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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 2, 2013 8:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was Gray Bees top Friars for Garden State bragging rights. The next post in this blog is Where's David Peel?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cr-apartment Sacrilege of the Week

The hideous bunkers just keep on coming all over Portland, but this one is really, really bad karma. Apparently the developer is a Lake Oswego guy who does business as "Exceptional Homes by André." Heaven help us.

Comments (22)

I tried the link and all I got was a blank, black page...
On other sites those homes all look extremely UNexceptional to me: just
"Poo-wood" boxes on small lots; more stack-a-shacks".

Unexceptional doesn't begin to cover it. They remind me of the early 70's when I took my day trip behind the Iron Curtain to East Berlin.

This is really disappointing news. Especially since there are still empty grass lots in the Eliot neighborhood that you could build on instead. While I'm more sanguine about having more rentals in inner Portland I wish they weren't all so uniformly ugly. Seems like other cities get much better looking buildings.

In my opinion:
This historic house must be saved. This is crazy making to destroy the character of neighborhoods. Who in the planning bureau has such hatred/disdain for our neighborhoods and our livability? We need to insist they be fired or start working for our neighborhoods. Or more to the point, who in Council has directed the planning bureau to go down the path of wide swaths left open for “almost anything goes now.” If the good codes were dismantled, they need to be brought back. Can we count on Hales to change his stripes? He was one who contributed to this downward spiral years ago. What did our community do? Let him back in our city chambers again!!
6B. and 6C.
This cannot continue without a huge show of people throughout the city from all these neighborhoods getting together pushing back to say "Enough is enough." Going to court involves huge costs draining people further and delays while meanwhile the “bloodthirstiness” continues. One can't just have a case and say we don't want this. It used to be anyway that one would have to find assignments of error in council procedure and you can be sure that in many instances, the city has that taken care of that so as to make it ever more difficult.
So unfortunate this is, I find it difficult to witness.

I really do find the destruction of this historic home heart breaking! How can anyone put a bulldozer to it? It is such a lovely crafted historic home. I don't know if it is in as good a condition as that photograph, if not, it certainly is worthy of restoration.

Thank goodness Andre's webmaster likes 'ambiance' The soothing music was positively soporific.

Jack, clever and amusing, but what I really wish someone would do is put together a serious website documenting the before-and-after effects of Portland's formerly prized classic and craftsman homes being demolished for these apartment and condo monstrosities, a site that hosts a growing collection of photos clearly documenting how Portland's famous "livibility" is being crapped on by the planner-banker-builder cabal in the name of "sustainability".

Andre's web photo provided some amusmement. There he was with his shoulder length bleached blonde shaggy hair wearing a gauzey/linen shirt.. sort of a Fabio wanna be look. This might sell some overpriced apartment buildings to a certain segment of investors....

No problem. Looks like there is plenty of street parking by the buildings.

Portland Native:

Be sure to download Flash Player so you can listen to the wonderful piano of the website.

UG! Please no more torture!
And to Bill...yes the former 'Soviet eastern block look' does come to my mind too!
Is that the lastest hipster thing?

Well, I guess taste is subjective. The apartment buildings in Jack's photo all look reasonably good to me, much better than what you usually see in the suburbs. (And much better than what I could afford when I was living in apartments.)

A large new apartment building is under construction in my neighborhood, and it will be a huge improvement over the semi-derelict houses and a liquor store that used to fill the block. Probably the context of the development matters.

I do have a concern with apartments that lack on-site parking, though there are trade-offs. Underground parking is preferable but drives up construction costs and rental rates. Surface parking looks bad (who wants to live next to a parking lot?) and isn't an efficient use of land. Maybe the policy choices aren't simple.

While attractive older houses are nice, I'm hesitant about telling property owners they can't replace a structure if they want to. I'm less hesitant about making property owners go through design review, preferably with design review guidelines that require architectural interest in the new structure.

Thank you, Matt. Give my love to Mom and Dad the next time you call for money.

