Notes From September 27 LNA Informational Presentations On Historic District

On September 27, about 250 Laurelhurst neighbors attended the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association meeting at All Saints Church. All tables and all chairs were full. Some of us filled the benches at the back of the room.

The bulk of the meeting was devoted to a report from the LNA Board's Land Use Committee on the Residential Infill proposal and then to the LNA Board's presentation of speakers on a possible Historic District for our neighborhood.

Our notes from those portions of the meeting follow. These notes are being posted pretty much "as typed", with minimal clean-up, edited only slightly for clarity. Where necessary I've added explanatory comments in [brackets]. Please excuse any mistakes and offenses against grammar, these are the fault of the note-taker, not the speakers.

We will get copies of the various handouts posted soon.

Also - as you'll read below, as the LNA Board studies the historic district issue, it plans to communicate extensively with the neighborhood. The LNA will also soon start distributing the newsletter by email. To sign up for the LNA's electronic newsletter, please go to the sign-up form here.

President’s Remarks

Dick Kuhns, President of The LNA Board:

LNA Board opposed portions of the Residential Infill Program proposals. Board has not taken a position on Historic District.

The recent flyer on historic districts was not from the LNA, it used "Laurelhurst" logo but that logo is not owned by the LNA.

Handouts on tables tonight – both for and against Historic District - are not from the LNA.

Tonight’s meeting is informational. The Board seeks resident's views, please email us.

A comment on the process for listing a neighborhood as a historic district. The process is dictated by Federal law, it is not determined by the LNA. If neighborhood otherwise meets the requirements for historic listing, a majority of property owners must vote “no” to prevent creation of a Historic District.

Any private organization can apply, LNA cannot stop an application.

Not going to take a “vote” at this meeting, it would not decide anything, and would only capture only a tiny % of neighborhood.

Report on Residential Infill Proposal

Amy Smith, Co-Chair of LNA Board Land Use Committee:

Mayor formed advisory committee (the SAC). In June 2016 the SAC issued draft Resdential Infill Project proposals (the RIP). Very short period was provided for public comment. Land Use Committee held meetings, about a dozen residents attended.

Committee concluded the RIP is too “one size fits all”.

RIP proposal would limit size of houses. LNA agrees w/ this.

Some RIP items deal w/ R 2.5 zoned lots and narrow lots. These are not applicable to Laurelhurst.

RIP item 4 deals w/ the types and numbers of new construction permitted per lot. This does apply to Laurelhurst.

RIP will permit multiple ADUs, duplexes, and triplexes on corner lots, and cluster housing on 10K sq ft lots. Cluster housing is very dense multifamily housing.

LNA feels RIP encourages demolition of existing houses. Committee opposes more demolition. Also consider burden on traffic, schools, utilities.

LNA does not oppose additional ADUs or internal conversion of houses to duplexes, where you can't tell from the outside that the house is a duplex.

LNA submitted comments to city.

Last week city reported on the 1,500 comments received. Majority of proposals received more “good idea” than “bad idea” comments.

But many comments did oppose demolitions.

On October 17, a revised proposal will be posted for public comment. Then city will hold open public meetings. In November, revised proposal will go to city council and council will hold public meetings and vote on whether to proceed with the RIP proposals. Then city staff will start writing the actual code. RIP is likely go into force late 2017.

Dick Kuhns, President of The LNA Board:

RIP will be an incentive for demolition of buildings. Don’t know how quickly will start, but it won’t take many demolitions to change character of neighborhoods.

Historic district will prevent demolitions, at cost of some burdens on homeowners who want to do projects.

Amanda Fritz, City Commissioner:

[Commissioner Amanda Fritz attended the meeting and spoke briefly. Her comments, as relevant to residential infill and historic protections, are noted here. She mostly spoke about some upcoming ballot measures,]

I will look closely at RIP - there is a lot to be concerned about. On historic protections - there is an attempt (in legislation) to prevent buyers from taking historic designation off buildings and immediately demolishing them. [Note this refers to individual buildings' historic landmark designation, not to a historic district issue.]

