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Eastmoreland neighbors vexed by extreme home makeover

Bby: DAVID F. ASHTON - The old house's concrete foundation is certainly intact, but little else.etween Christmas and New Year’s Day, Eastmoreland neighbors expressed shock that a modest 780 square foot home built in 1950 at 3725 S.E Ogden Street was being demolished.

Kimberly Koehler, Land Use/Board of Directors of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA), contacted THE BEE, saying that the new owner (DiLusso Homes of Clackamas, according to City of Portland records) had taken out permits for remodeling the house, not tearing it down.

What Koehler learned from the City’s Development Services inspector assigned to the project is that there’s not a clear definition of when a “remodel” turns into a “demolition”. The accepted standard, she was told, if the foundation and floor joists remain, it’s a considered a “remodel”.

According to City of Portland records, the “Trade Permit” issued on December 12 called for the following work:

Work/Case Description TWO STORY ADDITION TO REAR, SIDE, AND FRONT OF EXISTING DWELLING. ADD SECOND FLOOR OVER EXISTING.

DEMO EXISTING GROUND FLOOR WALLS TO ACCESS NEW SPACE.

NEW ENTRY PORCH. CONVERT BASEMENT TO HABITABLE SPACE INCLUDING NEW POWDER ROOM, BEDROOM WITH EGRESS WINDOW, AND LIVING ROOM. CONVERT EXISTING BATHROOM TO POWDER BATHROOM. ADD TWO BATHROOMS ON SECOND FLOOR.

When THE BEE arrived to photograph the work on the morning of December 29, most of the house had been deconstructed, right down to the concrete foundation – except for a small section of the wall on the southeast corner of the structure.

The original house had an unfinished basement, according the City records. On January 4, a contractor was at the worksite, pouring concrete at the back of the lot.

By January 25, the “remodeled” house had been framed in – clearly incorporating the small section of wall from the original house.

ENA President Robert McCullough spoke with THE BEE about the situation in late January.

“It's all a question of what ‘a remodel means’. For those of us who believe that a remodel stops when you’ve leveled the property down to the foundation, this is certainly not a remodel.”

The contractor did leave a portion of a wall standing, and it was incorporated into the new structure, McCullough was informed. “Where we end up, it’s basically an entirely new structure,” he responded.

“A more immediate problem is dealing with the disposal of asbestos,” McCullough continued.

“Most older homes are built with materials that contain asbestos. The law says that the contractor should take appropriate steps to protect the neighbors. In this case, no steps were taken. The neighbors found out about the demolition as it was occurring. We have a circumstance that could be a health risk.”

McCullough had high praise for Kimberly Kohler, as well as Rod Merrick and Clark Nelson, who have been actively working on this issue for ENA. “They’ve talked with the city and haven't gotten much from them. They’ve talked to the DEQ, and haven't gotten much from them either. They’ve talked to the EPA, and haven't gotten much from them.”

Other than OSHA – which expressed concern about the asbestos – “effectively, there is nobody working at any of these agencies on these issues.” So, contractors can “slide by the letter and logic of the law – and, in the case of asbestos, just ignore the law – and we need to fix it,” remarked McCullough.

According to Koehler, ENA requested the issue be on the agenda for discussion at the January 28th Southeast Uplift Land Use meeting.

“We plan to address the Portland City Council about this,” McCullough concluded. “And, when we find the appropriate opportunity for litigation, we will litigate it; we’ve retained counsel in this area.”