"It is clear our old close-in neighborhoods are under attack from wealthy developers from the suburbs. We face architectural pillage by them because the city is promoting high density and has deaf ears for historic preservation." Roy Roos

I don't think it is just developers from the suburbs that are the problem, it is a fact of life with developers from everywhere. LO still has Williams Dame and White nipping at our heels lusting after Foothills wanting to out 9-10 story buildings there to urbanize our small town. So we have the same thing in reverse. References to LO are not needed.

The bunkers are going in as a result of the City's and Metro's buy-in to the whole New Urbanism, Smart Growth, TOD form of city planning. What looks ideal(istic) on paper rarely works out in real life where real lives and property are disturbed forever. You could say the PSU Urban Studies Dept. has a lot of blame for this state of affairs. Their ivory tower approach to planning that permeates CoP is all-encompassing and reaches into every aspect of the city's life.

The good news is that you get to elect the people who can change all of this. You have a new mayor. How can you influence him and the council to see what you see? What solutions do you have to their problems? If it were me, I'd invite them over for a friendly lunch to start. And then start thinking about the next open council seat.

Did Andre take his website offline? All I get is a black screen.

Sorry, Jack, I'm older than you. My mom is still hanging in there and sends a small box of sweets at Christmas but dad has been dead for 35 years. (And no, I've never received any inheritance or trust fund money.) I just happen to disagree with some of your aesthetic judgments. I looked at several of the apartment buildings listed on your picture using Google Maps. A few of them were kind of bland, especially those in bleak surroundings. I thought some of the buildings looked great, such as the new apartment building at SW 18th and Jefferson. Your mileage might differ, which is fine, but I'm not at all clear on what you'd consider an attractive apartment building.

Instead of taking potshots, it would be better to talk about how to design housing for those who need or want to live in apartments. For the reasons I mentioned before, I don't think the question of parking is all that simple.

So many cogent comments! Pls. attend the meetings re: comprehensive plan updates & speak. I will be too angry to speak but I will be there to sabotage BPS efforts to create various false impressions.

Matt makes some good points, but my question
to him is this: it's too late for design- the city is built out for the near future.

The question today is how to respond to the coming apartment bust. We need to put rules in place now to make sure those big flat-topped eyesores don't go to seed when the renters willing/able to pay high rents
fail to materialize.

Aesthetic judgments are one factor.
There are others and the complaint from many is that these developments are out of character of the neighborhood. Those that have invested in their homes now have a complex overshadowing adjacent homes, losing privacy, solar access, sun/garden space, etc. The street now has congestion and property values decrease. This is not what people invested in and for the city to later allow these is taking down the character of the area.

It used to be that in our Title 33 code, the approval criteria was that the projects had to fit in with the character of the neighborhood. Apparently those codes have been morphed to allow these bunkers. The planners have been busy throughout the years morphing those codes to accommodate the "redo look" of our city and neighborhoods as dictated by Metro, City and others who most likely have been behind the scenes.

Nolo, you have a new Mayor. In Portland, we have Charlie Hales back in, this time in the Mayoral seat, and as Planning Commissioner he orchestrated the changes towards “smart growth” and “redo” in the first place, so what can we expect other than a continuation of that agenda? Or will he have matured, willing to recognize problems of his earlier vision and change codes back to positive? Or once for "smart growth" always for continued "smart growth" no matter what negative results?

I shudder to think of what is in that elaborate comprehensive plan some have been so "busy" on and what next might be in store for our community.

Instead of taking potshots, it would be better to talk about how to design housing for those who need or want to live in apartments. For the reasons I mentioned before, I don't think the question of parking is all that simple.

The reason Portland is being destroyed is that this sort of comment passes as insightful. It's the kind of thing Opie Sten used to say, as he was setting the wheels of destruction into motion.

The population of the City of Portland is growing by only a couple thousand per year. High-rises are ugly and not necessary. You could house everybody in two stories, or three maximum. But that's not what the developers want to build, and that's not what the know-nothing planner types are taught at Portland State. And so on with the destruction we go.

