This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 9, 2007 8:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was Another urban renewal "success" story. The next post in this blog is Think I'll Pass. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Something is terribly wrong

On my way home from dropping off my ballot at the Albina branch of the library last evening, I saw in the glare of a brilliant sunset a sight that nearly made me fall off my bicycle:

There on 16th Avenue, where an old house had once stood, it appears that someone is finishing... OMG... a new house that fits in with the style and character of the neighborhood! Not only that -- to my untrained eye, it looks as though it might even be a single-family house. And is that the driveway that they've left intact? As if the people who are going to live there might actually own a motor vehicle?

We all know that this sort of thing is not tolerated in Portland any more. I'm sure the Planning Bureau, the Bureau of Development Services, the Mayor's Office, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the Office of Sustainable Development, the Portland State Urban Planning Program, Metro, and the Portland Development Commission will get on this case right away. That monstrosity needs to be red-tagged and demolished immediately in favor of something greener, smarter, and more like Vancouver, B.C. Get your anti-gentrification picket signs ready! And if anybody has the stupid idea of moving kids into that prime infill site, he or she's got another think coming. Go by streetcar -- or else!

Comments (27)

Good thing Gragg left the "O". If he hadn't, there'd be a feature this Sunday about how misguided and unsustainable this home is.

That's a great looking house! I had thught you were going to say it was being renovated or had been moved. It's great to see designs like that being built new.

Next time you get down to Salem, check out the house on the Southwest corner of 17th and A streets NE. It's a duplex that's about three years old, and it's an absolutely beautiful modern version of a style from a hundred years ago. Makes me weak in the knees just to look at it.

It should be called Gragg Manor.

personally, i don't feel compelled by new homes done in a historic style. generally they look pretty cheap to me, when you compare them to the originals around them you can see the differences.

i would much rather see a home done in a contemporary style using the best possible materials of today, with the best possible construction of today. i think its more honest and fits in better with the character of irvington. when i think of irvington i think of top of the line homes, not cheap imitations.

if you look at the detailing that is already on that house, the lack of craftsmanship is annoying.

also, i've never seen a "unified style" for irvington. i see lots of tudors and lots of arts and crafts, colonials, even some capes, some mediterranean influences here and there. all totally different styles. to me what unifies them is quality and care of construction.

seeing someone cheap out on a home just to fit an ill conceived notion of "fitting in" makes me a bit sad. that home is gonna stick out in 10, 20 years. and be worth a lot less.

whereas a great 21st century home would be a much more valuable addition to the neighborhood.

not bad.

what will the post-post-post modernists hate, i wonder? to some, the Portland Building already looks--nostalgic.

which, i feel, is sweet revenge on the narcissism of form over function.

"to some, the Portland Building already looks--nostalgic."

I don't think I'll be able to feel properly nostalgic about the Portland Building until after it's been torn down.

mmmmm particle board...smells like glue. Still, I've seen worse...

Here's a great on that I pass by every day (look east for the third house west from the 28th / Thurman intersection). This was built from the foundation up as new construction, but is totally in character with the houses around it. They even saved the mature street trees.

Funny, I lived in an old 1910 house in SE Portland for several months, and it was by far the worst piece of sh*t I have ever lived in.

It got COLD during the winter, with absolutely no insulation in the walls, hotter than hell in the summer, all of the windows were on the north side (the house faced north) - making it dark as a cave. The bathroom got excellent sun on the south side of the house.

Gas and electric bills average $200 EACH in April (higher during the winter - approximately $300 each in december) for a 1200 ft^2 home.

Give me a house that is appropriately designed to face the sun and bring in light and heat; a photovoltaic array and solar water heater would be quite nice as well.

Anyone who is against making your house well-lit, comfortable and pleasant to live in... not to mention environmentally sustainable... you are living in a cave.

George, I suspect by "contemporary" you mean "plucked from a typical Tualatin subdivision" --if so, no thanks. Jack's example above is to my eye vastly better than 9/10s of what gets built in my part of Portland--Hawthorne/Mt Tabor--in that it seems to conform to the setback and main floor height of its neighbor, has real eaves and a pleasing roof slope, and doesn't have a garage door in sight.

There are "new old Portland" homes going up all over North Portland. Single family, with driveways and detached garages.

I appreciate the nod to the traditional, but most of them are indeed constructed of the cheapest materials: oriented strand board, vinyl windows, etc.

Love the economical box house. They are, by far, my favorite. What is better than vinyl windows when you include cost and performance? Ours have that UV tint.

Also, is your car of more value than grass, trees, etc - stuff you won't have as much of if you build a big ol' garage?

My boyfriend's classic box house - it has a detached garage that we use to, among other things, rebuild the house:

If it was right next to me I would want it to be fake old with the best materials available being used (got to protect that house value). If it was down the street I would prefer a different design that made more use of passive solar and other energy saving techniques we’ve learned about in the past eighty years. If it was around the corner I would support an attached house like the ones just off sixtieth in Tabor (don’t know the builder but they are very well done). I love this neighborhood and want somewhere to move to when the dog dies. I’m bored with taking care of a 5k lot, plus I do love density. I know, hypocrisy in action, but what can you do?

