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.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Our little Flint: Demolitions spread the lead out

According to a federal study, dust from a demolition travels up to 400 feet, about
eight Portland yards in an R5 zone. A Feb. 29 event at the Hollywood looks
at the effects of ingestion and ways to minimize exposure.

With deconstruction set to occur for homes built in 1916 or earlier, thanks to City Council's vote last week, now United Neighborhoods for Reform moves to tackle the uncontrolled release of hazardous materials from the other 67 percent of the homes that will go down this year—about 200 if the trend holds steady.

Never mind that these hundreds of homes will end up in our landfill—even while so many Portlanders carefully tuck their every can and bottle into the right container for recycling—the dust the homes will exude through mechanical demolition probably contains lead (the walls of every pre-1978 home were sure to be coated with it) and asbestos, a popular building-material ingredient for decades.

Fallout from demolitions, along with the effects of lead poisoning, and information on how we can protect ourselves, are the focus of Let's Take the Lead on Lead, a free event that runs 6:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29, at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd. Come one, come all.

The event includes a screening of Portlander Tamara Rubin's movie MisLead: America's Secret Epidemic (watch the trailer here), followed by Demolishing Portland: A Gallery of Lost History, the UNR movie that's even more compelling on the big screen.

Filmmaker Rubin and John Sandie, who leads the hazmat-control effort for United Neighborhoods for Reform, will lead a Q&A afterward.

Sign up to learn about upcoming demos in your neighborhood, and help inform people about how to minimize their exposure to hazardous materials released during demolition.

This event is funded by Central Northeast Neighbors and presented by Beaumont-Wilshire NA, Lead Safe America Foundation, and United Neighborhoods for Reform

Friday, February 12, 2016

The smash-and-dump crowd brings us down

And by us, I mean all Portlanders, and more. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Metro region—including Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties—registered a decline in its "recovery rate"—the amount of waste collected that doesn't end up in the landfill. (Here's the report.)

Pointing out that "the recent decline [in recovered materials] bucks a longstanding upward trend," the report notes that increases in the amount of wood and scrap metal going to the landfill—and there will be much more due to the recent closure of a Newberg mill that used to burn Portland's classic homes—were mostly to blame for the tarnish on our "green" reputation.
Truck writes its own caption: Just because they're called
landfills, doesn't mean we have to fill them. 
Tell City Council you agree.

Chances are you recycle; a majority of Portlanders do. We also can recycle homes if they must be demolished. We should.

Sure, it costs a little more, and takes some time, but it's the right thing to do for so many reasons. The Rebuilding Center recently issued these numbers illustrating the impacts of deconstruction over demolition, as applied to a 2,800-square-foot home:

• 24 tons less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere
• 1,821 kilowatt hours of electricity saved
• 6 more jobs generated for every 1 in demolition
• 16 tons of materials removed from the waste stream (there you go, Metro)
• 1.2 gallons of fresh, clean water saved per square foot of building

This is not to mention the fact that mechanical demolition sends hazardous dust up to 400 feet out from the demolition site. Every pre-1978 home is almost certain to contain lead paint and likely asbestos. Keeping in mind the recent events involving lead in the water in Flint, Michigan, and emissions from glass factories in Portland, the problem of hazardous materials released into the environment should be the responsibility of the person who's responsible for releasing them.

The resolution coming to City Council next week only asks for deconstruction of homes built in 1916 or before and if they are a designated historic resource. We say, OK! (and "Finally!"), but also: For the sake of this city and people's health and safety, dare to go farther and faster—make deconstruction mandatory for homes built up until, say, 1930, when materials were still solid and the '20s building boom had ebbed —why not eventually all of homes slated for demolition if Portland wants to be as environmentally minded as it says it is.

If, just if, we save some homes from disappearing altogether, that would be a bonus for our ever-diminishing pool of affordable, usually modest-size housing. Win-win.

Developers should feel free to build on vacant land—the city says we have twice as much as we need to meet our density goals until 2035. Click here, then on "Staff Report: Residential Densities," and check out Page 2:

The vacant and underutilized land within these residentially designated areas have a combined development capacity that is double the expected growth, after considering restraints. This means that it is possible to be more selective about where development occurs in residential zones.

Tell city leaders that deconstruction needs their vote, that you love breathing clean air, planting organic gardens, and raising healthy kids. The smash-and-dump practice of erasing local history, viable affordable housing, and so much more has got to stop. Better yet, come Wednesday to speak up and/or show your support.

What: Portland City Council weighs deconstruction
When: 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17
Where: City Hall chambers, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave.
Who: Your elected leaders
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 1:30 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