LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BEE readers are invited to communicate on important matters in Inner Southeast
"RIPSAC" based on questionable economic conclusions?
As Gilbert and Sullivan once remarked, "The life of an economist is not an easy one." This is never so true as in reviewing recent materials submitted in favor of the massive change in zoning proposed by Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff – also known as "RIPSAC".
A little over a year ago the mayor convened a group of neighborhood representatives and developers to consider steps to ameliorate the demolition crisis affecting our neighborhoods. Abruptly, last summer, the staff announced a consensus that we needed more demolition, reductions in zoning to protect homes near corridors and centers, and allowing on street parking. In October, BPS staff extended the proposal to most of Portland – effectively dropping the Comprehensive Plan's corridors and centers philosophy.
The neighborhood representatives were largely ignored in this process, and the neighborhood town halls were strongly opposed to the end-run around neighborhood concerns with demolitions.
Little research has been done on the sweeping proposal that will now allow duplexes and triplexes through the city. The only economic research presented so far is a short seven-page study entitled "Economic Analysis of Proposed Changes to the Single Dwelling Zone Development Standard". The study concluded that allowing rental units in established neighborhoods would reduce demolitions and residential development while reducing housing prices.
This sent me back to the textbooks that I have taught from for many years to find out how thousands of economists have been so wrong for so many decades. Not surprisingly, I think that mainstream economics is not endangered by the conclusion that measures to allow increased demolitions will actually decrease demolitions…or that demolishing relatively affordable older homes and their replacement by more expensive homes actually lowers housing prices. My review of the demolitions in Eastmoreland, for example, indicates that the replacements after demolition actually cost 58% more than the homes we have lost to the bulldozers.
I have sent a detailed rebuttal to the City Council, but it is important for us to realize that the sweeping changes in our livability and quality of life proposed by developers should require a bit more study than a seven-page document.
Robert McCulloughTreasurer, ENA
Traffic observations along Tacoma Street
Editor,My morning commute from Woodstock to Lake Oswego usually takes about 20 minutes, but requires I cross the Sellwood Bridge before 7 a.m. Any later, and traffic is very backed up. This morning [November 29] I was delayed, and did not hit the light at 13th and Tacoma until about 7:40 – right at the peak of rush hour.
However, traffic was not backed up because of the signal on 6th Avenue, or because of a queue of traffic on the bridge. No, it was backed up because every car that cut through the neighborhoods was quickly let into the traffic flow on Tacoma. If commuters would not reward these cut-through drivers and keep them waiting, then traffic on Tacoma would move better – and there would not be a reason to cut through.
I don't know how fixing the light at 6th Avenue and Tacoma, or eliminating left hand turns off northbound 6th Avenue will alleviate the delay, if cut-through traffic continues to be allowed in from the [other] neighborhood street [intersections]. This is a problem that cannot be solved by signal manipulation.
The same happens in the afternoon; drivers crossing the bridge from southbound Hwy 43 regularly run the light at the west end of the bridge, holding up traffic on the northbound bridge on-ramp. There are two lights for southbound traffic – one on the southbound ramp entering the bridge, and one before the northbound ramp traffic enters the bridge. A result of cars running one or both of these lights is a 20-minute queue of traffic waiting on the Hwy 43 north ramp. The cemetery [at the intersection] had to install barriers to prevent cut-through traffic as a result of the long wait. This tie-up may be helped by adjusting the 6th Avenue signal so bridge traffic moves more smoothly, but running the red lights at the west end of the bridge will still cause delays.
More debate on "Eastmoreland Historical District"
Editor,Amid the confusion over the recent interest by the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA) in listing the neighborhood as an Historic District (HD) it is important to clarify some views expressed in [the Letters to the Editor in] your paper by some opposing the decision:
· That this "has not been an inclusive and transparent process", and the board is acting on its own.
· That the ENA "has not sufficiently worked in a politically smart way, nor interacted with other affected neighborhoods".
The opposition to the HD appears to be organized by a small but vocal group. Where have they been over the last four years? The issue of neighborhood integrity in the face of the city's density policy has been front and center in ENA board meetings as well as the land use meetings for at least this long. These are open forums that welcome concerned property owners in the neighborhood. That is how I got involved.
I am not a board member, and had not had been involved in the ENA. However, about three years ago I attended a board meeting because a representative of the city was scheduled to comment on the effects on the neighborhood by the proposed 20-year Comprehensive Plan. He outlined a large swath of the southeast portion of the neighborhood for demolition and redevelopment, and said we had two months to comment. I asked to attend a land use meeting and was welcomed. I witnessed a group of neighbors who had spent enormous time researching the issue and preparing challenges to the City's planned zone changes that would have drastic implications for the appearance of the neighborhood. Based on their recommendations the board and the President worked diligently but unsuccessfully to negotiate with the city over zoning designations, setbacks, and height restrictions, etc.
