Design Advice Request for 13th & Tillamook Apartments

A major new addition to the apartments at 2104 NE Tillamook will be discussed in front of the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission at their March 20th meeting. The Landmarks Commission meeting will take place at 1900 SW 4th Ave in the second floor meeting room. The meeting begins at 1:30 pm, and this will be the second item on the agenda. Follow these links to view the documents pertaining to this property:

The staff report on the Design Advice Request

 

The application for 2104 NE 13th

The City Code language for this type of project

 

Protecting the Tree Canopy We Take for Granted Requires Action

By Kyna Rubin
As seen in the Irvington Winter Newsletter

My heart plunges. It’s fall 2015. I’m sitting in the audience at the city’s Tree Inventory Summit, looking at a series of maps showing Irvington’s street trees. The Urban Forestry office, under Portland Parks & Recreation, is leading the gathering. City foresters have created these visuals based on data recently collected by an army of volunteer residents trained to identify, measure, and chart our trees. The Irvington survey is part of a citywide tree census that, by fall 2016, will have engaged 1,300 volunteers and staff in surveying nearly 220,000 street trees.

Why worry? Isn’t Irvington one of Portland’s leafiest neighborhoods? Indeed, with 5,601 street trees, it is. But the grids before me are tracking our lavish tree canopy’s vulnerability to pests. One minute we’re seeing a map of fulsome green dots, each marking an existing tree. Next we view what tree loss would look like if Dutch elm disease, bronze birch borer, and emerald ash borer were to strike. Not a pretty sight, but plenty of trees still standing. Actually, bronze birch borer has already killed birches in other parts of Portland, and the city has lost about a third of its elms to Dutch elm disease, including at least one in Irvington, according to Jim Gersbach of Urban Forestry.

The coup de grâce is the final image. That’s showing what would be left of the canopy if the Asian longhorned beetle were also to hit town. The verdant ambiance that makes Irvington so special would be history: More than half our trees could be wiped out. The Asian longhorned beetle targets not only maples, which would be bad enough, as they make up one-third of Irvington street trees. This predator also kills birch, elm, willow, poplar, golden rain, London planetree, horsechestnut, and katsura. We’ve got an awful lot of these trees in Irvington. We’ve also got nearby ports delivering shipments that contain wood packing material from Asian countries including China—the likely source of the beetle’s U.S. debut, in New York, in 1996. 

Some might ask why our trees matter so much. They shade us, lower our energy costs, filter our water, clean our air, increase our property values, and provide wildlife habitat. They promote health and well-being. They are also monetarily valuable. City foresters estimate that every year Irvington’s street trees provide about $1.3 million in environmental services and aesthetic benefits.

The bleak scenario I first learned about in 2015 doesn’t have to play out if we prepare. To do that, we need to understand the range of current and potential weaknesses of our tree canopy. These were brought to light by the tree survey—the city’s first since 1976 and the most comprehensive to date. (To read the full Irvington Street Tree Inventory Report, November 2015, click on Data, Reports, and Maps at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/53181). 

According to that report, here’s the gist of our tree canopy vulnerabilities, listed by what can be done to address them:

  • Expand tree diversity. Planting a wide variety of tree types increases a neighborhood’s resilience to pests, pathogens, and climate change. Irvington does not meet Portland’s 5-10-20 standard for ensuring urban tree diversity. That rule refers to planting no more than 5 percent, 10 percent, and 20 percent, respectively, of any one species, genus, and family. More than 54 percent of Irvington trees fall into only two families—Sapindaceae (e.g., maple, horsechestnut, golden rain) and Rosaceae (e.g., cherry, pear, plum, apple, hawthorn, mountain-ash). Action needed: Increase diversity at the genus and family levels.
  • Fill our available but empty planting spaces. Irvington’s tree stocking level is at 79 percent—not bad compared to the city’s 60 percent. But we’ve got 1,401 empty spots that can accommodate trees. Action needed: Plant trees in empty planting sites, focusing first on placing large trees in large, empty spots, because big trees are key to getting the most canopy from the trees we plant.
  • Reduce underplanting in large sites. In Irvington, 73 percent of all street trees planted in large sites are undersized for their site. Together with Mt. Tabor, we are the city’s “worst offenders” in planting small trees in large sites, according to Urban Forestry’s Jeff Ramsey. This creates missed opportunities for reaping the multiple benefits of large-form trees. Action needed: Replacing all undersized trees in large sites with the right-size tree would add more than 100 acres of tree canopy. Doing this, together with planting trees in all available spaces, would increase Irvington canopy cover by 89 percent.
  • Plant more large-form trees including more conifers. Large-form trees such as oak and Douglas fir make up only 21 percent of Irvington street trees. These trees—growing over 50 feet high—cost the same as small-form trees to maintain, but live four times longer and provide many times the benefits of small ornamentals like the popular dogwood and snowbell. For instance, every year large-form trees remove 60 to 70 times more air pollution than small trees do. Annually a deciduous oak tree produces $505 in environmental and property value benefits, while a cherry tree yields $116. Planting more conifers would also help balance our current mix of deciduous and evergreen trees: broadleaf deciduous trees, which shed their leaves in winter, make up a whopping 95 percent of Irvington street trees. And in the words of tree expert Jim Gersbach, “When the leaves drop, the benefits stop.” Action needed: Plant more large-form trees, including evergreen conifers, in our estimated 470 large planting strips (identified in appendix J of the Irvington Street Tree Inventory Report).
  • Prevent canopy erosion by planting young trees to replace old ones. Our canopy lacks enough young trees to adequately replace aging trees. Action needed: When trees are dead or dying, quickly replace them with new ones.
  • Better maintain young trees. Proper watering and pruning helps increase the likelihood that young trees will reach their full lifespan. Money and time are wasted by planting trees without follow-up maintenance. Action needed: The 27 percent of Irvington trees with a diameter of six inches or less need monitoring: Pruning in the first ten years is critical to preventing breakage from storms and other factors. Pruning needs to be done correctly. The city offers pruning workshops to neighborhoods whose volunteer tree stewards or tree teams/committees request them. 
  • Monitor and replace our “poor condition” dominant trees. The good news (which you can surely use by now!) is that more than 94 percent of Irvington street trees are in good or fair condition. Of our most common trees, deciduous oak, linden, and sweetgum are the healthiest. The bad news is that a large portion (28 percent) of our overrepresented trees—such as cherry, hawthorn, and horsechestnut—are in poor and declining condition. We have 297 trees in poor condition and 28 that are dead. Action needed: Remove and replace these trees, many of which are in the two families that are overrepresented in Irvington, allowing us to improve our tree diversity. Monitor all trees rated as “poor” for safety risks and replacement options.

