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Support lacking, Hales postpones demolition tax vote again

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BY: TRIBUNE PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE  - An anti-large house sign sits near a residential infill project in Southwest Portland.Mayor Charlie Hales' proposed $25,000 demolition tax is beginning to look like his defunct street fee.

Except this time, even Commissioner Steve Novick isn't with him.

Hales postponed a scheduled City Council vote on his tax proposal Wednesday morning after it became apparent he did not have the three votes to pass it. Hales said he would bring it back on Jan. 16.

Hales had previously pulled the proposal back after a majority of the council questioned it during an October hearing. The street fee proposed by Hales and Novick endured similar appearances before the council before it was postponed for good before the beginning of the 2015 Oregon Legislature.

Hales has proposed the tax to slow the so-called demolition epidemic that many residents claim is destroying the character of their neighborhoods. Hundreds of older homes have been demolished in rent years and replaced with one or more larger, more expensive ones. Lawn signs protesting the demolitions are appearing in many neighborhoods, with some reading, "Stop demolishing Portland."

Hales proposed taxing the demolition of violable older homes $25,000 with the intent of slowing the pace of such controversial residential infill projects. He also wants to dedicate the money raised by the tax to affordable housing.

The proposal has been controversial from the start, however, with both developers and neighborhood activists complaining it will only raise the price of new homes. When it was last heard by the council, Novick offered an amendment to reduce the tax for less expensive replacement homes. It was not supported by a majority of the council, however.

Hales had originally proposed waiving the tax if a single home is replaced with two or more homes to encouraging density increases. Neighborhood activists said that would only encourage more demolitions, however, and Hales dropped the discount in his most recent proposal.

Despite the change, Novick and commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz said they did not support the current version on Wednesday.