While active in the land use committee for about a year and a half I have been mostly inactive over the past year and a half due to other commitments, and was not involved in the desire to form a HD. However, I respect that interest by those elected neighborhood officials, because I know how hard they worked to protect the neighborhood without resorting to a HD which was not the preferred choice.
Regarding transparency, the ENA has a website which has had regular updates over the past four years. Through this vehicle, newsletters, and annual meetings, the neighborhood has been kept abreast of these issues. A fall 2013 ENA newsletter referenced the survey of historic structures in the neighborhood. The president and the board have also worked with other eastside neighborhoods through Southeast Uplift. Of 32 neighborhoods commenting on the June 16 version of the proposed Residential Infill Project, only four supported the RIP.
It is revealing that none of the organizers for the opposition has offered to participate in these discussions until the recent announcement earlier this year. They then chose to attend meetings vigorously opposing the HD, without listening to the work that preceded it, claiming it was all done in secret. Nor have they offered any constructive alternatives. They merely oppose with misinformation and scare tactics exaggerating the implications for homeowners concerned about their ability to remodel and expand their homes in the future. Their lack of constructive involvement coupled with their tactics to defeat the Proposal leads one to question their motives.
S.E. Reed College Place
I am responding to the first of several letters [about the proposed Eastmoreland Historic District] in the last issue of THE BEE.
I am baffled. Where has Mr. Kemmis been? He cites the lack of transparency, the inability for those opposed to express their concerns, the difficulty of future generations to find housing in the next 25 years (!), and animosity between neighbors, as his concerns. His letter and the three that follow contain misinformation about the process of becoming an Historic District and what it would mean for current home owners. Your neighborhood association, ENA, has been working on the problem of demolitions and lot-splitting for years, and it is only because the City Council refuses to rezone Eastmoreland, in spite of the many attempts to get them to change, that the possible solution of an Historic District came up. I cannot believe that Mr. Kemmis didn't notice that. Does he and those opposed really want unlimited building in their neighborhood?
There has been no attempt to push this idea without some consensus, but those opposed have been aggressive in suggesting what might happen. The question is – what do you want your neighborhood to be, now and in the future?
S.E. Crystal Springs Boulevard
Editor,The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association is making a big push for establishment of an Historic District (HD) over much of central Eastmoreland, but excluding the Berkeley Addition – the area south of Berkeley Par", and East of 36th. The reasoning behind this Historic District is that it is a "last chance" to prevent demolitions in the neighborhood.
There are serious drawbacks to an Historic District. Plan review fees can be high, and restrictions placed on new construction and remodels can have a dramatic impact on what homeowners can do to their own home. It can also influence – positively (historic adds value) or negatively (limiting development potential) – the resale value of your home.
Weighing the benefits versus the drawbacks, I decided to take a look at the original assumptions as to why this Historic District is deemed so necessary. I retrieved all building permit data for Eastmoreland from 2005 to November 2016 via portlandmaps.com. I classified permits into demolitions, new construction and so-called "Major Remodels", or remodels that flattened a house down to the foundation, left just a wall standing, or added a story.
In the last 11 years, there are 8 homes that have been demolished in the HD and 15 in the Berkeley Addition. There have been 16 new homes permitted in the HD and 34 in Berkeley. These new homes are replacements for the demos, lot confirmations, or new homes built on empty lots. A good total is 50 new homes in the neighborhood since 2005, including homes under construction right now. That's around 4.5 per year. The important part is 1/3 of those are in the historic district boundary and 2/3 are located outside in the
If you add major remodels you add 21 homes in the HD and 8 in Berkeley. I personally don't feel that these are as equitable with the demolitions as far as scale and impact to neighbors, but if you include them that changes the ratios to 47% in the proposed HD and 53% in Berkeley Addition.
In closing, when you look at this data, do you think it is appropriate that in our neighborhood of 1,600 homes, an acceptable rate of turnover is between 7 and 10 homes per year? These are homes that are around 100 years old. Sometimes they do need to be demolished. I know my 1912 bungalow, with its fire-hazard electrical wiring and health-hazard interior, required a gut down to the studs to make [it] livable. Sometimes change is a good thing.
