LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Lots of Christmas lights this year
Our son, Ryan Meaney, always does a great job of lighting up his house for Christmas (and Hallowe'en too!). Terri's parents owned the house before him so he has been doing this a long time (he's 40 years old now). The address is 905 S.E. Lambert in Sellwood. He first got excited about lighting the house when he saw the movie "Christmas Vacation" as a kid. His efforts keep getting bigger and better! By the way, there was a picture of Ryan in THE BEE when he was about 14 years old, standing in front of the same house, with a lawn mower…
Terri and Ron Meaney
EDITOR'S NOTE: Picking one house over another for excellence in Christmas lighting is a perilous enterprise; but since this is the only photo we received of such a house this year, and especially since its owner was previously featured in THE BEE at age 14 with a lawn mower in front of it, this seemed a cheery way to start a Letters column which – in the recent past – has become somewhat contentious on neighborhood issues.
New SMILE Christmas Tree
Editor,A special thanks to Damon Schrosk at Treecology Tree Service. When we decided to move the "SMILE Christmas Tree" to a new tree, we needed to make sure the owners of the new Spruce tree, Jim Diekmann and Laurie Ortega, were comfortable with what we were proposing. Damon worked with the homeowners to prune and shape the tree to make sure it was able to handle the weight of the star and lights and to minimize any damage. He then sat in the tree for five hours while we installed the star and strung the lights. And when the star stopped working a week later, he came again to repair the star. Treecology has been serving the Metro area from their Lake Road location in Milwaukie since 2002, and became SMILE member in 2015 when they moved to Ochoco Street. Consider supporting a local business next time you have a need for an arborist, or other landscaping needs. Damon can be reached via Treecology.com. Again, thanks to Damon for his help in continuing this 28-year tradition.
Meantime, honestly, those lights are on their last legs. Every year, with a sense of pride and spirit, neighbors gather to light our community Christmas Tree; please help us keep our prized tradition going – and join us in our efforts to purchase new lights.
Our neighborhood's tradition began under the direction of Dent Thomas who owned a dry cleaning business on the corner of S.E. 13th and Spokane. We don't know exactly when the tree lighting started, but Matt Hainley remembers seeing them light the tree as he walked to kindergarten at Llewelyn Elementary School in 1965. Dent stopped the tradition around 1973 when the oil embargo forced then-Governor Tom McCall to prohibit outdoor light displays as a way to conserve energy.
In the mid '80's, the SMILE Board decided to restart the tradition, and it has been doing so for the last 28 years. After the first ten years the strings wore out and were replaced. The sets currently in use are now 18 years old, and have reached the end of their useful life, as evidenced by the numerous strings that refused to light this year.
In order to continue our Holiday tradition next year, we do need to replace the lights. This is very expensive. The SMILE Board has approved a campaign to raise money to replace the lights. Please go online to: www.gofundme.com/SMILEChristmasTree – and make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our community tradition going. Donations of any amount are welcome. Thanks for your support, and here's to a 2017 Merry Christmas.
The Hainley & Heiberg FamiliesSellwood
Traffic on Tacoma Street
I am responding to the Letter to the Editor in the January BEE regarding traffic along Tacoma Street. Mr. Rosenkranz encourages those traveling west on Tacoma toward the Sellwood Bridge to "not reward these cut-through drivers and keep them waiting". Some of us live in the neighborhood just north and south of Tacoma between S.E. 6th and S.E. 13th. My house is between S.E. 7th and S.E. 9th, south of Sellwood Blvd., and north of Tacoma. When I do drive to work (instead of bike), I naturally travel south on 7th and turn right on Tacoma. That's my direct route; I'm not cutting through. I too wish there wasn't as much cut-through traffic, because sometimes it causes a long back-up on S.E. 7th. But his advice to commuters not to let people turn onto Tacoma from our neighborhood is maddening. I very much appreciate when commuters from other neighborhoods, like Mr. Rosenkranz, let people like me, who actually live in the neighborhood, onto Tacoma. Rather than assume everyone turning onto Tacoma is a cut-through driver, he should leave a few minutes earlier, put on some nice music, be courteous, and relax.
Voting underway in Historic District Poll
Last month, I wrote a letter to offer some additional details about the poll to be conducted to gauge interest in the proposed historic district in Eastmoreland. By the time this is printed, the poll should have gone out and approximately 2,070 listed owners of record of 1,282 of the properties in Eastmoreland are mulling over whether they believe a historic district is the best choice for themselves, their families, and their neighbors.
