Home demolition critics back resolution that would block central-city density

Posted by on December 9th, 2014 at 10:10 am

(Photo: City of Portland)

In the last five weeks, nearly a third of Portland’s neighborhood associations have approved a resolution that calls for Portland to virtually freeze residential development in the central city at its current average density.

The resolution’s supporters, who call themselves United Neighborhoods for Reform, say it’s not actually an anti-density measure but rather a movement to protect historical character and housing affordability by reducing needless demolitions of old houses.

Margaret Davis, a UNR spokeswoman who also serves as a board member for the Beaumont Wilshire Neighborhood Association, said she wants to prevent home demolitions like one she saw recently.

“The new house that rose up was 2.5 times the size and at least 2.5 times the cost,” said Davis, who said she sometimes works as a small-scale infill developer.

UNR developed out of a series of neighborhood association summits this spring, summer and fall.

Another supporter of the proposal, Brandon Spencer-Hartle of historic preservation nonprofit Restore Oregon, said such projects are becoming common in the hot housing market of Portland’s most walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.

“People are buying small houses for $350,000, $400,000,” he said. “They’re scraping the house. They’re building a maximum square footage house. And they’re selling it for $750,000.”

Language blocking density increases is ‘an oversight,’ backers say

we'll have a barrel of fun...

A Portland construction site in April 2013.
(Photo by sciencesque.)

The resolution signed by Davis and 31 of the city’s 95 neighborhood associations calls on the city, in line 2a, to “limit the mass, footprint, setbacks, and height of construction to that of the average of existing homes within a specified distance.”

“The overwhelming feeling is that the urban growth boundary is a good idea. We’re not anti-density.”
— Margaret Davis, Urban Neighborhoods for Reform

If the “specified distance” were more than a couple blocks, of course, the effect of such a rule would be to effectively prevent density increases on anything except empty lots.

In an interview Monday, Spencer-Hartle called that language “an oversight” and said its backers aren’t actually objecting to the new apartment buildings on some of Portland’s commercial corridors.

“They get it that density needs to live somewhere, and I think they get it that density needs to live along our corridors,” Spencer-Hartle said. “I wouldn’t get on board with a 35-foot height limit on all of our corridors.”

Davis agreed, saying she supports low-car life and is glad more Americans have come to favor central-city living.

“The overwhelming feeling is that the urban growth boundary is a good idea,” said Davis. “We’re not anti-density.”

In a blog post last week, Davis referred to Division Street as a “Death Star Trench” and blamed developers of its new four-story apartment buildings for central-city rent hikes.

As we’ve reported, rents in the bike-friendliest areas of Portland have soared since 2005 amid one of the deepest rental housing shortages in the country.

Davis and Spencer-Hartle said UNR is pushing to restrict redevelopment only in parts of Portland dominated by single-family homes. These areas typically begin a block or so away from the city’s commercial corridors.

“We’re not going to have room to add more units to those neighborhoods unless they cease to be neighborhoods,” Spencer-Hartle said.

Advertisement

Opponent: Allow smaller lots, and smaller homes will follow

sabin green

Sabin Green in Northeast Portland, a development of four small houses by Eli Spevak’s company Orange Splot.
(Photo: Mark Lakeman)

Critics of UNR’s proposal say it wouldn’t stop the climb of central-city housing prices and might be counterproductive if it makes it harder to divide a big residential lot into smaller ones.

“We have so many properties in Portland that are 5,000-square-foot to 10,000-square-foot minimums,” said Eli Spevak, another small-scale developer who specializes in small residential projects. “These are pretty big lots in wonderful locations. We should be figuring out how to get more people living on these lots so they can support the neighborhoods that they’re in.”

Spevak conceded that he shares the concern of residents like Davis.

“I think it’s a problem that the average house being demo-ed is less than 1,200 square feet and the average home that is being built is twice that,” he said.

But Spevak said a better way to prevent this might be to allow three small or tiny houses to be built on a single lot instead of one house, or to make it easier for houses to be internally remodeled into two units.

“Let’s build things that look and feel like single-family zoning, but the use of it can be more than one group of people.”
— Eli Spevak, Orange Splot

“Let’s build things that look and feel like single-family zoning, but the use of it can be more than one group of people,” Spevak said. “The market for homes in the $200-$250 range is huge. If someone was allowed to build stuff like that at that price point, I think they would be selling them like crazy.”

Spevak said that because land in central Portland has become so expensive — a vacant 7,875-square-foot lot in Montavilla went on sale last week for $412,000, the Portland Chronicle reported — developers tend to finance their land purchases by putting up the largest and most expensive houses possible.

“The thinking is, if you’re going to pay that much money for the lot, you might as well build a big house,” Spevak said.

25 demolitions in Portland enabled 9 percent of metro area’s 2013 apartment supply

As UNR prepares to head to City Hall next week — the city council has invited them to present their proposal on Dec. 17 — one of their core arguments is that reducing demolitions wouldn’t block future density.

“The vast majority of demolitions that are going out at this point are one-to-one demolitions, so we’re not getting any density increase,” said Davis, the UNR spokeswoman.

City figures, however, show that demolitions have been a significant factor behind Portland’s increasing density.

Davis is right that 121 single-family homes were demolished last year to make way for new single-family homes, while only 25 were demolished to make way for apartments or other multi-family homes.

However, it only took a few demolitions to have a big impact on the central city’s supply of new housing. Those 25 homes were replaced by 432 new apartments — enough to account for 9 percent of the new multifamily housing supply in the entire four-county Portland metro area last year.

As of 2013, 47 percent of occupied Portland housing units are rentals. That’s up from 44 percent in 2000.

Homeowners ask for ‘a place at the table’

Portland City Council

Portland’s City Council will hear UNR’s proposals next week.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Spencer-Hartle noted that the city isn’t allowed to restrict demolitions on commercial property, only on residential. Most apartment construction in the last few years has been on commercial and mixed-use rather than residential property.

Davis said the group’s primary request is to include neighborhood associations on equal footing in the city’s policymaking about demolitions.

“It’s saying, ‘Hi, we want a place at the table,'” she said. “Right now they’re only listening to developers on this demolition issue.”

Davis said United Neighborhoods for Reform’s steering committee of 12 to 15 people consists of an eclectic group of Portlanders, all of them homeowners.

“We want it to be this process that equitably reflects the early investors,” Davis said. “And that’s us.”

— The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here. This sponsorship has opened up and we’re looking for our next partner. If interested, please call Jonathan at (503) 706-8804.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

344
Leave a Reply

avatar
50 Comment threads
294 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
69 Comment authors
9wattsmknelsonNate YoungdavemessMichael Andersen (News Editor) Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
don arambula
Guest
don arambula

Portland has spent over 15 years developing growth policy and a general zoning framework. An eleventh hour, broad brush reduction of density is a bad idea considering that the city will tens of thousands of new residents in the coming years. The best forum for right sizing density is at a neighborhood and corridor planning level. Adopt the comp plan and lets get on with examining these real issues, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Garlynn
Guest
Garlynn

Well, the problem is that we were all sold on a compromise deal: Agree to density increases on corridors and in centers, and in return, protect the single family neighborhoods. Thing is, with all of the demolitions in single family neighborhoods, folks feel like this promise was broken.

At the Concordia Neighborhood Association’s Board meeting, where ultimately support for the UNR resolution was passed, there was discussion about item 2a. While a lot of folks on the Board absolutely did not support these provisions, the header above them was not proposing that the City ADOPT them as-is. It was to CONVENE a group to STUDY them and recommend more concrete proposals after a discussion involving neighborhood groups, the City, developers, and others.

So yes, we need to have this discussion. Demolitions are a tool, a valuable tool, but a powerful one that must be used wisely. Just allowing demolitions willy-nilly across the city, regardless of the value of the existing structure or the opinions of the neighbors, is a recipe for making a lot of people pissed off, as we know. That’s why folks are trying to control the demolitions process.

But a lot of us have strong objections to putting controls on what the landowner has the right to do with their property, above and beyond the zoning laws (which are already perhaps overly restrictive). In particular, the Concordia Board has already adopted a resolution asking the City to allow for “flats” to be developed in structures that look from the outside like single-family houses, and meet the setback, lot coverage, height, and other zoning regulations describing the building envelope — but internally contain 3 or so separate housing units:

http://kingneighborhood.org/concordia-nas-proposal-re-home-demolitions/

This proposal would be, in some cases, directly in conflict with provisions 2a of the UNR proposal:

http://swni.org/UNRDemolitionResolution

So yeah, there needs to be a discussion to resolve this. There may be some way to take pieces of the idea behind 2a, and implement it in ways that don’t restrict density, don’t restrict ideas like the flats proposal, but do provide protections for neighbors. We need to have an open-minded community discussion to try to get there.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

We have protections for neighbors, setbacks, total area coverage restrictions, height restrictions, codes upon codes etc etc etc… Try to remodel sometime, or even to add an adu, there are already far too many rules and I think some people will regret what they are doing in the future if they want to fix up their own home.

Brad
Guest
Brad

We have inadequate restrictions about what homeowners can do with their properties. We have people moving here who want to remake the city per their lemming millennial values. No demolitions should be allowed. Zero growth is the only environmentally friendly position with regards to development. If any of you bikies actually cared about either other people, history or the environment, that’s what you would support. Portland currently has zero pressure on the urban growth boundary and that wouldn’t change even if all demolitions were halted.The UNR resolution is a good first step.

There is nothing green about demolition. Ever.

maccoinnich
Guest

Advocating for zero growth is a great way of hurting people and the environment, as is being demonstrated so clearly right now in San Francisco.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Ever go to Vancouver? Lots of pressure on the growth boundary being let off by sprawl in Clark County. Personally I think the restrictions on construction in portland are far above average and plenty restrictive. Wooden houses aren’t meant to last forever and people should be able to do what they want with their homes within the reasonable restrictions that already exist. Most demolishions in my neighborhood are of homes that are falling apart and often vacant and I wish we could speed up the process.

Beth
Guest

Zero Growth policies are elitist by their very nature. In this case, it sounds like one group of elitists — let’s call them the “We Were Here First”ers — is pitting itself against another perceived group of elitists, those with the means to buy up old houses, tear down and rebuild and then flip the properties.

In each case, the losers are the rest of Portlanders — and would-be Portlanders, because they WILL come and they cannot be stopped –who cannot afford to own a home and eho can barely make rent with the low-wage service jobs that keep those who can own more stuff happy.

Is such elitism bad? It depends on whom you ask. At some point, San Franciscans with means will find out that they will have to pull their own damned lattes if the cost of living continues to spike with no protections for the working poor. Past a certain point, an hourly-wage barista simply cannot justify the cost in time and money of commuting to a crap job at N unreasonable distance from where they live. That lesson could just as easily come to Portland if we’re not careful about whom we exclude from the “lifestyle” so many of us currently take for granted.

Rena Jones
Guest
Rena Jones

Yes somehow all these laws don’t apply to big developers in Portland and they should. Portland’s laws around demolitions are extremely lax and it’s allowing developers to not follow State regulations around lead and asbestos removal… That is a serious problem…

Rena Jones
Guest
Rena Jones

Hi Don, the title of this article is misleading to say the least. The city has indeed spent years planning infill and density and what we are seeing in the recent trend of demolitions was NOT in the cities plans and is also in direct opposition to the current stated goals by BPS for the 20 year comp plan… Portland’s demolition laws are extremely lax compared to most major cities. UNR is just saying we should get our building codes up to speed with the rest of the country and put laws in place that would protect the areas not zoned for higher density. If you take time to read what is in the cities 2035 comprehensive plan, you will see that what UNR is asking for is in alignment with the cities goals…

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Too bad there isn’t a place where density has been artificially limited and there is a physical barrier that acts much like a non moving urban growth barrier where housing prices have skyrocketed so we could easily disprove this theory that stopping density increases will maintain affordablity of housing… cough…san francisco…cough…

Brad
Guest
Brad

Haha, spot on. Spot on.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
kiel johnson

Any groups that make a proposal like this with such a huge “oversight” should not be at any tables. Neighborhood associations are not democratic or necessarily representative of neighborhoods. I hope that our democratically elected officials do not overreact by thinking that they are.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Neighborhood Associations are absolutely democratic. They have public votes for their leadership every single year. And with relatively low turnout in the vast majority of NA’s, if you want to be a leader you just need to show up a bring a few of your friends/neighbors and you’ll likely win whatever election you want.

And sure they might not be perfectly representative, but they are the only ones showing up to represent the neighborhood.

So much of this is just about simple participation. If you feel strongly about some issues show up and work the system.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I dunno. I am a very engaged person generally and just have not made it to a single NA meeting (didn’t help that I was bamboozled by out-of-date info the one time that I tried). I hear that even election meetings generally have ~10 people there. That’s pitiful voter turnout in ‘hood that are in the thousands of people. So low that I don’t think it can reasonably be called “democratic.” I’d say it’s more a “super-engaged-ocracy.”

What about mailing ballots and quick position statements to residents and voting by mail? Would need City staff and support but I think it would do a lot to make NA’s actually representative.

Reza
Guest
Reza

Neighborhood associations have a lot of influence in Portland. It’s one thing to try to make change outside of the institutionalized process through activist groups like BikeLoud but there’s a lot of value being able to shape what the NA formally recommends to the City, which staff and Council take very seriously.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I see that for sure. We at BikeLoud are working with NA’s despite their super-engaged-ocracy-ness and in the short-term that’s the way it has to be. I am a long-term solution kind of guy, though, and when I see a problem with a long-term solution, I’m gonna voice that.

Honestly, the super-engaged-ocracy-ness of NA’s is probably a help for BikeLoud in the short/mid-term. If we have to pack a NA election with our supporters in order to do what’s right for the n’hood and the city, that’s an option that’s open to us. And given how engaged our members are, it could be a practical one.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

if you want to be a leader you just need to show up a bring a few of your friends/neighbors and you’ll likely win whatever election you want.

And that is how democracies should work!!!

Joseph E
Guest

I hope you are being sarcastic. People with jobs, working parents juggling kids and other responsibilities, etc… there are many people affected by these organizations who cannot participate.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“…who cannot participate.”
It is about priorities. Plenty of us on NA boards have kids and jobs.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Yep. Probably 3/4th of the board in our NA has kids at home (including me).