Michael McKenzievia e-mailEditor,
You may be curious about what Keep Eastmoreland Free (KEF) is, and what it is not. First, what it is not: It is not a corporation, LLC, or an outside organized "special interest group." It is not a registered legal entity and it has no elected officers. It has no funding from any third party group and is completely self-funded from the ranks of your Eastmoreland neighbors. No developers that have developed homes in Eastmoreland are involved in any way whatsoever in KEF.
So, what is KEF? KEF is a group of Eastmoreland neighbors who are concerned about the formation of a Historic District (HD) in our neighborhood. Our reasons are as varied as the neighbors who live here. KEF strives to act as a collective voice, but also understands that each neighbor has the right to speak independently with his or her own voice. KEF supports an open dialogue to discuss the pros & cons of forming a HD. It has strived to provide balanced and truthful information about a complex subject that has divided Eastmoreland and other neighborhoods in the past. It respects the honest work and time that others have invested in an attempt to reduce the demolitions and large out-of-scale replacement of homes in our neighborhood. It objects to the way that the Board of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association has handled the investigation and funding of a HD designation on behalf of the entire Eastmoreland neighborhood.
The neighbors who have expressed interest in KEF's message care deeply about protecting the livability of our neighborhood and believe they should have the same equal rights as others to participate in this discussion and decision. It is for these reasons that a loose-knit group of neighbors has decided to come together to voice concerns as a collective community and to state that they are opposed to the creation of a HD. For the public's convenience, we may be referred to as KEF, but we are really simply individual concerned neighbors, just like you.
A good recipe for negative campaigning includes chastising the opposition while misleading and redirecting attention with false accusations, all the while sowing discord and doubt while relegating fact-checking to the back of the bus. It is particularly alarming to watch this kind of negative campaigning unfold in your own neighborhood. Unfortunately, this is what happened with the publication of the expensive full page Keep Eastmoreland Free (KEF) ad in the December BEE along with what appears to be
well-coordinated letter-writing effort.
This follows on the heels of a rather dishonest telephone marketing effort in Eastmoreland that masqueraded as a public opinion poll. "Push polls", as they are called, are specifically designed to psychologically sway one's opinion, and usually cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. The Nelson Report, the firm who conducted it, was founded by a lobbyist who is well known for these efforts. Since I am hearing impaired and use a phone that converts speech to text, I copied the transcript from the person who called me and have provided a full analysis of it online at: tinyurl.com/ho7ucwy.
The push poll followed a known recipe for success: start with a few reasonable questions, then use questions which contain false information and are designed, by the way they are worded, to influence the respondent. Finally, end the conversation with some benign questions to reinforce an illusion of legitimacy.
Why are opponents spending so much money to defeat the historic district proposal? Apparently many of the people who are opposed are also the strongest advocates for the Residential Infill Project (RIP) scheduled for a City Council vote on December 7th. The current version, if passed, will permit the building of condominiums nearly everywhere on the East Side, including Eastmoreland, setting the stage for a major redevelopment boom. New multi-family structures will invade our single-family-zoned neighborhood, vastly increasing the number of demolitions and the housing density without any promise of affordability.
Lobbyists for the Homebuilders Association, and other deep-pocketed groups closely aligned with the construction industry, have provided extensive support for the RIP. Anything – such as a new historic district – that might slow down the building extravaganza, I suspect, would be viewed as a threat by them. Surely funding such an expensive, negative campaign is but a small part of the cost of doing business.
There appears to be an ongoing effort to discredit the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA), the sponsor of the historic district proposal. Apparently opponents have decided to pursue this tactic because facts don't seem to be going their way. Otherwise, why haven't opponents offered to assist rather than angrily confront the ENA at public neighborhood meetings? Why haven't they participated in all of the other efforts over the past 5 years to address demolitions? Why did opponents ask for a neighborhood poll, and then undermine it with the release of a poll in an online forum they dominated? Why did they ask to slow down the process so that people could consider the arguments and then insist that the genuine poll wasn't being done quickly enough? Why did they rush to publish an initial rough draft of the historic district proposal a couple of days after it was sent to the state for comment, and insist that corrections be sent to them instead of the ENA, the applicant, even after being advised that it was disruptive and would add costs to the process?
I'd prefer that people with genuine concerns express them in a considerate, constructive, and truthful manner and not engage in these kinds of shenanigans.
S.E. Reed College Place
This letter addresses two major issues facing our neighborhood. The first is the proposed Historic District National Register listing. The second is the very aggressive infill proposal being rapidly advanced by our Bureau of Planning known as the Residential Infill Project (RIP).