Taking these actions will require planning, education, and money. Urban Forestry staff can guide and assist neighborhoods that create tree teams to develop a plan to protect canopy, but the city budget for helping out is limited. In Portland, homeowners are financially responsible for maintaining and replacing the street trees on our properties. Buying new trees at low cost isn’t the biggest challenge. Residents can purchase new, city-approved street trees for only $35 by going through the nonprofit Friends of Trees, whose work the city subsidizes. However, homeowners are expected to pay to remove dead and dying trees before planting replacements, and this can be costly. According to the Irvington tree report, 27 percent of Irvington households are low-income.

Money aside, education is crucial. Street trees cannot be removed or replaced without homeowners’ permission. Implementing a tree plan will require educating neighbors about the community-wide benefits of a healthy tree canopy. 

Some neighborhoods have already formed tree committees, developed tree plans, and hit the streets. In Albina, for instance, tree team members knocked on the doors of residents living in distressed properties, securing permission to replace withering trees cost-free, through a grant the team secured after receiving seed money from the city. As a result, says Angie DiSalvo, Portland’s Urban Forestry outreach and science supervisor, dead cherry trees planted in the 1960s will be replaced with longer-lived species. The tree team then applied for a grant from a different organization, which awarded money to continue meeting Albina’s tree plan goals. 

Irvington is graced with some of the best tree canopy in the city, but with our trees comes the need to steward them. In Portland, that stewardship is a partnership between Urban Forestry and neighborhood groups. The 2015 tree inventory provides us with enough data to begin taking informed action. 

Toward that end, the Irvington Community Association has recently created a Tree Committee. For more information, see https://www.irvingtonpdx.com/. If you are interested in joining, please contact me at krubin317@gmail.com

Kyna Rubin is the Friends of Trees Irvington Neighborhood Volunteer Coordinator.

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Pre-Application Process, Irvington Land Use Committee

Irvington Land Use Committee Historic Resource Review Pre-Application Process
by Dean Gisvold

The Irvington Land Use Committee works with property owners and architects/design professionals to help Irvington projects through the Historic Resource Review process. Here are suggestions for using the pre-app process. 

  1. Please review the information on the Irvington Community Association website that explains the role and workings of the LUC, if you haven't done so already. That may answer a number of your questions. Go to http://www.irvingtonpdx.com/land-use-committee/ 
  2. The "pre-app" discussion is informal, but please keep in mind that any advice rendered by the Committee is strictly advisory. The City's Bureau of Development Services makes the decisions about what is reviewable and what type of review is appropriate. 
  3. Most folks who present to the Land Use Committee have handouts with illustrations of their ideas. For preliminary ideas, very basic 8-1/2 X 11" printouts of sketches should be fine. If your sketches can be made into a PDF, please email them to Dean Gisvold, the Committee chair, who will share the document(s) with the LUC members who will have a chance to review them prior to the meeting. 
  4. If a prior email to Dean is not possible, please bring to the meeting a copy of your material for Dean, a copy for yourself during the discussion and 5 copies to pass around. There are typically more than 5 members present, but we've gotten pretty good at sharing copies to avoid unnecessary printing. It is also helpful to have a few copies of inkjet printed photos of the "as is" condition of the property, especially in the areas planned for alteration. 
  5. Many of the committee members have been reviewing projects for more than 5 years, and some members have professional expertise in architecture and architectural history. 
  6. The way the meeting works is that when your time comes on the agenda, you'll be invited to sit at the chair's table to present your ideas. That's when you can hand out copies of your materials. If you feel your comments might be better understood with a larger copy on a piece of poster board that you can hold up and talk about, that is up to you, but not required for projects in a very preliminary stage. For major projects that are well into the design phase, larger copies that we can collectively talk about can be very helpful. The LUC members present (and any concerned neighbors who are attending for whatever reason), will have questions and comments. Dean will moderate the discussion. At the end, Dean will summarize what has been heard and discuss next steps. 
  7. The meetings are held in a lower-level chapel at the Westminster Presbyterian Church. Enter from Hancock Street at the canopy. All scheduled presenters will receive a formal email notice of the meeting which will include information on parking, the pass-code required to enter the building and the details of the location and meeting room. Meetings are scheduled from 7pm to 9pm; we must vacate the building by 9pm. Since we are not charged by the church, we strictly adhere to this time limit. 

