By Midge Pierce
Peacock Lane is on track to be the first of three SE Portland neighborhoods considering a National Historic District designation to actually receive it.
State Historic Preservation Officer Ian Johnson is optimistic the iconic Christmas street’s nomination is solid enough to sail through the national process.
Pre-approved by the state, once in the National Park Service queue, it could take as few as 45 days for the park service to review it and reach a final decision.
Johnson says the Peacock Lane nomination was well-supported by neighbors despite of, or because of – a new-build on a recently split lot. With that exception, all houses on the block are 1920s English cottage-style structures that contribute to the historic significance of the block, not to mention the street’s popular holiday lighting display.
Eastmoreland’s nomination, by contrast, is in limbo. The contentious nomination for a national district in Eastmoreland was returned by the park service to the state which awaits an Oregon Department of Justice ruling on how to count property owners, objections and the estates of deceased residents.
Once the ruling is made, three interested parties: the neighborhood association, Historic Eastmoreland Achieving Results Together (HEART) and Keep Eastmoreland Free will be notified. Residents can then rehash whether to resubmit nomination paperwork.
Laurelhurst, with advocates careful to avoid Eastmoreland’s neighbor-against-neighbor feuding, is not yet officially under consideration.
“They’re being smart about reaching out to neighbors first and being clear about the process and what to expect,” observes Johnson.
A national designation is considered a way to slow demolition and to preserve the distinctive character of neighborhoods.
Johnson says no saturation point exists for establishing historic districts despite critics charges that districts are overly restrictive and take away housing options. Cities like Phoenix, he says, have numerable districts designed to both serve the city well and preserve rich history.
Among Portland’s districts are several on the Eastside: Ladds Addition, Irvington, Mt. Tabor Park and its reservoirs.
Johnson explains that while other neighborhoods might meet minimum requirements for the national distinction based on age, it takes more than just a collection of nice homes more than 50 years old. Neighborhoods must go through an extensive vetting process and tell a significant story specific to the time period of its development.