Meet me at the wrecking ball
The Multnomah County property at SE 20th and Morrison in Portland has been in the news quite a bit lately. There's a derelict county building and parking lot on the site, which used to be a burial ground for Chinese immigrants many years ago. It's on the southwest corner of the Lone Fir Cemetery, where the remains of many of Portland's more prominent founding mothers and fathers rest. The Chinese, who did all the heavy lifting, were put in their own place on the corner.
Like seemingly all space within the city limits, the lot was being looked at pretty hard recently by developers, who envisioned yet another ugly, bulky, out-of-place, but lucrative condo complex. The county, hard up for money, seemed about ready to go for that idea, and yet another round of Buckman Neighbors vs. West Hills Unelected Powers was about to begin.
But for years, people who are especially attuned to other-worldly phenomena said they were convinced that when the existing building had been built in the late 1940s, although the construction crews said they had exhumed and moved all the bodies, in fact they had missed some. And when the county had archeologists check last week, lo and behold, there is at least one poor soul whose earthly remains have rested under the parking lot for many decades.
So now the site has historical significance, and the Condo People have to go find some other corner to cash in on. But the county's task of getting rid of the property has gotten much more complicated and expensive. There's hope that money can be found somewhere to create an on-site public memorial to the Chinese ancestors who were, and apparently still are, buried there. Let's hope so. Those folks deserve our gratitide for their contributions to our city and region, and look, now they may have even saved the beleaguered neighborhood from one more ugly building.
All this reminds me of the one time that I visited that county building on official business. It was around 15 years ago, when a friend of mine had asked me to handle an appeal of her property tax assessment. The county had appraised her condo at $10,000 more than she sold it for right around the assessment date, and she thought that wasn't fair. It wasn't. So off I go, naive young-ish lawyer, to plead her case. The case was to be heard at 20th and Morrison.
I parked on top of the Chinese immigrants, about whom nobody was talking in those days, and got ready for my big spiel.
I walked in to the appeals board hearing room, where as I recall I found three or four very grouchy, white-haired people sitting behind the head table. I was informed I would be allowed to speak for one minute. That's right -- one. As in 60 seconds. So I did.
My friend had just sold the condo for $10,000 less than the assessed value. "Did she sell to a relative?" a gruff old codger on the panel snapped. No, I replied. "Why did she move? Was she forced to sell?" No, she got a job in Seattle and moved up there. She had the condo on the market for quite a while before a buyer showed up. "Huh. Thank you. We'll mail her our decision." The guy left off "Now get the hell out," but there was no need to actually say those words. I got the message.
My friend mostly won her property tax appeal, but as I recall, they re-assessed at a thousand bucks higher than what she sold for. I guess they showed us, eh? Jerks.
There's nothing but bad karma all around that building. Having the greedy developers hovering around with dollar signs in their eyes over the last year or so has only made it worse. The sooner it is taken down, and a suitable memorial park constructed, the better for all concerned.