Subtleties are a lot like quarks.

Our current house in the Brooklyn neighborhood was built in 1895 (or thereabouts) and not in any historically significant architectural style. Even before a horribly failed remodel, it was terribly inefficient to heat and the windows are not placed well so the place is rather dark. We thought about the remodel route, but figured every single wall in the place would have to be torn into and therefore brought up to code. Plus, we don't think we could ever make that house energy efficient no matter how we remodeled it.

So, we're at the front end of the process of having our house completely torn down (to the mud) and a new one built in its place. It helps that I have 12+ years of equity in the place. But we have also chosen a house that will "fit into" the neighborhood. Here is a link to the basic plans:

If all goes well, I'll be taking the plans to the city next week to start the permit process. Wish me luck!

Subtleties are a lot like quarks.

My favorite flavor of quark is charmed.

going up on the next block over from our house, on a twenty-five foot wide lot? A new house! Three stories tall!

Of course, it's replacing a twenty-foot-wide shotgun shack that had been inhabited by a gun-toting nutball, so the neighborhood is net better off, but still...

Sherwood, if you mean the attached houses on Yamhill below 60th, they are nice, but can you see yourself on one of their second-story rear decks, basically hanging 15 feet in the air over the back yards of the single-family houses on Belmont? By the way, a really good-looking fake Craftsman has gone in across the street from them.

Look at a house like 1731 SE 42nd. How does a monstrosity like that get built on the single unbuilt lot in a block of charming, varied but congruent houses?

At least in SE Portland, almost everything being built that isn't a good fake is either a bad fake, or worse. So bring on the good fakes.


That sounds like the houses. I don’t know about that exact situation but the idea of nothing but a small deck sounds fantastic right now (can you tell I’ve been hacking back privet hedges). My six-year-old daughter has used the back yard ten times in three years. All the kids play in the front, which is good, and what we were looking for, but that makes the back a very expensive dog toilet that keeps growing.

I'll take a look at the other new place. Is that where a house burned down? It's normally the windows that make or break a new fake house. Off the shelf ones, like the house above, have the wrong scale.

"I'm sure the Planning Bureau, the Bureau of Development Services, the Mayor's Office, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, the Office of Sustainable Development, the Portland State Urban Planning Program, Metro, and the Portland Development Commission will get on this case right away."

Just to defend my old buddies at BDS. The Planning Bureau writes the Zoning Code and the International Residential Building Code gets imposed on us by the legislature. The only thing BDS does is make sure the building complies with all the codes.

They don't write them they only enforce them.

Greg C

Sherwood, that is the house I mean. Check it out.

About the decks, I just mean I would be pretty cranky if someone built special extra-dense housing on the less busy street behind me, that had people floating in the air over my backyard--even if they were nice people. I'd be pretty cranky if I lived on SE Clay behind the mammoth H45 condos, and my yard was being used as a scenic backdrop for decks 32 feet in the air, too.

I like density, in principle, but what if we had tried to accomplish it by building out every existing neighborhood more or less along the lines of what was already built, rather than pushing every single project to the limits of the zoning? Maybe density would be, like, really popular.

for the uninitiated, there is no place in Portland that is becoming less dense.

every area is becoming more dense--it's just a matter of degree.

so, if you like density, you're in the right place. if you like 5000sf lots and some semblance of personal space--sorry, you're out of fashion. growth is smarter than you.

"most of them are indeed constructed of the cheapest materials: oriented strand board, vinyl windows, etc."

Well you can't expect houses to be built with CVG timber and wood windows, they'd be prohibitively expensive for most folk.

Not all of us are government employees, ya know.

P.S. I love the fact my house sits on an 8000 SF lot. It affords plenty of privacy and a safe place for the kids to play.

I have no idea of why people wouldn't use James Hardy siding. You can get lap siding (about 8 inch planks) at a little over the cost of T11. I spent a little more and got the smaller 5ish inch planks because I have a very short house. Stuff lasts 50 years and holds paints wonderfully. The little yellow house has the siding on it for over 12 years now - love it. Yet many historic districts don't allow it. I don't get that.

Also, the wood windows don't last as long and are not as efficient. Not that I like plastic but sometimes the trade of is a no brainer to me.

"I have no idea of why people wouldn't use James Hardy siding."

No doubt. I re-sided sections of my house before painting last year. 10"x3/4" beveled cedar siding runs around $1.50 a foot -- and that's for the crappy stuff. If you want clear, it's over $3.

I would definitely use Hardy Plank on a newly constructed house.

And regarding OSB:

"So all things considered, maybe it's impossible to say which product is better. The main thing is that you can use OSB or plywood for sheathing the roof, siding, and floors of your houses and rest assured that either product will perform admirably and up to code."

From here: http://storm-resistant-products.ebuild.com/guide/resources/product-news.asp?ID=134260&catCode=0

OSB - just don't build houses in the rain with the OSB exposed then close it up by putting roofing on it or siding without letting it dry out. A development down the road from the yellow house does this regularly and we just shake our heads.

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