By Midge Pierce
Turmoil that has roiled the Richmond neighborhood years ago has resurfaced to plague a community frequently hailed as among the nation’s most livable. Undeniably, it’s one of Portland’s most engaged.
Now, observers from Montavilla to Brentwood-Darlington watch to see if Richmond’s tensions echo in other places facing rapid growth and change.
Last month’s resignation of the Richmond neighborhood association chair came in advance of a repeal election. Board instability is compounded by what may or may not be the temporary boycott of meetings by several other officers.
Events add up to uncertainty about who will drive the neighborhood’s future development. Parking, bike rights and the loss of solar access to a so-called commercial Canyonland split the community.
The irony is that one of the City’s most desirable neighborhoods is among its most fractious as shiny Next Portland rubs up against Old Portland’s charm and ambience.
Richmond could have been the prototype for twenty-minute, walkable communities with plenty of mom and pop shops, acclaimed eateries and a vibrant food cart pod until densification marched up Division St.
The commercial corridor’s rapid multiuse, multistory construction (at heights just below minimum mandatory design reviews) casts long shadows down rows of neat, tree-canopied bungalows, many with front yard garden beds welcoming neighbors to share in the bounty.
A road-dieted Division forces cars onto narrow side streets where longtime residents compete with newcomers for spots to unload children and groceries. Car-bike altercations grow dicey. A proposed rapid transit bus may make matters worse.
The latest community upheaval came in the wake of a grievance filed by attorney Allen Field against the former chair Matt Otis, who in a letter to board members said he was a victim of back channel bullying, lies, half truths and harassment of his family.
Field, himself a former NA chair, believes the resignation was designed to avoid the recall election.
In the midst of these imbroglios, a group of women circulated a petition to push back against a perceived lack of civility.
For most residents, infighting among volunteers is just plain painful.“We are all passionate about our community,” is a common response. (See letters pg. 2 and OCCL Watchers, pg. 1)
Community liaison SE Uplift weighed in with a letter thanking board members who resigned or “paused their service” and suggesting now was the time to “reflect, learn and reset.”
Field, who remains unsatisfied his concerns about Open Meetings rules, election notices and Ethics violations are being addressed, says “Even if we don’t have a quorum, we can still meet to promote activities, improve livability and further neighborhood cohesiveness. Descriptions that our meetings are toxic and non-productive are misrepresentations.”
Otis, Field and others will have another chance to claim office during this spring’s elections. Of concern is how the turmoil will affect future participation. A parking permit program is among critical issues facing the community along with staying abreast of rapid development along the Division Corridor.
Field hopes a new board will be more proactive in inviting developers to NAs to share their plans.