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The R2.5 Zone and Achieving Higher Density in Portland’s Single Family Zones, a Position Paper

Introduction
The Residential Infill Project includes two Proposals intended to drive greater density into Portland’s single family zones: 1) By applying new rules to the existing R2.5 zones (requiring one residence per 2500 square feet of lot area) and 2) By opening the floodgates of demolitions in R5 (1 residence per 5000 square feet of lot area) to achieve R2.5 type density in R5 zones where the underlying lots of record were originally 2500 square feet. While we feel that there is some merit in the first proposal (Proposal 6 in the RIP draft recommendations), the second approach (Proposal 7 in the RIP draft) is a dreadful and misguided solution to a real issue that Portland faces.

While much is currently being made about the shortage of affordable rental housing in Portland, it is equally true that single family home prices are escalating rapidly throughout the city. The City’s mantra that the Millennial Generation prefers rental housing in the inner city is disproved by both local and national surveys that suggests Millennials want single family homes in walkable neighborhoods, regardless of whether they are in suburban or central urban areas. (See What Millenials Want and Why It Doesn’t Matter)

Even if BPS projections of future increases in the share of multi-family housing in Portland prove true, there are also projections calling for 28,000 new single family residences (SFRs) to be built in Portland to accommodate that part of our expanded population who will demand their own stand-alone homes in the next 25 years. To accommodate that growth, Portland right now should be building a net 1200 additional houses each year. Instead, we are building roughly 900 per year, and demolishing 300 to do it, for a net gain of just 600 additional homes... an under- attainment of 50%, which can only lead to further dramatic run-ups in already-unaffordable home prices.

The approach Portland Comprehensive Plans and actual base zoning designations have taken is to expand the coverage of the R2.5 zone, gradually “upzoning” existing R5 zones to accommodate double the number of residences in a 5000 square foot land area. In effect, the City aspires to the potential demolition and replacement of houses in these upzoned areas to gain a 2-for-one replacement rate, for a net gain in the number of SFRs. As with all such “aspirational zoning”, the actual accomplishment of the density goals has been left to the real estate marketplace, which has been slow to achieve the conversion. The RIP recommendations argue that a major reason for this slow rate of conversion to higher density has been the result of rules requiring a single family home to be built on a 5000 square foot lot after a demolition in an R2.5 zone. That led to the proposal to require one house per 2500 square feet in R2.5 zones when new construction occurs. While the objective is laudable -- realizing the intended density of the zone -- the problem is largely theoretical, since there is a lot confirmation process that allows 5000 square foot lots of record to be subdivided into two 2500 square foot lots.

Still, frustrated by both the slow pace of densification in existing R2.5 zones and the affordability crisis in the SFR market, RIP proposals seek both to further expand density in existing, already dense R2.5 zones as well as to target selected lots in R5 zones for lot splitting without changing their R5 designation. Both of the strategies can lead to dramatic increases in demolitions, first in R2.5 zones themselves, and, without justification, in R5 zones as well, based on quirks of underlying historic plats.

In the latter case, RIP proposals have focused on the historic 2500 square foot lots of record in R5 zones as a way to expand R2.5 zoning rapidly without the tedious public process inherent in the Comprehensive Plan and without the need to acknowledge the amount of available capacity already provided by existing zoning. The issue comes down to the fundamental question: do we throw away 25 years of thoughtful city planning and, instead, scatter-shot effective R2.5 zoning around the city, randomly disrupting R5 zones in pockets determined by quirks of historic development, or do we pursue a rational expansion of the R2.5 zones where the infrastructure and proximity to true high frequency transit support it, using the tools already available to the City? And do we explore ways to densify these rationally upzoned areas sensitively and thoughtfully to preserve as much as possible of the historic charm and livability of these neighborhoods. In general, the RIP proposals fall short in both cases.

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Response to the Preliminary Recommendations of the Mayor’s Residential Infill Project (RIP) Task Force

The Portland Coalition for Historic Resources is an ad hoc group advocating for the concerns of Portland's many Historic Districts and Historic Conservation Districts. The group also supports and advocates for the nomination of other historic districts in the City, recognizing Portland's unusual history among Western cities leading to a wealth of largely intact early 20th Century Streetcar Suburbs in the inner core. Those historic Streetcar Suburbs today are among Portland's most cherished neighborhoods and are not only prized places to live but also attract tourists from around the country.

PCHR members have reviewed the documents provided by the Residential Infill Task Force BPS Team and in general have grave concerns. We find that supporting information appears to have been hastily assembled, that the arguments in favor of the proposals lack factual basis, and to the extent that the proposal as currently set forth would be implemented, there is a very good chance of unwarranted disruption and dislocation within Portland’s already densely populated inner neighborhoods. We are also disappointed that the conveners of the RIP Task Force at the outset excluded the topic of Historic Preservation, thus excluding from the conversation any potential impacts on or conflicts with Portland's designated historic neighborhoods and districts.

Perhaps worst of all, the provisions seeking to achieve more “affordable” “middle housing” appear to offer false hope to the thousands of Portland residents who currently spend an inordinate amount of their incomes on housing. That said, we feel that there are some parts of the recommendations, which could, with some wording improvements, prove valuable to the City.

