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Notes From Restore Oregon Forum "Living In A Historic District"

Following are notes, as verbatim as was possible, from the Restore Oregon forum on "Living In A Historic District".

Scanned copies of the handouts, in PDF form, can be downloaded here:

Notes from Restore Oregon presentation 9/8/2016

[NOTE: These notes are as verbatim as I could type. LATER: Adding boldfacing to make more readable.]

Intro - what is Restore Oregon, mission, etc [missed some of this, was looking for power outlet]

Purpose is to explain what means to live in Historic District

Can add density and growth, while preserving historic neighborhoods that set Portland apart

John McCulloch, McCulloch Construction

Introduced as remodeler who rescued Markham House in Laurelhurst w/ help of neighbors. Sponsoring this town hall meeting.

Praises Portland. Livable, beautiful, it is a Garden of Eden. This garden has snakes - developers. Demolition is epidemic that could sink Portland.

In addition to Markham house, also helped save Ocoboch Mansion, and 13 other infill properties this year. This year he has spent 10X the budget of Restore Oregon on preserving houses. But that is just a stop gap, they are just paying ransom to bad developers.

Need to focus on enacting Historic Districts. Be aware of developers’ propaganda and how they work, be prepared for that coming. Give email to Restore Oregon so they can communicate w/ you.

Lives in Irvington. Has remodeled houses on every street in Irvington. Has been to city for historic permits a lot. Was the first person to apply to city for historic remodeling permit. 18 people at city working on permits. Process is not slow at all.

Permit fees low. Can change 10% of facade for $250. Repair and replacing things costs nothing, no permit needed. Can’t put cheap plastic windows or use corrugated tin siding. But anything within reason is okay.

One of his neighbors tore original chimney off a governor’s mansion to get more interior space. Was reported to city. City worked w/ them to build an ornamental chimney that still gives them the desired extra space.

Developers started handing out flyers that were full of falsehoods to oppose Historic district. They did that in Buckman too. Buckman neighborhood voted against historic and now lots of bad development. Irvington voted for historic, because a developer was building a bunch of crummy houses in neighborhood.

Three neighborhoods talking about historic now. Laurelhurst, Eastmoreland, Alameda.

Need to be vigilant. We get the city we deserve.

RIPSAC is staffed with developers. Changing zoning so that 65% of all single family lots in Portland will be changed to multifamily zoning. This citizen’s group was taken over by developers.

We are not used to the influence of money. Portland has been saved so far because not much money here. No old buildings left in downtown Seattle, where there’s been money. But things are changing in Portland.

Developers using density as wedge issue. When they build multifamily in place of old houses, they build very small apartments that cost $1500, mostly 1 bedroom. That is not affordable housing for families.

Need to stop listening to divisive developer propaganda and be ready to fight like never before.

Dan Everhart - Restore Oregon.

Introducing panelists.

Hilary Adam, senior planner for Bureau of Development Services, has been doing Historic Resource Review applications since 2012.

Jessica Ingman, commissioner on Historic Landmarks Commission. Employed as development manager at Venerable Properties. Lives in Irvington.

Jim Heuer, resident of Irvington since 1999. Owns software company.. Helped get Irvington listed as historic in 2010. 2800 houses, largest historic district in Oregon. Land Use head for Irviington neighborhood ass’n.

Ian Johnson, Oregon associate deputy state historic preservation officer. Agency called SHPO. Overseeing National Register of Historic Places program and other historic related programs.

Henry Kanowski, lives in Ladd’s Addition. Architectural historian. Works as historic preservation consultant. Faculty at UO.

See handouts from Restore Oregon and City of Portland on what projects require historic review, FAQ sheet, project types and cost, glossary, other information.

[NOTE: collected and scanned these handouts, links to PDFs are here:

Question And Answer

Tonight’s Q&A will apply to buildings that are contributing or non-contributing in a historic district. Not addressing buildings individually listed as historic landmarks, slightly different rules apply there. Will read questions submitted by audience or emailed in beforehand.

[NOTE: I tried to, but didn’t always, note who was answering the question.]

