To the Editor:

After listening to thousands of concerned citizens of East Portland about the hazards to the city’s neighborhoods posed by the encroachment of residential infill, city officials have decided to follow their usual course: ignore us and turn the fate of our neighborhoods over to the developers.

Perhaps it is time for the overtaxed and underserved residents East of the Willamette to consider re-incorporating as a separate city.

Thank you,

                  James Mears

To the Editor: 

After finding four homeless individuals had slept on my front porch, my neighbor suggested that my eighty-year-old husband  trim the tall Forsythia Shrub to open sight lines between our porches.

He decided to transplant it and in the process, he got knocked over by the garden cart rolling down the driveway. He broke his shoulder and laid on the public sidewalk 45 minutes.

This accident did not have to happen. But it did, thanks in part to the City-County Joint Office of Homeless Committee lacking resources to open Wapato to serve as a Navigation Center.

I tried to schedule a meeting with the former Mayor Hales  about this, but my calls were unanswered.

Media reports  roughly 2,000 un-housed individuals, and families with children are sleeping under bridges in tents, on neighborhood streets in cars, parked circling Laurelhurst Park in rusted RV’s. Hopefully, a lucky few may be couch-surfing during the recent snow/ice storms.

My husband has suffered needlessly just because our City government can’t come to any kind of a decision about what to do with all the homeless. There’s a temporary solution in Wapato. What are you waiting for?

Mary Ann Schwab

OpEd By Robert McCullough

When is a demolition not really a demolition?

For years now, SE Portland has seen plenty of demolitions as older, more affordable homes have been demolished to make room for expensive McMansions and pricey apartments.

Neighbors are surprised to find a bulldozer driving through a home has often been termed “remodeling” rather than a demolition. The usual reason that driving a bulldozer through a living room is not actually a demolition is the “one stick standing rule” — if one stick is left uncrushed, it is just an overly enthusiastic remodeling job.

Luckily, after an enormous effort, activists from SE Uplift and United Neighborhoods for Reform convinced the city to change the rule last year. The “one stick standing rule” now has been replaced by rules that make much more sense.

However, it is still a bit early to relax. The dreaded RIPSAC is on its way. It stands for Residential Infill Project Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

I would have preferred rearranging the words a bit to get Stakeholder Committee on Residential Advisory Project for Infill Evaluation (SCRAPIE)  which is also known as mad cow disease.

RIPSACK has a seldom used meaning referring to the dismemberment of whales.  SCRAPIE, on the other hand, would have been a bit more fitting; if you inadvertently eat any of it, it drives you crazy.

A little over a year ago, the mayor convened a group of neighborhood representatives and developers to consider steps to ameliorate the demolition crisis affecting our neighborhoods.

Abruptly, last summer the staff announced a consensus that we needed more demolition, reductions in zoning to protect homes near corridors and centers, and allowing on-street parking.  Last month, BPS staff extended the proposal to most of Portland, effectively dropping the Comprehensive Plan’s corridors and centers philosophy.

The neighborhood representatives were largely ignored in this process and neighborhood town halls were strongly opposed to the end run around neighborhood concerns with demolitions.

Little research has been done on the sweeping proposal that will now allow duplexes and triplexes throughout the city’s residential neighborhoods.

The only economic research presented so far is a short seven-page study entitled Economic Analysis of Proposed Changes to the Single Dwelling Zone Development Standard. The study concluded that allowing rental units in established neighborhoods would reduce demolitions and residential development while reducing housing prices.

This sent me back to the textbooks that I have taught from for many years to find out how thousands of economists have been so wrong for so many decades.

Not surprisingly, I think that mainstream economics is not endangered by the conclusion that measures to allow increased demolitions will actually decrease demolitions.  Or that demolishing relatively affordable older homes and their replacement by more expensive homes actually lowers housing prices.

My review of the demolitions in Eastmoreland, for example, indicates that the replacements after demolition actually cost 58% more than the homes lost to the bulldozers.

So, when is a demolition not a demolition now? If you change zoning rules to encourage demolitions, it is pretty clear that this will not reduce the number of demolitions regardless of your computer model, mysterious thought it might be.

I have sent a detailed rebuttal to the city council, but it is important for us to realize that the sweeping changes in our livability and quality of life proposed by developers should require a bit more study than a seven-page document.

A copy of my rebuttal is on the eastmoreland.org website if you want to see the details.

In the meantime, just remember that the next bulldozer you see driving though a home might well not be demolishing it –  may be just rearranging the furniture for a new owner . . .

Robert McCullough