Summary of Concerns:

  • Proposal 1 - Limit the size of houses... - The one-size-fits all approach based on lot size is an overly simplistic solution that ignores experiences in other cities with more thoughtful approaches. The prospect of "variances" granted for exceptions could nullify the effect of the proposal. Proposed size limits in R2.5 zones on 2500 square foot lots are even more flawed then those for R5 zones and 5000 square foot lots.
  • Proposal 2 - Lower the House Roofline - Generally a very welcome concept, both in terms of measurement framework and absolute limits. Concerns remain as to reasonable flexibility where the context calls for it, consistent with protecting the integrity of the rules themselves in the face of poorly regulated variances.
  • Proposal 3 - Make Front Setbacks Consistent... - Another welcome proposal, but the wording needs to be fixed to avoid matching setbacks to recently built infill homes with inappropriate setbacks. No variances should be allowed to this regulation.
  • Proposal 4: Allow more units within the same form as a house near Centers and Corridors - A proposal which will achieve very little in terms of increases in affordable housing, while exacting an inordinate cost in congestion, loss of viable single family homes, and disruption of neighborhood fabric at locations scattered across the City. The relatively limited exploitation of the long-existing corner duplex rule suggests that this proposal would simply scatter a few units across the city where lower home values or special situations allow for exploitation of the rule.
  • Proposal 5: Allow cottage clusters on lots larger than 10,000 square feet. - A potentially useful concept when mass demolition of existing, viable single family housing is not required. Extending this concept to R10 and R20 zones, where such large lots already exist, could mitigate the density penalty of these suburban-style zones across the 6 square miles they occupy in Portland.
  • Proposal 6: Establish a minimum unit requirement for R2.5 zone lots. - This appears to be a solution in search of a problem. While it is true that if a home on a 5000 square foot lot in a R2.5 zone is demolished, only one house can be built -- if the lot is not legally split by the owner. Such splits, however, are commonplace. A reduction in the inordinate BDS charges for such splits could remove one significant stumbling block to these splits.
  • Proposal 7: Allow new houses on historically narrow lots - By far and away the worst, and most potentially destructive proposal in RIP. Puts many thousands of viable, relatively affordable, single family homes at risks in areas designated as R5 zones because their transit and infrastructure are designed for medium-high density R5 zoning, not R2 or higher density zones. Sadly, this proposal is supported by affordable housing advocates who seem to assume that the newly constructed skinny houses replacing the demolished historic homes will actually be lower in cost than the homes they replaced -- an assumption not supported by real estate economics or actual observation.
  • Centers and Corridors Concept - The amendment to the Comprehensive Plan goals to encourage "middle housing" along "centers and corridors" within 1250 feet of "high frequency transit", was poorly vetted and hastily adopted. Most egregious was the 1250 foot metric itself. Not only is it a radical departure from Portland planning practice, but also a mis-application of research findings relative to acceptable walking distances from high frequency heavy-rail transit like BART or the Washington METRO, to medium-to- low frequency bus routes. We recommend that no radical, new zoning allowances be introduced using the 1250 foot rule, and that, at most a 500 foot rule, applying only to bus routes with a minimum of 15 minute frequencies during peak hours, be used in high potential experimental sites.
  • Misreading of history - Proponents of the current proposals argue that single family zoning is a product of the 1950s with a possible racial motivation. This is ludicrous. Portland inner neighborhoods were shaped by strongly worded deed covenants made legal by a court case in 1879. These covenants protected property values in single family areas and were extremely popular with home buyers in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries because those buyers understood what most home owners today understand: that their home would be the single most important investment they ever made. Nearly all of Portland's inner neighborhoods were once covered by these covenants.
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Volunteer for the Home Tour and Get FREE Admission

The 34th annual Irvington Home Tour is May 15th, 2016. Volunteers are needed to staff the Tour homes during one of two shifts: 10:45a.m. to 2pm or 1:45-5pm. Volunteers interact with Tour-goers, answer questions, point out design details, collections, art, etc. A one-hour orientation will familiarize volunteers with their assigned home.

In exchange for service, volunteers may tour the other homes at no cost during their off-shift.

To volunteer email to volunteer@inrvingtonhometour.com

Grant High School's Constitution Team needs your help!

Irvington Neighborhood families!
 
As former Irvington School parents we know that you sometimes wonder where all this learning, friendship and joy that is engendered and built in the Irvington School community is taking your children. Although we have been fortunate (but not unusual!) to have seen and benefited from the many positive outcomes of the education our children received at Irvington School one exciting and unanticipated recent outcome we are a part of seemed to warrant sharing.
 
Six former Irvington School students, friends and acquaintances since Kindergarten, are part of the national title-defending Constitution Team at Grant High School. Part of a team of 29 students Irvington neighborhood residents Ellie Corser, Caroline Williams, Kate Tandberg,  Noah Cooke, Liam and Fischer Jemison will head to Washington DC in April to participate in the national “We the People” competition; http://www.civiced.org/programs/wtp.
 
The competition simulates a congressional hearing with the judges assessing the depth of understanding of the concepts and implications of the Constitution. What these participants are learning will serve as a solid foundation for their roles as both citizen and possibly civic leaders in the years ahead.
 
These former Irvington students (and their Alameda, Sabin, Beverly Cleary alumni teammates) could use all our help in getting there. The students are charged with raising nearly half the total cost of this $65,000.00 trip.
 
These students and we parents appreciate your consideration in supporting these and the other scholars. All donations are fully tax deductible and you can donate online athttps://grantboosters.schoolauction.net/con16/give.
 
Nathan Corser, former Irvington School parent and your neighbor

 

Written Testimony on Historic Preservation and the 2035 Comprehensive Plan - Before Portland City Council

by James S. Heuer, Chairperson, Portland Coalition for Historic Resources

Mayor Hales and Members of the Portland City Council, my name is Jim Heuer, and I write this as Chair of the Portland Coalition for Historic Resources. This volunteer organization represents the largest historic districts in the City, preservation activists, and the two major regional non-profits dedicated to historic preservation: the Bosco-Milligan Foundation and Restore Oregon. I am one of the PCHR representatives from the Irvington Historic District, and we have representatives from the Alphabet District, the proposed Buckman historic district, the Ladd's Addition Historic District and several neighborhoods which are not officially designated but are every bit as important historically at both the State and National level, including Laurelhurst and Eastmoreland.