Beth
Guest

And presumably, someone to care for them if they’re too young to left alone. Not an option to all working parents, and one of the reasons that getting a wider variety of folks to “engage” with their NA — or their city government in any capacity — is an issue.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Actually we have some that bring their kids with them.

Sure I understand that there are some barriers for some people to get to meetings, but this is true of anything in life. Many people do in fact overcome these barriers and it’s silly to throw aside their commitment or opinions because they actually show up to the meetings.
But I agree more involvement is almost always a good thing.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

the three exclamation indicated sarcasm.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

mr ness,
NAs are a mixed bag in Portland. Some are very informed and engaged, some are terribly disfunctional.

davemess
Guest
davemess

So if you have a dysfunctional one, show up and help change it.

davemess
Guest
davemess

It’s also daveMess.

Jon
Guest
Jon

As a former board member of a neighborhood association in the inner SE I have to disagree. All the processes are democratic and the board is elected by residents of the neighborhood. The neighborhood association does a very good job of advocating for the neighborhood. This often puts the NA in conflict with city goals and policies. It is true that residents do not become very involved unless there is a big issue or problem that the NA is dealing with but the boards are a good reflection of the neighborhood and anyone can and is elected.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

The neighborhood associations represent the interests of property owners. Renters have very little voice in the political process, and their interests are often at odds with property owners. Renters value affordability, transit options, the livability that results from increased density. Property owners want to increase their property value and protect their on -street parking spaces in front of their homes. Renters can choose to get involved with neighborhood associations but often do not stay in one neighborhood long term. It can take several years to have a role of influence in a neighborhood association. The notion that property owners do not have a “seat at the table” is ridiculous.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Renter are not excluded from NA’s at all. In fact they’re encouraged to come and have positions. Problem is on average more renters don’t seem invested enough in the area to want to spend the time being involved with an NA.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

I didn’t say they are excluded. The reality is that renters are more transient (especially as rents rise) and while they may be in Portland for the long-term, they have to move around to different neighborhoods to meet their housing needs.

It would take several years to be able to join a land-use committee in a neighborhood and the land owners would not support a renter that does not represent their interests.

There needs to be a way for renter’s interests to be heard and the neighborhood associations are likely going to be at odds with this. What benefits land owners is often the opposite of what benefits renters. Have you been to a neighborhood association meeting? They are 90% dealing with opposing new development and listening to people complain about their right to a free on-street parking space in front of their house.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Broad brush?
Geez, man.

“It would take several years to be able to join a land-use committee in a neighborhood”

Do you have experience with this sort of thing? Because what you are describing does not match mine at all. You can join our land use committee the day you show up. Where do you get the idea that this is such an onerous, drawn out process?

“…and the land owners would not support a renter that does not represent their interests.”

Why so monolithic? I’ve been on my neighborhood board for 7 or 8 years. The board during this time has consisted of renters and homeowners, and I can’t recall there being any bright line dividing the two on land use issues. You are describing caricatures of these two groups, not real people who live in real Portland neighborhoods.

“There needs to be a way for renter’s interests to be heard and the neighborhood associations are likely going to be at odds with this.”

How do you know this? Can you give specifics or are you just making this stuff up?

“What benefits land owners is often the opposite of what benefits renters.”

Such as?

“Have you been to a neighborhood association meeting? They are 90% dealing with opposing new development and listening to people complain about their right to a free on-street parking space in front of their house.”

Again, not in my experience. But thanks for a very black and white riff on this subject.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

Yes, I am obviously speaking from my experience. At the neighborhood association meetings I have been to, I am usually the only renter and the rest of the people attending are there to complain about parking and find ways to stop development that is of urban density. They are actually working to lower the zoning density in the neighborhood. Of course this may not be true of all neighborhood associations but it has been for my experience in close-in eastside neighborhoods. I was told anyone can attend land-use committee meetings but it would take a while to become a member of the committee.

As for specific examples of conflict of interest, this is quite simple and I’m not sure why you’re having a difficult time understanding it from a renters perspective. I just stated three times that the interests of land owners at neighborhood associations that I’ve witnessed are primarily 1) protecting and increasing their land values and 2) protecting their free on-street parking spot in front of their house. For renters, we are interested in affordable rents (opposite of increasing land values) and more density to create more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods (opposite of on street parking in front of every residence). We would also oppose mandated parking requirements for new development (opposite of on street parking in front of every residence.)

davemess
Guest
davemess

“They are actually working to lower the zoning density in the neighborhood”

Keeping density the same and lowering it are different.
Downzoning will not remove houses that have already been built. Just sets new standards moving forward.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

Yes, which can result in lower density than what is there now.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“I just stated three times that the interests of land owners at neighborhood associations that I’ve witnessed are primarily 1) protecting and increasing their land values and 2) protecting their free on-street parking spot in front of their house. For renters, we are interested in affordable rents (opposite of increasing land values) and more density to create more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods (opposite of on street parking in front of every residence). We would also oppose mandated parking requirements for new development (opposite of on street parking in front of every residence.)”

The politics around these issues are undeniable. I just feel that your assigning all the groovy, livability buzzwords to the renters, and all the grabby, self-aggrandizing attitudes to the homeowners is unhelpful and not even close to correct. I happen to be a homeowner who wants all those things you list as being renter preferences. Go figure.

But I’m curious, when you call out those greedy homeowners in your NA for in the inner SE their parochialism, what do they say? Have you expressed your differing views, run for the board? You can get your friends who want those groovy things you do to run as well, you know. See what happens.

Down with NAs masquerading as HAs!

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

I think “affordability” “walkability” and “bikeability” are more than buzz words. They have real meaning, especially for renters struggling to afford neighborhoods that accommodate these values. Maybe not so much for land owners that don’t have to worry about being priced-out to Beaverton.

I think maybe there could be a better political process for renters to get involved rather than going to neighborhood meetings to hear people complain about parking spots. As I said before, renters often move quite often and the neighborhoods as defined by the city as small, meaning that its unlikely for a renter to remain in the same neighborhood long-term. But they still have interests in policies implemented city-wide.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Eastsider, were you involved with the Comp Plan change meetings and online map this fall? That sounds a lot like what you are talking about.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“It would take several years to be able to join a land-use committee in a neighborhood and the land owners would not support a renter that does not represent their interests.”

In my neighborhood association you could literally be land use chair from one single meeting. And yes, i’ve been to a number of meetings as I’m on the board and actually the land use/transpo chair. There are a few associations that actually have a land use committee (usually the more expensive, older neighborhoods), but for many (maybe the majority of) neighborhoods in PDX you literally just have to show up. Some neighborhoods don’t even have a single rep at many land use meetings.

Again, the vast majority of NA’s would love to have more renter involvement (and I know that personally my neighborhood would give them just as much say/sway as homeowners). But renters just don’t seem to show up.

Reza
Guest
Reza

Maybe if more young people like you joined neighborhood associations they would be more representative of the community?

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

I plan on joining my neighborhood association as soon as I buy a house in SE.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Why wait? We try to encourage renters to participate in the process, come to meetings, and we have neighborhood association board members who rent. I feel that it is important to clarify to everyone that these are not *homeowner* associations, even though some people prefer others think of them that way.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Good point, but I live in Goose Hollow and feel like, as a renter, my needs/desires and thoughts for how the neighborhood should grow don’t align with the million-dollar homeowners that live in my area.

I will definitely check out some meetings though!

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

So, you’re saying the NA doesn’t represent your needs and won’t until you purchase there? Democracy?

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

I honestly can’t say for sure, but my feeling is that my needs as a renter who intends to move out of the neighborhood will be drawn out by residents who own million-dollar houses.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Adam, (since you have professed your love of density), I’m curious why you are looking to move to the SE?

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Mainly because I can’t afford a house in SW or NW. I like all the density going up on SE Division and am looking to be closer to there.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Are you buying a condo?

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

No, a house.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

SMH…oh the irony

Brad
Guest
Brad

Neither are city planning bureaus. Nor are commissions. Nor is packing the local voting public with trendy “new Urbanist” newcomers. At least the NAs are trying to protect the people who have lived here for generations and our history.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I think it’s also worth noting that there are many of us who are in our 30’s who were born and raised here in Portland and want to be able to purchase a home and stay near family, but can’t unless there is some relief on the housing market. While I agree with the points that eliminating the stock of 200-300k homes won’t do that, putting a cap on the ability to expand the market by limiting density is going to have even worse implications.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Michael I think you’re skewing an incredibly complex issue, and not really looking at all the items addressed in this resolution. While I certainly don’t agree with the resolution in entirety, there are certainly some things in it that are valuable to all (such as the parts pushing for better enforcement of environmental impacts and notifications of demos). I do agree that the folks really pushing this proposal are quite aggressive though (likely to their detriment).

To my understanding this group is most interested in the top row of your above graph (Single family house (1:1)) than the lower rows. The top row shows that no housing is really gained from that kind of demolition and the new homes on these types of lots are increasing the price of our housing supply. I don’t think this group is proposing a massive overhaul of the zoning code to just keep all sizes large. My understanding is that they are just trying to better utilize and enforce the current zoning standards.

davemess
Guest
davemess

And it should be noted that the groups I am associated with have all had problems with the second section of the proposal (which does very vaguely try to address density).

And below is the map of NA’s that have supported this proposal. Note that many of the close in East side neighborhoods that many would like to see more development are not currently supporting this.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-AKgf5VLb6zo/VH9OgOoM9xI/AAAAAAAADLM/m1oJgJe2SC4/s1600/P1080316.jpg

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

Dave is right in this case. What they’re concerned with is the demolition of 1500 square foot homes, or 1:2 with >1500 square foot homes that exceed the average home heights by 100% or more.

These sorts of replacements do not greatly contribute to density increase – in fact they generally reduce the potential density increase on the land supply we have in residential zones.

While I don’t think it should be applied broad-brush, the idea of creating development convenants/restrictions that limit new housing to an average of the existing housing stock in a give area is actually best for both neighborhood preservation and increasing the supply of affordable smaller homes, if done right. But, it would require allowing shared court housing communities, shared systems and other strategies for reducing development costs (ie three small kitchens still cost more than one big one, but this could be offset by a shared heating/cooling system and shared garage configuration).

jeg
Guest
jeg

The problem is there isn’t an option to halt inflation. All locations close in are desirable. All locations close in will be unaffordable if we don’t start adding housing yesterday. There will be no affordable cute “cottages.” Those will be $million+ homes. And people like you are bickering about the “atmosphere” and “community.” You’re the ones driving the community out when they can’t afford anything anymore.

The options are: build and introduce inclusionary zoning so housing must accomodate low and middle income, or dont build and the demand forces everyone but rich white people out.

Either you don’t know what you’re arguing for, or you’re being intentionally disingenuous. Add into this the fact that you’re putting pressure on the suburbs to sprawl as a result of your proposed density restrictions! That means farmland and wilderness will suffer.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

I’m actually arguing for what will help keep housing prices in my currently affordable neighborhood in check. Inflation doesn’t stop, that’s true. But a 3% annual increase from a starting price of $174K (median home value in my neighborhood) is a hell of a lot less than tha 3% annual increase on a 2000 square foot $269k home that replaces it. I’d much rather see 3 or 4 small cottages inflate from $174k than 1-2 suburban style tract homes inflate from $269k.

Inclusionary zoning isn’t going to effect the single family home/residential zone development market. It’s a multi-family and commercial development proposition.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“Inclusionary zoning isn’t going to effect the single family home/residential zone development market.”

only because homeowners and loanowners who live in gentrifying or gentrified neighborhoods have a large personal financial interest in fighting inclusionary upzoning.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

No, because you can’t make 20% of a single house affordable and leave the other 80% at market rate.

The tool for affordability in the single family detached market where the housing stock is generally older, and you aren’t master planning large greenfield housing developments, is land trusts.

You could do inclusionary zoning in places like Amber Glen, Happy Valley etc. But for the most part, within the city limits of Portland, there really aren’t opportunities to leverage inclusionary zoning in the single family detached market because there aren’t any large tracts of land to subdivide and develop. And, where there are larger tracts, it’s generally along commercial corridors or in centers where the zoning is appropriate for mixed use.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“and the demand forces everyone but rich white people out.”

I think that ship has already sailed.

Brad
Guest
Brad

They increase the density of white upper middle class couples living in huge ugly houses though.

jeg
Guest
jeg

However, the new regulations will be used to stymie other development that *is* needed. And if you cared about “environmental” impacts, you’d care that any regulations on density will create pressure on sprawling beyond the urban growth boundary. That will directly and negatively impact the farm land and wilderness of Oregon. I think far more important than paving a lot for a big apartment building in an already urban environment.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Again the majority of this resolution was about demolitions, not density. And the way demos are currently being done in Portland is bad, with little notification to neighbors and next to no mitigation (or notification to the future homeowner) of hazardous material.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Or so you have been regurgitating in service of the developers. There are tons of vacant lots beyond 82nd. Build there.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Cities develop from the center out; 82nd has less pressure to develop at present, but will be a resource when the inner areas begin to be built out. And adding housing with inclusionary zoning will allow low and middle income people to stay as well. Disruption of development is what sterilizes a community and kills its history.

Want a vibrant community with a living history? Allow your city to evolve. Places aren’t made to freeze in place, every place evolves. Density is smart for affordability, and inclusionary zoning is smart for affordability.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

City’s do not, as a rule, develop from “the” center out. That’s a pervasive fallacy that is perpetuated to benefit the profit margins and holdings portfolios of inner city property owners.

Communities develop from “a” center out. There’s no reason (and it’s actually the preferred scenario) that the city of Portland can not have multiple centers that are the attractors of density. This actually improves both accessibility (by bringing center based amenities closer to more people) and mobilty (by giving us a clear and obvious way to network high capacity transit, trails, multi-use paths, etc.).

This idea that you have to redevelop and intensify use on all/most of the land inside of 82nd before you can have meaningful and appropriate development east of 82nd needs to die. It’s perfectly okay for cities to have an organic rhythm of development where intensity of use and density increases and decreases as you travel over the landscape.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Just a note – before the advent of autos, cities did indeed have only one center, with a fairly clear and uniform density gradient out from it. This was due to the time cost of walking and the geometry of streetcar lines, which favors having a single center. It’s only since widespread cars that multi-centric metro areas have become the norm. It’s somewhat water under the bridge – but single-center cities are much easier to serve well w transit. We have to work with the multi-centric metro that we have, but I’m not as convinced as you that multicentricity is actually a good thing.

