Momentum Builds to Stop the Demolition

Stop the Demolition Sign

All around Portland signs are showing up in front yards with the purpose of stopping the demolition of Portland homes.  With the upturn in the economy developers are in full swing looking for any opportunity they can to tear down a house and build something new.  Now is the time for residents to act to save our historic homes.

In many cases a small affordable house on a big lot is targeted.  The house is removed and 2 large houses or an apartment building are built in its place.  However it’s not only small houses.  In Laurelhurst neighbors are fighting to save the historic Markham home.  It’s a large house on a large lot.  The developer who purchased the lot does not appreciate the historic significance of the home and planned to tear it down and replace it with 2 homes.

Recently in the Willamette Heights neighborhood, the historic Max Goldsmith House, was ready to be demolished before neighbors stepped in to purchase the house and save it.  Unfortunately preparation for the demolition had begun so the house lost some of its character, but at least it is still standing.  The Victorian was going to be replaced by 7 row houses.

You can peruse almost any neighborhood and see new out of scale, out of place homes or multi-unit dwellings being built or recently finished.  In most cases a historic home stood there just a few years earlier.

In Eliot Neighborhood the problem is rampant and has been for some time.  Typically one or more historic homes are demolished to be replaced by an apartment building or out of place condominiums.  Even worse, the home is demolished and the land sits vacant for years.

Momentum is building for a change in codes to help preserve our historic inventory.  There are many ideas on the table, here are just a few…

  1. Fix a loophole that allows developers to tear down a house the same day as applying for a permit without notifying surrounding property owners or neighborhood associations.
  2. Require demolition developers be in compliance mitigating hazardous materials such as lead and asbestos
  3. Change the definition of demolition so that retaining a single wall of a home is not considered a remodel. It should only be a remodel if 50% of the original structure remains.
  4. Retain the code that allows neighborhood associations to request a 120 delay so they can make a good faith effort to save the home.
  5. Proper notification to surrounding neighbors and neighborhood associations of a pending demolition, including signage on the property.
  6. Require existing setbacks and building heights to remain the same or similar for the new structure and be compatible with the neighborhood.

In August, City Council took up the issue. Several preservation minded organizations along with neighborhood representatives presented testimony about the demolition epidemic.   Exactly what is going to happen remains to be seen.

The issue continues to get press coverage.  Last week both the Oregonian and the Tribune ran articles:

To get involved and voice your opinion visit the “Stop the Demolition of Portland Homes” website.  There you can: