Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Followup on Irvington

The new issue of the Hollywood Star has further reporting on problems between the Irvington Community Association (ICA) and the city over the Historic Preservation District.  The story is worth reading in its entirety, but sadly is not available online as far as I can tell. The gist of it is that there are two issues:
  • The current fee schedule represents a "doubling" of cost per the ICA
  • The ICA is dissatisfied with what actions trigger review and what do not.
No offense, but buyer beware.  By doing what it did the ICA voluntary subjected Irvington to the whims of the city's review process and its expense.  There is no exception in the city code that says review will follow exactly what the ICA wants at exactly the price ICA thinks appropriate.  That point is obvious, and it should have been obvious to everyone involved last year.  But focusing on the ICA misses the real culprit, which is evident in a parallel story about the Buckman neighborhood's pursuit of its own historic register listing.

Per the Buckman story the only way a register listing can be opposed is if a majority of property owners send a notarized letter of opposition.  Read that twice- they aren't saying a majority of people who write in, but an absolute majority of all property owners have to send notarized letters opposing the designation to shut it down.  That burden is so insurmountable that the state doesn't even include the possibility in its process flow chart.  It's a process so slanted to produce an "approval" it would make union organizers blush.

No wonder the Irvington listing passed, there was no way it couldn't.  The process doesn't imply real consent, it is designed to provide a fig leaf of consent while passing the listing.  I'd expect to see something like that in a history of Jim Crow South, not living in the flesh in my state government.

This brings me back to a quote in the original posting on Portland Architecture,
[an architectural historian and Irvington Preservation Committee member] said the Portland currently counts 5,277 buildings either in historic districts or individual landmarks on the National Register – all of which require design review for exterior alternations.
That list could grow substantially in the future. Citizens are either gathering data for potential historic districts in the Buckman neighborhood and are investigating that option in at least two others.  Under  national historic standards, [the historian] said 85 percent of buildings in North and Northeast Portland west of 82nd Avenue could qualify as eligible for historic protection.
Much of inner Southeast Portland is basically of the same vintage, so potentially the entire inner east side could be put off limits to development.  How does that square with the urban growth boundary, which demands urban infill?  How does that square with Oregon's property tax limits, which demand redevelopment in order to sustainably fund city services?  How does that square with the premise that the Portland metro population will double in the next 30 years?  There is a serious disconnect here...

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