PCHR representatives will be supplying detailed remarks on neighborhood-specific concerns, but here is the bigger picture:

Portland is an old city. Many people like to think of Portland as a hip and happening place, but much of its appeal to tourists and the influx of the creative classes is our built environment... our picturesque downtown and historic Old Town and Chinatown areas, our vast bungalow neighborhoods dating to the early 20th Century -- providing the same cozy, practical housing for the middle and working classes as they did 100 years ago, and the precious survivors of the halcyon days of the 19th Century when Portland was the richest city per capita west of Chicago. The numbers tell the tale -- if you exclude the areas annexed to Portland in the 1990s, the age of our housing stock is comparable not to that of western cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix or Houston, but instead to Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

And unlike cities like Cleveland, Buffalo, Philadelphia and others in the east with shrinking populations and a desolate historic core, our historic neighborhoods are vital, popular places to live -- cherished by their residents, appreciated by thousands of heritage tourism visitors, and drawing ever greater numbers of eager buyers – indeed their very popularity threatening the affordability, cultural diversity, and character that has drawn people to Portland in the first place. Moreover, they include some of the highest density areas in the City – many, like the Irvington Historic District, having a population density more than double that of Portland as a whole. But you'd never know this from reading the Comprehensive Plan documents.

Sure, there are some lovely goals and sub-goals that mention these issues, but in the proposed zoning, where the rubber meets the road, the Plan exhibits the same destructive one-size fits all aspirational zoning that has resulted in the current cacaphonous state of development in Portland... Development which has succeeded in disrupting the fabric of our traditional neighborhoods and business streetscapes while achieving minimal overall increases in the concentrated residential density required for meaningful reductions in transportation-based carbon footprint.

The problem is that aspirational zoning applies higher density zone designations wherever the planners hope some-day greater density might happen -- without regard to what is already there. The "hope" is that the real-estate market will produce the density and help the city achieve its carbon footprint reduction goals. Since the planners freely admit that the "realization" of the build-out of those areas will never approach 100%, the only solution is to over zone in hopes of someday getting to the desired density. Sadly, the result is a scattershot of higher density projects -- eroding the character of our neighborhoods -- without ever once achieving the critical mass of density to support 10-minute transit intervals or a major expansion of bicycle corridors crisscrossing the city.

But not only is the already-observed outcome of this scatter-shot approach to increasing density a failure... it is also a direct violation of state law. Portland is a signatory to an agreement with the State of Oregon and is thus designated as a Certified Local Government, which requires Portland to apply its zoning powers to protect and nurture its designated historic districts and to stay current on what parts of the city are or should be historically designated. The Comp Plan's refusal to align zoning with historic resource review guidelines covering thousands of contributing structures in both Historic Districts and Historic Conservation Districts is an affront to this legal commitment.

The Planning and Sustainability Commission and BPS have put increasing density at the forefront of all priorities. This priority has trumped the preservation of Portland's historic character, traditional neighborhoods, and cultural richness -- but un-necessarily so. The fine print of the Comp Plan admits that the Buildable Lands Inventory shows that current zoning designations provide for substantially more residential unit capacity than is called for between now and 2035. Moreover, the vast expanses of Portland that are currently zoned for R10 and R20 densities -- suburban or even rural density levels which have no place in a city aspiring to ever greater population density – encompassing at least 12 square miles of land within the city limits -- seem to have escaped the planners entirely.

The Comp Plan’s lack of attention to these issues is not due to a failure of the community to speak up. Neighborhood associations, and citizens’ groups, not to mention countless individuals via the Map App, have repeatedly raised these issues over the last several years. Nearly all such appeals have been ignored.

Our goal is to present specific requests to modify the Comp Plan to better protect our precious historic resources and the vital cultural and historic fabric of our traditional neighborhoods. We are asking the Council to take our concerns seriously and act accordingly by setting aside resources and time in the “fine tuning” stage of the Comp Plan to address the identified gaps in protection of historic resources in the current Comp Plan proposals.

 

Fill Your 2015 Summer With The Arts: Right Here In The Neighborhood

Culture is coming to us. This summer you barely have to leave home to get a whole spectrum of entertainment on our streets, in our parks and even up on our porches. Check out these nearby options.


PORCH MUSIC

Hang out with Porch Music. Usher in the summer with Third Angle New Music as Portland’s Irvington neighborhood gets its very own soundtrack. Five porches and five mini-previews of Third Angle’s 2015 / 2016 season, performed outdoors at some of Portland’s most beautiful homes.
The event will begin at Third Angle Artistic Director Ron Blessinger's home and audience members will be split into five groups. Five separate mini-performances will be held on five porches throughout the neighborhood, and the groups will rotate between them, enjoying the porches, meeting the neighbors, and experiencing some incredible performances. It's a bit like
the Irvington home tour, but with a different musical experience in each destination! Tickets: $35 Click here to purchase or call 503.331.0301
 

HISTORIC IRVINGTON WALKING TOURS

On June 13th the first Historic Irvington Walking Tour sold out. Don’t miss out on the next tour. There will be a total of four tours this summer led by neighborhood historian Robert Mercer with assistance from architectural historian and Irvington Historic Preservation Committee member Jim Heuer. All tours begin at 10am and last approximately 2 hours. Tours cover about 1.6 miles, so tour goers are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes.
There is a suggested donation of $10, payable in cash or check at the tour starting point. Funds raised by these tours support neighborhood history projects and the ICA Historic Preservation Committee.
To register for a tour, please email robert@househistorypdx.com, and be sure to specify the date(s) you are interested in. A maximum of 20 attendees will be scheduled for each tour to ensure everyone has a good experience. Additional tour dates are:

Saturday, July 18th

Saturday, August 15th

Saturday, September 12th


MOVIES IN IRVING PARK

The Irvington Community Association is helping to sponsor two movies for Irving Park this summer. Come meet up with neighbors, bring a picnic and enjoy the show. And as always there will be plenty of free popcorn!