Garlynn
Guest
Garlynn

Like it or not, it’s here to stay — and to a certain degree, it’s a good thing. The streetcar lines actually created a series of nodes — our original commercial centers, Hawthorne, Belmont, Alberta, etc. — which acted originally as mini-centers. The Metro regional plan, and Portland’s comp plan, continue this theme of centers of different orders. Downtown Portland is the big dog. Gateway is the second largest — both are Regional Centers. Then, there are Town Centers scattered across the city, generally where two or more high-quality transit routes intersect. Village and neighborhood centers occur elsewhere. And the corridors are themselves linear centers. All of these types of concentrations of activity serve to provides the local destinations that allow the “20-minute neighborhood” concept to work. They all need a certain concentration of activity to evolve into the healthy places with enough local destinations that people can walk or ride their bikes to meet most of their daily / weekly needs, with the possible exception of commuting to work. Provide enough office/flex space in all these types of centers, and count in retail employees as commuters, however, and you start to see even the commute trips get shortened as people are able to make employment work within 20 minutes of their homes.

Will all of this localization make us even more provincial, however? That is the real question here. 😉

mh
Guest
mh

Look at how the NIMBYs respond to proposals of apartments on commercial corridors and arterials – if the proposed building will be anywhere near their property. Reduce the height! Protect my on-street parking!

Do they have, or did they at some point create children? If you add to the population of the world, don’t complain when they want to live in the same kind of neighborhood you want to live in.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

NA’s are notoriously defensive…ie protecting the status quo, which, as the world actually is, I find a bit offensive. Too bad all this energy isn’t going into a campaign remove Oregon’s prohibition on Inclusionary Zoning. Its a lovely policy that we share only with the great and progressive state of Texas!

Reza
Guest
Reza

Please don’t paint all NA’s with the same broad brush. There are some that actually welcome more dense development. Few and far between unfortunately.

maccoinnich
Guest

The Pearl District Neighborhood Association for one. They routinely write letters in support of large new developments, including buildings hundreds of feet high.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

We (the Lents Neighborhood Association) actually declined to sign on to this group’s proposal. As the Land-use chair, I had concerns about being overly restrictive in some ways, and unclear and ambiguous in others. In addition, we’ve had issues with city-wide policy not being the best fit for our neighborhood which has quite a bit of vacant commercial property and higher density residential zoning that’s not developing, with significant amounts of (not always appropriately scaled or density increasing in the grand scheme of things) single family demolition and redevelopment activity going on in the area that has come up sides (big, relatively stable immigrant families tend to buy them, increasing the diversity in our neighborhood) and some down-sides (they dwarf the existing postwar cottage/bungalow housing stock and contribute to a decrease in overall affordability in the area).

They weren’t the typical single issue NIMBY types we see show up at our meetings to try and enlist our support/raise our ire with hyperbole. Their rep was very thoughtful, an active listener and open to hearing our experiences and concerns.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Yes, there are some that are run by realtors and developers and they think this will increase their bottom line.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Proceeding with caution is recommended on all fronts. There are many economic and social factors that come into play when you start playing with real estate zoning regs. If the resolution is not adopted and no changes are made, that is actually an opportunity for more discussion on the subject.

My one concern, albeit an outside one, is that this could secretly turn into an end run to push more historic districts. That would be a shame, given the new light being shed on the process and how undemocratic it is (see the recently defeated efforts in Buckman).

Brad
Guest
Brad

More historic districts would be ideal.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Brad, talk with some people in those districts. They are not ideal by any means. It requires a 51+% majority to vote DOWN a district or any application for status becomes law. No other democratic system works that way. And prepare to pay hundreds to thousands more just to replace a window, paint some trim, fix your stairs. Not good Brad. Not good.

http://keepbuckmanfree.org/

Jason
Guest
Jason

Another problem with new homes is they all have curb cutouts for driveways, which reduces the number of public parking spaces in the neighborhood. A public parking space is replaced with a private one. That is what has happened in my North Tabor neighborhood.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

While I oppose demo-ing a single-family house just to build a bigger single-family house, I am in favor of building multi-famliy housing or multiple single-family houses on the same lot instead. Building a bigger house won’t increase density, but building an apartment or multiple smaller houses will.

Also, if they say that the restricting on increased density is an oversight, then why not fix the proposal to allow for increased density?

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

Unforunately large swathes of inner PDX are off limits to multi-family housing. Absurdly, these same neighborhoods are already carpeted with multi-family buildings…but…somehow we are not allowed to buid new units or even replace old units.

I attend my community association meeting in part to push back against the entrenched anti-multi-unit housing sentiment from residential home owners/loaners. And not surprisingly, one of their biggest development concerns, is lack of on-street parking.

Cars are evil.

Garlynn
Guest
Garlynn

The proposal could not be fixed by the time it got to the Neighborhood Association boards, because it was at that point presented as take-it-or-leave-it. Given the concerns about demolitions, many neighborhood associations held their nose and adopted it… but as I said above, with reservations about item 2a. Since 2a is put forward as a study item, then the next step is to do that: study it and make it better.

In essence, the “fix it” part will come during the next step, studying it.

davemess
Guest
davemess

The biggest issue my neighborhood has, was that there clearly is not a one size fits all solution to density/zoning/etc. in Portland. As Cora points out above, some neighborhoods don’t need increased density right now (due to lack of desirability, current vacant property, lack of infrastructure, distance from city center), while some might. This resolution kind of just lumped it all together, which I think was a grave mistake.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

Just to clarify – my particular neighborhood welcomes density – on our plentiful vacant lots, in our commercial center area where we need mixed use development and there is a MAX stop and easy access to two frequent service bus lines.

We’re getting added density anyway in the form of lot divisions and demolitions. We’d rather have more meaningful development that brings amenities along with the population increase.

jeg
Guest
jeg

San Francisco is what you get when you try to save 50-100 year old structures as “historic.” These neighborhood associations are really realtors and homeowners sticking it to the renter and the lower class. They act as petty bourgeois because they are. We need more housing. That means sometimes older homes get knocked down. What they are focusing on, small houses being replaced by big ones is mostly a drop in the bucket. They are using a small example to throw a wrench into the whole process of our development as a city.

Let me break it down for you:

If a place is desirable, either rents keep increasing until it’s not desirable anymore or housing gets built so that more of the working class can afford to live in the city. These “advocates” want option one. They represent the landed wealthy of this city, and they should not have the power to exclude people from moving where it makes sense; especially, if there are willing developers. We need inclusionary zoning to force lower and middle income housing in all developments, as well as continuing our density goals.

Portland is a city. We have a unified plan that has been very public for years. This smells like a “grassroots” koch brothers shadow campaign, if I’ve ever seen one. We must continue to protect the wilderness and farmland of Oregon by maintaining the urban growth boundary and building denser, to avoid sprawl like California or Texas.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Also, think of how even more crazy expensive Vancouver BC would be had the city not build all those high rises in Yaletown.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Vancouver also has an issue with speculation from Asian markets. They need to impose restrictions on not allowing those condos to sit empty.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

BC?

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Yes, BC.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“What they are focusing on, small houses being replaced by big ones is mostly a drop in the bucket.”

Yet that “drop in the bucket” resulted in the majority of demos last year in Portland.

AG
Guest
AG

wrong. this is people like me who have watched as beautiful 1 and 2 bedrooms homes are razed and replaced with McMansions. Two doors down a 4 bedroom house that for two generations had housed 5 – 6 person families was gutted although a simple remodel would have sufficed. In its place we now have a house built out to the extremes of the setback with two people. This is how starter homes are disappearing. WAKE UP! Who can now afford what could have been a starter home? Not a young couple starting out.

Rena Jones
Guest
Rena Jones

UNR is not fighting density at all they are fighting to protect the smaller single family homes that ARE already affordable and are being thrown in the trash and new homes are selling for 3 X the price. The development currently happening in these neighborhoods is driving up the prices of homes and rents at an alarming rate. Closing the demo loopholes that developers are abusing would slow down this type of development and keep Inner neighborhoods affordable…

Indy
Guest
Indy

Won’t somebody think of the old houses? My Dad lives in a house in Pennsylvania that used to be attacked by Native Americans in the 1700’s. The doorways are slanted and shorter, because the house leans now and people were far shorter back then.

Please. Get over yourselves.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Not everything old is worth saving just because it’s old.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

You can’t restrict land use while simultaneously restricting density increases in a city that is netting a population increase. It’s not sustainable and will force prices to skyrocket. You’re basically freezing supply while demand continues to increase.

RH
Guest
RH

This is a very valid point. Thanks

Jacob
Guest
Jacob

This would also cause an increase in sprawl in Clark County.

Rena Jones
Guest
Rena Jones

Actually it does the opposite. Many of these new homes are built to the maximum capacity the lot allows reducing a large amount of land that could be used for smaller housing like ADUs… Overnight a perfectly good single family home that sells for $300k gets thrown in the dump and a home goes up in it’s place for $900k and twice the size to only house a single couple reducing future usable land for better and smarter density…

jeg
Guest
jeg

“Let’s build things that look and feel like single-family zoning, but the use of it can be more than one group of people,” Spevak said.

Why?! Let’s build only to my specifici taste standard even if that is an unnecessary restriction that will cause spiraling housing costs?

Absurd. Tiny houses are a farce intended to stymie mid to high rise development. We need this housing or people will be priced out. Community will be priced out. San Francisco is exactly this type of mindset of keeping everything “single family” in style when in reality, you’re creating slums for 20-30 somethings who have to live 10-15 to an apartment.

Please, let this city flourish and not become an enclave for the rich because someone screamed “ambiance.”

Garlynn
Guest
Garlynn

Jeg, we all agreed to a plan here, back in the 90s and repeatedly since then: Keep the character of the single family neighborhoods, single family. Allow the centers and corridors, in exchange, to become very much more dense, mixed-use, and multifamily.

So, these proposals to develop within the single family neighborhoods in manners that have a single-family character, but actually are intelligently done and squeeze in more density, more units, than were there previously, are something I would think you would support, given your other statements here. Sure, tiny house developments in centers and corridors are probably a bad idea because, as you say, those places should be 2-6 story buildings with ground floor commercial and housing / offices / flex space above. But, tiny house developments on lots in single family neighborhoods? Perhaps an appropriate way to increase density and provide more affordable housing in those locations. Especially in places, such as east of I-205, where the land values might not currently support more intensive developments.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Be honest and upfront about it in that way. Most of the time, I see one being used as a replacement for the other: We can fix all our housing problems with accessory dwelling units!

As a reasonable person, anything that will increase the capacity of existing housing stock is a good thing. Anything that is presented in a way of adding on to existing housing stock while acting as a deterrent of other mid-rise developments, I am against. We are at a turning point in Portland. Either we let the development that can be built get built, or we will end up so over priced as to become a rich enclave like San Francisco.

I don’t believe the plan was ever “let’s perpetually protect single family homes.” Some of them have to go. If in 10 years the demand skyrockets some more, I will be in favor of even more density increases. Cities evolve, and either you restrict development and end up with a few really rich land owners or you allow development and everyone gets more of the pie. I’m surprised Portlanders aren’t much more into the idea of building cooperatives. Make new developments their own neighborhood.

PJ Souders
Guest

“We can fix all our housing problems with accessory dwelling units!”

Ugh this, so much. ADUs exemplify the FYIGM attitude of those who bought close-in Eastside before 2008 or so. If you have a kid or two, living in an ADU is a tough sell; and unless you’re a millionaire (or, OK, half-millionaire…) you can’t buy the house in front of it either. A development pattern of detached houses + ADUs implies a demography of (increasingly aging) millionaires & broke-ass millenials working service jobs. Working families & immigrants: you get the ‘burbs!

If our concern is maintaining “single family” neighborhoods this will mean radical subdivision (the wee cottages Cora describes) or townhouses/plexes.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“Keep the character of the single family neighborhoods, single family. Allow the centers and corridors”

The upper quintiles can live in twee close-in “single family neighborhoods” while the lower quintiles and POC can have polluted arterials and peripheral “centers”.

“we all agreed to a plan here, back in the 90s and repeatedly since then”

Speak for yourself. Zoning and development policy in PDX has *promoted* shameful socioeconomic and racial disparity in our community.

jeg
Guest
jeg

No, inclusionary zoning has a prohibition statewide imposed by lobbying realtors in 1999. That is why we have a socioeconomically segregated Portland. It’s not as if they’re literally trying to screw over the poor with the zoning, we need to fight back against the housing powers that want to keep the poor out of Portland.

And let’s be clear, it’s not a race thing in Portland. It’s a class thing. There are as many displaced poor whites as blacks and other races.

soren
Guest
soren

I never stated that the racial and socioeconomic cleansing of inner PDX was deliberate. Nevertheless, policies designed to favor one demographic often “unintentionally” harm other demographics. Portland’s zoning and development policies played a role in (e.g. promoted the…) uprooting of established african american communities as well as pushing poorer households to the periphery.

http://www.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2014/09/25/heres-what-four-decades-of-gentrification-in-north-and-northeast-portland-looks-like

jeg
Guest
jeg

I’m not contending Portland’s controversial past. However, short of giving property to the descendents of those uprooted, we should focus on the present. That includes people of all colors, not just people of color.

soren
Guest
soren

“Portland’s controversial past.”

Close…but, sadly, the socioeconomic and ethnic cleansing of inner portland neighborhoods is not quite over.

“However, short of giving property to the descendents of those uprooted”

For someone who has been trumpeting inclusionary zoning you certainly seem to downplay it’s ability to promote housing integration. I personally would love to see low-income multi-unit housing pop up all over gentrified inner PDX neighborhoods.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

We also need to be developing affordable family sized housing in inner PDX too.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

What their resolution will result in would be fewer really expensive large houses, more really expensive and much older small houses (small SF homes in Sabin/Vernon neighborhoods fetch up to $400k) and a step closer to emulating San Francisco’s housing mess. NIMBYism is ubiquitous.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Yes, this whole proposal screams of NIMBYism.

rainbike
Guest
rainbike

NIMBYism is the privilege of the local land holders. They bought into, invested their life savings in, a neighborhood because they liked it the way it was. I think that’s one thing that Densers don’t understand. For a small group to decide that a particular neighborhood must become more dense to fulfill its potential, disregards and takes something away from those currently living in the neighborhood. You should expect a fight; you with no real skin in the game.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Life includes change. I am a local land holder. When I bought my house, I did not assume that the neighborhood would stay the same; that’s impossible. Trying to stop change is like playing “Whack-a-Mole” except two moles pop up for every one you smack down.

Manage to stop demolitions of small houses to make apartment buildings? Now everywhere is even more expensive in your n’hood and many people who want to live in the City are financially forced to live the suburbs (and drive through your n’hood).

Manage to stop demolitions of small houses to build larger houses?
Now the rich people who would buy the larger houses are in the market for smaller houses- and prices per square foot go up even more than they would have.

I have a right to do some stuff with the land I have. In my opinion, I have no right to try and stop my neighbors from doing things with their land that would have only minimal impact on me.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“Manage to stop demolitions of small houses to build larger houses?
Now the rich people who would buy the larger houses are in the market for smaller houses- and prices per square foot go up even more than they would have.”

I’m confused by this statement. Either way, the small house is gone (or bought) and the rich people still have all the all options.

I’m of a little different belief. That if we don’t offer the larger houses people will either: accept the smaller house, save more money and move to a more expensive neighborhood that offers them, or moves to the suburbs.

I don’t think prices would be going up as much with keeping the smaller house as they will with the larger house though.

Sadly there really are no easy answers. I’m just surprised that more people in Portland don’t want the yard/garden space.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

The problem with allowing NIMBYs a loud, impactful voice is that future potential residents of the area matter too, and they get no voice.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

This isn’t about fighting corporations. Stop making issues about your personal vendettas. This is about not pricing out everyone but the super-rich from Portland. We need increased density, otherwise in a few years, you’ll have to move to Beaverton.

Peter R
Guest

There’s nothing wrong with Beaverton

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

There is if you’d rather live in Portland, but can’t afford to.

rainbike
Guest
rainbike

You don’t always get what you want, whenever you want it. Sometimes it takes time and financial planning and a bit of luck to make your dreams come true. I think that there’s an element of entitlement in some of these comments.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Wait now. If we were talking about a small, desirable neighborhood like the Alphabet District I’d be all with you. There will always be some n’hoods that are out of reach to some (even with inclusionary zoning, etc., there’s still a waiting list or lottery or whatever). But the City of Portland is a large area and the logical dense core of our metropolitan area. We should make policy that allows people all income levels who want to to live in the City in one place or another, in one housing type or another.

Garlynn
Guest
Garlynn

Actually… there is. Quantitatively, just look at the Walk Score, Bike Score, or Transit Score of, say, 20 places in Beaverton vs. 20 places in desirable central-eastside Portland. There is a quantitative difference. You can quantify what’s wrong with Beaverton, and what’s right with inner Portland. It is NOT a matter (solely) of opinion…

jeg
Guest
jeg

Is this satire? They’re imposing restrictions that will cause Portland to become an enclave only for those suckling the corporate teet in the top 1% of earners. We do not need restriction for development, as demand will not decrease. Either you build or only a sliver of the population will be able to afford to live here. Then what community do you have at all?

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

***personal comment removed by editor***

Hey Adam, please keep your comments to the subject matter rather than statements about the person involved. It just helps us all stay happier and more receptive to each other’s perspectives. -Michael

maccoinnich
Guest

Sabin Green is a very cute project, but it’s 4 housing units on a 7500 sq ft lot. Just to draw a comparison, 3360 SE Division has 28 units on 8000 sq ft. It’s ridiculous to pretend we can meet the housing needs of the city with tiny houses and backyard cottages.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

Apples to oranges. Sabin Green is in a residential zone. The normal “replacement” development would have been two units max. The Sabin Green Project provided four units – a 100% increase from the current trend line.

3360 SE Division is zoned CS and developed as expected for that zoning on a commercial corridor.

We need both types of development. What we definitely don’t need if we want to preserve housing choice and affordability to turn everything inside of 39th into a bunch of 3360 SE Divison.

maccoinnich
Guest

I’m aware of the difference in zoning. It’s a relevant comparison because (as Michael notes in the article) Margaret Davis of UNR is posting blog posts to complain about development along Division. Sabin Green may represent a 100% increase in number of units, but in absolute terms that’s only 2 additional units.

I do agree with you that need both types of development. Some people would be much happier living in an ADU than they would in an apartment. But I still think it’s important to make the point that development along SE Division (and N Williams, and in the Pearl, etc) is doing much more to help meet Portland’s housing needs than the occasional co-housing project is.

Jim L
Guest

I actually think it is reasonable to think that more creative, attractive, and affordable infill projects like Sabin Green (which included to relatively affordable ADUs) could over the longterm and across the entire city make a significant contribution to accommodating new growth in a more affordable and desirable way. There is a lot more land zoned single-family residential in this City than there is land zoned along corridors and in town and regional centers. More Sabin Green type projects (there are plenty other examples) are clearly part of the solution. They highlight the importance of unit size and thoughtful design to achieving desirable and more affordable infill that creates more smaller ownership and wealth building opportunities in Portland.

maccoinnich
Guest

As a follow up point, I just now noticed that Margaret Davis’s blog started out as the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth, a group which was founded to block a 4-story building on NE Fremon St. It seems like she’s pretty much against any development, anywhere. We can go down this road as a city if we really want to, but as many others have pointed out, the result will be massive rent increases.

jeg
Guest
jeg

It’s obviously an overt attempt at throwing a wrench in development. They are using the small example of houses being razed for larger houses as their rallying cry, when they really want to stop mid-rise development– true density.

It’s the landed class of the city showing their fangs trying to get us into a SF housing price explosion. It only benefits them, if they can afford the taxes, but we know they are always on the ball trying to eliminate those pesky things too.

Margaret
Guest

The aim of the Neighbors for Responsible Growth group was to mitigate the effects of that project, and to bring it into conformance with code, not to stop it. I am pro-development. I’ve done infill development, building on vacant lots—which is the type of development Portland needs to see rather than tearing down solid, affordable housing and sending it to the landfill.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Honestly, your group made that building an eyesore for awhile. You should be ashamed.

maccoinnich
Guest

With respect Margaret, you are quoted as saying the building is too big for its site. Your group filed (an unsuccessful) appeal to the Land
Use Board of Appeals in attempt to the get the City to reverse its issuance of a building permit. It’s an absolute mis-characterization of your position to pretend you weren’t interested in stopping the project.

Margaret
Guest

Believe me, there was no stopping the NE Fremont project and we would have been foolish to try. Loads of big money and politic clout there. And yes, the building is too big for its site, that’s why it can’t fit within required setbacks and still doesn’t meet code. Neighbors—and any users of Fremont for that matter—should not have to bear a burden (i.e., impacts from the building) in excess of what the code allows. So if there’s a few more units in that building b/c of the building’s excessive size, there’s more impact, esp traffic. How I wish all the residents had brought bikes instead of cars as the narrow streets around here have filled with tenant vehicles. We all want the same transportation choices, of course, but the property owner shirked his duty to provide amenities for his tenants. Just for perspective, when I built infill, I was required to provide 2 parking spaces per unit. But a 50-unit building? None. Also, about the accusation that BWNRG supposedly made the site an eyesore; at no time did our struggle cause a delay in construction. All the delays in the case were developer-led.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Zoning that requires parking is vile. It drives up housing costs. That’s what you advocate for, spiraling housing costs and restrictive taste standards so your property values increase exponentially and renters get forced out. Also, parking is not a right for any of the landed class in Portland. If it gets tougher to park, that’s when you start advocating for better transit, not more EXCLUSIONARY policy. You are a bane on our neighborhoods, with all due respect. Your “advocacy” is what causes rents to spiral. We need housing stock, not wrenches thrown into the works so the landed class can continue to rake in profit on their land.

ag
Guest
ag

is that how you talk with all due respect? I’m curious about your background. I don’t remember you posting here before this conversation.

jeg
Guest
jeg

I’m being forced to respond to myself to respond to you, but with her level of double talk and obfuscation, I think I gave her her due respect.

Rena Jones
Guest
Rena Jones

Actually, the developers are skyrocketing the market by razing affordable homes and erecting McMansions 3 X the price…

maccoinnich
Guest

So, in summary, you are in favor of changes to the zoning code would limit density along commercial corridors.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Wait, how many vacant lots really exist in Portland? From living here for a while, I’m quite convinced that there are not enough vacant lots (and especially not in the right locations) to allow for an appropriate amount of development given the current population influx to our city.

Your “solution” is a fig leaf.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

There is a whole process that includes the city government and the MPO to make this determination. From a development potential standpoint, we have more than adequate (I think 400% more than adequate) zoning and land supply in the city of Portland to accommodate projected growth for the next 20 years and we’re even able to down-zone some areas where environmental concerns, neighborhood character and inadequate infrastructure make density increases both impractical and unwise.

So, while you might not be observing development capacity, it most certainly exists.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I think the methodology of those reports is flawed. They assume that a given parcel is always available for development if it’s zoned for it. In reality, many parcels are only available once in a blue moon due to current use, or owner engagement or lack thereof. You need much more than 400% of the needed housing units in zoned capacity in order to get 100% of the needed housing units within 20 years.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

If we have plenty of zoned capacity, why are many fewer housing units being built than would be needed to keep up with population growth?

http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2014/10/is_portland_building_enough_ne.html

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

That doesn’t have anything to do with zoning. That has to do with capital/lending and the real estate market. And, the fact that there’s only so many property developers to go around – even with speculators from the Asian market factored in.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I disagree. As far as I know, the vast majority of relevant economics research indicates that zoning and other government restrictions on building are the primary cause of supply-side housing unaffordability. Economists generally believe (based on observable evidence) that developers and investors multiply/grow in proportion to the extent to which they’re allowed profitable opportunities by the powers that be.

e.g.
http://www.nber.org/papers/w8835.pdf

(Median wages that haven’t grown since the 80s are the primary reason for the ability-to-pay side of housing unaffordability, but that’s another topic).

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

Alex – that study is generalized to the US and is from 2002. It doesn’t disprove localized economic analysis (ie Jerry Johnson and Joe Cortright’s analysis in the Oregonian article you linked to as well as the comp plan update studies).

Jerry Johnson (an economist) basically says the exact same thing I’ve said – it’s a lending/markets issue.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

You’re right, I ignored the short-term stuff (developer capacity, lender shyness, etc.), which is important. But I think the long-term stuff (not building enough housing to meet demand over years & years, and putting developers through expensive process and delays to even build multifamily on parcels zoned multifamily) is even more important. It’s a question of a short-term housing crunch (like in North Dakota near the Bakken Shale right now) versus a long-term housing crunch (like San Francisco for the past 5 decades).

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

And the perceived delay you’re seeing is really more about putting together financing than it is about land-use restrictions or design review.

People file for permits and go through the process relatively quickly (less any design review issues or appeals which are really their own fault for trying to build crappy designs – but I will concede in some cases is because they’re getting edgy and maybe they should be cut some slack for the sake of architectural experimentation) and then they sit on them and wait to pull the trigger until their financing is in place. Once you pull permits a clock starts to get to a certificate of final occupancy before the permit period expires. So, while it often looks like stuff is just sitting and waiting at BDS – it’s really waiting on financing and the developers to move ahead.

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

It seems to me the zoning/landuse and capital/lending factors are more interrelated. Our zoning and developing code is set up for a limited range of ownership and family arrangements and our lending and financial products largely match that… effectively limiting the ability to finance ownership as families and living-arrangements have changed (and as wages have stagnated). If we had a bigger range of housing types and zones (less traditional and restricted single family detached) they could support and facilitate group and/or smaller (more affordable) ownership that might lead to more financing tools and products available to more people. I think this is starting to happen but I agree that we need more options in the zoning and land-use code for experimentation and innovation that can help catalyze innovation in lending and financing.

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

And when I mean financial/lending innovation I mean innovation that works for the ordinary homeowner not for Wall Street Investors:

http://www.orangesplot.net/2014/07/07/proposal-partially-or-fully-assumable-mortgage/

Joseph E
Guest

I disagree. Even if every single lot west of 39th (and south of Killingsworth/North of Powell) became an apartment building, there would still be 1000’s of single family homes and duplexs and whatnot, just 2.5 miles from downtown Portland. 40th isn’t that far from the center of the city.
But that’s not going to happen, there will still be plenty of single family homes in Ladd’s Addition, Laurelhurst, NW Portland, Irvington, Grant Park etc, for those who can afford $200,000 for the land plus whatever for the house; the zoning isn’t going to change in those areas.
Duplexs and 4-plexes and townhouses area great idea for parts of the city with cheaper land (east of 82nd for example). But now that lots in central Portland cost $100,000 per 2500 square feet for residential, and much more for high-density zoned areas, it isn’t affordable to build anything less than a 3 story house or a 4 to 6 story apartment building.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

My impression is that what the “home demolition critics” are saying is:

1. Go ahead and build density (apartment buildings) along commercial corridors and in commercial neighborhoods
2. Don’t push apartment buildings into the single-family residential neighborhoods adjoining those streets
3. In those single family residential neighborhoods, don’t tear down small single-family houses to make McMansions (large single family houses)

I agree with #1, because we need more and denser housing, and in most cases I think the commercial corridors benefit from having more apartment buildings. Usually the buildings have retail/commercial at the ground floor, replacing the prior retail/commercial space, and adding multiple levels of residential above, often low car housing. Seems like a win-win.

I agree with #2, because I think the commercial corridors (e.g. parts of Division, Belmont, Burnside, etc) and commercial neighborhoods (e.g. Lloyd, north of Pearl, Burnside Bridgehead, etc) provide more than ample space to get the housing we need, without disrupting a single-family residential neighborhood by dropping in four-story apartment buildings that will tower over neighboring houses.

I am not sure about #3, even though my preservationist instinct hates to see a nice old Portland bungalow torn down, because I don’t think every 1,000 sq ft house is worthy of protecting like it is a historical landmark. I think setback and height limitations make sense, and I support subdividing very large lots to allow multiple small houses.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

I’m all for building up the corridors with more density but the there’s no reason it can’t spread into the neighborhood. Does anyone really want to live on an apartment facing MLK or Burnside or Cesear Chavez? Nope. It’s noisy and the air quality sucks. Those are the kind of apartments no one stays in very long. Many of Portland’s best neighborhoods (Alphabet District, Buckman, Sunnyside, Goose Hollow, Sullivan’s Gulch) have had high density apartments and single family homes mixed together for about a century now and they are highly successful.

