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; in 2018 on Feb. 1; and many, many other dates since.

The Residential Infill Project (RIP) takes another run at City Council 2 p.m. Thursday, June 18. Will Goliath win?!

You still have time to raise your voice in defense of existing affordable housing and lower income Portlanders! Take a few minutes for justice and submit your vote against RIP here (hopefully with copies to City Council—scroll down for addresses at right—as city staff sometimes edit testimony to skew to their views). Thank you!

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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Rest up, and get ready

Planning chief Joe Zehnder was all ears at a Planning
Commission hearing on RIP in May, but so far RIP remains
unchanged, essentially a tool for more teardowns. As a resident
of a neighborhood largely protected from demolitions, he has
not fully experienced their impacts.

The lull in activity on the Residential Infill Project (RIP) gives a rare moment to recharge for the City Council hearings on the way for the developer-driven plan to radically rezone much of the city.

But that doesn't mean nothing's happening. If anything, teardown builders seem to be on an additional tear (sorry) recently, perhaps to beat any new rules coming down the pike or just to take advantage of a playing field tilted toward demolition rather than preservation of a dwindling resource: viable affordable housing.

For instance, read here about neighbors in Northeast Portland neighborhoods taking it on the chin in both processes to delay demolition and to reduce exposure to known hazardous materials. Some of these neighbors even tested their dirt! Huzzah. Keep fighting the good fight out there, and keep properties out of the trackhoe's maw and available for future generations of Portlanders.

Duplicity wins the demo permit


In the Roseway case, ombudsman Margie Sollinger wrote a pointed opinion on the matter, but to no avail. Some excerpts:

"The Bureau [of Development Services, or BDS] acknowledges that 'because residential demolitions are a contentious issue in Portland at this time, some property developers who know they want to demolish a home will use various methods of disguising who the true owner is' (5/17/18 email from [BDS's] Nancy Thorington). Obscured identity of the property owner makes it difficult, if not impossible, for interested parties to meet the appeal criteria and win more time to engage in discussions about alternatives to demolition. Even though it undermines the integrity of the process, the Bureau is reluctant to take protective action."

"The Bureau has declined to accept my Office’s recommendation. It argues that it does not get into tracking the various stages of real estate transactions. The Bureau also somehow concludes that there is no evidence of misrepresentation by the permit applicant in this case. In general, the Bureau appears to be taking the position that a property owner’s attempts to disguise and obscure ownership are beyond the Bureau’s purview, viewing such efforts as another way for a property owner to express their non-desire to negotiate alternatives to demolition with neighbors."

A modest home in Roseway was demolished in a hurry;
the demolition permit was issued under shady circumstances,
and city staff failed to address the problem and denied
the neighborhood a demolition delay. Luxury housing
will take its place.

"The Bureau has declined to accept my Office’s recommendation. It argues that it does not get into tracking the various stages of real estate transactions. The Bureau also somehow concludes that there is no evidence of misrepresentation by the permit applicant in this case. In general, the Bureau appears to be taking the position that a property owner’s attempts to disguise and obscure ownership are beyond the Bureau’s purview, viewing such efforts as another way for a property owner to express their non-desire to negotiate alternatives to demolition with neighbors." 
and finally:  
"Where a permit’s issuance is predicated on misinformation supplied by the applicant and that misinformation disenfranchises community members from exercising their rights under City Code, the Bureau is obligated to take remedial action."

If only the neighborhood could get back a well-sited 1913 house, built with care, craftsmanship, and old-growth materials. In London, they actually make bad actors make good, by forcing a rebuilding.

Now that the Trumper financial backing of Portland for Everyone/1000 Friends of Oregon—the most vocal of RIP supporters (read next post)—is exposed, it's ever more apparent who RIP is for, and what it aims to do. If the past building bonanza (and the resulting glut of vacant units—see craigslist) is any indication, additional luxe housing hurts more than it helps, especially when it takes the place of old-growth homes catering to people of a wide range of incomes.