Historic District Presentation

Constance Beaumont, Member of the LNA Board:

Issue is demolitions, building McMansions, and cutting of trees for new construction.

Laurelhurst has suffered fewer demolitions than other neighborhoods so far. Beaumont-Wilshire has had > 80 houses demolished. Eastmoreland has had many demolitions and trees cut down as well.

Some don’t want regulations. There is mis-information out there, e.g. that you can’t choose paint color, you can.

Tonight will hear from invited experts with first hand information on Historic District, starting with and "anti" historic district" and "pro" historic district speakers.

Joe Petrina, Petrina Construction, will lead off as "anti" speaker. John McCulloch, McCulloch Construction, will be "pro" speaker.

Then Staci Monroe from City Bureau Development Services that handles historic review process. Joanne Stainbrooke from Ladd’s Addition Historic District and Jim Heuer from Irvington Historic District..

Joe Petrina, Petrina Construction ("Anti" Speaker):

30 year resident of Laurelhurst. Have worked in Laurelhurst, Eastmoreland, Irvington, etc. Build new houses but mostly remodel homes, never flipped or demo’d houses. Not a fan of tearing houses down.

Reason why people want to see Historic District is to stop demolition, but there aren’t that many demolitions. 13 homes demolished in Laurelhurst since 2005, only 1 per year, that’s not that many.

Object to voting method for historic district. Absentee owners won’t know about it, others are too busy to get informed, they are all counted as "yes" votes. Pros don’t have to do anything.

I worked on Buckman historic district issue, Buckman had 600 homes, opponents have to fill out form, notarized, prove ownership, send to National Park Service, if don’t have >50% objections, historic district established.

Laurelhurst has 1800 homes, maybe 3000 voters, would need 1600-1700 opposition votes, will be very hard to oppose.

[Joe asks Dick Kuhns] Is LNA going to seek historic district? Dick Kuhns [answers]: LNA may take position or action later, right now will provide education. [Joe resumes]: Eastmoreland [is seeking historic district listing] will have a neighborhood vote, that should be done here too. Park Service process is undemocratic.

Aside from voting process, are delays on work pending historic review. One lady trying to change two windows, $250 permit and $2700 architectural fees. Wanted to add porch, now a type 2 review, need to pay more fees, were going be $6000, she decided not to do porch. Job delayed 3 months.

I don’t deal w/ the historic review process, that is up to the owner and architect. One Irvington homeowner took a year to get permission.

John McCulloch, McCulloch Construction: ("Pro" Speaker)

[Asks for show of hands in audience. Result is about 1/4 to 1/3 are undecided on historic district, about 1/4 to 1/3 support historic district, and about 5-10 hands raised in opposition to historic district.]

[Shows slides of] Bitar Mansion in Laurelhurst [that is this house] Historic house. Eleanor Roosevelt, Clintons visited. The bronze work is amazing. The property is seven lots. A developer could tear it down and make enough money to never work again. I won’t, but this is happening all over town.

We deserve a historic district. This is one of most special neighborhoods in the city.

I worked w/ neighborhood to save Markham house, opened it to charities and non-profits for fund raising. I have helped stop 15 infill demolitions this year. [Shows slides.]

[More slides] Ocobock Mansion [that is this house] was almost torn down by Everett Custom Homes. That same company has bought 5 homes in Laurelhurst to tear down. Our houses are not "too good" [too expensive] to tear down.

History. Ladd built huge farm, Hazelfern Farm. He owned this entire neighborhood as city grew. Was a huge land rush in Portland then. We were lucky, got Paul Murphy, one of best developers then. He made sure this neighborhood was diverse, all different styles of houses, of the best quality. John Olmsted designed parks all over US, including Laurelhurst Park, and he designed this Laurelhurst neighborhood. This is the perfect place for a historic district.

Portland is the hottest real estate market in US. We are experiencing all sort of economic forces we've never experienced before. Up to now, our city was protected by its relative poverty.

