What UNR does, and why

Portland grassroots group United Neighborhoods for Reform seeks to stem the demolition of viable, affordable housing. 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; in 2017 on May 17; and in 2018 on Feb. 1.

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

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Anyone who recycles would vote for deconstruction

When United Neighborhoods for Reform (UNR) members made the rounds of neighborhood association meetings late last year to present the demolition/development resolution, we talked about how if a house has to be demolished, deconstruction is the way to do it. For many reasons: environmental, a robust market for reuse, preservation of quality and now-rare materials, increased job creation, and reduced exposure to hazardous materials such as lead and asbestos.

Without deconstruction, we're throwing it all way—and sending hazmat dust
across the neighborhood in the process.
One neighbor rallied endorsement for the resolution from his neighborhood association based on the deconstruction element alone. In all the dozens of other neighborhood association meetings citywide, no one ever raised an objection to deconstruction.

Deconstruction and hazmat control have always been part of our effort and stand in line with Portland's desired reputation as a "green" and healthy place to live. Recycling is so important to city leadership and citizens that a goal was set for 75 percent participation by 2015, this year.

Shouldn't developers play their part?

Instead of continuing to put thousands of affordable homes in landfills or, more likely, biomass burners, let's give others a chance to use the old-growth materials in creative, quality projects. With the homes being demolished an average age of 87 years old, the materials have withstood the test of time and could serve future generations. Character counts, to the reuse deconstruction industry and its growing legion of customers, and Portland's innovative deconstructionists are ready and able to lead the way.

According to the Bureau of Planning's Shawn Wood, the region's landfill is already about a quarter full of construction- and demolition-related waste.

As attractive as deconstruction is (the Rebuilding Center's Shane Endicott noted that deconstruction meets four of the city's goals, but mechanical demolition none), we are up against powerful interests, ones that have an aversion to assuming the costs of environmental responsibility—even though, according to Bureau of Development Services staff, deconstruction only costs about $3,000 more than mechanical demolition—as well as public safety from their wasteful activities. Note, too, how handily they rolled back newly instituted charges for cutting down mature urban trees and delayed parks fees.

Activists ring the table at the last meeting of the Deconstruction
Advisory Group to support mandated deconstruction if demolition must occur.

When we heard there was a plan afloat for taxpayers to pay developers to deconstruct, UNR responded. Supporters packed the last meeting of the Deconstruction Advisory Group, but it already seemed that there could and would be no change to the developer-driven proposal on the table, heading to City Hall this Wednesday, June 3. Please tell your leaders you want to see deconstruction, if demolition must occur, paid for by those profiting from the redevelopment.

You are invited:

When: 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 3
Where: City Hall chambers, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave.
Who: Your elected leadership
Why: Call a stop to the wasting of quality resources; demand deconstruction, with an accelerated timeline for implementation
How: If you can't make it downtown, send letters to council (contact info at right, scroll down); show up to bear witness; consider testifying (sign up before 2 p.m.) if you recycle and believe that repurposing of quality building materials is the right thing to do and a cost to be borne by developers as the price of access to this city's finite resource

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