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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

In runup to Halloween, planners release scariest trick of all

Portland prescient: If only all neighbors knew what planners
have in mind for the city's future. RIP city indeed.
The city's Joe Zehnder says
the RIP proposal won't
help with affordability. 
After months of discussion and open houses, we waited for the changes to the recommendations coming out of the Residential Infill Project (RIP), which were supposed to incorporate public input and—we hoped—reduce demolitions, an original goal of the project. That's not what happened, as the planners ignored the input and chose instead to recommend rezoning huge swathes of the city—64 percent of the east side alone—a move that promises to exponentially increase the destruction.

It's still true, as Portland's chief planner, Joe Zehnder, said at an East Portland open house in July, that the proposal won't help with affordability. Again: According to its own drafters, this proposal will not help with affordability. The frustration out there for tenants and homeowners alike looking to gain or maintain a foothold in the market is real, and the last several years of record numbers of teardowns has made the situation worse. The market has never built affordable housing on its own accord, and it never will. We would have seen some by now.

A sign of the times shows the proposed "overlay" for what it is.
As we gear up to tell City Council what a bunch of poor ideas they're about to consider on Nov. 9 and 16 (please join us, and pipe up if you can attend), let's keep pressing for our mission. It's simple: Reduce demolitions. Control hazardous materials if demolition must occur.

Granted, the RIP isn't an all-out failure. It got people talking, and invested, in our city's future. Far more people now know about FAR (Floor Area Ratio). Many more people are alerted to the potential changes afoot. Ultimately, it showed the prevailing winds among our leadership and city staff. And it certainly showed the need to ask that the concerns and well-being of local stakeholders and residents take priority over short-term and usually out-of-town profiteers. More of the same years of record-breaking demolitions won't give us needed affordable housing (especially while erasing it from our neighborhoods); why should we give the nod to more?

Planner Noré Winter came to town in mid-October
talking about his work to help cities grow. His big
question when it came to RIP was whether the
recommendations enhance the unique housing
that we have. 
Waves of people are waking up to the economic and environmental realities of build at all costs, as rents and home prices ratchet up along with the pace of new construction, and the air and Earth are dusted with lead and asbestos. The wholesale loss of mostly modestly sized and affordable homes must stop, and the neighbors and environment protected from irreversible effects of uncontrolled hazmat.

This Halloween, let RIP RIP (rest in peace), and leave the pro-demolition forces behind as we craft a safer, more sustainable city.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Winter comes with inspiration

While the Planning Bureau fine-tunes the recommendations out of the Residential Infill Project to have them better reflect what neighbors want, a celebrated urban planner comes to share with Portlanders how other cities have kept their character and their faith that new development can be an asset to the place where it rises. 

Man with a plan: Noré Winter protects
and inspires pride of place.
As we've recently seen in Portland, that's rarely been the case. The record numbers of demolitions also have involved so many unregulated emissions of hazmat that more news outlets are taking note. How long until we live in Superfund sites?

Noré Winter crisscrosses the country spreading a sustainable message. He's helped other cities protect resources such as affordable old-growth housing and buildings and at the same time designed improved guidelines for new construction. (Education break: Here's an article on why people love old buildings, a lot of which also applies to homes.)

Mr. Winter will discuss his experiences helping fast-growing cities plan for growth while protecting existing single-family housing. His comments will suggest alternatives to the recent recommendations of the Residential Infill Project in moderating scale of new builds in our neighborhoods.

Sound good? Instead of shaking your head at the arrival of another trackhoe down the block, get inspired by some fresh thinking beyond teardowns and demolitions from 6:30 to 8:30 Monday, Oct. 17, at the White Stag Block, University of Oregon Portland campus, main event room (142/144), 70 N.W. Couch. It's free, but please register.

After the contentious open houses over the summer when the public sensed the profit-driven basis for planners' first try at capturing the intent of the Residential Infill Project, local planners have their work cut out for them to create measures that better fit the original mission of the task force. Over Winter's 30 years in the field, and projects in 48 states, he has done work noted for its successful implementation and ability to create a climate for investment. Good development benefits everyone, and its environs.

All these months, activists were told that the Residential Infill Project was meant to reduce demolitions and address issues of scale; unfortunately, the first ideas out of the project would accelerate teardowns. Perhaps many of Portland's planners are insulated from this destructive trend; for instance, the director of Portland planning lives in Irvington, a neighborhood largely protected from demolition development.

It's all the more reason to be writing those letters, submitting comment, and appearing at City Council. If they don't hear from us, they're only hearing one side of the story, presented by the people who can afford paid lobbyists out of their profits.

Portland Together presents the Noré Winter event, with help from United Neighborhoods for Reform, Portland Coalition for Historic Resources, individual donors, Architectural Heritage Center, Restore Oregon, and the University of Oregon Preservation Department.