I’ve worked on every street in Irvington, I live in that historic district. The historic review process is painless. Permits tend to be $250.

The greenest home is the one that already exists. Remodeling creates jobs that are better than demo/new build jobs, because the money goes to labor not materials.

Move on this fast. Houses are getting torn down quickly. Move before developers move in here and tear your neighborhood down in earnest.

Staci Monroe, City of Portland Bureau of Planning Services:

I am part of the city team reviewing historic projects. There are different types of reviews. You usually need a review for exterior alterations.

Exempt projects - don't need review - are repair, maintenance, re-roofing with same material, re-siding with same material, repairing windows, building detached structures less than 200 sq ft, alterations to non-contributing houses, altering most basement windows, storm windows, some skylights and solar arrays, fences, retaining wall, decks – these do not require historic review.

We are continuing to add to list of exempt projects.

Four types of review. Start at $250 for Type 1, takes 35 days. Type 2 is bigger projects. Fees and timing increased. Type 3 is for brand new structure costing over $500,000. Type 4 is for demolition, most difficult and expensive, it discourages demolition, hard to get approval to demolish, need to show demolition meets goals of city's Comprehensive Plan.

Don’t review paint color. Don't need review for any work on interior of a house.

Joanne Stainbrook, Ladds Addition Historic Resource Subcommittee:

Ladds Addition has been a historic district since 1980s. Along with preserving the housing, neighborhood protects street trees, rose gardens, other aspects of community.

People got tax credits to improve and preserve homes.

Review process does take longer, can be frustrating, but people like having a say in how their neighborhood changes.

No demolitions in Ladds. Less flipping of homes. People care about history of their homes, do research on the home.

Jim Heuer, Irvington Land Use Committee:

On historic preservation committee. Irvington has been fighting to preserve itself for 100 years, in 1913 city tried to build firehouse in a residential area, neighborhood fought, fire department finally built a "bungalow" fire station.

Fought again in 1923 against a telephone company switching center, forced company to build center that was a beautiful Georgian mansion.

In 1950s and 1960s, Irvington was half minority and we were redlined, there was no lending to fix homes.

In 1966, Irvington created the first neighborhood association in the city. For long time neighborhood has been fighting against external threats.

In 1993, we became a conservation district.

In early 2000s, realized conservation district protections were not enough. Beautiful houses were disappearing overnight. Bordered by Broadway, a lot of commercial and apartment development there.

Started working on historic district. Became historic district in 2010.

The highest fee was $510 when we started, then recession collapsed construction, to support Bureau of Planning services the city raised the fees to $1,200. Historic districts came together and pushed city to improve historic code and lower fee to current $250.

We continue to push for improvements in historic code process. Currently trying to get city to reduce detail/drawings needed, hope Laurelhurst historic district will help.

Question And Answer Session:

[Questions submitted by audience, on index cards.]

Q: Why should I give up my private property rights? A: (by Jim Heuer): You already give up some rights, that is part of living in a city of 600K. What you do affects quality of life and values of your neighbors. We live with rules to keep city a civilized place.

Q: To what extent can a historic district neighborhood modify the regulations with design guidelines? A: (by Staci Monroe): Some historic districts have their own design guidelines, e,g, Ladds has their own, other districts use other guidelines. City doesn’t write those, the neighborhood does, then the city uses those neighborhood guidelines to review and approve projects.

Q: Do changes to side and rear of house require review? A: (by Staci Monroe): Historic rules apply to all four sides, but city places greatest importance on front. We encourage alterations and additions to be on the back side, but it isn’t required. We have exemptions for alterations to side/rear of non contributing houses, built outside the historic period of the district.

