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 dates since.

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Map shows an evolving Portland

The 40 neighborhoods highlighted in green support
the demolition/development resolution presented at City Hall.

Happy holidays from United Neighborhoods for Reform, whose green grass roots keep on growing. Thank you to Tribune reporter Jim Redden for following the progress in capturing City Council's attention (a favorite line from the recap of the Dec. 17 City Hall event: "The presentation all but hijacked the original purpose of the hearing").

For those still undecided about demos, read a recent op-ed by planner, architect, and writer (and United Neighborhoods for Reform member) Jack Bookwalter detailing "Six myths about Portland demolitions."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

There was so much to say, we'll go back in February

Council showed interest in United Neighborhoods for Reform's proposals in the demolition/development resolution, in both demolition practice(s) and forward-thinking ways, hinting at the possibility for improved new development. At least they hit the pause button on recommendations from the Development Review Advisory Committee to take a longer, bigger look at demolition and development issues that impact everyone.

If you missed attending the hearing, you can watch the video here; the United Neighborhoods for Reform presentation starts at about 162:45.

Thank you to all who've supported the cause so far. We hope you'll attend our City Hall session Part II, set for 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12.

In the meantime, watch the movie that Fred Lifton made for the effort, which debuted today at City Hall and clearly shows what neighborhoods give and get in these heavy demo days.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

You are invited

As East Columbia and South Burlingame add their support to the demolition/development resolution, United Neighborhoods for Reform prepares to present its ideas for saving affordable housing and improving new construction in Portland at City Hall (right) this Wednesday.

The Details
What: United Neighborhoods for Reform presents its demolition/development resolution and responds to recommendations proposed by the Development Review Advisory Committee, or DRAC
When: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17
Where: Portland City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth, Council Chambers
Why: So we can save affordable housing, see more beneficial development, and—

(I swiped this off the blog of Dr. Tanya Lyn March, which chronicles
the superworthy effort to save Northwest District's Ballow & Wright building.)

By the way, the DRAC recommendations, already a mixed bag, not only call for reduction of the optional 120-day delay to 30 days (it's hard enough trying to buy a house as an individual in that amount of time, much less marshal a neighborhood effort), but they propose requiring that an extension request be signed by both the requester and the property owner or the owner's agent. That's another big change to a bit of code that's been on the books for 25 years and has actually saved houses, per its intent.

Given how few of the developers combing Portland are based in Portland or live in Portland, can you imagine how easy it would be tracking them down to sign a request for a demo delay they probably don't want to honor?
Step up and sign up if you have something to say on Dec. 17.

If that signature can't be procured in a timely manner, the proposed added language to code is clear on what happens: "If the request for the extension is not signed by the property owner or the property owner’s agent, no extension will be granted."

Now that's DRAConian.

We hope you'll make it to City Hall on Wednesday to show support for the neighbor voice in development decisions that affect us all.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Now that Arbor Lodge is in the right place on the map, here's an update

Neighborhoods highlighted in green have endorsed United Neighborhoods
for Reform's demolition/development resolution, which heads to City
Council next week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The resolution rolls toward City Hall

Going greener all the while: The resolution incentivizes retention of affordable
small homes instead of wasting them for living larger and less efficiently.
Neighborhoods highlighted in green back the resolution.
Maplewood, South Portland, and Richmond have endorsed the demolition/development resolution. This last vote of support brings to mind last summer's community walks conducted by the Bureau of Planning. (I'll add back the "and Sustainability" when Portland stops wasting old-growth homes.)

City planner Barry Manning (middle) waits for the neighbors
turning up to take a walk in Richmond last summer.

Neighbors at the Richmond event almost wanted to mutiny. "We don't need to go on any walk," one neighbor shouted. "We can settle this right here." City planner Barry Manning managed to keep things on track. Hopefully, some of those same neighbors turned out last night at Richmond's meeting to show their support for more thoughtful planning and development that benefits all.

There's a lengthy writeup on the resolution at BikePortland.org, just wishing "density" never made it in the headline. United Neighborhoods for Reform takes no position on density. It only aims to maintain our stock of affordable housing, and to encourage more positive development in the neighborhoods.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Welcome, Alameda, Irvington, and Vernon

Three more neighborhood associations support the demolition/development resolution. If your neighborhood does not appear in the list at top right, there's still time to have it consider, discuss, and vote on the resolution before presentation at City Council in mid-December.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Good growth or homogenous metropolis? Portlanders deserve a say

Neighborhood associations highlighted in green have endorsed the
demolition/development resolution (for the full list click at top right).
Grant Park and Centennial have joined the group of neighborhoods that support making neighbors' voice part of the discussion in planning Portland's future.

Meanwhile, stories chronicling development in Houston, Nashville, and San Francisco show what could happen here if business continues as usual.

Some quotes from the first article, by Anis Shivani:
"When existing vibrant neighborhoods are torn down and those being displaced are crucial members of the community, we’re not just talking about gentrification. We are witnessing a full-scale sellout to developers, who are working closely with municipal government for short-term speculative gain."
"This is how ruling oligarchies kill a city: one business, one person at a time, pretending that market forces are doing all the work, when in fact all sorts of incentives and disincentives are at play. ... [N]ot a day has gone by in recent years when [Houston real estate website] Swamplot hasn’t reported the closure of yet another historic restaurant or bar or antique shop. But after about five years of this, there’s nothing distinctive to shut down anymore." This will sound familiar and scarily prophetic to those involved in Portland's music scene.
"Incentives should be provided to increase livability and expand the range of options for every class of people. Instead, [some] neighborhoods remain static and ignored [East Portland comes to mind], while the mega-developers keep tearing down and rebuilding the stock of inner-city housing that is already solid. The logic of gentrification is to continuously package and commodify and leverage the same bit of land for speculative purposes. Save the neighborhoods that need to be saved and leave those that are doing great alone."

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:

Arlington Heights
East Columbia
Far Southwest
Grant Park
Lake Oswego
Madison South
Mt Scott-Arleta
North Tabor
Rose City Park
South Burlingame
South Burlingame
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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Welcome to the clearinghouse for info re the demolition/development resolution heading to City Council in December

The resolution goes out to Portland neighborhoods Nov. 1 and should be presented at everyone's next neighborhood association meeting; representatives of United Neighborhoods for Reform are available to make presentations.

The goal is to acquire as many endorsements as possible for a City Hall presentation in December.

Please attend your neighborhood association meeting to vote and express support for improved development practices citywide!