By Luke Griffin
Everyone in Concordia has had the opportunity to watch a house be torn down to make way for new houses, duplexes, and skinnies, for better and/or for worse. This is the continued chronicle of my personal experience.
Construction on the modern brownstone has been going strong now for months. It is a daily part of our lives that impacts the entire street. Whatever it is, my attempts to remain neutral and not let it bother me are beginning to break and I think it is time for a good rant rather than a building progress report.
The building is an eye-sore blotting out the sun and supplanting green space. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but there are some features to this development that are simply factual. On a street of quaint houses, this cubist design is like a large brick in a bed of round river rocks. The size of it is out of place as well, a bulking square cutting the neighborhood in half. The building itself is placed the bare minimum 10 feet from the sidewalk and 5 feet from the side property line. On a block of pretty front yards that is used to being filled with playing children and floating butterflies, this thing juts out breaking up the pleasant view of the middle class dream with all of its hulking indifference. There is no front yard, the classic feature which makes NE Portland neighborhoods so pretty and beneficial to the environment. For a city wanting to increase green space by 30%, this project seems like a total affront to our values and utterly disconnected from the neighborhood.
I take issue with the lack of notices we receive from the City and developers. Throughout the entire process we have received a total of two notices before the work began. However, since work has started we have found our street repeatedly closed, our cars often boxed in by double parked semi trucks, and the road itself torn up and poorly patched. I don’t really mind the street closures and loss of parking, as I understand their necessity during construction, but it would be nice to get some advance notice as we go along. Some people think we may benefit from the new house because, thanks to this awesome development, my home’s value will increase! This, however is a bit misunderstood and is often used as an excuse for the continuation of these ill conceived projects. It is actually my house and the houses around, along with our vibrant community, easy accessibility to local businesses, and generally lovely, connected, close-in neighborhood that motivates builders to demo and devo in the first place. I am also not planning to sell my house anytime soon. Maybe my home value will be increased because of the duplex next door by the time I sell. Then again, maybe the value would have appreciated anyways. It is completely hypothetical at this point.
As I get to the end of this entry, I realize in the greater context of the world’s problems, how Portland does residential development is a pretty minor thing. However, framing the issue as a pro vs. anti argument is an overly simplistic way to stifle any sort of discourse about regulations. I am not against building but I personally believe it should be in harmony with the neighborhood it occurs in. Portland’s few regulations mean that huge monoliths can replace quaint homes. For those who make the argument that an owner should be able to do whatever they want with their property, my perspective is this: the Ayn Randian, me-only paradigm sells-out and otherwise diminishes core Portland values such as interconnectedness, community building. These homes price out the poor and working class as well as detract from the aesthetics and livability of Concordia. I believe we can do better to maintain unique Portland neighborhoods and protect our most vulnerable neighbors while allowing thoughtful and mutually beneficial construction to occur.
Part 6: Flooding concerns, Sunday workday, nasty interactions, and garbage.