Friday July 17th
The Imitation Game (2014) PG13 movie begins at dusk
Pre-movie entertainment begins at 6:30 PM: performance by The Definition & Brothers Jam

August 14th
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) PG13
Pre-movie entertainment begins at 6:30 PM: performance by Echoes of Yasgurs

 

SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK

Original Practice Shakespeare Festival will be in Irving Park for three performances this summer. Come check out this unique company whose motto is: Shakespeare should be a little dangerous The Irving Park performances will be at the top of the hill near 9th and Fremont -- East of the basketball courts, and West of the baseball fields, and North East of the dog park. Both Richard III and Merry Wives of Windsor are new productions for the seven year old OPS group and should be full of surprises.
Comedie of Errors – July 11th at 2pm
Richard III – July 11th at 7 pm
The Merry Wives of Windsor – July 12th at 2pm
Visit www.OPSfest.org for more information about the full summer season in Portland Parks.

 

MUSIC IN NEARBY PARKS

GRANT PARK – Portland Festival Symphony – Saturday August 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm

DAWSON PARK – N. Stanton & Williams • 6:30 PM
July 8 - Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Presents: Music-Community-Legacy - Remembering Janice & Linda
July 15 - Muthaship - Old School Grooves
July 22 - Tracy Fordice & the 8 Balls - Original, Soulful Rock
July 29 - Pilon D’azucar Band - Incendiary Havana Salsa

Possible grudge against Irvington results in neighborhood-wide sidewalk repairs

You can find the document containing the complaint data that the city sent us here

Last year a number of Irvington blocks were hit with sidewalk repair notices. The assessments were based on complaints filed by someone going by the name “Dan Wallace.” Whether Dan Wallace is a real person, we don’t know as the city allows anonymous complaints and makes no effort to verify a person’s identity or determine how many complaints that person has filed.

After a brief lull during the rainier months, the city again began assessing sidewalk repairs. A number of neighbors attended our February ICA meeting angry that they were being assessed, sometimes, thousands of dollars in repairs, sometimes for conditions that they did not view as dangerous for pedestrians, such as concrete pads in easements and driveway cut-outs. The consensus was that Commissioner Novick needed to change the process so that a single individual could not file an inordinate amount of complaints, targeting a single neighborhood.

I sent Commissioner Novick a letter asking for an in-person meeting with the neighbors. I stated that “homeowners in Irvington, and perhaps in other neighborhoods, are being subject to financial burdens due to the whims of a single individual who may have motivations other than concern for the welfare of Portland’s pedestrian population. An issue which many of the Irvington residents have raised is that the sidewalk code violations, while technical violations, don’t actually appear to be hazards. Thus, homeowners are incurring substantial expenses for almost no benefit to the city infrastructure. The only entities who appear to be benefiting are the sidewalk contractors.”

In addition, we requested that a moratorium be imposed until the policy is changed to requiring some combination of multiple complaints before action is required and/or a cap on the number of complaints a single individual can make, as well as some way to ensure that the sidewalk contractors are not the entities encouraging the complaints. When being interviewed last summer about this very same issue, Commissioner Novick stated that he would look into changing the process. A year later, and nothing has been put into place.

We also requested that the city revisit what is considered to be a hazard. It is not reasonable to expect a perfectly smooth sidewalk and the current standards are overly onerous for homeowners while providing almost no benefit to the population at large.

Finally, we requested that the Department of Urban Forestry coordinate with the Bureau of Transportation to develop a plan to encourage saving our tree canopy when sidewalk repairs are necessary, rather than continuing with the current policy which appears to be encouraging the homeowners to remove large healthy trees and replace them with trees which, even when mature, will have a far smaller canopy and thus smaller positive environmental impact.

Commissioner Novick sent the following response: “Mr. Cole – this is a frustrating issue for us. We have been looking into it but keep on running into concerns such as “what if we didn’t respond to a complaint because it was the person’s 300th complaint and it turned out to be a valid complaint and someone was injured?” And we need to be mindful of ADA requirements as well. My chief of staff, Chris Warner, has been looking at this along with PBOT and can give you a more complete answer. I am sorry about the delayed response to your records request. I would be happy to meet with you if I had anything useful to say, but right now I don’t know that I do!”

After some back and forth with the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), I sent a public records request asking for all sidewalk complaints made in 2014 and 2015 through March. PBOT sent us an excel spreadsheet, listing all of the complaints. The spreadsheet made it clear that all of the recent assessments by the city were a result of the same Dan Wallace. Apparently, all of the complaints by Dan Wallace were filed last year and the city is investigating block by block.

While the records show that there are a few hypervigilant sidewalk complainers, none come close to the number of complaints filed by Dan Wallace. Nor does there appear to be another neighborhood hit with anywhere the number of complaints that Irvington was hit with. In fact, right outside the Irvington neighborhood boundaries there are sidewalks in far worse condition. Thus, there is a suspicion that Dan Wallace has some issue with the Irvington neighborhood. Or, maybe he walks only in Irvington’s boundaries and thus is unconcerned with the condition of sidewalks outside those boundaries.

City policy should not allow for citizens to target specific neighborhoods. I am sure that Commissioner Novick, who lives in the Multnomah Village neighborhood, would not like it if an unhappy constituent targeted his neighborhood for sidewalk repairs based on their dissatisfaction with his governance. Nor should someone be allowed to target a neighborhood for more insidious reasons. As we stated to Commissioner Novick, removing the anonymous complaint allowance and limiting the number of complaints that a single person can make in a year would help prevent a person from abusing the system for reasons which possibly have nothing to do with pedestrian safety. We also advise revisiting what condition should actually require a repair.