Tear down houses from the 1890s -- it's okay, there's always somebody like "Matt" there to defend it.

Mamacita and clinamen raise lots of good questions and I don't pretend to have answers for all of them. Here are a few comments that I hope are helpful:

I think there is still a valuable role for design review, which is a useful tool as long as the design review guidelines are good. Part of the reason new development will occur is that there are still reasonable sized vacant lots, at least outside of downtown. My understanding is that cities within the boundaries of Metro are required to have a buildable lands inventory that can accommodate projected growth at various densities. I did a Google search using these terms and found lots of information on that topic: Metro housing inventory "buildable land"

There will also be redevelopment. The big apartment building under construction in my neighborhood involved demolishing an entire block of ramshackle houses and a liquor store. (I mean no disrespect to the people who lived there, but the houses really were a shambles.) Another upcoming development in my neighborhood will take out a run-down motel. Opportunities for redevelopment will vary by neighborhood, but they are out there.

What will happen if too many apartments are built and the market goes bust? I'm no economist, but one possibility is that developers and their investors will go bankrupt. Purchasers of the property out of bankruptcy will have a lower investment to cover and will be able to rent at lower prices. The city can use its nuisance abatement authority to require upkeep of apartments (and houses), though I suspect pressure from neighborhood associations is necessary to make this effective.

Regarding the impact of changed zoning (not to mention risks such as street widening), I have an unsolicited suggestion that will be cold comfort to existing home owners: really do your homework before buying a house. There are many books (at least there used to be) that discuss factors to consider when choosing a house. Zoning is a big one, as well as proximity to major streets and commercial development. Even keeping your distance from major streets and commercial development doesn't guarantee freedom from unwelcome surprises, but it improves your odds. I've discovered that some subdivisions, even old ones, have private deed covenants that restrict development to one residence per lot. It's a lot to keep in mind, but buying a house is a huge investment.

Moving past the cold comfort suggestion, I don't have anything to say other than I feel your pain. I lost my views to residential construction across the street (the real estate agent assured me those lots couldn't be developed) and lost my privacy to an "accessory dwelling" built behind my house. I didn't enjoy it, and my property lost some value, but I've moved on. I've learned, in several painful ways, that things don't always go the way you planned.

It seems inevitable that a city like Portland will see some growth, which I suspect is better than the alternative. The challenge is to promote good development rather than bad development. This is where it gets tricky since distinguishing good from bad can become pretty subjective. Remember when the city put the kabosh on snout houses? (Snout houses are houses where you can't see much of anything from the sidewalk or street except for garage doors.) There was controversy about that, but I have to agree with the city's call on that question. That's just one design issue out of probably hundreds, but it illustrates the importance of handling development the right way. I hope that Mayor Hales will focus on what constitutes good development and will promote that.

Sorry for the rambling post. There was a lot to cover, and I'm sure I still missed some of the points that were raised.

Mamacita,
I am not sure I have the fortitude for these comprehensive plan meetings after what I witnessed for years.
I do not agree with the extreme density agenda for many reasons and I don't think the ubiquitous compromise or mitigation avenue has really helped our livability as much as it has helped the planners to move the smart growth agenda forward.
Planners like to “sell” plans by using illustrations or words on paper - not the same as stark reality once built.

Matt,
I am all for good design, but in my view design is a word that I believe has been overused as a key/response to people that somehow the infill and congestion will get better and design will take care of the myriad of other problems associated.

There is more to the issue and no matter how good the design, it does not solve the problems of infill and congestion, such as if the building is really out of scale to the area, if no parking, if privacy in adjacent yards is lost, if the community cannot handle the infill, lack of parks, public safety issues, etc.

Randy Rapaport should be in jail by now. He is a liar and a massive diabolical thief who will stop at nothing for profit off the backs of others. Someday there will be a new "Portland Confidential" book out and I can promise you Randy Rapaport will be in the book. Would love to tell more but Portland is a small club with a very nasty hierarchy. If I could compare Randy Rapaport to a politician he would be George Bush during Katrina. Love the graphic.


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