When Rognald Johnson ice-skated to the vessel that would take him to America during a Scandinavian winter a century ago, little did he realize that his Roseway neighborhood workshop/garage would eventually be converted into a short-stay for visitors to the Rose City. Grandpa’s Bunkhouse, as it’s called, is part of The Johnson House in the 3500 block of Northeast 76th Avenue, along with Kirsten’s Sweet, a basement studio honoring Johnson’s daughter.
At the end of August, the city’s Bureau of Development Services put into place a permitting procedure for short-term rentals of one and two bedrooms in single-family residential homes. The new regulations are required to support zoning adjustments unanimously adopted by the Portland City Council on July 30. Paul Scarlett, director of BDS, said, “Permitting and inspection requirements will help address community concerns, streamline the process for customers and ensure that rooms for short-term rentals meet basic fire, life and safety standards.”
Permit requirements include getting a majority of neighbors abutting the property to sign off.
“I’m especially careful about my street presence,” The Johnson House owner, Jean Johnson, said, “providing one of the two parking spaces in front of the house and a space in the driveway for guests with vehicles.” That’s especially simple for her, she said, because she has not owned a car for two years and gets around the neighborhood by bus or bicycle.
Oscar Herrera, proprietor of NEST Design + Construction, lives just down the street from Johnson. Both emphasized that such renovation projects are most successful if the client has a do-it-yourself mentality and is willing to collaborate with the contractor by contributing “sweat investment.” They agreed that the renovation cost of The Johnson House would have been much more, if Johnson had not helped with deconstruction, tile work, painting and other finishing touches. Most materials were re-purposed in the building or donated to the Rebuilding Center, Johnson said.
Herrera’s company rebuilt, completely replaced and thickened the concrete slab that serves as the Bunkhouse foundation. The new foundation now accommodates the plumbing for a kitchen sink and bathroom. He estimated the cost of such a project at about $60,000, emphasizing that each project is unique. A ductless heating-and-cooling system was installed, employing a heat pump with insulation in the roof, walls and flooring at or above requirements. Johnson gave high marks to Umpqua Bank, where she secured financing.
Both Grandpa’s Bunkhouse and Kirsten’s Sweet were occupied when this reporter visited, and Johnson said she was booked for the rest of the summer and was already getting inquiries about holiday availabilities.
“What I offer at The Johnson House,” she said, “is a home stay without bed-and-breakfast trappings.” Most travelers bring their own food and make use of the kitchenette appliances, and some visit relatives and friends where they spend most of the day, she added.
Johnson charges $145/night for Grandpa’s Bunkhouse, but points out that she has to collect and pass on to the city an additional 11.5 percent lodging tax for stays under 30 days, bringing the summertime nightly stay close to $165. Most reservations come through her website, www.thejohnsonhousepdx.com, which includes photos of the two studios, the neighborhood and the host.
Johnson is convinced that recent changes in city short home-stay permit regulations, combined with owners’ sensitivity to neighbors’ needs, will expand this cottage industry, enabling older homeowners to keep and stay in their properties while operating a business that brings them in contact with new and fascinating people.