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Forum to address residents' concerns about citywide infill

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A house being renovated at 3431 S.E. Rex St., has neighbors worried about possible hazardous materials contaminating the area.Neighborhood advocates are organizing a citywide forum on residential demolitions and other issues related to infill housing projects.

The forum is being sponsored by several neighborhood coalition offices. It will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on June 11 at Concordia University’s Luther Hall Auditorium, 2811 N.E. Holman St.

Plans call for the forum to include a panel discussion with a developer and representatives from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the Bureau of Development Services and Our United Villages, a nonprofit community enhancement organization that operates the ReBuilding Center in North Portland.

The forum is being organized as protests increase across the city against developers demolishing existing homes and replacing them wit h one or more new ones. Demolitions — and projects where existing homes are mostly demolished and extensively remodeled — are climbing in Portland as the economy recovers.

Some of the loudest protests have come from the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood, where residents have unsuccessfully tried to stop several homes from being demolished and replaced with new ones. In two cases, one in Eastmoreland and one in Northwest Portland, neighbors have worked to buy houses slated for demolition.

Members of the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association sponsored an Infill-Demolition Neighborhood Association Summit on May 6. It was attended by 21 people, including representatives from other neighborhood associations, including Alameda, Eastmoreland, Mount Tabor, Mount Scott-Aleta, Multnomah, Rose City Park, Sunnyside and the Northwest District Association.

Issues discussed at the meeting include a lack of advance notice on demolitions, near-total demolitions classified by the city as remodels, a lack of off-street parking for new multi-unit housing projects, the larger size and different character of many new homes, and fears that many homes being demolished include lead paint and asbestos that can be spread to nearby residences during demolitions. Eastmoreland neighbors were upset last week when a 1940 house, at 3431 S.E. Rex St., was largely demolished for a renovation. It is near Duniway School and was mostly torn down during school hours.

After the summit, Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association Chairman Al Ellis sent an email to those in attendance listing the following three main points from the summit:

• There is widespread discontent among Portland residents regarding rapid spread of infill-demolition development.

• There is a sense of urgency among residents regarding the need for legislative action to mitigate the problem.

• Neighborhood associations are united in advocating a building code revision proposal to address the problem.

The city has begun taking action that addresses some of those concerns. BDS recently reinterpreted an existing rule to require developers to always notify neighbors of demolition projects that will replace an existing home with more than one house. BDS still requires no notification if the developer applies for a demolition permit and a permit to build a single house at the same time, a practice opposed by many of the neighborhood activists.

In addition, the Development Review Advisory Committee that advises BDS is considering how to encourage developers to voluntarily notify neighbors of pending demolitions more often. One idea under discussion is for the city to provide developers with door hangers announcing upcoming demolitions that can be distributed to nearby homes. Another is to apply demolition rules to remodel projects that tear down more than a fixed percentage of an existing structure.

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