successful grassroots efforts big (Tom McCall Waterfront Park, saved from becoming a freeway) and small (most recently, the Markham home in Laurelhurst), and United Neighborhoods for Reform hopes to earn a place among them.

Antidemolition activist Sara Lord (right) from Eliot
Neighborhood describes the current struggle.


Thank you to all the neighborhood activists out there pressing for support of the resolution at their next neighborhood association meeting. For neighborhoods that haven't yet seen the type of development addressed by the resolution, there are many guinea-pig neighborhoods out there (14 have endorsed the resolution so far) saying you don't want to.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Endorsements keep rolling in

Another vote of support—this time from Eliot Neighborhood Association—calls for a map update.
Neighborhoods highlighted in green endorse the demolition/development resolution.
In response to queries, I aim to include a talking point about the resolution or some background about United Neighborhoods for Reform with every post to this blog.

The first:


1. What is United Neighborhoods for Reform?

United Neighborhoods for Reform came about through a series of summits (three) that occurred over the summer and fall of 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Al Ellis, immediate past present of Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association, did most of the organizing with help from other Beaumont-Wilshire board members and staff from the Central Northeast Neighbors coalition office. 

Ellis was motivated by the groundswell of concern over the rapid loss of unique affordable housing citywide as well as the new construction that took its place, including how it was performed and its effects.

The summits drew people from 37 neighborhoods, or more than a third of Portland's recognized neighborhood associations, including residents of:

Alameda
Arlington Heights
Boise
Bridlemile
Brooklyn
Buckman
Beaumont-Wilshire
Concordia
East Columbia
Eastmoreland
Eliot
Far Southwest
Grant Park
Hillsdale
Hillside
Hosford-Abernathy
Irvington
King
Lake Oswego
Laurelhurst
Madison South
Maplewood
Mt Scott-Arleta
Multnomah
North Tabor
Northwest
Piedmont
Richmond
Rose City Park
Roseway
South Burlingame
Sabin
Sellwood-Moreland
South Burlingame
Sunnyside
Woodstock
Northwest District Association

Representatives from other groups also were present at at least one summit, including the city's Bureau of Development Services, Hollywood Star, Realtors, Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, and Restore Oregon.

After the successful outreach effort, United Neighborhoods for Reform took the input and tasked a subcommittee with writing a demolition/development resolution. Although its drafters do not expect City Council to paste the resolution directly into code (does that ever happen?), United Neighborhoods for Reform does ask for serious consideration of its stance and suggestions. As early investors in the neighborhood, property owners and tenants have a vested interest in what rises (and razes) around them. Neighbor input also is the key to more successful development.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Even while it's icy, we're painting the town green

Neighborhoods highlighted in green have endorsed the demolition/development
resolution, which heads to City Council next month. 

Four more neighborhood associations have endorsed United Neighborhoods for Reform's demolition/development resolution: Bridlemile, Concordia, King, and Northwest District. Now to the other 86 ...

Discussion at the neighborhood meetings has been lively, with many neighbors showing up to share their boots-on-the-ground perspective, whether it's the loss of property values from poorly constructed homes going up adjacent to them to the shame of failing to deconstruct, instead of tossing in the landfill, homes built with materials of such high quality you probably can't buy them anymore.

One neighborhood was so ready to endorse the resolution that the two board members who couldn't come to the meeting sent in letters of support in advance in case there was any question how the vote would go. It should warm all our hearts that Portland residents care so much, and want to be counted as in favor of change.

By the way, we know the resolution isn't perfect, although in crafting it United Neighborhoods for Reform involved more than 100 people in the process and received input from residents of 37—more than a third—of Portland neighborhoods. Despite each neighborhood's individual challenges and priorities, the resolution offers protections and ideas that can help us all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

If only all Mondays were this inspirational

Sign of the times: Modest well-sited homes look vulnerable.

Last night the United Neighborhoods for Reform (UNR) demolition/development resolution gathered more endorsements, from multiple quadrants of the city: Arlington Heights, Beaumont-Wilshire, Multnomah, and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood associations.

At a time when discontent with city government and leadership among Portlanders is at an all-time high (in the past 20 years anyway), according to a recent item in Willamette Week, neighborhoods signal the need for change, adding their votes in favor of fewer demolitions and more beneficial development.

At the Powellhurst-Gilbert meeting, one neighbor who works for Lovett Deconstruction talked about taking apart and recycling structures that otherwise would have gone to the landfill. According to Restore Oregon, 2 percent of demolished homes is salvaged now. If a house must come down, and it contains quality materials, deconstruction is the right thing to do. The UNR demolition/development resolution suggests ways to incentivize it.

No one thought to build to all the maximums—until now.
Meanwhile the Bureau of Development Services seeks to hire more personnel. With entrenched views and allegiances, the bureau could use the new blood, and a more cooperative community-building stance. As Portland grows under the watch and stewardship of its many investors (homeowners and renters, too), we're all "business partners."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Woodlawn Neighborhood Association points the way

Last night Woodlawn voted to support the United Neighborhoods for Reform demolition/development resolution. Hooray for them, and hooray for the movement to curb the city's record-breaking loss of unique affordable housing and to request more positive development in the neighborhoods.

Thank you, Woodlawn neighbors, and thank you to all Portland residents pressing to hear and support the resolution at their next neighborhood meeting.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Resolution notches first endorsement!

Nancy Thorington, attorney for BDS,
leads the developers' effort for the city.
While we await more good news from the city's 95 neighborhood associations, consider this: At yesterday's demolition subcommittee overseen by Bureau of Development Services attorney Nancy Thorington (right), it became clear that the developer-led group wants things to stay the same even if City Council has asked them to come up with solutions to address neighbor outcry and the record-breaking loss of unique affordable housing citywide.

That means the definition of demolition that City Council is likely to hear next month doesn't materially change what occurs now. We'll still see that single floorboard or post in the air showing neighbors this is just a "remodel," nothing to see here, move along folks, and never mind that bulldozer. Never mind that an affordable home disappears and a particleboard palace rises in its place.

Issues brought to the fore in a recent series
of summits that drew activists from 37 neighborhoods.
United Neighborhoods for Reform knows the resolution released Nov. 1 isn't perfect, but it does point the way to more thoughtful, positive development—and takes steps to slow the demolitions. Approve this document and Portland might be able to call itself a "green" city again.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Now is the time

After the summits, the meetings, and drafting hours, United Neighborhoods for Reform (UNR) sends its resolution out to the neighborhoods. We need all the YES votes we can get from neighborhood associations to show City Council how much Portlanders want development that benefits all. Join the effort by supporting the resolution as a place to start in effecting change, decreasing the loss of unique affordable housing in our neighborhoods, and encouraging more thoughtful, positive development.

What you can do:

• contact neighborhood association leaders to ensure they received the resolution (sent to all neighborhood leaders Nov. 1)
• supply copies of the resolution to leaders and others, if necessary
• encourage attendance at the neighborhood meeting(s) where the resolution will be discussed
• show up at neighborhood meetings and ask your neighborhood association to endorse the resolution
• broadcast your support for the resolution through social media and to contacts citywide
• clear your calendar to help fill City Hall when the resolution is presented in December (3:30 pm Dec. 17)
• display a sign (submit info in form at top right)

If you would like a UNR rep to present the resolution at your next neighborhood meeting, contact Margaret at manaobooks (at sign) gmail.com.