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.
The project next door has been going on now for over a year and a half. Very little of it could be described as “good” for our street. Between the profit hungry, rude developers who threaten neighbors, to the out of place monstrosity now looming over the quaint surrounding houses, to the heartless city government with its intentional ineptness—aiding and abetting the project while sacrificing Concordia’s character so as to rake in more revenue—the process has been utterly depressing for this native of NE Portland. Such projects are not simply about demolitions and new construction but instead reflect who we are as a city and sadly, many of the Portland values that led us to love this place are being destroyed as quickly as the old homes.
The only good part of this entry is that a new foreman now controls the job site. In an apparent “180” from all past experiences, he seem to actually care about the people impacted by this project. His first day on the job he apologetically came to my door to talk with me. It wasn’t a canned, corporate spiel but a real conversation. He said he was brought on to do the finishing work but would make sure to talk to us about anything from fences to tree lines. He seemed to truly be open to suggestions and indeed worked with me on the shared fence. He also made sure the job site was cleaned up, the outhouse was taken off my property, and the crews polite.
As much as I loathe the cheap monolith next door, he did not design the post modern, San Diego bread box nor did he decide to plant it smack dab in the middle of our quiet block. So how could I dislike him?
And it is exactly this sort of deference, along with an open dialogue with the neighborhood, that is needed to have progressive change in our town while protecting livability, history, and culture.
The finisher says he is like this because he lives in a similar neighborhood in SE and tries to imagine if this was happening next door to his family. Unfortunately, his attitude is rare and there are no regulations from the city to ensure those who care only about ballooning profits without connection to the community will be so thoughtful.
Graveling over paradise path
Like many blocks in Concordia, ours has an alley. It was a green corridor with some unkept places, but pretty with flowers, trees, and grass making it a little nature trail. But not anymore. The City decided the duplex must have off-street parking accessed from the alley; therefore, the entire length had to be leveled, graveled, and at the entry points, paved.
The developers did not want to pay for it and even ironically argued the neighbors wouldn’t like it. The City inspector said he didn’t care. The alley was City property and they could do with it what they wanted. To the chagrin and detriment of just about everyone, the alley way is no longer green and in the summer the rocks will be piping hot. Because it is still a narrow, hard-to-access alley, we all expect the new owners to park on the street anyway.
Outraged? Here’s what to do
Contact Portland City Council, get involved with the neighborhood association, start a petition. The question is not if we change but how we change.
Luke Griffin is a native of Northeast Portland. A committed social and environmental activist, he has written for numerous publications, dedicated time fighting for civil rights in housing, served on the CNA board, and utilized world-bridging communication and management skills for the positive betterment of society. He is currently a freelance writer and is completing his Masters of Teaching at Concordia University. Reach Luke by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.