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.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

State leaders look at hazmat during demolition—let's cheer them on

Congrats, everyone! Our noisemaking about the clouds of toxic dust during demolitions has at last reached our elected leaders at the Legislature. They want to address the problem, but they need to hear about how they can make their effort even more meaningful.

If you've always wanted to show up for the anti-demolition cause, here's a golden opportunity.

A federal study reports hazardous materials such as lead travel as far as 400 feet from a demolition.
Illustration by Scott Nasburg.

Hazmat released during mechanical demolitions of homes—now occurring at a rate of more than one per day in Portland—steps to the fore Monday in Salem as the Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources takes up SB871.

Don't breathe: When the trackhoe arrives, it's a bad deal for
neighbors and neighborhoods. Let's join other environmentally
minded places that have busted the practice of toxic dustings.
Get up to speed on it (in particular, read the concerns by UNR's John Sandie, below, who has followed the bill but unfortunately can't attend Monday), then either submit comment asking for absolute control of hazardous materials during demolition (or no permit), and penalties and enforcement that make it happen.

Normally, it is illegal to so freely pollute, still worse to cause irreparable harm to kids, for whom there is no safe level of lead ingestion according to the Centers for Disease Control. For more on the issue, read here.

Please take some time to add your voice to others clamoring for more responsible stewardship of our old-growth affordable housing and measures to protect public health and safety.

What: Hearing on SB871 in Salem
Who: Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources
When: 3 p.m. Monday, April 10
Where: Oregon Capitol, 900 Court St. NE, Hearing Room C
Why: You care about keeping your city a safe and healthy place to live, play, and eat the food we grow.

You can also submit written testimony by email to senr.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov.

If you submit written testimony, you need to include the bill number (SB871), the committee (Environment and Natural Resources) and your name in the email subject line. In the body of the email include your name, bill number, committee and date (April 10, 2017).

For starters, bill needs less "may require" and more "must"

As UNR's point person on the hazmat issue, John Sandie has followed and participated in city and state policy efforts to clean up demolitions and their associated hazards. The current bill follows on the 2015 passage of SB705, which calls for asbestos surveys. Here's his take on SB871:
"For the last three years, United Neighborhoods for Reform (UNR) has lobbied city and state agencies for effective oversight in requiring responsible demolition methods while removing a structure within an urban residential zone. The potential for exposure of hazardous materials is well defined in many recent studies conducted by government agencies, as well as academic institutions.   
"SB871, as amended, and the earlier implemented SB705 are steps toward UNR’s goal of protecting public health during demolitions. However, without clear requirements on verifying that the spirit and intent of the legislation is being carried out on a routine basis, the ambiguous nature of diluted accountability will fill the void and real reduction in the health risks will be an illusion. Recent investigative articles on severe gaps in asbestos abatement during Portland housing demolitions highlights this all too well. 
 "I am encouraged that SB871 has specifically addressed the lead-based paint issue where SB705 was mute. As part of implementation of SB871, the legislature must demand that the Oregon Health Authority, in concert with municipal agencies, immediately require “best practices” as defined within the studies mentioned above, as well as by EPA in its evolving applications of lead-paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rules – recommending these be applied to home demolitions. The increasing level of demolition activity requires urgent attention to this point. 
 "In addition, there needs to be a clear understanding of what constitutes demolition of a structure. In this case the state definition must govern requirements and actions of local government bodies; liberal allowances under virtual demolitions classified as 'major renovations' cannot be an excuse for not properly protecting the public."