Upwards of 100 representatives from Portland neighborhoods and coalitions gathered in early September at Grant Park Church to further refine a proposal to stop needless demolitions of older residential structures throughout the city. Dubbed “Demolition Summit II,” the confab followed a smaller gathering of just over two dozen neighborhood leaders earlier this year.
Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association Immediate Past President Al Ellis chaired the meeting and presented the group with a BWNA proposal as a foundational document upon which those gathered were asked to build. The bulk of the meeting was spent identifying essential elements to be in included in the final presentation to the Portland City Council.
“One of our obstacles,” Ellis told the group, “is that not all residents are united in supporting a policy that would forbid demolitions.” He added, “They may call us whiners, but we are not whiners: we are not opposed to demolition, but we are opposed to the way it is being done.”
As Ellis continued introductory remarks, extra chairs had to be brought in, and the room began to get uncomfortably full for a warm summer evening. Ellis pointed out that Mayor Charlie Hales and a couple of City Commissioners were visibly moved by the large crowd that attended a late July City Hall hearing. “They realized that this is no small matter, and they have begun to pay attention,” Ellis said.
Several participants urged all to begin dealing directly with the City Council and stop addressing city departments. “After all, city employees don’t make policy, they just carry out the rules made by the City Council,” Ellis said. To give the group drafting the proposal a grasp of how city residents feel about the issue, all were encouraged to take a survey found at www.stopthedemolition.org, and lawn signs protesting demolition were made available for a nominal contribution.
Ideas proposed included:
• Elimination of a provision allowing house demolitions without notice or without a permit
• Enforcement to ensure developers follow the law and be fined when they don’t
• Limitation of buildings replacing a demolished house to the footprint and height of the original structure
• 45-day demolition notice
• Demolition moratorium until the City Council reviews current policy and enacts new regulations
• Closing loopholes in the existing law and increasing landfill fees for contractors razing homes
It also was suggested that the practice of changing building permits specifications be stopped—it was alleged that some developers who want to replace one house with two sometimes get approval for one of the structures without objection and later apply for a permit to build another structure on the same lot.
The group concluded that communication between neighborhoods and neighborhood coalitions should be improved. A future meeting will determine priorities for the suggestions made. Each neighborhood association was asked to submit the name of one representative and one alternate to attend that gathering.