Portland to start foreclosing on “zombie houses”



No one can say exactly how many properties in Portland have sunk to the status of the now-boarded-up home at 7926 SE 75th: vacant, abandoned by owners, unclaimed by banks, and attracting problems.

They’re called “zombie houses,” or “vacant and distressed properties” in the parlance of city staff. Either way, they’re not available for legal habitation in a white-hot housing market that’s trying to add thousands of new homes as soon as possible. Now the City of Portland says it’s time to reanimate the dead.

Mayor Charlie Hales’ office is proposing the city dust off a foreclosure process that hasn’t been used in more than four decades, snatching homes away from owners who’ve abandoned them. Another proposal would place zombie homes in the hands of local housing nonprofits, to be fixed up and put back into use.

“We’re in a housing crisis in which we have unhoused people and people desperate to stay in the housing market,” Hales said at a work session on the proposals Tuesday. “So, what a disconnect: We have houses that are zombie houses, which are an enormous blight on their neighborhoods.”

The initiative is the latest housing proposal from the mayor, who earlier this year saw a more unique idea for reining in Portland’s housing market, a $25,000 demolition tax on Portland homes, fail amid widespread outcry.

This one’s not so controversial—and far less novel. In recent decades, cities around the country have established formal programs to help refurbish vacant properties that have become eyesores or worse. Baltimore, San Diego, Philadelphia, and many others have programs in place. Portland, despite having tools on the books that can combat the issue, hasn’t had a comprehensive effort.

There’s no easy way to identify zombie homes as they sprout up. And it’s often not until things get really bad that someone calls the city.

For the whole story, check out the Portland Mercury’s website here.

Restaurants revitalize neighborhoods in PDX


A look at any of Portland’s most vibrant neighborhoods will show that food has been central to their success. In fact, food-based businesses most often are first at the table when it comes to neighborhood development and revitalization, according to Mike Thelin.

Thelin, co-founder of Feast Portland, said there are striking similarities between the design community and the food community, and the creativity involved in both stems from the same inspiration. He noted that food has played an essential role in Portland’s reputation and has directly impacted its built environment.

“You can track the development of neighborhoods around certain gathering places where people came together over food,” he said. “It’s usually the food operators, the bar operators, and the cool coffee shops and cafes that are the first to the table. And if there is a good restaurant, people will want to live near it and work near it.”

Likening Portland’s food-and-design dynamic to that in Brooklyn, New York, Thelin pointed to Genoa as an early driver in the Belmont neighborhood and the more recent influence of food carts in downtown Portland and multicultural cuisine on Northeast Alberta Street. Each created a unique environment that attracted other retail and commercial businesses and increased property values for homeowners.

Clarklewis Restaurant is among the pioneers that put Portland’s Central Eastside on the map, paving the way for a thriving district that merges an industrial and manufacturing history with newer tech startups and creative companies, he added.00003543120757

With Pok Pok, Lauro Kitchen and Salt & Straw Ice Cream, among other big names, Southeast Division Street is yet another example of the synergistic relationship between food, design and economic success.

“This is a street that was kind of sleepy, sleepy for inner southeast Portland, and now you have five or six of the best restaurants in the city within a three or four-block stretch,” he said.


Read the rest of the story here on Pamplin Media Group’s website.


Design Week Portland presents Futurelandia


Strap on your jetpack–let’s time travel to the Portland of tomorrow.

Since being incorporated in 1851, The Rose City has experienced a nearly constant state of change. Once again, it seems like everywhere you turn Portland is evolving before our eyes. Our city skyline transforming, historic neighborhoods gentrifying, and housing costs running sky-high as a steady influx of newcomers flock to capture a slice of the city’s unique potential. Yet amidst all these changes, we’re left to ponder what will our Portland of tomorrow look like?

The Futurelandia exhibit will display posters created by 20 of Portland’s most imaginative artists, graphic designers, and illustrators to visually express their vision for the future of the city. Featured artists will have the opportunity to share the inspiration of their work, while civic voices lead open discussions about our city’s future. We think art can spark a bigger conversation about the (distant) future of our beloved city. How about you?

For the whole story and for a list of featured artists, check out Design Week Portland’s website here.


Thursday, April 21

6:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Union / Pine
525 SE Pine St.
Portland, Oregon 97214

Free entry!

A Community Energy Project offers free classes on lead based paint


Lead poisoning has hit the headlines during the past few months because of the situation in Flint, Michigan, where citizens have been overwhelmed by a huge, toxic-water problem. Portland, fortunately, does not have problems with lead in its water, but its denizens should be aware of lead-based paint.

Lead-based paint was for all practical purposes the only kind of paint used on homes throughout the United States until 1978. About 80 percent of homes in Multnomah County were built before 1978. Those are two of the many facts you will learn when you listen to a presentation by Ryan Barker on lead poisoning prevention.

Barker is a community educator who works for the Community Energy Project, a non-profit organization that teaches Portlanders how to maintain healthy, livable homes; control utility costs; and conserve natural resources.

Barker gives workshops about the hazards of lead poisoning. The workshops, offered throughout the Portland metro area, are free of charge and open to everyone.

Read the whole story here on the Hollywood Star News website

Citizens try to save SE Belmont’s oldest buildings from demolition



As SE Portland continues to be split at the seams by development, residents along historic corridors like Belmont are learning the hard way that the City currently lacks tools to keep intact the beloved blocks that define their neighborhood.

More than half of Portland’s buildings are more than 50 years old. Most lack any type of landmark protections. Portland’s rampant demolition is legal if it follows current zoning.