What these neighborhood associations really care about is PARKING and specifically the idea that one should be provided a free, on-street parking space (provided by the public) in front of their house for eternity. The fear of density is really a fear that someone will take their parking space.

Huey Lewis
Guest
Huey Lewis

My girlfriend and I live on opposite sides of MLK by the Nike store. She has a car2go account. We picked up a car in our neighborhood right as someone was walking away from it after placing a note in it saying, “stop parking car2go cars in front of my house”. We will absolutely always do our best to park in front of 201 NE Morris.

People kill me.

Trebor
Guest
Trebor

Point #2 seems to be a straw man argument on the part of the anti-density-don’t-take-my-on-street-parking people. Are there any cases of houses zoned single family being turned into apartment buildings? This argument has always seemed to me like an effort to conflate the construction of new mixed-used buildings on commercial arterials with the replacement of (mostly) tiny houses with larger ones. Moreover, preventing the development of mixed use buildings on commercial arterials that adjoin streets with single-family homes would stop the construction of new buildings in all but a few parts of Portland since so many of our commercial streets have side streets with single-family homes. I myself am glad that the vacant lot around the corner is being turned into a mixed use building.

More broadly, I find the arguments against demoing and rebuilding houses to be weak. Portland has A LOT of very small houses (fewer than 1,200 square feet) on 5,000 square foot lots. I live in Hollywood, and a 1,025 square foot, two-bed-one-bath house a few streets over sold last summer for $425,000. That’s an awful lot of land for an apartment-sized house–particularly in such a family-oriented neighborhood.

The opposition to new, larger houses (and let’s be clear: what constitutes a large house is entirely subjective) also leaves me scratching my head. Certainly, some of the new houses are quite large, but most are not. Moreover, Portland has a very long tradition of both relatively large houses on 5,000 square foot lots and a tradition of putting those houses next to much smaller structures. This is especially true in the neighborhood I consider to be the crown jewel of inner eastside Portland: Ladd’s Addition. 1734 SE Ladd Ave., for example, is 3,753 square feet above grade (two stories and a 1,064 square foot finished attic, though if you ride by it, you will agree that the term “attic” does not do the third floor justice). It also has a 1,344 square foot finished basement and a 208 square foot front porch. I think we can dispense with subjectivity here and agree that this house is huge. And it sits on a 5,120 square foot lot. Size wise it is also “out of character” with the 1,492 square foot house that sits to its right (1,092 on the first floor and 400 in the attic; in this case, attic is the correct term). So I am not sure why a great big house is both acceptable and admired in Ladd’s Addition, but completely unacceptable and reviled in Beaumont Wilshire or Grant Park.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I don’t know of any case (yet) where a four story apartment has been dropped on top of a single family house (SFH) in a neighborhood of entirely SFH. So if it “never does” happen, then it shouldn’t be too controversial to say it “may not” happen.

(Although the SFH recently bulldozed to be replaced with a five story micro-apartment building in Hollywood might come close.)

As for replacing a small SFH with a large SFH, I’m not terribly opposed to it. As long as the large SFH isn’t an unsightly monster built up to the edges of the lot and dwarfing all around it. I’d think some simple restrictions would address that.

In general, I like what is going on with residential development in our city. I like that developers are putting up lots of apartment buildings, that various corridors are turning into lively areas with lots of new retail/food and pedestrians, that big projects are going up that will transform whole areas (Lloyd, Burnside Bridgehead, etc), that houses are being fixed up, that the worst houses are being upgraded or replaced with nicer ones. I know it isn’t perfect, and there are some major growing pains being felt.

Persnicket
Guest
Persnicket

One thing I think that people are missing is that there are plenty of development opportunities outside of the older neighborhoods. Density is great, it’s necessary, but when I lived in an apartment, I appreciated being next to a nice, walkable, SFR neighborhood. We need to maintain a mix, pockets of SFR’s, some of them small, and apartments and condos, but there is no reason that the character of our older neighborhoods need to be sacrificed at this point. Homeowners are not anti-density, and it’s unfair to cast them in that role. It’s also unfair to think that people who have worked hard to buy their home should be quiet when a developer tries to put a four-story building right on top of their house. I detect a certain vibe of resentment toward homeowners. There are lots of homeowners in these neighborhoods who are part of the bicycling community.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Any push back against density even if it’s against a 4 story building in their backyard, increases my rent. This is land owner against renter in its simplest form.

AG
Guest
AG

wrong. this is trying to maintain small starter homes that perhaps a young family can afford. its not increasing desnity just because you replace a small home with a large one.

soren
Guest
soren

“that perhaps a young family can afford.”

do you have any evidence to support the idea that young families will not or cannot live in multi-unit housing?

AG
Guest
AG

What I see is not houses being razed for replacement with multi family housing. In Grant Park small houses are being razed for McMansions and I think that is the main complaint of UNR.

Garlynn
Guest
Garlynn

Not if they want to have backyard chickens. 😉

But otherwise, sure, a 2-3 bedroom apartment would be perfectly suitable for a young family.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Do we have to like the densification? Do we have to cheer it? Isn’t there room for anyone here to express dismay that we’re so busy accommodating everyone who wants to move here, we’re making actual day-to-day residential life unpleasant and undesirable? I mark 2008 as the tipping point, so it’s been awhile since living got itchy. I was apparently very bad at envisioning living in a Portland that was constantly under heavy construction, traffic always mired and crowds and lines everywhere. I think that–in practice–it took a lot of us by surprise, and it’s been a strain. Isn’t it alright–nay, even NORMAL–to be unhappy with that? The knowledge that Portland will be constantly under construction for decades, AND getting more and more crowded, depresses the hell out of me. So, yes–densification (on Division, i.e.) took me by surprise. If I could move, I would, but my work and my husband’s work is here. We both grew up here but this isn’t the city I wanted to live in. It’s an opinion, and one that lots share! Bully to those of you who think densification is the bee’s knees. But some of us are worried Portland is becoming precisely the kind of place everyone moving here is trying to escape. Rant ended. Commence the pile on.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

You’re perfectly welcome to not like something. Where it becomes a problem is when you impose your personal tastes on the entire city, whether or not it’s actually a good for Portland.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Thank you. Though I disagree that my personal opinion is imposing anything on the entire city, which conversely seems to be imposing an idea on me and all of us that I don’t entirely agree with. I’m not a part of the neighborhood groups lobbying for change. But I sympathize with them.

jeg
Guest
jeg

I think you’re voicing a desire to be a member of another species or leave this planet. If we don’t live in small-footprint cities, we risk destroying the beautiful place Oregon is– our wilderness, our farmland. If that means you’re itchy from a slight case of claustrophobia, I’m fine with that. Just don’t place your discomfort above the well-being of out ecosystem and bioregion. And the ethics of designing place have everywhere leaning toward this model, so unless you want to live in a homestead off the grid, this is how cities will look.

And finally! Is all I can say. I don’t want sprawl. And I do want to accommodate those who want to move here so we don’t destroy the rest of Oregon.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

You’re right about one thing. I would like to be another species.  Portland, which is not all wilderness and farmland, IS being destroyed in the humble opines of some of us. It’s not an unfounded worry. We’ve all seen it happen before, in other cities. You can be loved to death. Many readers here left other cities to come to Portland for this very reason. To escape. I have a very healthy respect and appreciation for the Urban Growth Boundary. I grew up here and my backyard was a forest and I worked in farms (picking berries, suckering saplings) from the age of 6 on, camped and hiked and biked with my family all over the area. And while I thank you for being fine with my claustrophobia, I’m not placing my discomfort above anything. I personally feel zero power in this equation. I’m not part of any group, pro- or anti-growth. I expressed an opinion, and an honest sense of helplessness, that’s all. Come on! I’m not advocating suburban sprawl. Why automatically go there? Your opinion, in line w/ the city’s and Metro, is amply represented here. It’s a complex issue. Not all dissenters are 1) misanthropes, 2) wannabe Mars colonizers 3) Vlad, The Destroyer of Farmlands ‘n’ Wilderness. There are a lot of people who are not advocating sprawl, like me, who nevertheless do not like the way we’re accommodating the influx. Is it so terrible to express that or—in the case of the neighborhood associations mentioned in the article—to attempt to ease, within reason, some of the negative effects on the inner neighborhoods? I fail to see how advocating favoring an old, existing (cheaper!) bungalow over razing it and erecting a behemoth single-family home encourages sprawl. And, for my part, I wonder why it was decided the inner neighborhoods of Portland should take on the overwhelming lion’s share of accommodating/housing newcomers when other areas/cities of Greater Portland could apply the density model (on a much lighter scale, even) and share the load more, WITHOUT sprawl? I honestly can’t fathom how our inner city infrastructure can handle the added strain of growth projections (where on earth do we put the added grocery stores and other needed services, for example? There’s no land), and I seriously doubt it’ll make our neighborhoods a happier place to live, day-to-day.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Good intentions can still yield poor results. Which is given clear example with San Francisco’s spiraling rents. If you don’t build, you destroy community by pricing people out. I’m sorry you dislike “your” city changing, but this has always been a place where people relocate. Even if you have generations beneath you, they still emigrated.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Good intentions can still yield poor results–yes! I’m saying that very thing, only about City of Portland/Metro and well-meaning folks like you. I think we have a whole lot of good intentions going on right now that are not likely to yield good results, and as I say in my previous post, I believe consolidating housing in other areas of Greater Portland–densifying in those areas AS WELL as in inner Portland–is a better solution with more likelihood of preserving livability, while also maintaining the UGB. Finally, just for you! Signing off as Cranky Selfish Oregon Old Timer Who Hates All People And Any Change Whatsoever And Needs to Embrace the New Paradigm

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

The thing is, a city and its residents have only so much control over how many people move in and out. Portland is attractive on many measures, so people move here and so do businesses. You can’t stop that, short of making the city a crummy place. And more people and more jobs does bring real benefits. So you try to manage it as best you can.

One way to manage would be to turn Portland into Los Angeles. Prohibit density, make people live far out and drive in, build more freeways and widen our arterial roads. I lived in LA for a decade and that isn’t a good thing. We – I mean the city – has chosen another path. Make Portland more dense, promote car-light living, cluster development near transit and bike lanes and light rail, have lively urban streets for those who like that and sfh neighborhoods for those who like that.

I think it is working sort of well. Actually I think the private developers are doing their part. Instead of building tract houses, they are building multi family dwellings on commercial corridors and getting lots of retail to populate the ground floors. Not all the buildings are nice but many are. I think actually the city, specifically the roads and transit and bike people, are not keeping up. If we are going to densify (is that a word) we need lots more of that, and we’re not getting it.

maccoinnich
Guest

Portland does have some really good private developers. Off the top of my head, Gerding Edlen, Beam, Urban Development Partners and Beam have all done great projects that truly improve the city.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Rachel, Metro is doing what you say. There are new, dense developments in many other parts of the metro area. Those developments are just simply not enough to meet the influx of people to the area. (additionally, many of them are in areas that are not well suited for dense development IMO. Dense residential development loses much of its benefits if it’s an island in a sea of suburbia. Residents still drive everywhere, and long distances to work and the grocery store. You still need a giant parking lot. You can’t just plunk down dense development anywhere and have it work well.)

I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable (really, I am. It’s disorienting for me to navigate Division St., and I’ve only lived here 7 years).

Get over it. For the sake of future Portlanders who want affordable places to live. For the sake of the warming planet. For the sake of the remaining natural areas on the edge of our UGB, some of which get slated to be paved over in every UGB review currently because Portland doesn’t allow enough densification (e.g. South Cooper Mountain near Tualatin this round).

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

The new trend in suburbia is walkable development, like Orenco Station. This is what I refer to when I suggest increasing Greater Portland’s share of the load from the current Metro-stipulated lesser burden. We can do more in these places to absorb growth in the metro area, sustainably. It can be done, without torching farms. It’s hip and happenin’! And you don’t need a giant parking lot. Some newcomers may actually prefer this to the (I’ve noticed, surprisingly spendy) inner city microapartments. http://nextcity.org/features/view/suburbs-are-not-dead-the-future-of-retrofitted-suburbia Hmmm, re: the call to save the green spaces etc: You are a sassy man to presume I’m not a concerned climatologist or sustainable development zealot… I’m neither of those things. I do work in the A/E/C industry (in Portland, with a company specializing in sustainable engineering design). And I’m obsessively concerned about global warming, as my annoyed family and FB friends will attest. Instead of Justin Bieber, I have a poster of George Monbiot over my bed. I’m not endorsing sprawl and the slashing and burning of our farmlands and forests. I’m pro Urban Growth Boundary. And I really hope that’s the last time I have to say it, and that someone else doesn’t wrongheadedly and unjustly cry “Think of the environment!” at me again. One of my biggest personal concerns about what’s happening in Portland is the effect overpopulation is having on our environment, in fact. We’re warming because of people. More and more and more and more people. More planes. More freight. More cars. The Urban Heat Island Effect is evidenced in our new, freakishly warm spring, summer and fall nights and lengthening hot and humid summers, the now-omnipresent smog, the worsening air quality. I can’t ‘get over’ that. And—egad, by the way: “Get over it” = The Death of Conversation.
p.s… I thank you for your work on the Clinton Bikeway. A worthy endeavor.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

correction: I guess I actually am a sustainable development zealot…

9watts
Guest
9watts

George Monbiot!? Wow.
Can I jump on your bandwagon?

jeg
Guest
jeg

I’d rather the warming be concentrated to a dense city. The suburbs can take, and already have, some of the development. However, building on the periphery promotes sprawl which is anathema to being environmentally friendly. If you are a true environmentalist density in the city, not the periphery, is what is needed.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Thanks for the feedback, “Get over it” was rude and I apologize. Thank you for continuing the conversation as well.

Those “hip” suburban dense developments like Orenco Station are sadly not very good. Have you seen the sea of parking at Orenco Station? Or the study showing that residents commute by car pretty much just as much as their neighbors in the rest of WashCo sprawl? Urbanizing the suburbs is a worthy goal and I’m glad people are trying, but the obstacles are huge – starting with the entire surrounding built environment.

