By Midge Pierce
In growth-centric Portland, preservation is taxing and grassroots clout is growing to protect architectural and cultural treasures and oppose practices that lead to demolition and gentrification.
A diverse coalition of tenant activists and landlords, musicians and environmentalists, preservationists and the NAACP may well have delayed implementation of requirements that unreinforced masonry buildings post signs indicating earthquake danger.
The Coalition argued that the ordinance unfairly targets communities of color and burdens landlords who, unable to afford rehabs, would be forced to sell buildings from which low income renters would be evicted.
With the need for remedies beyond dispute, the Coalition seeks future input on clearer building reinforcement guidelines and funding incentives.
Grassroots may not be enough to stop the deep-pocketed, developer backed momentum of the Residential Infill Project (RIP).
Critics call it a developer give-away that eliminates single family residential neighborhoods. Proponents claim upzoning is necessary to accommodate growth. (A similar statewide bill has been proposed that would make Oregon the first state to outlaw single family zoning.)
The Planning and Sustainability Commission is due to vote soon on revisions that allow up to four units on almost every R.7, R.5 and R2.5 lot in the City. Recommendations will go to City Council for approval, likely by late summer.
Refreshing the City’s thirty-five year-old Historic Resources Inventory (HRI) could help save significant buildings from the wrecking ball. Last year’s request to cover costs for an HRI update went unfunded. Developing a framework to renew HRI is now part of an Historic Resources Code Project being presented citywide.
Other goals include reinvigorating standards for landmark designation and bringing Portland in line with national best practices for landmark and district designations.
The highest, and most difficult to achieve, level of historic protection is National Historic Designation. While the honor was waylaid in Eastmoreland last year by objections from a rash of questionable homeowner trusts, Laurelhurst is on track to become Portland’s newest designee.
With fewer than one half of one percent of district homeowners opting out, the Laurelhurst Neighborhood’s approval as a National Historic District could come from the National Park Service Keeper of the Register this month.
After years of fundraising and canvassing the neighborhood, a successful designation on the National Register could be considered the ultimate grassroots success story.