Portland Dispatch January 31: Great Reset PDX

The Portland City Council voted last Wednesday to take over the city’s designation of historic properties to allow in more development that will densify and diversify Portland’s historic neighborhoods.

The changes include more flexibility for developers to build affordable housinog in historic districts and adapt existing historic properties to accommodate more residents. They also require a stricter review of proposals to demolish property within those districts…

Under the new rules, the City Council would locally decide which landmarks or neighborhoods are historically significant and given special protections under city code. Until now, those protections were conferred to properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is administered at a national level.

Some proponents of the code amendments said it would allow the city to recognize landmarks significant to communities whose history in Portland has received little recognition — including the city’s Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities.

“I’m eager for a new era of historic inclusivity,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who also oversees the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

The new rules will allow more housing density in historic districts than a typical Portland neighborhood, by permitting multiple homes on the same property or multi-unit plexes not otherwise allowed by the zoning code. It will also make it easier to build rent-restricted affordable housing in historic districts for low-income residents.

The changes were four years in the making and will go into effect on March 1…

In the near future, he said, the city expects to discuss making historic designations for places that are significant to Portland’s LGBTQ community.

And while there are no immediate affordable housing projects that have been proposed, he said there are a few ongoing developments that offer a blueprint for how developers might use existing buildings and adjacent vacant property to build affordable housing. He cited the Anna Mann house, a historic building in the Kerns neighborhood that is being redeveloped as apartments for low-income residents.

The Anna Mann House project is adapting what was originally the Anna Lewis Mann Old People’s Home, donated by settlers and which resembles a well-tended insane asylum, into housing to give 128 low income residents access to the resources of an affluent neighborhood:

The Anna Mann House is a historic Portland property located in the amenity-rich Kerns neighborhood, adjacent to Laurelhurst. Redevelopment of the Anna Mann House will provide low-income households, including immigrants and refugees and other communities of color, with the opportunity to live in a location packed with supportive amenities offered by the Kerns/Laurelhurst area, including grocery stores, highly rated public schools, three city parks (Oregon, Laurelhurst and Grant) and the Northeast Community Center. The site is steps away from the Sandy high-frequency bus line and three-quarters of a mile from the 42nd Avenue MAX station. In addition to bringing much needed affordable housing to the neighborhood, the project will also drastically increase density and ease the impacts of gentrification. Luke-Dorf, Inc., a community based mental health provider, will provide supportive services on site and Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) will provide outreach and referral services. The Anna Man House redevelopment is targeted for completion in three distinct phases: the South Addition in mid-winter 2023, the East Addition in late-winter 2023, and the existing Anna Mann House in early spring 2023.

Portland previously valued and celebrated the settler (read: colonial) history that is now officially anathema and was targeted first with violence by rioters in 2020 and then with legislation by their political allies in power. Politicians wrote into policy the goals and even tactics–such “social justice oriented graffiti” and vandalism–of anarchist rioters. Their means and goals will guide the city in the removal of offensive works as they are identified, as we replace our old history with our new one, which is BIPOC and LGBTQ and Black! all over.

The original draft proposal for the now official Historic Resources Code Project is typical of policy documents now, invoking Equity heavily in pressing for ever-more density and development in “white” neighborhoods and the preservation of black neighborhoods and historic landmarks from gentrification.

People and federal money still migrating to Portland fund the continuing project to remake the city through re-zoning and development despite the city’s hollowed-out downtown core and bruised image. High rise apartment projects, always with a low-income component, are still going up around town. Meanwhile the cost of housing seems unaffected, and Portland is looking at an increase of about ten percent this year–which is “slow” relative to other cities in the US right now, according to the above-linked report. But unlike most of those other cities, Portland saw no declines in the cost of residential real estate during the Covid and George Floyd campaigns despite the collapse of downtown business and retail leases.

The reset proceeds here.

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