This has been a highly divisive issue, and I know I am not alone in expressing my lament over the situation that has unfolded in recent months. While there may be a small number of individuals who have some ulterior motive for the outcome, most of us are just trying to make the best decision. There is a lot of information out there and it may require some time and effort to get to the point you feel sufficiently educated on the issue to make an informed decision. Please do so…and then vote in the poll to make your opinion known. A group of your neighbors on the polling committee and the ENA has done our best to ensure the poll is fair and unbiased. We have taken steps to ensure that your vote is anonymous and even to randomize the order of websites that appear in the poll letter. It is in all of our best interests to see a large response to the poll. So please respond, and let the ENA know where you stand.
In addition to voting in support or opposition, I want to make a few other suggestions…
Decide what is important – We each have our own opinion of what makes Eastmoreland livable and what kind of Eastmoreland we want in the future. The historic district option was pursued in response to increased home demolitions, lot splitting, and a push by the city for increased density. Are these bad things? Will they change the neighborhood in ways that diminish or improve what you love about Eastmoreland? It's a personal decision, but I think that fundamental question of what matters to each of us is a critical ingredient in making and expressing our opinion.
Be kind – I know this issue has created some deep divides. Friendships have literally ended as a result. Let's try to give one another the benefit of the doubt that, although we may disagree, each of us wants what we feel is best for the neighborhood. Historic district or not, we will all go on as neighbors and I hope that kindness and understanding now will make reconciliation easier later on. Creating villains or enemies of your neighbors will certainly not help anyone.
Rely on facts – Even though the answer to many questions about the historic district and the future of the neighborhood is "it depends", there are still many facts available. Unfounded claims and opinions may appeal to you on an emotional level, but I hope you will seek the truth. If you're the type to put information out there, please cite your sources and correct the record if you're ever wrong.
In my work on the polling committee, I set out to understand more about property ownership in Eastmoreland. It was a critical piece for how we conducted the poll and to ensure that the right people received it. What unfolded was a fairly extensive analysis of the neighborhood that brought to light some really interesting information. For example, did you know that 61% of homes in Eastmoreland have two legal owners? Or that only 81% of properties here are owner-occupied? And that 68% of the homes in Eastmoreland were built between 1920 and 1940. And 81% of all homes have been sold at least once since 1986, meaning that nearly 1 in 5 homes haven't changed owners in 30+ years. Or that Eastmoreland property owners paid $13.3 million in property taxes in 2015. And that there are 677 half bathrooms in Eastmoreland homes. If you're like me, then you'll think this kind of data is pretty awesome. So if nothing else, the historic district discussion has resulted in a lot more information being shared. And I've seen some impressive analysis conducted by others as well.
In conclusion, decide what's important to you, be kind, rely on facts and, by all means, VOTE.
Wants action against Historic District proposal
In December, 2016, we sent an extensive letter of opposition to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) regarding the Historic District (HD). Our opposition was based on the HD Proposal filed by the ENA Board. Everything we argued was based on the material and statements within the HD Proposal itself. That is, the HD Proposal is flawed because it isn't internally consistent: statements early on in the proposal are contradicted by statements elsewhere in the proposal. We will spare you the 12 pages of annotations, photographs and examples, providing an edited version of our arguments. Anyone is welcome to read our entire analysis; it has been filed as part of the public record regarding the HD proposal. . .The process to stop the HD requires 50% +1 of the owners within the HD boundary to file a notarized letter of objection to SHPO. If you don't agree with the HD or the process the ENA Board has followed, please get your notarized letters into SHPO asap. (Yes, that's the way the process is structured: the HD is imposed on all of us, and folks who don't want it must take action against it – very different from our typical democratic process.) . . .At minimum, please get informed and get involved. Please get your notarized letters into SHPO asap. Notary "events" are happening all over the neighborhood, and official letters of objection are available from SHPO and other sources.
Leo Frishberg / Susan Zeidler
25 year Eastmoreland residents
EDITOR'S NOTE: Frishberg and Zeidler submitted an enormous letter, with lengthy quotes from their previous documents, and annotations. It proved too long to fit in this column, so we have edited it down to the essence of what they were calling upon their neighbors to do. They do not seem to explicitly advocate participating in the all-neighborhood poll now in progress, but presumably they would like their neighbors to do that as well, whichever way they may feel about this contentious issue.