Also, I encourage everyone who has had to make a repair over the past year to contact Commissioner Novick and express your thoughts as to the current policy.

Misconceptions About the Irvington Historic District


The following assertions were made on a website promoted by a committee of neighbors that filed a request with the State of Oregon in December 2014 for reducing the size of the Irvington Historic District. All of these assertions are either false or misleading.

They contend that the Irvington Historic District:

  • Was brought about through a process that did not require the approval of property owners or of the Alameda Neighborhood Association.

o FACT: The National Register Nomination process includes a lengthy period during which property owners may object to a nomination by filing a notarized letter with the State Historic Preservation Office. During this period, the contact information for filing objections was published, and meetings were held with notary public staff on hand to notarize letters of objection on the spot. During this period also, both the Irvington Community Association and by the City Bureau of Planning & Sustainability notified the Alameda Neighborhood Association of the planned nomination , and asked for their comment, which was never provided. However, the Federal nomination rules do not require agreement by neighborhood associations. Ultimately only 78 letters of objection were received out of over 3000 property owners.

  • Rezoned your property without your permission.

o FACT: No changes to zoning were applied. For example, if you have a property in an R1 zone, which allows up to 5 housing units on one 5000 square foot lot, you still have the right to have that many units on the property.

  • Requires Historic Design Review, with fees and delays, and possible rejection, for almost any alteration to the exterior of your home.

o FACT: Historic Resource Review is required for many exterior changes, however as of May of 2013 (before this committee’s statement was published), the City changed the rules so that common maintenance and repair work is completely exempted from HRR, along with such common alterations as adding storm windows, re-roofing, and so on. Many property owners consider Historic Resource Review an important protection of their property values.

  • Subjects your planned alterations to, subjective, “historic”, “advisory” judgments made by the Irvington Historic Preservation Committee and the Portland Bureau of Development Services.

o FACT: The Portland Bureau of Development Services conducts Historic Resource Review when it is required for exterior alterations. The Irvington Community Association’s Land Use Committee has taken on the responsibility to provide advice and guidance to property owners to ease their way through Historic Resource Review, based on their experience with hundreds of Historic Resource Review cases. It is true that the ICA (and the Alameda Neighborhood Association, the Grant Park Neighborhood, and the Sabin Community Association in their respective overlap areas) have the right to comment on HRR applications, but the vast majority of applications reviewed by the ICA Land Use Committee are approved with little or no comment. The Alameda Neighborhood Association’s Land Use Committee was asked if they wanted to participate in assisting home owners in the overlap area with the HRR process, and they declined to provide any such assistance. On occasion the Sabin Community Association does participate in the HRR process and provide comments to BDS.

  • Alters the marketability of your home for future sale.

o FACT: The marketability and price of homes in Irvington has been affected by the Historic District, but in positive ways for the current owners. According to Zillow.com, one of the leading housing price sites, Irvington property values have risen 9% points faster in the last 4 years than Laurelhurst, which has no historic district protections and a housing stock of similar age and quality.

  • Adversely affects affordability for property owners and tenants.

o FACT: Portland’s housing prices are rising faster than incomes and faster than prices in most metro areas in the US. There is much debate as to the cause of the rapidly rising prices. Some blame an influx of outsiders, with large amounts of home equity built up elsewhere, who are buying up the houses. Whatever the reason, the affordability problem in terms of housing prices and rents is a citywide one, and not specifically the result of the Historic District.

  •  Does not automatically or permanently reduce property taxes.

o FACT: No argument was ever made that property taxes would be reduced automatically by the Historic District. However, property owners who invest in rehabilitation of their property (even including expansion) may qualify for the Oregon Special Assessment. There is no limit on the number of properties which may apply for this program, and the minimum investment threshold is modest. Properties under the Special Assessment enjoy a freeze on the assessed value of their property for 10 years. While there are nominal limits to the amount property tax valuations may increase under Measures 47, 50 and others, those limits do not apply when significant investment in rehabilitation is made to the building. Significant tax savings are possible depending on a property owner’s individual circumstances.

  • Does not prevent demolition or “upsizing” of existing homes.

o FACT: It is virtually impossible to obtain approval for demolition of a “contributing”, e.g. historically significant, property in a Historic District in Portland. Only one such demolition has occurred in the last 10 years. By contrast there were 370 single family house demolitions in Portland in 2014 outside of Historic Districts. This number does not include the dozens of major remodels that were virtual demolitions removing all but a very small bit of the original home. Approximately 89% of all single family homes in the Irvington Historic District are listed as contributing. Non-contributing properties may be demolished, but the replacement structure must go through a rigorous Historic Resource Review process. “Upsizing” in the sense of adding another story or a massive increase in size of the home is unlikely to be allowed, at least for contributing properties, as there are clear requirements that new construction must be compatible in terms of “scale and massing”. Even in the case of non-contributing properties, expansions must be compatible in scale and massing with the immediate neighbors.

  • Does not prevent construction of tall, bulky homes.

o FACT: Tall, bulky homes may be allowed as infill in Irvington areas where historic houses already are “tall and bulky”. In other words, the Historic Resource Review requirements ensure that homes must be compatible with their surroundings, which means primarily with the immediate neighboring buildings. It is reasonable to allow a large home on a block of other large homes, but a massive house in a block of smaller bungalows would be very unlikely to pass Historic Resource Review.