I think increasing density in places that already have an urban fabric and flexible transit network in place, such as inner east side Portland, is much more feasible in the short and mid-term.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I wasn’t intending to make you think I thought you didn’t care about the environment. I was trying to say that I thought your policy preferences would have negative consequences for the environment.

I share your concern about overpopulation. However, local zoning seems like a singularly ineffectual policy mechanism to impact overpopulation.

If people don’t end up living in Portland or the Portland area, they’re still going to live somewhere. In all likelihood, that “somewhere” will be a metro area where they will have more environmental impact than here (more sprawly, harsher climate, less available water resources, etc.)

Birth control (and abortion, don’t want to get into that here though…) access, etc. seem like more useful policy levers.

soren
Guest
soren

Good intentions have already yielded poor results. Portland has had one of the tightest rental markets in the nation for years and rent increases have certainly contributed to segregation of close-in neighborhoods (especially in NE and N portland).

mknelson
Guest
mknelson

rachel b. you speak my mind and thank you for being articulate.
I feel bullied, frankly, into not speaking. If you cannot yell loud enough, long enough and make a hit, you lose. You shut up.
The taxes I have paid, the time spent considering issues, my use of bicycling as transportation before age and injuries came along, my votes and tax money for the MAX, bike lanes etc. are not acknowledged in the bifurcation of housing owners/ renter, bike/ car, Oregon native/ non home grown, rich/ unwealthy etc.

Most of us are renters brfore we buy.

My children cannot afford to live in Portland now. My votes I sometimes regret, as concrete covers the split lots so two units fill one lot, making a home for four people in two units where an extended family of five lived and birds, insects and plants thrived.

I am happy that fit, healthy people can bike. I really love it. I walk and consolidate trips by car etc.
My connection with the land here for many generations made the urban growth boundary, but we did not envision so many people moving here. Rather I visioned a slow increase and density and improved transit over time.

9watts
Guest
9watts

mknelson,
you would have very much appreciated Alternatives to Growth Oregon.
http://www.agoregon.org/page34.htm

davemess
Guest
davemess

“But some of us are worried Portland is becoming precisely the kind of place everyone moving here is trying to escape.”

Hit the nail on the head here. What was/is so attractive about Portland for people to move here? I’m sure they weren’t moving here for the “density”. There is a very sizable percentage of the population that really likes having single family homes so close to city center and other neighborhood amenities, and many came (or stayed in) to Portland for that.

Brad
Guest
Brad

True, my wife and I didn’t move here for “density” specifically, but we did move here for all the things that come with greater density. We moved here for the lively downtown, walkable/bikeable streets, and good public transit. I see increasing density as increasing Portland’s awesomeness. Talk of limiting density concern me greatly.

Rick
Guest
Rick

Micro houses are needed. Building McMansions 5 feet from the property line isn’t respectful.

Trebor
Guest
Trebor

My house was built in 1942 and it sits 5 feet from my neighbors. In my neighborhood, the only time that distance is meaningfully larger is when the houses are divided by a driveway.

TJ
Guest
TJ

Help me to understand how increasing density with yardless 600 sq feet apartments with ever increasing rents protects the middle class “home buyer” that would like to lock in an affordable mortgage? These are rentals that don’t meet even the basic needs of your average granola, cross-racing, Meadows weekender, who owns a few niche bikes, outdoor gear, and an awd car. Not to mention the historic nature of our neighborhoods and schools or when the restless souls get bitten by the marriage and baby bug.

I do agree we need density for the more city-dwelling minded and fresh grad 20 somethings (though rustic communal roommate living in a big four-square across from a few dive bars in SE was one of the big attractions to Portland when I moved here + the Gorge and Hood).

In the end, I do not see how all the added multi-family density protects the prices of single family homes.

I do see how stopping the demolition of single family homes valued in the now $300-400k to build tree and yard eating $800k homes is raw deal for all who love what Portland offers in terms of aesthetics, entertainment, and good spirited debauchery.

jeg
Guest
jeg

The cross roads was passed long ago. We need to allow density where it can go. These neutral additions are being used as a wrench to stop needed development, like what is happening along Division. You try to stop “tree eating” new homes, you stop other development as well– it’s a harshening of the atmosphere and results in a reduction of investment on new construction. What happens? The once affordable homes now go for over $million and the desirable community is gone anyway.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Because density isn’t the whole picture. We need density and inclusionary zoning. Density will certainly mitigate rising housing prices, but won’t completely eliminate it.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Neither will inclusionary zoning, sadly. What we really need is economic equity….

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

We also need increased safety nets – better unemployment insurance, universal health care, better social programs for helping homeless, etc.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Not trying to imply that inclusionary zoning is bad. Just trying to set people’s expectations. Inclusionary zoning will help some poor and working-class folks, some of the time. But if economic inequality continues at the current rate, inclusionary zoning is not enough

Trebor
Guest
Trebor

Because apartments/condos are substitute goods for houses. Some people who otherwise might be competing for the supply of single-family homes will instead opt for cheaper apartments/townhomes/condos. People keep coming to Portland for the same reasons that you did; we can either accommodate them or see prices rise to San Francisco levels.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“Some people who otherwise might be competing for the supply of single-family homes will instead opt for cheaper apartments/townhomes/condos.”

OR
move to the suburbs, which I’m sure you don’t want either.

And I don’t think that we will have cheaper apartments by just building more. Look at what is being built today, it’s not affordable rentals.

jeg
Guest
jeg

inclusionary zoning.

davemess
Guest
davemess
jeg
Guest
jeg

That is using INCENTIVES, *NOT* inclusionary zoning. You are misdirecting people.

davemess
Guest
davemess

See question below. sorry it nested wrong.

Trebor
Guest
Trebor

I don’t want people to move to undeveloped land at the same rate that occurred during the 20th century, but I am most certainly in favor of the suburbs (which also presently have small lots (often smaller) and plenty of apartment buildings becoming less auto centric.

Building even relatively expensive new apartment buildings will decrease the rise in the cost of rent. Some people who would otherwise live in older apartment buildings will instead opt for the newer ones, which will lower the rent on those units. And again, San Francisco makes clear that restraining the construction of new apartment buildings will only drive up the cost of housing. If we don’t build new housing, we could end up with SF rents such as the 216 square foot unit presently being list for $1,425 per month:

http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2014/12/08/the_smallest_apartment_for_rent_in_sf_is_just_216_square_feet.php

Karl Dickman
Guest

New apartments always have a price premium, and demand for rental units is still sky high. Looking at the price of new units and saying “that’s expensive” is a poor guide to the effect that the new units are having on rental prices.

Garlynn
Guest
Garlynn

According to Jane Jacobs, who I think is 100% correct on this point: the affordable housing of today was built decades ago. What is currently being built is the affordable housing of the future. New construction is always expensive at first. Over time, however, as it ages, it can morph into a more affordable alternative.

So, will a glut of new apartments make a huge difference in today’s prices? Probably not noticeably, unless there is a market crash. It may, however, be a downpayment on a more affordable future for the next generation.

This goes for residential, retail, and commercial space. When you’re paying for brand new materials, plus financing, plus investor profit, it’s expensive at first. It’s over time, after all the initial investment has been amortized, that market-rate affordability happens.

What does this mean going forward? It means that adaptive reuse may be a powerful strategy to maintain some modicum of affordability, for one thing… if you can keep a structure whose investment has already been paid back, and build new construction around it — it may be able to remain as an affordable space.

Of course, market rate affordability is different from low-income affordability. “Affordable,” it goes without saying, means different things to different folks.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Seems like this group is using “density” as a rallying cry to stop something that isn’t really density. Replacing a small SFH with a larger SFH on the same lot is what outrages everyone (myself included) and it isn’t even increasing density!

Proposed solution: in all teardowns, prohibit the average per-unit square footage on a lot from exceeding what was torn down. If you pull down a 1400sf house, you cannot put up a 2800sf SFH in its place. But you can put up a building with two or more units totaling 2800sf, as long as the average size doesn’t exceed 1400. That might a duplex with 1400sf units, or maybe a traditional looking house with a 1400sf main unit and two ADUs, one 400sf and one 1000sf. There would still be a lot of possibilities, and this rule would incentivize developers to actually increase density.

Also, rezone a lot of the R5 areas to R2.5. We’re selling our Brooklyn home (moving to Minneapolis, FWIW), which has a ground-level basement entrance that could easily be developed into a 600sf ADU. That would already be legal on the property — but additionally, since we are on a corner lot where an entire side is accessible from the street, what is now the backyard could be split into a separate 2000sf lot with its own home (possibly with its own ADU). You could end up with 8-12 people living very comfortably on a property that currently houses 4 people (although it would likely no longer house chickens). This is the kind of thing that we could do a LOT of and dramatically increase density in SFH neighborhoods without destroying their “residential” character.

jeg
Guest
jeg

But that kind of advocacy for increasing accessory dwelling units and placing density minimums on new construction on the lot of an old SFH cannot be presented as at odds with adding mid-rise mixed-use development. We cannot meet the needs of housing the demand for our city with accessory dwelling units alone.

TJ
Guest
TJ

What demand? How about we work on getting the jobs to our city then worry about the housing. Otherwise we still have something of a transportation crisis and unnecessary cost of living (in time and money).

Though I am still not convinced all those working off Marine Drive and Swan Island are interested in apartment living. That mental shift on lifestyle hasn’t occurred yet.

maccoinnich
Guest

Yes, lets stop building apartments because a hypothetical person employed on Swan Island may not wish to live in one.

TJ
Guest
TJ

Hypothetical FAMILY that’s not finding the amenities they’d like in the complex on Williams that staffs all white stylist and a shop that makes bicycle wheels that cost more than their late model economy car is worth across from the swanky bar with the cute appetizers (I enjoy all these places).

I am not suggesting we stop building apartments. I am suggesting we consider who the target audience for the apartments should be or needs to be. Hypothetically speaking, these Portlanders aren’t the only ones who live and work here needing affordable housing: http://bikeportland.org/2014/12/03/bike-riders-bikeways-loom-large-burnside-bridgehead-development-boom-114203

jeg
Guest
jeg

You are trying to find a term for what you’re looking for. That term is inclusionary zoning: http://housinglandadvocates.org/resources/land-use-and-housing/inclusionary-zoning-in-oregon/

TJ
Guest
TJ

I’m not entirely suggesting inclusionary zoning. I’m suggesting we stop pretending inclusionary zoning is met by building homes for new and aging single hipsters (for lack of a better label), while we continue to ignore where real infill and family-lifestyle improvements are needed: east Portland.

jeg
Guest
jeg

You are misrepresenting current laws in Oregon. Oregon does not allow inclusionary zoning. We haven’t since realtors forced prohibition through in 1999. They want to keep poor people out.

Trebor
Guest
Trebor

Since the hipsters (and me, when the kids are safely launched) are happy to live in apartments and condos, they will leave the houses to those who have kids. Plus the buildings they live in will generate the tax revenue to fund the schools.

jeg
Guest
jeg

There’s a demand for housing in Portland. Whether or not we are to believe that there isn’t a concomitant boon in the economy (tech start ups?? Start ups in general??) as you posit might be up for more existential debate. However, we have high demand and low supply of housing. If you claim otherwise, you are muddying the waters. Any delay in adding housing will price out middle and low income people due to increases in taxes and other problems arising with ballooning land prices. The only way to save community is to accommodate demand.

TJ
Guest
TJ

We might just have an average demand for housing and high demand for affordable family housing owners can invest their lives in. The Hollywood and Beaumont neighborhoods are a fine example of what demolition and rebuilding does to affordability. Homes are being bought from the elderly and rebuild to McMansions sized and priced dwellings that far exceed the historical nature of the neighborhoods. The same is occurring in the more historically recent blue-collar and black neighborhoods.

The swanky apartments lining the through streets aren’t helping the justification to not protect the nature and integrity of Portland’s neighborhoods.

I fear BMW X5s are going to soon out number Volvo 240s covered in wet leaves and cranky late model Subies with bike racks and fading Free Tibet stickers on many close-in streets.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Inclusionary zoning. I’m with you there. Not with you on there being skewed demand; there is high demand for housing, and we are currently oversupplying high end due to too many NIMBY restrictions.

Inclusionary zoning will force low and middle income in with high end. It will meet the demand for the low and middle income people. The restriction against inclusionary zoning was pushed through by realtors and land owners. They want their property values skyrocketting.

Either way, the solution isn’t to build less. That’s Orwellian doubletalk. We need inclusionary zoning and more density in our well connected inner city.

TJ
Guest
TJ

Part of what makes Portland great is that it’s not an inner-city but more of a gritty-Rockwellian-granola-artfart speckled with amazing parks only the PNW could stew -this on the edge of beautiful expansive country. Portland needs protection and influence into the may-as-well-be-a-fly-over suburban outskirts. We need to in-fill and improve all aspects of the burbs for families.

Regarding NIMBY: people know their backyards better than others. Let’s not assume every issue is an anti this or that, but possibly a pro something worth preserving.

These new Portland developments are all starting to look a little bland and generic.

jeg
Guest
jeg

“These new Portland developments are all starting to look a little bland and generic”

Let’s preserve your rose-colored aesthetic because… well, because, by golly!

Let’s forget that land owners will be getting a huge boon with spiraling values, and anyone who isn’t rich will be priced out. But, like, it’s Rockwellian? Holy crap. This is exactly the kind of stuff that causes societies to collapse. It’s just too tragicommically ironic.

This isn’t disneyland; cities evolve. We need to take off the prohibition for inclusionary zoning. We need to continue to promote density. This protects what REALLY matters: farm land and wilderness outside of the urban growth boundary. Real Oregon.

Beth
Guest

“gritty-Rockwellian-granola-artfart”??!!
Really?
If that’s the image that’s attracting so many new young people to Portland, then either my demographic (baby-boomer-working-my-butt-off-and-not-earning-enough-to-ever-retire) is screwed, or — far more likely — the new arrivals will shortly have a very rude awakening when they discover how awfully expensive it’s getting to live here.
What happens if we don’t make [affordble] room for lower income folks in inner Portland? Sooner or later, the working poor who pull your lattes, pump your gas and change diapers in home-based daycare will simply be forced to live too far away to work in Portland. It will be interesting to see what happens then.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

We’ve got jobs. https://twitter.com/KaylorChristian/status/534456159680221184/photo/1 . We could use more jobs. But housing is I think more pressing; the recovery has been absurdly steady (longest post-war period of continuous positive job growth every month!)

davemess
Guest
davemess

Glow, having read the resolution a few times now (and heard the groups pitch). I don’t really think they’re that interested in “density” (they’re more worried about exactly what you are describing the 1 for 1 demos), that’s why I’m a little annoyed that it seems Michael has thrown out a bit of an Oregonian-esque red-meat headline to get a density debate going (which is clear more sexy than demolitions).

