Keep or Lose?

Sunday, June 23’s Oregonian highlighted the intention of city planners and others to attack what they see as “gentrification” by targeting higher density and subsidized housing for low-income tenants. Eliot was in the bull’s eye of the map on the front page. What the article, the PSU teacher, and city staff don’t know about either gentrification, or its remedies, could fill multiple copies of the Eliot News.This is especially the case since the way the term is used is to highlight displacement of Portland’s black residents from the inner city neighborhoods they were restricted to live in by City policies up until the 1970’s.

Be this as it may, these and others’ efforts aim to transform Eliot from an enclave of historic homes and artifacts from the commercial center of Portland’s black community, into an area of high density housing. Although Eliot is a Historic Conservation District, that designation falls short of being a Historic District, like Irvington. Being a Historic District provides more protection against encroachment and protection that may be needed. However, becoming a Historic District takes a significant effort and the support of a majority of Eliot property owners. Only about a third of Eliot’s property is owner-occupied, so getting majority support is a challenge.

The primary protection a recognized Historic District provides is a required review of remodeling of existing homes (at least the front), as well as new developments. This imposes additional costs and time delays that many homeowners resent. The backlash against Irvington’s district caused the city to modify these rules making them less of a hassle and expense. I fear that without a formal designation as a Historic District, Eliot will be lost to city anti-gentrification policies especially if they offer incentives to developers of high density housing. If you value Eliot as a historic enclave, please let City Planners know by commenting on the Comprehensive Plan during the public meetings in the late summer/fall.

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