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.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

If you could clone yourself, now would be the time to do it

Check the banner for opportunities to show you care about rampant home demolitions, now entering their third record-breaking year.

Several meetings occur at one time on one day, so let's divide and conquer, or at least let neighbors' voice be counted.

Here's something you can do right now that will make a difference—and from the comfort of your own keyboard. E-mail or write (info in right margin, scroll down) your city commissioners and mayor in support of funding for the work to revise new-construction guidelines (again, Item 2 of our resolution, without trees). It's in the mayor's proposed budget, but hasn't been voted on or approved by council as a whole. I don't know why it will take upwards of $500,000 to revise city regulations on items such as setbacks, height, and footprint, but consultant studies are expensive and hopefully we taxpayers get our money's worth.

We need this work funded to further protect open space, mature tree canopy, and affordable, well-built housing in our neighborhoods. The endorsements from 43 neighborhood associations—which keep coming in, by the way—show people care about these losses and want more of a say in the future of great places they helped create.

A city grows green: Neighborhoods continue to endorse United Neighborhoods 
for Reform's resolution to help Portland neighborhoods. Welcome,
University Park and Mt. Scott-Arleta!

We continue to move forward on all fronts. For example, UNR's hazmat team was instrumental helping bring Senate Bill 705 forward, and now it's passed the Senate and headed toward the House this Wednesday. Even if city leaders can't act on public safety (the EPA's Kim Farnham called Portland's recently instituted hazmat measure "voluntary"—and UNR agrees), state leaders will. Thank you to all involved.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

City puts on a reel deal

Moviegoers pack the Kennedy School gym Wednesday for a festival of local films.

Except for the odd lecture, the festival of local films that screened Wednesday, April 29, at the Kennedy School focused on Portland's growth, including many of the pains and opportunities involved. Some highlights of the festival—and links to watch online—are listed below.

The city also showcased a few of its public-funded film projects (two are online here and here), which herald the large new apartment buildings recently built around town. Given the loss of thousands of affordable homes citywide, these apartments increasingly are about the only option available for many residents now and in the future. Still, this newly built landscape begs for more creativity and quality—trademarks of past Portland architecture.

Perhaps the city could hold a contest as it did to improve "skinny houses," only this time for designs of apartment buildings with character, ones that look interesting and contribute to their surroundings, with, say, public plazas and greenery?

Along with United Neighborhoods for Reform's movie of what Portland loses and gains in these heavy demo days, highlights of the evening included:

Kunal Mehra's Elegy to Doug 35: 75 years to grow, 2.5 hours to erase.

A capacity crowd watches and learns.
The Coalition for a Livable Future's Equity Shares Project: "Sometimes I think the landlord doesn't do the repairs because I can't speak English."

Karina Adams and Lizette Cosko's Birds Striking Building Windows: When buildings go up, birds go down. New ideas can save them.

Ifanyi Bell and Kathleen Holt's Future : Portland: One of Portland's native sons talks with those who came before, and stayed.

Ruth Ann Barrett's In My Backyard: Short but not so sweet.

The Portland Chronicle's Growing/Vanishing: Title tells all.

Greg Baartz-Bowman and George Wolters' Den$ity: In two high-profile cases, neighbors win appeals of contested projects. Or do they.

Chris Hornbecker, Digital One, and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's Roll On, Oregon: The world looks better on two wheels.

Karl Lind's The Friends of Memorial Coliseum: When good buddies grow old, you take care of them.