Q: [Question directed to Joe Petrina.] You were prime mover in blocking Buckman historic district, why did you? A: (by Joe Petrina): I worked with Buckman neighborhood association, I saw hardship to people who wanted to do projects, the fee is the small part, the architect fees are the larger part. I was not a prime mover in opposing the Buckman historic district. Also I felt Buckman is such an eclectic neighborhood, is hard to define it's historical character. Don’t see terrible remodels in Laurelhurst. I did not go door to door in Buckman, I did send notices to absentee owners. If majority of people in Laurelhurst want to see a historic district then I am all for it.

Q: Even though have not been not many demolitions in Laurelhurst, won’t RIP increase them?A: (by John McCulloch): Joe Pertain is respected member of community, let’s have this historic district build the community. Joe can help make the Laurelhurst historic rules loose, and keep th e rules focused on stopping teardowns. RIPSAC is stacked with developers. 70% of Portland's single family homes will be rezoned to multifamily.

Q: Example of typical Type 4 [demolition] reviews? A: (by Jim Heuer): There are only a few. A commercial structure, the Dirty Duck Saloon, was taken down. An old maternity hospital with good architecture was proposed to be torn down for 80 unit apartment building, city council denied permission to demolish. Washington Reservoir park was another Type 4 review.

Q: What about turning a house into a rooming house? A: (by Amy Smith): Internal conversions of house to duplex will be allowed under RIPSAC. A: (by Jim Heuer): Historic review considers the form of house, not occupancy. Have not had conversions of corner homes to duplexes in Irvington, will probably have some in R1 zones and that is okay. What we don’t want is lots of willy-nilly conversions where there isn't any parking.

Q: Clarify about windows? A: (by Joe Petrina): Have done some kitchen remodels where changed windows, required review process. We use Marvin Windows, they are always approved, so why do we have to keep going through review, can’t that be streamlined? A: (by Staci Monroe): We would like to streamline window approval too, but houses are different, windows are different, the gridded lights etc. Hard to approve a single standard window. Would like to find a way to write standard approvals for several different situations. Currently we do require manufacturer documentation for the window. A: (by Jim Heuer): Windows are interesting issue. Many people are worried about energy efficiency of house and want to replace the windows with energy efficient new ones. Actually the most environmentally effective solution is rehabilitation of the existing windows. People are happy when they find out it is not necessary to replace original windows.

Q: Are there tax benefits to owning a house in a historic district? A: (by Joanne Stainbrook): Originally with Ladds there was a tax freeze for 15 years, things have changed since then. A: (by Jim Heuer): The tax freeze has been changed to 10 years. You no longer have to open your house to the public one day a year to get the tax freeze. The tax freeze is not automatic, have to apply. A contributing property can apply, it is called a "special assessment", you show what intend to do to the house and meet a threshold for investment. Many Irvington houses have gone through the program. The freeze postpones any increase of property taxes for 10 years.

Q: How does each historic district decide what is and is not acceptable, does city decide it? A: (by Staci Monroe): City is not involved in writing nominating or determine which houses are "contributing" [note: I think either I or the panelists mis-heard the question]. A: (Peter Meijer, Co-chair of LNA Land Use Committee:) I have written historic district nominations [applications]. The decision [of which house is contributing] is made by National Park Service. Will look at neighborhood history from platting to 50 years ago, so house styles from 1910 to 1950 will be included. Then look at whether the house has kept its integrity. That determines if a house is considered contributing or non-contributing. Applicant makes initial determination, SHPO [State Historic Preservation Office] reviews, then NPS makes final decision.

Q: What will board do next? A: (by Dick Kuhns): We will try to get some of this Q&A on the LNA website. The LNA will follow bylaws, decision will be considered by the board. Roadmap is to get information to neighborhood, get neighborhood feedback, figure out how to assess community sentiment, before board decides whether to support a historic district.

Q: Process is really important, need information process like in Eastmoreland, does LNA plan to decide in 60 days? A: (by Dick Kuhns): Board will vote on establishing an exploratory committee, it will look at options for surveying community as well as education and outreach. Cannot provide specific timetable right now. Board does need to act as quickly as possible. A: (by John McCulloch): see the historiclaurelhurst.com

website, lot of information is there.

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