The ENA Board and its Land Use committee's focus over the past four years has been addressing Portland's planning and zoning policies that directly impact not only Eastmoreland but neighborhoods across the City. Demolitions by developers of functional and more affordable houses have become increasingly commonplace across the City and in our neighborhood. Our Board adopted land use goals to prevent demolition of viable homes, lot splitting, tree removal, and infill with out-of-scale "skinny" houses as well as overly large homes. The City and its planners have been increasingly at odds with our efforts to guide change.
The Historic District (HD) option had been discussed and debated periodically by the Board. In the fall of 2015 the Board reconsidered the costs, advantages and potential drawbacks of pursuing this. The evaluation of alternatives led to the conclusion that forming such a district was the best option for preserving the character of Eastmoreland and guiding our neighborhood's future. A very important concern has been that some areas of our neighborhood might not be eligible to benefit.
The second major issue is of great concern to nearly every Eastside neighborhood and some on the west side. The Portland Planning Bureau's Residential Infill Project (RIP) – see online at: www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/67728 – is forging ahead despite overwhelming negative feedback at all 6 eastside public hearings and communications from neighborhood Boards. Of the 32 neighborhoods commenting on the June 2016 version only 4 supported the RIP. The October 2016 version encourages multi-family infill to every property in Eastmoreland. It allows duplexes and multiple Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on every lot, as well as triplexes and cluster houses. This proposal will lead to investor-owned rental properties. This project has advanced quickly through the City's Planning Bureau and is now before the City Council and Planning and Sustainability Commission for endorsement in November and December. Your testimony and or presence at Council Hearings in November and December is very important. See above website for dates of public testimony. The neighborhood can only comment, not vote, on the RIP, even though it could have a very significant impact upon our neighborhood.
Many of us are by nature resistant to change, but change is coming to Eastmoreland. It can occur with the protective guidance of an HD which will eliminate most demolitions and lot splitting infill and provide architectural design review to guide future development. Or it will occur with the ongoing infill regulation such as the City's RIP proposal.
I frequently hear that a Historic District will make it very burdensome to maintain and remodel the exterior of your home and that it will freeze Eastmoreland in time. The City has recognized these concerns and their historic review staff are being more flexible and helpful in approving exterior remodels. Eastmoreland will have a design review process administered by the City. The fees for historic design review have been lowered and approval times reduced in the past few years. The list of exemptions that do not require review are many and are listed on the historicdistrict.eastmoreland.org website.
I ask you to consider:
1. Under Historic designation, Eastmoreland will continue to evolve as it has for the past 100 years. Historic designation does not prevent change, it guides change.
2. Once Eastmoreland loses that historic look and feel, we can't get it back. Preservation comes with shared benefit as well as compromise and some cost.
3. Alarmed by the pace of demolition, the character of infill, and aggressive infill policies such as the RIP, other Eastside neighborhoods such as Laurelhurst and even Peacock Lane are actively considering being listed in the National Register.
4. There are already 16 Historic Districts in the Portland area, about 100 in Oregon, and several thousand in the U.S. They appear to be doing fine and continue to thrive and mature, just as Eastmoreland will.
As many of you know, all 1500+ homes in Eastmoreland were surveyed this summer mostly by neighborhood volunteers under the direction of our historic district consultants. The draft nomination has been forwarded to the State Historic Preservation Office who will manage the review process in preparation for submittal to the National Park Service for their decision. In its review, the State provides the first level screen as to whether Eastmoreland qualifies for Historic Designation and where the HD boundaries should be. Following the initial review, a revised draft application will be presented to you in a neighborhood meeting in December. We will have interim materials posted on the historicdistrict.eastmoreland.org website.
The next seven months will provide you the opportunity to comment. An upcoming neighborhood poll will help the ENA Board decide if Eastmoreland should continue to advance or withdraw the Historic nomination. It can be withdrawn at any point before the state forwards the approved nomination to the National Park Service which would occur, at the very earliest, in June or July of 2017.
Thank you for your careful consideration of these important issues. I ask each of you to be informed. Please attend meetings, read the newsletter and updates such as this, talk to Board members, and check the extensive information on the website for answers to your questions and updated information.
Regarding the ENA-sponsored Historic District poll
There has been quite a bit of confusion and misinformation about the poll to be conducted pertaining to an historic district (HD) in the Eastmoreland neighborhood. For starters, the official poll that will inform the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA) board has not occurred yet, although unofficial polls on "NextDoor" and a telephone-based "push poll" have been initiated by other parties.
In September, the ENA organized a polling committee of neighborhood residents to propose wording and structure for a poll designed to gauge interest from those in the proposed HD boundary. Despite many hours volunteered for the effort, the polling committee itself has largely been silent on details, in part because we are still working through some issues. Given the many questions I've seen, we felt it time to directly speak up and address some common questions.