Question. Does designation of historic freeze all homes as they are? will small houses have to stay small?

Answer. [Jessica I.] No. Designations recognize communities and properties change over time. Small house can be altered and enlarged, many Ladd’s Addition houses have had second floors, attic dormers, kitchen expansion, larger decks, etc. It is possible and has been done many time.

Question. Doesn’t city require scaled drawing of entire exterior of house for any historic permit, people have to hire professional to prepare these drawings, at high expense?

Answer. [Hilary A.] Not necessary. City asks for drawings, don’t have to be architectural drawing or professionally done. Have reviewed cases based on drawings from homeowner or contractor. As long as the drawings show what has being done. Can use cut sheets, downloadable from Home Depot etc, for railings etc. For larger projects, usually have to submit drawings for the building permit anyway. Historic does not require extra drawings at added cost. Oregon is a state that does not require drawings be done by an architect.

Question. Assume historic district has been created, properties designated as contributing or non-contributing. Rules different for contributing vs non-contributing. Can homeowner get their house re-designated as non-contributing if was originally designated contributing by mistake? This questioner had remodeled house down to the studs, so it looked original, but it wasn’t.

Answer. [Ian J or Jessica I.] Yes, submit building permit documents to city, to show the house was actually not “original”, and city will submit the change to the house designation to the state which processes it.

Question. Can I build a modern styled addition to a traditionally styled house?

Answer. [Jessica I.] No. If home is traditionally styled in a historic district, a modern addition that is “starkly different” or a “modern statement piece” will generally not be approved. There are ways to create contemporary interpretations of traditional styles, that will be approved. Generally not trying to make changes look exactly like the original house, usually the addition does look different and that is okay. For non-contributing houses, there is more leeway - e.g. for a post war ranch style house, can get more modern looking.

Question. Can you build a modern style house on an empty parcel in a historic district?

Answer. No. Need to be compatible with existing houses in district. E.g. if neighborhood is characterized by hip roofs, gable roofs, etc, won’t approve a house that is a glass box. But can build houses that have form of a traditional bungalow, with modern elements that you can tell is clearly a new house.

Question. if want to add room over garage, visible from street, and neighbor opposes, can they force me to redesign the project? Suppose whole neighborhood opposes?

Answer. [Jim H.] Are multiple kinds of reviews. Simple type 1 review, larger type 2, and type 3 is largely for new construction. Some community comment opportunity. For type 1, imemdiate neighbors are notified, they can submit comments to city, in Irvington the land use committee comments on some but not most projects. Type 2 has more community comment, there is a way for neighbor or neighborhood association to appeal the granting of the permit, but it costs $250 for them to appeal. There are people who are not nice neighbors. E.g. one new garage was going to be built out to street with party deck on top, five feet from neighbor’s bedroom window - that got opposed, and the project went forward but with some changes. In 500 design reviews in Irvington so far, have been 5 appeals. [Hilary A.] City takes comments seriously. [Henry K.] In Ladd’s Addition, homeowners usually talk to neighborhood association about their projects, get advice from the ass’n and from city staff, before spending lot of money on design and application. This helps assure that project will get permitted. [Jim H.] Irvington has similar process, land use committee meets 2X month and talks with 5-6 homeowners each time usually.

Question. Do you need neighborhood wide vote on historic district?

Answer. Not a traditional vote. National Park Service rules say that during the application period, the state office accepts notarized letters from property owners, if 50% plus 1 of the homeowners in the district send those letters, the application stops. In Irvington, there were 100 letters of objection from 4000 property owners of 2800 properties. Held three meetings for neighborhood, had notaries present so that homeowners could get opposition letters notarized.

[Ian J.] Encourage neighborhood associations to have a “pre-process” of meeting and outreach to neighborhood. After neighborhood is ready to start, SHPO willing to come in and talk to neighborhood. When application is deemed complete (has property list, etc), then SHPO starts official process - put notice in newspapers, press releases, website, and then starts accepting the notarized objections. The National Register rules assumes the district is in favor unless people object. Objections are accepted from fee simple owner of the property. One person, one vote. If two people own a house, each person can submit one objection. If one person owns 15 houses, he gets one objection. SHPO will post running tally of those objections on a website. If gets to 50% + 1 objections, application gets stopped.

