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