There are five volunteer members of the polling committee. Two members, Robert McCullough and Bud Oringdulph, are on the ENA Board of Directors. The other three, comprised of Paula Stratton, Ned Vaivoda, and myself, are all Eastmoreland residents who live in the proposed HD boundary but do not sit on the ENA board. We also received significant input from Terry Brandt who contributed to the effort before stepping down from the committee. While there are partisan views (both for and against the HD) represented on the committee, we have proceeded in a manner that aspires to have an unbiased poll and maximize participation to help ensure the ENA Board hast the best possible read on how people feel.
When will the poll take place? We are aiming for early January, and plan to give residents a full 30 days to respond, during which time the plan is to publicize the poll and allow time for property owners to get the information they need to decide.
Who will be polled? Owners of property within the proposed HD boundary will be asked to express their support or opposition to the HD. We have chosen to be consistent with the methodology and definition used by the National Register regulations [36CFR Part 60.3(k)], and allow each unique property owner in the proposed HD to submit a response to the poll.
What is the format of the poll? We recognize that not everyone is online, and [so we] plan to conduct the poll using paper ballots, via mail. Ballots will be mailed to property owners, and responses will be anonymous. The wording of the poll itself has been discussed extensively by the committee, and shared in various forums already. It will be a simple "yes", "no", "not sure" question, and include links to information sources, including those created by both the ENA and "Keep Eastmoreland Free".
Who will conduct the poll? A majority of the committee members support the use of Southeast Uplift [nonprofit neighborhood coalition] to receive, count, and store the poll responses. For transparency, the results of the poll will be shared in aggregate with the neighborhood.
How will the poll results be used? The ENA Board will decide whether to proceed with or withdraw the submission for historic designation. Poll results will be used to inform that decision. Many ENA Board Members, including the two involved with this committee, have stated that they will vote in accordance with a majority of the poll respondents. Many have asked what level or percent support for the HD should be required for the Board to move forward. Our committee may weigh in on this with a recommendation, but thus far have not.
Questions about the poll process and mechanics are understandable. The committee members have volunteered their time to help ensure that we get a large response from those polled. I speak for all of us when I say that if you are within the proposed HD boundary, that you express your view by responding to the poll. Educate yourself on the issue, respond, and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Details about the official poll will continue to emerge and be openly shared as we sort them out.
Finally, and on a more personal note, the fairness of the poll and our process is extremely important to me and the committee members. We owe it to the neighborhood to conduct an unbiased and transparent poll, and my participation on the committee is conditioned on it remaining this way. I believe that we all want what is best for Eastmoreland, although we don't all agree on what that is. The poll is, in my opinion, the best way to gauge this, not only from the small number of vocal supporters and objectors, but from the large majority we haven't heard from yet. A fair poll will hopefully allow us to begin to repair the rift between well-meaning Eastmoreland neighbors.
Thanks, on behalf of railing of old Sellwood Bridge
There is a new piece of history now installed in front of SMILE Station at 8210 S.E. 13th Avenue in Sellwood. It's a large piece of concrete -- the only surviving piece of the railing from the original Sellwood Bridge built in 1925.
Designed by the distinguished bridge engineer, Gustav Lindenthal, the old Sellwood Bridge had a unique four-span continuous-truss design, the only bridge of its kind in Oregon. It has been replaced by a new bridge, but we are fortunate to have this relic from the original span that will soon officially be on display.
We wish to thank all of those who volunteered to save this piece of history and donate it to SMILE. The committee formed to position, move, and secure it was comprised of SMILE Board members Joel Leib, Nancy Walsh, and Elaine O'Keefe – as well as neighbors Matt Hainley, Don Bolton, Ardys Dunn, Bruce and Kris Heiberg, and Rachel Ginocchio.
This group of volunteers took on all aspects of installing the railing at SMILE Station. They retained a structural engineer, built support structures, acquired heavy equipment and supplies to move the half-ton piece, and are now working on landscaping, and designing a dedication plaque.
We couldn't have succeeded without donations from the following local businesses: Bill Berry, BK Engineers Inc., Johnson Concrete, Atlas Supply, Everett Custom Homes, and Slaydent/Sundt Joint Venture.
The SMILE Board is grateful to all of these generous volunteers who donated their time and expertise to make display of this piece of history possible. There will be an announcement of the official dedication and unveiling in the near future.
All letters to the editor are subject to editing for clarity and available space, and all letters become property of THE BEE.