Demolition of 6810 SE 31st angers concerned neighbors

On Friday, as the Memorial Day weekend began, CRN Excavation, Inc. arrived with heavy equipment and demolished the 1948 mid-century modern home at 6810 SE 31st. Work continued throughout the weekend. Developer Randy Palazzo, dba “Metro Homes NW” and partner “West Coast Development Co.” purchased the beautifully restored home for $640,000.00 in mid-April…and then flattened it in order to build two homes on the 10,000 square-foot lot. ENA Land Use Committee Chairs Rod Merrick, Clark Nelson and ENA Board President Robert McCullough arrived to review paperwork showing lead paint and asbestos abatement procedures had been followed and the demolition permit issued.

Through his supervisor, developer Randy Palazzo has indicated his willingness to meet with designated representatives for an informal Design Review meeting to discuss the house plans, work schedule, general disruption, and noise issues likely to be experienced.

City of Portland Ordinance 24.55.200 titled “Demolition Delay – Housing Preservation”, requires, when residential structures in residential zones are demolished, a 35-day delay at minimum (and a possible 120-day delay) to allow interested parties such as the Neighborhood Association to discuss options with the developer/owner. A loophole in this ordinance, however, allows demolition WITH NO NOTICE if the developer applies at the same time for a building permit effectively negating neighborhood notice. The ENA Board is working to require a 45-day delay for all non-emergency residential demolitions in the city.

What makes the hundreds of large lots and historic homes in Eastmoreland so vulnerable is that the “R5” zone USED TO MEAN a minimum lot size of 5,000 square feet (the typical 50 by 100 lot). Political and builder pressure to provide urban infill within Portland led to the changes in the Zoning Code a few years ago. “R5” zones now include lots as small as 3,000 square feet and as narrow as 36 feet and 2500 -even 1600 square foot corner lots for attached houses. (It bears repeating that 6810 SE 31st is a 10,000 square foot lot and could have been split under previous zoning law.) Even if Eastmoreland had in place Historic District Designation (which might discourage some developers and might improve design quality), the demolition at 6810 SE 31st would have gone forward due to the size of the lot and laws that do not protect historic structures from demolition.

Hundreds of Eastmoreland homes sit on multiple “lots of record” and are tempting targets for developers. City policies actively encourage this destruction in the name of accommodating a growing population, despite the fact that the policies are raising house prices and not increasing population density. The lot-splitting activity that threatens all of Eastmoreland as well as other neighborhoods in Portland has not made any appreciable impact on increasing population density. But developers are making very good money and quality of life in the in close-in single family neighborhoods is under threat. Rapidly rising in-city prices fueled in part by land speculation along with disruption of neighborhood stability, character, and relative freedom from construction impacts is the result of the policies.

More than 30 concerned neighbors met the evening of May 28th to discuss approaches to immediately address the crisis. Neighborhood-wide leafleting and face to face contact will encourage home owner/sellers to specify, as a condition of sale, that their lot(s) not be sub-divided to protect our lovely neighborhood for future generations. Creating an “approved realtor” list, limited to agents who live in Eastmoreland, who have a stake in preserving…not demolishing…our legacy and who help sellers to avoid selling to lot-dividing speculators is also in progress.
Preventing demolition and lot splitting is a responsibility that falls, for now at least, on individual homeowners who can include protections in their conditions of sale, motivate their neighbors especially those contemplating sale, and take the time to contact the Mayor’s Office and Commissioners to force change in the regulations.

Lawn signs appeared Saturday encouraging neighbors to contact the Mayor’s Office (mayorhales@portlandoregon.gov OR 503-823-4120) to voice objections to demolition and lot-splitting in Eastmoreland and other neighborhoods. More lawn signs will be available soon (contact kimberlyoregon@gmail.com).

-Robert McCullough

Click here for a map of Eastmoreland lots and their respective sizes

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