Hales hands demolition fix to Fritz

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Neighbors upset by infill projects gird for tussle on city proposal

Mayor Charlie Hales has reversed course and now says Commissioner Amanda Fritz is taking the lead on the home demolition issue.

The switch, relayed by Hales’ spokesman Dana Haynes, comes after Hales told the Portland Tribune that his staff was working on the issue and that he would be making a proposal to preserve historic homes in “weeks, not months.”

The reversal also comes as neighborhood representatives have scheduled a meeting to discuss presenting their own proposal to the City Council to slow the demolition and replacement of single-family homes with one or more larger houses across the city. It is open to the public and set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 9 at the Grant Park Church, 2728 N.E. 34th Ave.

“We hope that neighborhood representatives can come together and make a proposal to the City Council that will slow the demolition and replacement of existing homes that is destroying the character of neighborhoods across the city,” says Al Ellis, former president of the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association, which is helping to organize the meeting.

Hales made his comments to the Tribune following an emotional July 31 hearing before the council during which dozens of city residents deplored the increasing demolition of existing homes for one or more larger new houses. The Bureau of Development Services issued 273 residential emulation permits last year and is on track to issue substantially more this year.

Hales said then that he was impressed by the testimony and had assigned his staff to look into the issue and make a proposal after the hearing. But last Thursday, Haynes said Fritz was in charge of it.

“We’re not moving ahead of the commissioner on this. We try to be very respectful about the process. Commissioner Fritz is on this,” Haynes says.

Fritz oversees BDS, where a review group, the Development Review Advisory Committee, is studying what, if anything, should be done about the increasing number of residential demolitions.

Ellis says DRAC has little creditability among neighborhood activist because it is dominated by developers, however. It is chaired by Jeff Fish, who owns a company specializing in infill developments. Fish has said he does not believe demolitions are out of control, although he believes developers should do a better job notifying neighbors and making sure to mitigate such hazards as asbestos and lead paint.

Fish’s committee is expected to issue some recommendation before the end of the year. That is not soon enough for Ellis, however.

“Those of us in the neighborhood associations are hearing from residents every week who are alarmed by what is happening,” Ellis says. “Something needs to be done now.”