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.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Questions—we got 'em

Is it more "refill" than "infill"? Planners take the RIP show to East Portland.  
Planners' one-on-one format didn't sit well with some attendees.
With just a few RIP events left before the proposal heads to the Planning Commission (see banner above), now's your chance to get some answers from the planners shepherding the proposal through the process. Show up early as these events draw many engaged Portlanders who seek more info on the far-reaching proposal, and planners have run out of handouts (please dig deeper and read other perspectives on it, however) and capacity to handle the crowds.
Many attendees were not able to wait their turn.

At the Midland Library on Southeast 122nd Avenue last week, many attendees left as the sign-up list reached 47 people. Some people clamored to be heard in a group setting; that way everyone can benefit from the questions of others, and the answers they receive.

How sad that a proposal with such heavy irreversible impacts is getting short shrift in its rollout to the public. It feels as if nothing is meant to get in the way of the developer-drafted and developer-driven program to dramatically change how our city looks and lives.

Take heart, though. A RIPpish bill in California died in committee, but not after stirring up many of the same arguments as here and some ugly behavior (salient quote from the president of the Chinatown-based Community Tenants Association in San Francisco: "I think the YIMBY have no heart."). Many Portlanders seem to be attuned to the nuances of the proposal, its effects, and motives lurking under the glossy presentation.

Portlanders bring patience to divine another kind of RIP city.
Before we further erase neighborhood diversity—and equity opportunities for a wide range of income levels—under RIP's teardown incentives, it's worth asking even more questions. If planners don't have enough time at the remaining events, tackle them with the Planning Commission, the next stop for this push for more luxe plexing, on May 8 and 15. For starters:

• How does throwing homes in the landfill satisfy our environmental goals?
• How does elimination of existing affordable housing satisfy our affordable-housing goals?
• Why not try the upzoning in a pilot project—or in neighborhoods clamoring for it—or only apply RIP to vacant land (planners report we have 2x what we need to meet density goals until 2035)?
• Hasn't the recent update of the Comprehensive Plan already accounted for projected additional population; why do we need RIP on top of that?
• Looking at the three areas exempted from the upzone overlay because of acknowledged displacement impacts, why is it that low-income renters must only live in these three areas to be protected from RIP? What is the equity of extending protections to a few small areas of the city while foisting undesirable displacement on the rest of the city? If displacement is not a goal, then why push RIP at all?

• Shouldn't something this dramatic and divisive be decided by public vote? After all, of the 130,000-some people who received a yellow notice, few or none were renters, who will be disproportionately impacted by RIP's upzoning. 

Bulldozed but not dozing: The same night as the RIP event
an exhibit opened at Cobalt Studios on Southeast Clinton
that looked at how and what we lose in these demo days.
Above all, the question on many people's minds seems to be: What problem is RIP trying to solve? Beyond that: Whose problem is RIP trying to solve? Planners and RIP supporters freely acknowledge, in writing and in public, that this proposal is not meant to produce affordable housing; RIP also was famously steered away from urgent issues such as demolitions, affordability, loss of tree cover, and so on—problems that many Portlanders do care about, and had hoped the city would address.

You can read on here about RIP and its sad history—nearly a third of the committee broke away to expose the false promises of the proposal (the "RIPSAC 7")—or you can watch a video showing RIP-style policy in action in the Pacific Northwest.

One needs only check Craigslist and its hundreds of daily posts for empty units to witness the current housing glut. There are 16,000 vacant units (some landlords now offer two months' free rent), and 25,000 more are under construction. Does RIP kill the golden goose? Hopefully we won't have to find out.

The imminent departure of Planning Bureau director Susan Anderson perhaps shows cracks in the juggernaut, although it appears she will stick around for RIP's end game. Whoever follows her in the post inherits the challenge of rebuilding trust and goodwill between planners and Portland's people.