Author Archives: Robert McCullough

Oregonian Coverage This Morning of the Proposed 3620 SE Rural Demolition

A2 Monday, July 21, 2014 The Oregonian

Builder finds a way around demolition limit

By Melissa Binder mbinder@oregonian.com 

Responding to residents concerned about a rise in home demolitions citywide, Portland in April created a new requirement: Developers obtaining a building permit to replace an old house with two or more new ones had to wait 35 days and notify neighbors.

Opponents were skeptical and predicted developers would find a loophole. They were right.

Renaissance Homes applied to demolish a 1949 ranch at 3620 S.E. Rural Street and build two homes. The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association was notified, as required, and requested an additional 120 days to talk with the developers about the design.

Renaissance owner Randy Sebastian canceled his application to build two new houses and submitted one requesting to build one house. “We’re going to build two houses eventually,” he said. “I’m just starting with one now.”

There is no rule preventing developers from splitting a lot after demolishing ahome based on an application to build only one replacement.

Robert ‍McCullough, president of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association, parked his car in front of the driveway of the property on Thursday, blocking demolition equipment.

“Playing ping pong with the rules is not acceptable,” he said. “There is either one structure going in or there are two.”

Police threatened to tow ‍McCullough‍’‍s car if the developer requested it. When Sebastian arrived on-site, he and ‍McCullough negotiated. Sebastian ultimately agreed to postpone the demolition one week.

‍McCullough said the real purpose of Thursday’s protest was to get the city’s attention.

Sebastian said he doesn’t feel bad at all about finding a way around the new “hurdle.” His company pays interest every day, he said, making demolition delays costly.

 

2014-07-21_7-27-21

BETH NAKAMURA/THE OREGONIAN

Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association President Robert McCullough uses his car to block the driveway to the entrance of 3620 S.E. Rural Street and delay its demolition.

 

My reply to Mr. TruthToPower in the Oregonian this morning on Demolition Ping Pong

 Dear Truth:

Please excuse me if I use your first name, Mr. ToPower.  No disrespect is intended.

Developer Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) chair, Jeff Fish, and I exchanged visits to each others public involvement groups recently.  He spoke at the Southeast Uplift (SEUL) board meeting.  Both organizations are chartered by the City of Portland to provide advice to city government.  Jeff did a pretty good job at SEUL.  I gather you weren’t as impressed at DRAC.  That’s your right, I’ll try harder the next time I am invited.

My message, then and now, is that the current demolition rules are poor and lead to unnecessary conflict.  The city code section is 24.55.200.  I suspect you know it well, but if not, call or email and I’ll send you a copy.  There are a number of loopholes in the code that tend to make conflict likely.  I know that well since, as we both know, I am in one now.

First, the K-1 loophole means that if you only demolish one house and build one house, there is no delay.  This means that you don’t need to talk to the neighbors, nor, if you are unscrupulous, check for toxic substances.  Of course, if you are in Southeast Portland, we tend to turn the unscrupulous builders into state and federal authorities.  I know this is hardball, but the neighborhood associations have had to step in to enforce the law since the city does not.

Second, you can just ignore section 24.55.200 of the city code and pretend you are “remodeling”.  Some builders “remodel” with bulldozers.  Amazingly, unlike other cities, Portland doesn’t define the term, so many abuses take place.  Last year, I was interviewed by Ms Binder of the Oregonian while a bulldozer drove through the house to be “remodeled” in order to remove the trees in the back yard.

I addressed both issues at DRAC — apparently inadequately.  I also offered to work with Jeff Fish and the DRAC to fix the broken spots in the city code.  We have talked since and I think it is possible to help the city improve the code.

In the case of 3620 SE Rural, since the builder proposed building two homes, we followed the city code and requested a delay to talk, and then the builder announced he was only building one home.  With only one home, the K-1 loophole applies.  But as the builder openly stated to the press, he really means to build two homes, but will just build them one at a time.

Two homes?  One home?  Two homes later?  This is regulatory ping pong and brings the entire process into question.

The builder and the neighborhood are searching for a good time to meet next week and avoid going to court.  Our lawyers are researching legal remedies now, as I suspect the builder’s are.  This is good for the lawyers, but a very poor way of running a city.

Come on by for coffee sometime, Truth.  My door is always open.

Robert McCullough

President, Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association

President, Southeast Uplift

503-771-5090

robert@mresearch.com

Temporary reprieve for 3620 SE Rural!

We had an excellent turnout of neighbors, cars, tv trucks, reporters, the police, and finally the developers. We learned that like the old legend that elephants fear mice, bulldozers fear tv trucks. Around 9:30 A.M. I shook hands with Renaissance Homes to delay the demolition until we could hold talks on design and environmental issues.

Our local police were very relieved — they were not eager to be on the evening news towing the cars of our neighbors.

The battle isn’t over by a long shot, but we did win the first skirmish.

Circumvented:120-day Demolition Delay. Park-in scheduled tomorrow morning

The developer at 3620 SE Rural has circumvented the ENA’s 120 day delay for demolition and plans to raze the house tomorrow morning.  A park-in to block the bulldozer may be the only way to prevent this violation of public trust and to prevent the work-around to our hard won delay. The park-in will be at 8am tomorrow morning at 3620 SE Rural to block the developer from tearing down this home. Cars need to be in place by 7:00am (or so). Details below:
This PM , neighbor Winky Wheeler received a door hanger demolition notice that the subject house at 3620 SE Rural will be demolished tomorrow effectively violating the 120 day delay imposed by the ENA. The details and confirmation of the delay may be found below. In conversation with Kareen Perkins who administers title 24 for the City she explained that the developer (among others) had found a work-around for the delay.
Yesterday, July 15, the applicant withdrew the demolition permit with the 120 day delay and pulled the permit applications for both houses applied for some weeks ago effectively violating the intent of the regulations. The neighborhood association was not notified of the event by the City as no notification is required. Following the withdraw of the original applications, the applicant filed for a permit for one house and received simultaneously a demolition permit with no delay.
The developer is operating within the one demolition for one permit application loophole that developers have maintained in place with the support of Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the DRAC (Development review advisory committee that is largely staffed with building owners and developers). The DRAC meets at 8 AM tomorrow-1900 SW 4th. Attendance is encouraged.
 
The developer previously applied to reconstitute and divide 3 substandard lots for narrow lot housing. That request has not yet been approved although other aspects of those permit applications were substantially approved. The application for the lot split  challenged by the ENA  was one reason for asking for a delay of the demolition. Emily Sandy at BDS is responsible for that review. 

City Official emails for commenting on this and other demolitions are:
CHARLIE HALES, MAYOR, (503)823-4120, e-mail: mayorhales@portlandoregon.gov
NICK FISH, (503) 823-3589, e-mail: Nick@portlandoregon.gov 
AMANDA FRITZ, (503)823-3008, e-mail: amanda@portlandoregon.gov 
STEVE NOVICK, (503)823-4682, e-mail: Steve.Novick@portlandoregon.gov 
DAN SALTZMAN, (503)823-4151, e-mail: dan@portlandoregon.gov