Question. Can I demolish my house?

Answer. [Hilary A.] Qualified maybe. If house is non contributiing, then yes, can get demolition permit and do it. if house is contributring, demolition has to go through a type 4 review, the highest level of review. Need pre application conference, gets reviewed by Landmarks Commission, city council decides. Need to show property has no value without demolition, or that on balance demolition meets goals and policies of comprehensive plan.. For a single family house, would be very hard to meet that criteria. [Jessica I.] In past year, Landmarks Commission has heard no requests for demolition of a historic contributing house. A garage demolition was approved, that garage was collapsing. [Henry K.] In Ladd’s, an old garage was demolished. [Jim H.] One demoliton in Irvington, was a non-contributing house, a 1922 bungalow. The replacement project is going through type 3 review. Initially a mega house was proposed, that was turned down, replacement house has to fit the neighborhood.

Question. How will historic affect homeowners’ insurance?

Answer. Panelists who live in historic districts say not seen any change. [Ian J.] Have received a few calls on this, usually is insurance underwriter on East Coast who thinks the Boston rules apply (“full replacement”), and don’t realize that city of Portland doesn’t require that, the state then gets on phone w/ the insurance company to explain.

Question. Are mobility ramps permitted?

Answer. As long as is removable and does not require removing historic features, then ADA ramps etc are permitted, and no historic review is required.

Question. Can old double hung wood windows be replaced with efficient vinyl windows?

Answer. [Hilary A.] That requires a review. Need to see that the wood windows are in fact deteriorated and not reparable. Generally need to use wood windows. Have approved aluminum clad windows and some fiberglass windows, but vinyl windows are “not there yet”. Exception for basement windows. [Jim H.] There are many companies that repair wood windows, including standard double hung windows, can find lists of them at AHC [Architectural Heritage Center], is cheaper than a new, good quality wood window. Also see Note also storm windows are permitted. Repair and maintenance of wood windows does not require review. [Henry K?] Repaired wood windows don’t leak air, are more environmentally friendly than manufacturing new vinyl windows.

Question. What’s difference between contributing and non-contributing?

Answer. “Contributing” means house was built during the historic period and still retains most of its historic features.

Question. Any tax break for historic properties?

Answer. [Ian J.] Two tax programs. One is special assessement, lowers assessed value based on doing approved work. Also a federal tax credit for income producing property - rental, B&B, etc. Neither are automatic, need to qualify, which means need to be using tax break to rehabilitate a historic building.

Question. There are things exempted from review. Are those exempted projects monitored in some way, what happens if you go beyond the scope of what is exempted?

Answer. [Hilary A.] If work requires permit, a residential inspector will inspect as usual. A nosy neighbor might call you in. Historic review is an honor process. Is largely complaint driven. [Jim H.] For example, a homeowner was going to replace 10% of shingles, found lots of problems in house, decided to replace all the shingles, that required historic review.

Question. Satellite dishes, solar panels, etc?

Answer. Satellite dishes are not a permanent alteration, not covered by historic. Solar panels and skylights have exemptions in code if on rear-sloping or side parts of roof so unlikely to see from street.

Question. Have you seen historic help or hurt Irvington?

Answer. [Jim H.] Irvington does a historic walking tour of neighborhood. Have had people who originally objected to historic say they now are glad are in a historic neighborhood. There are houses that would have definitely been demolished and replaced with huge things. [Jessica I.] Historic district has helped maintain livability of neighborhood, don’t wake up and find houses around you being demoilished. [Henry K.] Ladd’s Addition is popular and desirable, being a historic district is part of that. Historic district inspired community organizations that work on the trees and the park, social acitivities, holiday events. Not just historic houses, helps create a historic community. [John McCulloch]. What makes Portland Portland? This is part of our distinct culture, it cannot be built again, you cannot believe the horrible stuff that is being thrown up in Portland.

End of presentation. Panelists staying to answer indvidual Q&As.

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