Editor,The best argument against the proposed Eastmoreland historic district is right there in plain view. Take a stroll through the neighborhood, you'll see what I mean. House after house has been remodeled over time, often more than once, almost always for the better. Oh, sure, you might see a change here or there that you wouldn't have made if it was your house. But, by and large, the remodels have been attractive and tasteful and well-done. The owners are doubtless pleased; their homes are more pleasant to live in, and more valuable too. And all of that happened without an historic district.
Eastmoreland has wonderful homes, everyone agrees. That's not because the architecture was ever frozen in time. The neighborhood has evolved to where it is now – slowly, incrementally, as each new family fixed up its home to its liking. That natural and orderly process would come to a jarring halt with historic designation, because, in an historic district, you can't make changes to the outside of your house without complying with yet-to-be developed style restrictions that in a least one Portland historic district are so onerous as to regulate house colors. And to make sure you comply, you have to go through a slow, uncertain, and expensive review process with government bureaucrats and neighborhood watchdogs. That review process worries me the most. It's certain to produce rancor, discord, and hard feelings. . .
Eastmoreland's housing stock has changed continuously for nearly a century, improving all the while, without the divisiveness of historic designation. Let's keep it free to continue on that path.
Favors historic district
Editor,I love Portland, and am proud to call it my home. I am fortunate to have lived in Eastmoreland for 40 years. I love the tree-lined streets, I love the charm of its older homes, I love our parks and schools, and above all, I love my neighbors. The rancor that has festered in Eastmoreland since the proposal to become an Historic District has been very distressing to me and many of my neighbors. There has been misinformation presented that creates a no-win situation for everyone involved.
I recently gathered with a few of my neighbors that share my concerns, and we decided to form our own grassroots group in support of Eastmoreland's application to become a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. We don't want to tell our neighbors what they can and can't do to their homes. We don't want them to incur more costs to make the changes they desire to their residence. But, we feel the City of Portland has pushed us to a point where we have no other options.
The name of our group is HEART. It stands for "Historic Eastmoreland Achieving Results Together". We are being extremely thoughtful about our purpose, how we present ourselves, and what we wish to accomplish. We have no affiliation with, nor are we sanctioned by the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association Board. We do not want to do battle with our fellow neighbors, we simply want to share ACCURATE information regarding Historic District designation with Eastmoreland residents. We are pleased to introduce ourselves to the community and hope many of you who support a Historic District for Eastmoreland will choose – to join us.
Decries online misinformation
Editor,There has been enough misinformation posted on Nextdoor and Facebook lately to make it worth reminding everyone on how we got here. Eastmoreland has a rich history. Reed College and Eastmoreland were planned together. Our leading architect of the era, A. E. Doyle, designed the buildings at the college. Emanuel Tillman Mische, our first Parks Director, designed the grounds and (we believe) the design for the adjoining neighborhood. Mische, an associate of the famous Olmsteds, gave us the gently curving streets and the distinctive arboreal design along Reed College Place and the surrounding area.
Demolitions of fine older homes have been a high-profile problem in Portland for some years now. The ENA Board has opposed zero notice demolitions that pose health problems for neighbors. Eastmoreland's board took a lead in repairing the city statute that had been interpreted to allow zero notice demolitions and had effectively eliminated lead and asbestos testing.
This spring, the Eastmoreland held a number of meetings concerning another approach for maintaining historic homes, trees, lawns, and property values. The issues were also discussed in our newsletters, website, and social media. Over the summer a large number of neighbors helped conduct an exhaustive architectural survey of the neighborhood. We proposed a poll of the neighbors within the historic district – a poll that you will have recently received if you own property in the historic district boundary. Portland has five similar historic districts that are functioning well. We will base our decision, on the submission of the historic district to the National Parks Service, upon your responses.
One last word. Our bylaws state our purpose very directly: "The purpose of the Association is to enhance and preserve the livability of the Eastmoreland neighborhood and the City of Portland." Trees, lawns, and historic properties are what make Eastmoreland one of the most livable neighborhoods in Portland. Let's keep it that way.
In the January BEE, "Brides for a Cause" was incorrectly identified as being in the Brooklyn neighborhood. The store is in the Ford building, at S.E. 11th and Division, just north of Powell, and therefore is in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood. We regret the error. THE BEE's website versions of the article contained the correct information.
All letters to the editor are subject to editing for clarity and available space, and all letters become property of THE BEE.