  • Discourages or prevents some upgrades for energy efficiency.

o FACT: All Irvington homes are eligible for Oregon’s Clean Energy Works program to help home owners determine the best strategies for improving energy efficiency. The vast majority of improvements, like in-wall and attic insulation, higher efficiency furnaces and air conditioning, and the like, are not restricted in any way. The most common area of concern is in the case of windows. The ICA has worked with the Architectural Heritage Center to publish a guide-book on window weatherization, which explains how energy efficiency can be improved without removal of the beautiful, historic, easily reparable windows that grace so many of our homes. The reality is that the much-sought-after double glazing provided by brand new windows provides only a small part of the benefit from upgraded windows. Historic windows, economically rehabilitated to fit properly, seal air infiltration paths, and properly fitted with either exterior or interior storm windows (neither of which require HRR), can be as efficient as new windows – and more efficient than new windows that are installed without improvements in air infiltration around their frames.


February 2015

Learn More About Your House's History

Now that we have national recognition of Irvington’s historic significance, all of us living here have become more aware of our homes’ histories – the colorful stories that make our “place” unique.  But how can you learn more about your house?  There are some great on-line tools to learn more about your house.

A good starting point for your research is the Oregon Historic Sites Database  which is the official State of Oregon database containing information on all designated historic properties in the state, including all 2800 buildings in the Irvington Historic District.  Unfortunately, the database search tools have some problems, and the information you’ll find is coded, so here’s some clues to help you find your way:

  • To find an Irvington property, select the “City:” as “Portland”
  • Type in the Street Name (put just 18th for 18th Avenue or Siskiyou for Siskiyou Street) and select NE as the “Dir:”).  This will bring up a long list of properties listed by street address.
  • Under “Property Name” you may find a person’s name – that’s who the researchers believe to have been the first real owner and occupant of your house. 
  • “Yr Built” tells you when your house was built, based on the best available records. 
  • “Elig” tells you if your home is considered “Contributing.” The code is “EC”,  this means your house retains its exterior historic integrity.  Or it may be “Non Contributing.” The code is “NC”, this means it was built after Irvington’s historic period of significance that ended in 1948 or it was altered and is no longer historic in appearance. 
  • If your Eligibility code is ES, that means your house has been individually listed on the National Register because of its special historic importance.
  • Click the “form” button to get even more detail: This displays the full detail for your house from the database. 
  • Note especially the box labeled “architect and builder”.  The architect is known for well over 300 homes in the District and will be listed here.  Builders (who may also have been the architect) are known for about 800 homes, also listed here.
  • Finally, note the “primary style” box.  Here you’ll see how the architectural historians categorized the style of your house – possibly bungalow or Colonial Revival, among many others.  In some cases, you’ll see additional information in the “comments/notes” box. 
  • If you see the code “CG” there, that means that your garage was built during the historic period and is considered “Contributing” too.  You may also find more details there about the early owners or sources of information about your home.

Armed with the names of the original owners of your home and an idea of when it was built, you can tap into two of the great research tools provided by the Multnomah County Library on their website. You’ll need a library card to access these – but that is free.  The full list of research tools is found under the Research Tools and Resources tab on their website. 

Look for the Digital Sanborn Maps option.  The Sanborn Maps were once used by insurance companies to determine fire insurance rates.  Maps for 1908/1909 and 1924/1928 show Irvington and give you a clue as to when your garage was built and how your original front porch might have been laid out.   Here’s a helpful hint to save you some time: In the 1908/1909 Sanborn, you’ll find Irvington in Volume 3 in pages from 282 to 296.  In the 1924/1928 Sanborn, you’ll find Irvington in Volume 6 and you’ll need the Index page to help you find the page where your home is shown.  The Sanborn Maps show the original (pre-1933) street address of your house.  That is the key you need for the second great resource for tracking down history: the On Line Oregonian Historic Archive. 

In the Oregonian Historic Archive you can do a full-word search in every issue of The Oregonian newspaper from 1860 to 1981!  Try searching for the name of the first owner of your home if you found it in the state database.  Or try putting in your home’s original (pre-1933) address.  You may be surprised at what you find!  We discovered that the basement of our house was operated as a speak-easy in the early 1920s during Prohibition and caused neighborhood complaints for “drunken men and maudlin women” carousing nearby late at night!!

Have fun with your search!

By Jim Heuer, Irvington Historic Preservation Committee

The Irvington Historic District Boundary and Its Historic Justification

 A Nomination for a Boundary Decrease affecting the Irvington National Register Historic
District has been filed with the State of Oregon Historic Preservation Office. The intent of this
formal “Nomination” is to provide justification for removing much of the northeast corner from
the District. The basic rationale is that there is no historic association between the “Boundary
Decrease” area and the rest of the Historic District. The ICA Historic Preservation Committee
members have undertaken an extensive review of historic documents and newspaper coverage
from the historic period (1890 to 1948) to assess the validity of the rationale presented in the
nomination (“Boundary Decrease Document”). This research shows that the Boundary Decrease
Document makes a number of inaccurate assertions relative to the development of Irvington, the neighboring Alameda Park tract, and their relationship to the modern Irvington and Alameda neighborhoods as currently recognized by the City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement. This commentary addresses those inaccuracies to show that the actual historic facts do not support separating the subject area from the Irvington Historic District

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House Demolitions and "the Art of the Possible"

Politics has been called "the Art of the Possible", and this has been in vivid display in the effort by the grass roots organization United Neighborhoods for Reform (UNR) to better regulate and slow down the pace of demolitions of single family homes - currently exceeding 300 per year.

You can watch a UNR video showing how demolitions are affecting neighborhoods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqo-M8eFNXo&feature=youtu.be

As a member of the ICA's Land Use Committee who is volunteering as a member of the UNR steering committee, I've been a close observer of the work the group has done since its formation in the summer fo 2014.

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