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Eastmoreland home, slated for demolition, saved by neighbors

by: Merry MacKinnon, This house in Eastmoreland was just what Jarvis Payne wanted when he moved back to Portland from San Francisco.  A landscape architect, Payne installed a retaining wall and gardens. He also learned, from his neighbors, how close his house came to being torn down to build two narrow homes.

When Jarvis Payne first set eyes on his house at 3312 S.E. Carlton, he had no idea how close it had come to being demolished.

'I was looking for a small, one-story brick house,' recalls Payne, who describes his Eastmoreland home as an 'English cottage ranch'.

'I basically walked in the front door, and said, 'This is it.''

It helped that the interior of the 1947 house had been completely remodeled by a former owner. That the double lot was basically bare of flora, except for grass, didn't deter Payne. 'I saw it as a blank slate,' says Payne, a landscape architect who returned to his native Portland about 18 months ago, after a quarter century in San Francisco.

The house had just been listed on the market the same day Payne put in an offer for it. The only issue was a deed restriction requiring that the property could never be subdivided, which didn't bother Payne at all. 'With me being a landscape architect, I liked the idea that it was a big yard,' he recalls.

So Payne bought the Eastmoreland house for $530,000, and happily agreed to the deed restriction. He moved in, and immediately started planting a garden--with evergreen grasses, perennials, and a Japanese katsura tree out front. 'This house has been a dream of mine,' he observes. 'I've always lived in a condo.'

Payne also had a retaining wall constructed, which perfectly matches the red brick of his house. And, with all that outside work, Payne began meeting his neighbors. 'It's an amazing neighborhood,' he comments. 'They're all so friendly.'

Those visits were where he learned the story of how his house was saved from the wrecking ball.

Two years ago, that house on Carlton Street was purchased by a developer. To the dismay of some neighbors, the new owner intended to tear down the charming, well-maintained brick house with its bay window and other quaint features, in order to build two large, tall, wood-frame houses on the 100-by-100-foot lot. (In fact, the story was in THE BEE, at the time.)

As Payne tells it, some neighbors wanted to save the house, and found out that the property had originally included a deed restriction against subdividing the lot; but the information had been lost, and title company reportedly hadn't informed the developer about it.

According to Payne, some of his neighbors took up a collection, ultimately raising thousands of dollars, which they offered to the developer, on condition that he leave the house alone and put it up for sale.

'My understanding is, they said, 'We can basically give you this money and not go to court, or we can go to court and cost you a lot of money,'' says Payne.

So, the developer accepted the money, and sold the property for $60,000 more than he paid for it, Payne says.

'I didn't do anything, other than buy the house,' Payne smiles. 'The neighbors were the ones who saved it.'