To deter the demolition epidemic, citizens are learning that an update of the City’s historic inventory list is critical. Identifying buildings with significant history and architectural heritage would slowdown, if not stop altogether, the teardown of the buildings and bungalows that make Portland unique.

The 3300 block of Belmont is the kind of streetscape that lures newcomers to Portland’s vintage neighborhoods with main streets even Disney might envy.

Behind the storefronts is a rich historical narrative that residents are plumbing in hopes of saving the block from a planned multi-story glass and steel structure. At a special landuse presentation in March, residents said that the planned demolition of the midblock building threatens the entire block. A petition circulating has more than 5,000 signatures.

The building is perhaps the least architecturally interesting on the block, but residents believe that saving the weakest link, may save the entire block from eventual destruction.

Residents are pinning their hopes on research neighbor Meg Hanson presented indicating that several prominent early Oregonians were among the original owners of the property. Onetime mayoral candidate T.S. McDaniel was chair of Willamette University for 8 years at the turn of the Century and influential in politics.

Hanson’s research is intended to make a case for additional protections of the building. “ We’ve been able to develop a deep and meaningful historic narrative for the building’s original owners, businesses, and tenants from 1895 through 1940.”

City representatives praised her research but said there is no easy way to save the building – or others on the block that lack historic designations. Current zoning allows structures up to 45 feet tall along Belmont. That means one and two-story buildings are likely to come down as four-stories of glass and steel go up.

Read the whole story here on The Southeast Examiner’s website

New project to keep SE Portland bike-friendly!



Neighborhood Greenways are streets that prioritize bicycling and are the backbone of Portland’s bicycle network. SE Clinton has been a Neighborhood Greenway for over 20 years. PBOT is testing traffic management tools to better address auto volume and speed issues that affect the greenway’s safety and comfort.

Phase I of the test is to temporarily place median diverters at 17th and 29th to block east-west auto traffic on Clinton while allowing north-south traffic at those intersections for six months.

This is an attempt to reduce auto traffic volumes on SE Clinton St to meet guidelines for Neighborhood Greenways (less than 1,500 cars/day) and to reduce auto traffic speeds on SE Clinton St to meet guidelines for Neighborhood Greenways (20 mph).

SE Clinton at 17th

SE Clinton at 17th

A Citizens Advisory Committee will review before and after data and community comments to recommend modifications to the Phase I improvements and potential additional traffic calming measures to be implemented in the summer of ‘16 as part of Phase II.

The whole story can be found here on the Southeast Examiner website.

Old school building may help with our homeless population.


First it was declaring a housing state of emergency last fall, then it was converting unused buildings into temporary homeless shelters.

Now, the city of Portland has taken its creative approach to chipping away at Portland’s homeless problem to a new place, this time to Portland Public Schools.

According to Willamette Week, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is negotiating a deal with PPS Superintendent Carole Smith to turn a school district owned building in Southeast Portland into a homeless shelter. In exchange, the city would continue to provide funding for “school security and student bus passes.”

The building under consideration is a storage building on the campus of the former Washington High School at 1300 Southeast Stark Street. The latter facility underwent an extensive renovation and is now home to the music venue Revolution Hall, as well as business tenants such as New Seasons and Copious Creative.

Check out the whole article here at the Portland Business Journal website.

Tests at OHSU show low health risks related to soil pollution.

kid post

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Testing done by officials on Portland soil after high levels of cadmium and arsenic were found in the air show a low risk for residents, officials announced Wednesday.

The Oregon Health Authority, the Department of Environment Quality and the Multnomah County Health Department held a media briefing at 11 a.m. to give an update on the issue.

The officials said that an analysis of soil samples, cancer rates and urine tests show that residents in SE and North Portland, areas where testing showed high levels of toxics, are at low risk for health problems.

Samples of soil from around Bullseye Glass Co. in SE Portland were generally below naturally occurring or “background” levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium and chromium 6, the DEQ said.

As well as the soil showing low levels of metals, lab tests show few cases of cadmium exposure. In a study done, there weren’t elevated rates of metals-related cancers in North Portland.

During testing, the OHA analyzed 247 urine cadmium test results and found that seven samples had detectable levels of cadmium. Two were in children and three of them were at levels requiring clinical follow-up.

“The data released today are very reassuring, but our work is not done,” said Lynne Saxton, OHA Director. “We will continue to gather and report data going forward.”

Read the whole story here


Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Oregon law requires that before a home can be sold, it must have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors*.

Smoke alarms are required to have a hush/silence feature, and if they utilize an ionization sensor exclusively (and aren’t a part of combination detector) then a 10-year/long-life lithium battery must power it. If there is a hardwired system or a plug-in system, they must have a battery backup.

*Carbon monoxide detectors are required if there is a heater, fireplace, furnace, appliance or cooking source that uses coal, wood, petroleum products or other carbon monoxide producing fuel. OR if the home is connected to an attached garage by a door, ductwork or ventilation shaft that communicates directly with a living space.

Portland’s Streetcar Model being considered elsewhere

As cities develop their downtown cores to include more mixed uses and grow vibrant centers of business, Portland’s model for streetcar development is being looked at by city planners around the world. Though not new, using streetcars to spur development by providing subsidies and tax breaks are a part of what the City of Portland did to launch our popular streetcar line:

Portland’s streetcar system attracts about 12,000 daily riders at an average ticket cost of $1.47. Its creators credit it with $3.5 billion in surrounding development, including shops, restaurants and 10,000 new housing units.

Read the whole story here: