Your next-door neighbor gets 5,000 votes

We are happy to live in a historic district. This designation keeps the developer weasels from tearing down any more historic homes around us and replacing them with their hideous "infill" shlock. It doesn't prevent the neighborhood from being tainted by those guys – not every property is "contributing," and the geniuses in our state legislature have prohibited cities from having single-family zoning – but at least our being called historic slows the weasels down and prevents their worst atrocities.

Surely there are downsides. If you want to replace the windows on your house, or change out an exterior door, holy smokes, is there red tape to go through with the arrogant bureaucrats at City Hall. And fees, oh yes, they always shake you down for the fees. But on balance, the historic district is a great benefit.

Not everyone shares our enthusiasm. When the signatures were being gathered for the district, I remember a couple from up the street ringing our doorbell and urging us to oppose it. I told them how I felt, and that they should support it before some clown puts an apartment bunker with no parking on our corner. The husband wanted to argue, property rights blah blah blah, but the wife cut him off and thanked me, and they left.

Every one of Portland's old neighborhoods would be wise to look into becoming a historic district. But they should be prepared to deal with opposition.

Which brings us to this ugly story out of the gorgeous Eastmoreland neighborhood in southeast Portland.

The dispute arose Southeast Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood, where a handful of owners created trusts allegedly carving their residential properties into 5,000 pieces. A four-year effort to create an Eastmoreland National Historic District was stalled when those so-called trusts outnumbered owners who supported the district.

The state is reportedly changing the rules so that this ploy doesn't work, but I'll believe that when I see it. And the property rights types will probably have other tricks up their sleeves as well.

Over the years, I've learned that in neighborhood land use battles, people play rough. There's no sense in being a nice person or caring what anyone thinks. You have to go for the win. Occasionally there is a compromise solution, but not usually.

Anyway, good luck to the historic district proponents down there in Eastmoreland. Do what you can to save your neighborhood from the shameless suburban idiots who will try to make a buck out of destroying it.


  1. Jack,
    Much like the gentrification I saw back in Hoboken and Newark NJ, the same has been happen here since the Gretchen and Sten days. It land use laws for connected people in power. We can do better here in Oregon and apply supposed historic rules ethically and equally.

    If you want to really protect history, our racist little City can started historic preservation n the Elliot Neighborhood with the largest collection of still intact late 1800’s and early 1900’s in all of Oregon. These are homes that are actually historic, not just palatial and fancy.

    Instead, we have historic designations in a few select areas with fancy homes. In places disproportionately lived in by connected Boomer white folks. If we expend our tax resources to administer fancy pants land use regulations for Charlie Hales’ home, Lewis and Clark law professors, executives, and other connected community members, would it not be ethical and fair urban planning to apply the same government policies in the actual historic area of the City of Roses???? The same area that is a most heavily impacted by the developer i”challenges you describe?

    Thanks for considering supporting policies that might actual start to be applied ethically and equally. Currently they are a waste of tax payers dollars for the connected and privileged to push shitty developers on the rest of us.


    1. I applaud any neighborhood that wants to take a shot at historic designation. Buckman, which is not a particularly rich place, was trying for it for a while. There was opposition. And take a look down there now – one apartment bunker after another.

      If the problem is bias among the politicians and bureaucrats, the solution is not to scrap the idea. It's to replace the politicians.


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