Margaret
Guest

Wow, lots of great thinking and material here. Thank you for this story. I appreciate, too, the attention given to small, creative developers such as Eli Spevak. His projects are a benefit to the neighborhoods where he works. I only wish “density” weren’t in the headline because, as I noted to reporter Michael Andersen, United Neighborhoods for Reform does not take a stand on density. The rest of the article makes it clear, and most readers—in these comments—seem to have grasped that. Thanks again to BikePortland.org for taking a look at the resolution.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

Saying that your proposal does not take a position on density either means you don’t understand the issue or you are not being truthful.

As stated in the article, “limit[ing] the mass, footprint, setbacks, and height of construction to that of the average of existing homes within a specified distance” would have dangerous ramifications for what our future city looks like.

There are already avenues for addressing historic preservation so I’m curious why you are not pursuing those. Conceding that you’ll allow density on the corridors (which often function as highways through the city) as a compromise is not equitable.

This makes me embarrassed to live in Portland.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

There’s no rationality for city council passing a measure that two-thirds of the neighborhood associations disapprove of. Plus, wouldn’t Metro need a say in this, since it is their job to manage land use and zoning?

I can’t see this proposal going anywhere – especially since it challenges the existing status quo.

Christopher Sanderson
Guest

I’ve worked on two of the houses up there in Sabin Green, which is actually located in NE Portland. It’s a very well designed space, and the residents there are all pretty cool! Way to go Eli Spevak on the development of this space! It’s beautiful, spacious, and the new homes there were very well built.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

RE: setback.

A street in my neighborhood had several houses on both sides of the street replaced with 16 or so of those skinny detached houses everyone loves to hate on. I noticed a couple weeks ago since it’s always dark now when I walk the dog, that I find myself continually returning to this street because it’s so pleasant.

Because the houses are so close to the street, it’s very well lit, the yards are well kept (likely a function of size, age and ownership) and the entrances are close to the street, so that it seems so much more lively and neighborly than the houses with big dark front yards and long driveways. From the perspective of someone walking on the sidewalk, the houses with small setback make for a more better environment.

At the end of this street, there are two huge 4 story houses being built. No porches, and only garages facing the main street. They’re weirdly massive things, more the scale of ships than houses. I can’t imagine what they’re going to look like when they’re done.

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

Do you live in Portland? Sounds like maybe not as garage dominated homes ie snout houses are not allowed by zoning here anymore.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Interesting. Got a source on that?

maccoinnich
Guest

Section 33.110.253 of the zoning code, which is intended to ensure “that the location and amount of the living area of the residence, as seen
from the street, is more prominent than the garage.” Although the phrase “snout house” doesn’t occur in the zoning code, the dimensional standards prevent their construction.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

As someone who personally can’t stand houses that present their car storage to the street, this is awesome.

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

“Snout house” referred specifically to a design that put the garage closest to the front lot line. You can’t do that anymore but there are lots of houses with 2 car garages being built.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

The commenter said that only garages were facing the street, in portland you have to have the front door face the street, the garage can’t extend past the front of the house, in r5 zoning I think they limit garage square footage at 625, and there is a signicant requirement for windows on the front of the house and windows in the garage door do not count towards the window requirement. These restrictions have only been in place for about a decade but it is difficult to build a house in portland that could be described with the phrase “only garages facing the main street”. The restrictions are in my opinion adequate to eliminate the snout house type of development that they target. If we push new housing development outside of Portland these rules don’t apply though…

Jeff S
Guest
Jeff S

And brought to you by your current mayor, way back when he was a city commissioner.

rick
Guest
rick

Native trees in big yards act as traffic calming.

Jayson
Guest
Jayson

I’m calling BS on this group. There are over 100,000 homes in Portland and last year 125 single-family home demolitions. Sounds like NIMBYism in search of a problem. I’m not sorry big houses and rich people offend you – go ride a bike and chill out.

dan
Guest
dan

With all respect, that sounds like something a McMansion developer would say. We all know that demolitions are concentrated in specific close-in neighborhoods, not evenly spread among the 100,000 homes in Portland as you’re implying. And when every block near you has a maximum-legal-limit cubist house on it, overshadowing the older homes around it, it does start to impact the neighborhood fabric.

We need smart density, but replacing old single-family residences with new ones does not accomplish that — all it does is line developers’ pockets at the cost of neighborhood aesthetics.

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

Plenty of new houses in Portland meet the standards you cited while still having front facades dominated by garage doors.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Aren’t we really talking about houses, not homes? Seems to me it is the fate of the unoccupied structures that is at issue here.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

No, many of the houses being demolished are occupied. Specifically, the two houses at 26th and Hawthorne and the house at Morrison and 20th. Both of these sites became three story apartment buildings (which would be expected in an urban environment). Just because the houses are occupied does not mean they are historically significant or even in good condition though. Cities are a process. They are in a constant state of change.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Some, but definitely not a majority. Every one of the 20+ I have seen around me have been occupied, with a few more new developments on vacant lots that didn’t require demo.

Again, a “one size fits all” solution is not going to work in this city.

Randy
Guest
Randy
bjcefola
Guest
bjcefola

Speaking only for myself, I’m sympathetic to concerns about safety. If the house next door or the one across from my kid’s school were torn down I’d want all prudent safety practices observed. To the extent the resolution is about safety I favor it.

But I think there’s something profoundly screwy about using the demolition code to try to preserve houses. It’s like trying to save lives by changing how we bury people.

If you believe that
A) you shouldn’t force people to sell a house and
B) you shouldn’t force people to live in a house they don’t like
then by the time whoever owns a house wants to get rid of it, it *should* be gone. If we want to preserve houses, do it through preservation codes or voluntary covenants that intervene before a house gets to that state. That’s more honest, it’s probably more effective, and it allows a discussion about what it is we’re preserving and why.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Are you okay with inclusionary zoning if it means you make to much money to live in this new density?
I think inclusionary zoning is more geared towards lower income residents who have been displaced, not new transplants who just want to live close to city center.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Sorry, I did not mean to imply I was assuming anything about your specific socioeconomic situation. it was a general question and I was just going off of a pretty common demographic on bikeportland.

Jeg
Guest
Jeg

Inclusionary zoning is a tool like any other. A percent of apartments cant be market rate, and then it can be fine tuned to allow subsidy for the middle class as well in the form of percentages for income brackets. I am with you on wanting there to be help for the middle class- the real job creators.

davemess
Guest
davemess

I’m getting at though: what if it doesn’t include the middle class, and is mainly geared toward low income?

I just personally don’t think anyone should have a right to live in any neighborhood they want. Some are desirable and more expensive and that’s life. You save up more money or you move to somewhere you can afford.

jeg
Guest
jeg

Good for you. I still want inclusionary zoning, and hopefully we’ll get it overturned soon.

greg byshenk
Guest
greg byshenk

rainbike
NIMBYism is the privilege of the local land holders. They bought into, invested their life savings in, a neighborhood because they liked it the way it was. I think that’s one thing that Densers don’t understand. […]

And if they don’t like the way things change, the local land holders can sell off their investment for a nice profit and move somewhere further out where single-family makes sense.

And detached single-family housing within a mile or two of the city center doesn’t make sense.

rainbike
Guest
rainbike

I understand that it doesn’t make sense to you, but it makes sense to me. That’s why I bought my house in a neighborhood that is predominantly composed of single family dwellings, close in. I think that Portland should retain a diversity of housing options. Makes for a more interesting city.

greg byshenk
Guest
greg byshenk

It’s not a question of “you” or “me”; the point I’m making is that it doesn’t make sense from an urban plan perspective. Having detached single-family houses in the urban center might be nice for those who live in them, but it means that the city works less well for everyone else.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“And detached single-family housing within a mile or two of the city center doesn’t make sense.”

Except this is EXACTLY what has made Portland an attractive place to live for many. If you get rid of this will you still get as many people moving to Portland?

Joseph E
Guest

No, you will get many MORE people moving to Portland, because there will be more housing spots available in close-in neighborhoods.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Assuming most people want to live in duplexes or apartments.
The data (previously reported on this website) disagrees.

http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2014/09/how_do_portlanders_want_to_liv.html

“Without considering differences in cost, 80 percent of respondents preferred to live in a single-family house, though only 65 percent of respondents currently live in one. And despite predictions from housing analysts that a younger generation might prefer renting apartments in an urban environment, respondents age 18 to 34 showed an even stronger preference — 88 percent — for single-family detached houses.”

rainbike
Guest
rainbike

And when they start having kids, I suspect that number wanting a detached single-family home will jump even higher. I think that this conversation needs to consider that a person’s housing preference likely changes over time. What works when you’re young and single, may not work as well when you’ve switched to family mode.

greg byshenk
Guest
greg byshenk

Unfortunately, anything dealing with housing that includes the caveat “Without considering differences in cost” is pretty much worthless, since housing choices are all about compromise based on location, amenities, cost, etc.

A small part of the population very much wants a detached single-family house, and is willing to pay a high cost (in money, time, convenience, or some combination thereof) to get it. Most people find a compromise based on how they weight cost, space, convenience, and so forth.

davemess
Guest
davemess

A small part of the population very much wants a detached single-family house,

Yet we have very high occupancy in SFH homes (esp. in inner neighborhoods), and demand seems to be going even higher (based on the increase in prices). And many people’s compromise is to move to a SFH further out in a more affordable neighborhood.

I agree there is a market for smaller, close in condos. I just don’t think the desire is as great in Portland as some think it might be.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Wow! People! Really? C’mon!

Like them or not, these are “the way things are” across the metaphysical plain in which we exist. Call them “rules” if you’d like.

:: Density = mass per unit volume

:: Volume = the amount of space, measured in cubic units, that an object or substance occupies.

:: Space = the three-dimensional realm or expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur.

Three dimensions. That is all we currently have access to. No one on this planet made those rules. Like fart clouds or kudzu or anything else, developments can go up, down, or outward. That’s it.

If one chooses not to build up (NIMBY) or down (geology), one chooses urban sprawl, whether one will admit it or not.

Not good. Not bad. No judgement needed. Just reality.

And, for what it is worth, ALL ZONING HAS AND WILL CHANGE. Ask a Native American.

Forest > Farmland > Neighborhood > City

That is how it has gone and how it will continue to go for every spec of Earth suitable for human development.

Maybe someday folks will start planning civilzations based on reality rather than ideology?
Or just stop reproducing exponentially?

Your great grandkids are going to be here in 2200, and there will be hundreds of millions of them.
Anyone who thinks it would be cool if they could all live in a cute little Craftsman with 3 Subarus and a Playstation and an X-Box and California Closets full of yoga pants might be a huge f&*^iNG a$$4@le.

Denial = disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing; refusal to recognize or acknowledge

ag
Guest
ag

you forgot latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving. if you are unfamiliar with that, google it and see who you really are.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I find it interesting how little appetite folks here have exhibited for the Alternatives to Growth Oregon perspective on these issues. Once you jettison a perspective that interrogates the supposed need for growth*, the requirement that we accommodate it, reward it, pursue it, you’re left with only crummy options. Seems backwards to me. http://www.agoregon.org/page34.htm

*in everything from population to housing and roads, and everything that follows

jeg
Guest
jeg

Growth includes immigration. I am pro-density and accomodating people wanting to live in a denser environment. It’s an ongoing process all over the world from rural to urban. A smaller footprint is good for the environment.

That being said, I think people should seriously consider not reproducing. Please.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“It’s an ongoing process all over the world from rural to urban.”

That is one way to put it. Race to the bottom might be more accurate. At some point you get diminishing returns. Density for its own sake encounters not just social but physical inflection points.
http://www.citylab.com/design/2012/08/there-limit-how-tall-buildings-can-get/2963/

jeg
Guest
jeg

Portland being considerably less dense than sprawling LA should be an indication that all the sky is falling talk about density in Portland is hogwash to keep the landed class making profit on their land. We are nowhere near such inflection points, nor is even Division an example of “too dense” Division could be denser! And should be. And I assure you, it will not be at a detrimental diminishing return inflection point. Downtown does fine, and it’s denser.

chris
Guest
chris

Let’s look at it this way: Everything that you do causes externalities. Building more densely in the central city causes an externality of violating the aesthetic sensibilities of incumbent residents (e.g., “destroying neighborhood character”), increasing demand for limited streetside parking, and increasing population (which may be a positive or negative externality, depending upon your perspective). NOT increasing density, however, causes a far greater number of externalities. Given that rental prices are higher in the central city than in the suburbs, that indicates that demand is currently outstripping supply. There are many people who would like to live close-in, but currently can’t. As of now, they are experiencing significantly longer travel times to work and to access amenities than they otherwise would, which detracts from happiness and contributes to stress in a very real way. Additionally, any person who wants to live close-in but can’t, is likely to be far more auto-dependent, which wastes spice, leads to death- and injury-causing accidents, and consumes more resources. Suburban dwellings also consume more resources in terms of infrastructure, space, energy, etc.

I’m going to say that the externalities involved in not building densely are worse and greater in number than those involved in building more densely. I don’t think your aesthetic sensibilities are particularly precious, nor do I think the supposed “character” of our not particularly interesting single family houses is all that remarkable. If you live in a single family house two miles away from the city center, and your neighbors sell to an apartment builder, you’ll grumble about the changes, but you’ll still live in a house close to urban amenities and will be fine. If that apartment is not built, that’s 50-200 people that will have to live in Beaverton, commute at least an hour each way to work, and will not be within walking distance of amenities. Sorry, but in this case, you’re aesthetic sensibilites are simply less important than what’s at stake here, and I simply don’t have much respect for your desire to simultaneously enjoy the aesthetics of the suburbs and the convenience of the city.

