Pushing back

The people who fought, more or less unsuccessfully, to stop the Portland City Council (especially Carmen Rubio) from setting up the rape of the South Park Blocks, have taken an interesting tack. They're getting the place designated historic by the federal government. They're hoping that will stop the arrogant City Hall bureaucrats from going through with the slow-motion chainsaw massacre of the elm trees and installation of a bike freeway.

The historic designation effort is written up here, and apparently it's gotten to second base:

[A] devoted group of volunteers trying to save historic fabric of one of Portland’s oldest parks has won a major step toward placing the South Park Blocks on the National Register of Historic Places.

 A 5-1 vote by the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation on Nov. 30 was a hard-fought victory for the Downtown Neighborhood Association that sponsored the nomination, and a setback of sorts for the Portland Parks Bureau and Portland State University who opposed it.

The preservationists are not fooling themselves, however. They know that once Portland politicians adopt a questionable plan, they will double down on it again and again until they ram it down the public's throats. For example, a historic district designation doesn't mean much once the Tina Koteks of the world have decided to outlaw single-family zoning. Bring on the cr-apartments. Whether historic place certification will prevent the Park Blocks from being trashed is therefore an open question.

I think the best thing the friends of the existing park can hope for is that historic status would provide cover for new City Council members who someday realize how dopey the renovation plan is, and need an excuse to slow-walk or kill it. Dear Lord, may such sensible politicians appear on the scene soon.


  1. Should make it a National Landmark since it's an Olmstead design and so treasured by real Portlanders & park landscape tourists & Olmstead afficiandos worldwide. Landmarks much more protected than 'mere' Historic Site status. Historic Site can be legally obliterated, so long as done deliberately with 'consultation'. The City bureaucrats need to smarten up and support that, and PSU Administration & Board needs to quit being selfish and greedy and so anti-social.

  2. Dedicated citizens also got Mt Tabor reservoirs and park and Washington Park reservoirs and park (Olmstead designs, both) on the National Register and City officials, led by Nick Fish, Charlie Hales, Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman, hardly blinked an eye. Tabor's water pipes got capped and WA Park's reservoirs were destroyed. Worse, we weren't even using the water reservoirs at WA Park because demand was and had been easily met without needing that storage. So they were destroyed for no reason other than giving the engineers an exciting project.
    When it came to getting the Demolition Type IV review pushed through on WA Park, SHPO was no help whatsoever. Portland is the most rigged city ever - especially Parks and Water bureaus.


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