Regarding street side parking, you simply have no property claim to the curb. You aren’t even paying rent upon the space that your car currently occupies — a space that could be repurposed toward a wider sidewalk or a bike lane. You *should* be paying rent on it though. Even at our current density, the geometry of the car makes it impossible for everybody to use without causing congestion, particularly when a significant percentage of street space is being used to park vehicles and not as a part of a thoroughfare.

chris
Guest
chris

And I’ll say it again. I have absolutely ZERO sentimentality regarding the single family houses of Portland. They are pleasant enough, but not anything special. In every large German city I’ve visited, there’s barely a single family house to be seen within a 3-4 mile radius of the city center. Almost every residential building is a six-story apartment or condo, sometimes with ground floor retail. Most of them do not contain parking garages. Such a configuration allows a significantly larger percent of the population to live short walking distance from amenities and short biking distance to the jobs in the center. This is a more rational arrangement than what we currently have in Portland or in any North American city, and if every single family house within a 3-4 mile radius within our own city center were replaced with a German-style apartment, I’d be happy about it.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Fortunately, this is not Germany.

chris
Guest
chris

You mean unfortunately. Germany has better urban design. North America’s is inferior.

dan
Guest
dan

Yes, that’s true. Look at how forward thinking they were way back in 1913.

One of the most far-reaching of the [German architectural preservation] laws is the Prussian act of July 15, 1907, a liberal translation of which follows:

1. The consent for the erection of buildings and alterations of the same is to be refused when the general appearance of the streets or public places of a city or village is greatly disfigured thereby.

All those multi-family buildings in German city cores are centuries old. I’m pretty sure that trying to tear them down and replace them with modern cracker box apartments would result in a huge outcry – if it wasn’t prohibited to begin with.

So yes, I agree we need urban design more like Germany.

chris
Guest
chris

Not all of said buildings are centuries old. Most large German city centers were bombarded during the second world war, and had to be reconstructed. Many are far newer than you might think.

My point was that 6 story apartments with ground floor retail are more appropriate the inner 3-4 miles of a central city than single family homes. I’m not opposed to suburban living, but I think supply should be allowed to rise to meet demand for housing that’s close to job centers, be it downtown Portland or the Nike campus in Beaverton. If you want the character of your single family neighborhood to be frozen in time for eternity, you should enter a HOA that owns the entire neighborhood and that exists on the outskirts, and isn’t occupying prime real estate in close proximity to amenities or major job centers. That way, a multitude of people whose numbers are far greater than that of current residents won’t make the sacrifice of suffering longer travel times in exchange for the aesthetic sensibilities of incumbent residents, who think that they are more important than everybody else. Any neighbor who wishes to paint their door a funny color will have to be permission from everybody else in the neighborhood, but at least this absurdity will be taking place out of the way in some place that nobody else cares about.

chris
Guest
chris

I mean, just look at the modal share figures for German, Dutch and Danish cities in comparison to ours:

Munich walking: 28% cycling:17% transit:21% car:37%
Copenhagen walking:10% cycling:26% transit:36% car:28%
Amsterdam walking:4% cycling:38% transit:30% car:28%
Portland walking:6% cycling:6% transit:12% car:70%

Our figures are just pathetic in comparison.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

Your formula for externalities makes a lot of assumptions that just aren’t the case.

Everyone works in or wants to go to the central city for most of their trips. – Patently not true. In fact, many of our largest employers are in Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tualatin, etc. Likewise, the folks that currently have to drive to inner neighborhoods to access certain amenities, shops, services, restaurants etc. would most likely travel closer to home if these things were available within 2-3 miles of their house.

There are many people that want to live close in but currently can’t. – not necessarily true. There are some people that would prefer to live closer to downtown, and there are some folks that are perfectly content with their housing choice because it’s actually closer to where they work (say like, all the folks in East Portland that work in the Columbia Corridor). If you presented the option of moving further from work for downtown amenities (in downtown), or staying put and having access to a modest town center – they’d stay put.

Also, rental prices aren’t necessarily lower in the suburbs as a rule. It really depends on the context and access to the aforementioned large employers.

chris
Guest
chris

I actually did not make any assumption that everybody wants to live in the central city. What I said was that a lot more people wish to live in the central city than currently do, indicated by the high rent prices — demand is outstripping supply.

Beaverton and Hillsboro could potentially do the same thing as Portland by developing high-density mixed-use residential with ground floor retail within close proximit to their job centers, and I suppose Orenco Station is a manifestation of that. That would be just as smart.

Peter R
Guest

You make a great point. PDX has what I call the “reverse” commute. Just look at westbound traffic on 26 in the morning and east bound during the evening. This is counter to what existed in Boston when I lived back on the east coast. 93 southbound into Boston and 90 eastbound were packed in the morning as all the commuters went to were the jobs where.
Here in the PDX region, the large employers all seem to be outside of city limits and people just seem to like to live in PDX. Intel, Nike, etc.
I personally prefer the country for living. I live near the edge of the urban growth boundary in Hillsboro, have quick access to a MAX and awesome access to Orenco or imbrie drive amenities. House prices are significantly lower out our way for comparable sized houses, and seriously, it takes almost no time at all in the grand scheme of things to get to the PDX downtown core via MAX.

Alan
Guest
Alan

How would rent control effect density, rents and home prices?

dan
Guest
dan

We know from NYC’s experience that rent control guarantees some amount of affordable housing, but tends to increase the cost of market-rate housing because the affordable housing is essentially removed from the marketplace.

jeff bernards
Guest
jeff bernards

I own a couple lots in Montavilla,(1 good house 1 teardown) it’s hard to believe there worth $400,000!
That aside, I talked to Eli about my lots and a house design I had. He encouraged me to pack em in. I thought about it for awhile, but chose a different route. His concept may solve one problem, housing cost. But makes another problem, what about growing a garden and space for nature. His concept of corner to corner building in not sustainable in my way of thinking. I didn’t take his advice and now have a garden & orchard that give me lots and lots of organic fruits and vegetables, with virtually no carbon footprint. He profits, but now the tenants barely have room for a couple of tomato plants. I truly believe you must incorporate a “victory garden” area for each tenant, it’s more sustainable for the long term

TJ
Guest
TJ

Exactly.

Jim L
Guest

“Pack them in” does not sound like something Eli Spevak would say. Have you seen any of Eli’s projects? They are actually very garden rich and in proximity to parks and open space:

http://www.penparkcommons.org

http://www.cullygrove.org

http://www.orangesplot.net/within-the-rules/

jeff bernards
Guest
jeff bernards

Go to the place that is across from Peninsula Park. The 3 story doesn’t fit in the neighborhood, at all. If I remember correctly I don’t think there’s any “soil” areas especially when consider the number on people that live there. 99% of your food is trucked in and I know how bikers feel about trucks.

Jim L
Guest

Bernard,

I live at Peninsula Park Commons. We have a large and under-utilized courtyard garden. The taller units on the north side of the community include a 400 square foot bike parking garage, another smaller courtyard and have full access to the front garden court yard. Eli went through design review to build those north lot units which included neighborhood review where he got almost universal positive feedback. This second phase of Peninsula Park Commins added new housing near the park.

Providing adequate access to garden space and parks is one thing I totally agree with, but having urban dwellers grow all their own food on urban sites where they live is an unreasonable expectation for urban living and any urban development.

Jim

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

Also, Eli did not build out Peninsula Park Commons (R1 zoning) nearly as much as he could have. It was a balance between providing more housing near a park and on a high frequent service bus line and fitting in with the neighborhood.

If you think access to parks and gardens for everyone is important you might have argued that he built more units. Most developed parks in Portland are surrounded by detached single-family residential zoning (the west side of Peninsula Park being a relatively uncommon exception). We should be building more and different types of housing near parks precisely to ensure more people live within walkable distances to parks and open space. Adequate parks and openspace should be the quid-pro-quo of a more compact and walkable urban form.

Jim L
Guest

Jeff,

I live at Peninsula Park Commons. We have a large and under-utilized courtyard garden. The taller units on the north side of the community include a 400 square foot bike parking garage, another smaller courtyard and have full access to the front garden court yard. Eli went through design review to build those north lot units which included neighborhood review where he got almost universal positive feedback. This second phase of Peninsula Park Commins added new housing near the park in a rare situation where you have multi-family zoning near a park (most parks are surrounded by more exclusive single-family housing zones). And it is worth noting that Eli built more housing near a park but significantly less than the R1 zone would’ve allowed.

Providing adequate access to garden space and parks is one thing I totally agree with. There are also significant opportunities to increase food production in cities. But having urban dwellers grow all or even most their own food on urban sites where they live is an unreasonable expectation for urban living and any urban development.

Jim

jeff bernards
Guest
jeff bernards

You’ll never convince me the 3 story building fits in the neighborhood (look around). The newer buildings were garages and car parking, which now taxpayers are providing you with free with on street parking, right? Instead of the studded tire initiative I worked on, I was going to propose that a minimum of 100 sq ft ( 10′ X 10′ per person) be required for the total number of people expected to live in the proposed units. Once you build on it or pave it over, it’s potential for a garden, trees, outdoor space is virtually gone forever. The idea that taxpayers should “provide” you with the outdoor space or community garden space because the developer was trying to maximize profits ( will providing affordable housing) is almost equal to the free street parking problem. The demand for community garden space is outstripping supply, should we keep building on top of all of it trying to solve the housing problem alone? Your currently eating oil, think about it. America consumes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food energy (on average)
Colonel Sumner park is slowly disappearing from the demand for community garden spaces.

Cory Poole
Guest

Sorry if this was already covered but is there a list of the the NA’s that signed this?

Margaret
Guest

HI Cory, check http://unitedneighborhoodsforreform.blogspot.com (map not yet updated to reflect addition of Brooklyn and Markham). 34 neighborhood associations so far.

davemess
Guest
davemess

“For renters, we are interested in affordable rents (opposite of increasing land values) and more density to create more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods (opposite of on street parking in front of every residence).”

I’m confident that there are many renters out there who value nearby parking.

Joseph E
Guest

Of course they do, if they own a car. But would most renters pay an extra $100 a month for a spot? That’s how much a surface parking space needs to cost to be unsubsidized in most neighborhoods.
Structured parking would be at least $200 a month, underground probably $300, considering the $50,000 per space cost.

fredlf
Guest
fredlf

I absolutely believe in increased density, livable (bikeable, walkable) neighborhoods with diverse populations of renters and home-owners from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds. I oppose free on-street parking. For all of those reasons and more, I have started working with UNR to reform home demolition policy in Portland.

I’ll give one example that typifies why I got involved. At the corner of NE 7th and Skidmore there used to be a gorgeous, architecturally intact, 100 year old home that was separated into a duplex. It was in poor condition, but still a completely viable structure. And it provided low-income housing to two families. It was completely demolished with no attempt at deconstruction or salvage, no asbestos or lead abatement, and no meaningful warning to any neighbors. It was pushed over in a day and tossed into the landfill, every single old-growth 2×12 and architectural molding tossed like a Big Mac wrapper. In its place will go a massive, lot-sprawling single-family home that few, if any, of the historical residents of this neighborhood can afford. The developer on this project is a deeply questionable businessman with multiple violations and bankruptcies in his past who lives in Lake Oswego. I’ve done enough construction work to know he’s building the worst kind of code-minimum schlock. Nothing he builds will be standing in a 100 years.

I see exactly this scenario playing out all over my neighborhood (King) and the adjacent neighborhoods, in lot after lot. High-quality, right-sized vintage homes are being trashed for low-quality trophy homes. I can see no way that encouraging this development contributes to increased density, helps promote affordable housing or mitigates the negative effects of gentrification. And that’s what I want to stop. These profiteering, vulture developers do this because it’s the most profitable way to feed their pocketbooks. Under current regulation it is easy for them to do this because 1:1 demo permits are easy to get. They choose to demolish instead of restore because it allows them to build cookie-cutter, mass-produced homes with minimally skilled crews. Restoring a home takes skilled labor, lots of it (aka, good, blue-collar jobs), which obviously reduces the lot-flipping developer’s bottom line. We need to make it harder and more expensive to throw away existing homes.

I believe the greenest house is the one that’s already built. And I believe preserving the historical character of a neighborhood is more than just elitist “taste.” Preserving history means respecting the past. It means respecting the men and women who worked on and lived in these homes, whose kids and grand-kids still (for now) live in the area. It means re-using virtually un-replaceable materials and respecting the land that yielded those materials. It means being able to physically see and experience the stories from another era, and thereby learning about ourselves and our culture. It takes a 100 years to make a 100 year old house; they are rare and valuable. We should not be throwing them in the land-fill to benefit profiteering developers.

I don’t agree with every position taken by UNR, but I do know that they are not entitled nimbys, they are not shilling for the Kochs, they are not trying to stick it to poor people, or raise their own property values, or promoting sprawl. They are basically arguing for the right of the people’s voice to be heard in addition to the voice of the big money developers. As someone who believes in the rights of cyclists’ voices to be heard against the mega-industries of the automobile, I find it a familiar position to be in.

bjcefola
Guest
bjcefola

Taking your word for it, why is it a bad thing if a structure isn’t built to last 100 years? Why should we demand people 100 years from now conform to our preference in housing structure and style? Look at it the other way, do you care about satisfying the preferences of Portlanders circa 1914?

fredlf
Guest
fredlf

Though it’s hard for me to see how any cultural object or tradition makes any “demands” of the future, asking why it’s good that a house last 100 years, or more, is a fair question. I think there are several reasons.

* Reusing old things, especially large, complex, resource-intensive things like houses conserves natural resources, including fuel and transportation resources, notably for this audience.

* As I said, it honors the labor and skills of the craftspeople who built it.

* When multiple generations inhabit a house, it creates stability and investment in a neighborhood.

* Old houses are relatively rare cultural objects, especially out here in the West. We shouldn’t throw rare cultural objects in the landfill.

FWIW, I ride steel bikes. I think it’s dumb to throw away old stuff that works perfectly well. If you see me out riding, I hope you won’t think I’m forcing you to conform to the preferences of cyclists from the 1980’s.

Margaret
Guest

Also worth remembering that these older homes were built with such high-quality materials that they may not be available anymore. Or they’re incredibly expensive, and the developers plying the field right now won’t pop for them. Sending these homes and their high-quality materials to the landfill (OK, 2 percent is salvaged, per Restore Oregon) represents shameful waste, esp in a city that tries to recycle everything else.