Historic District - The Path Ahead

To start off the month of July, this is the first of a series of updates on what is happening and what is to come, in the historic district effort.

LNA Board Takes The Next Step

After the neighborhood's Declarations received through May 30 were counted, and based on the 83.4% support for historic district, the LNA board passed the following motion at the June 13th meeting.

"In light of the overwhelming support to designate Laurelhurst as a Historic District (as illustrated by the declaration results), the Board is pursuing the next step in the HD process. The LNA board passed the following resolution on June 13, 2017. The board anticipates the process of obtaining historic district listing is likely to take at least a year. Please look for a progress report in the next newsletter issue.

Based on the February 14, 2017 LNA Board Resolution in support of seeking National [Register] Historic District status for the Laurelhurst neighborhood;

And based on a substantial majority of Laurelhurst respondents having declared support for seeking National Historic District status as demonstrated to the LNA Board on June 13, 2017;

"The LNA Board directs the Ad Hoc Exploratory Historic District Committee to plan and execute necessary steps to prepare a nomination for listing Laurelhurst as a National [Register] Historic District including steps to raise funds, select consultants, conduct surveys, and draft necessary documents for relevant agencies and offices, subject to the LNA Board's ongoing review and approval of the expenditure of funds, of the overall plan and of each formal action."

Consultant Interviews Are Underway

The committee has started interviews to identify a shortlist of interested and qualified consultants who will receive the LNA's Request For Proposal (RFP). After receiving the consultants' responses to the RFP, the LNA will develop a detailed budget and timeline, and select a consultant to do Laurelhurst's historic district nomination. Please stay tuned for more information.

Fundraising Will Start Soon - Stay Tuned

Groups of residents are working on a fundraising campaign, with crowdfunding and fundraising events. The goal is to do the nomination work from new funds, with minimal - if any - use of the LNA's existing funds. Please stay tuned for more information.

What's Ahead - How A Neighborhood Gets Listed In The National Register Of Historic Places

A historic district nomination is a detailed, thorough process that culminates with a decision by the National Park Service to list a neighborhood as one of the country's historic places. This process will take over a year. No, it cannot be rushed, and should not be. We as a neighborhood, with our consultant, must do a careful and responsible job of the nomination, with input from all residents and property owners.

The process basically looks like this:

A Reconnaissance Level Survey (RLS) is performed. Consultants and neighborhood volunteers will conduct a physical inventory of all the houses in our neighborhood. The inventory will include year of construction, architectural style, whether the exterior of the house remains original or has been substantially altered, and photographs of the house as visible from the sidewalk. This work is performed entirely from the sidewalk and from research in available public records; the survey workers will not enter on residents' properties or look inside houses. Residents and property owners will be asked, if they wish (it is entirely voluntary), to provide information about the house's history and alterations from original condition. The draft RLS will be reviewed with the neighborhood and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), revised and corrected, and finalized. This work is expected to take a few months. If you are interested in volunteering to help with the RLS, please contact historiclaurelhurst@gmail.com.

An Intensive Level Survey (ILS) may be performed. This is a detailed history of a few selected houses that are examples of the neighborhood's history and architectural style. Similar to the RLS, the draft ILS will be reviewed, revised and finalized over a period of months. If you are interested in helping with the ILS or would like your house to be included, please contact historiclaurelhurst@gmail.com.

The Nomination is prepared. This is a history of Laurelhurst, the neighborhood's origins and development, its historical significance, and the reasons why the neighborhood should be recognized as a Historic District. It usually takes a number of months to prepare a Nomination, including review with the neighborhood and by SHPO.

The boundaries of the Historic District, and which houses are considered historically contributing and which are not, will be developed during this many-month process. The neighborhood will have input and property owners will be asked to provide corrections and input on the informations on their houses (input is voluntary). The determination will be made by SHPO and, later, the National Park Service (NPS).

When the complete Nomination package is ready, it is formally submitted to SHPO, which reviews it again and then sends it to the city of Portland Landmarks Commission for review and to the State Advisory Committee for Historic Protection (SACHP) for a public hearing. This process usually takes three months.

Once SHPO receives the Nomination package, property owners may begin submitting written objections to the historic district, if they wish. There will be a several-month period of time to submit objections, and both the city and the LNA will notify property owners of the opportunity to object. If over 50% of property owners object, the historic district process will be democratically terminated.

If the SACHP determines the neighborhood should be listed as a Historic District, the Nomination package is revised again if necessary, and referred by SHPO to the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS will make the final determination whether to list Laurelhurst as a Historic District.

For more detailed information, please see SHPO's website.

This process will start in a few months (after the LNA has selected a consultant and raised funds) and once started it will take at least a year. During that time, we will have neighborhood meetings, presentations by the consultant and city/SHPO, in-person and online Q&A sessions, and information will be available online and in the newsletter. As a neighborhood, we have well over a year to learn more about historic district and make up our minds (for those who are undecided) or change our minds (we all have the right to change our minds).

More Thoughts

There is little doubt that Laurelhurst's history and architectural integrity will qualify the neighborhood for listing as a Historic District. There is also no doubt that some external groups (including developer-funded groups) will oppose our listing, that many will support it (many Portlanders are surprised to learn that Laurelhurst isn't already a Historic District), and the city council may also weigh in.

Laurelhurst is a centrally located neighborhood and Laurelhurst Park and Laurelhurst's walkable streets are enjoyed by all Portlanders, so it is natural that our city as a whole will be interested in what happens here. Let's welcome the interest and consider the input.

Whether historic district happens is ultimately up to the neighborhood. Historic District listing will happen if our neighborhood wants it and is willing to work and fight for it. If our neighborhood does not want it, then it won't happen. Our neighborhood; our decision.

The next posts will address what National Register Historic District listing means and the relationship between historic protection and housing, why Laurelhurst should consider Historic District listing; and the pros and cons of "local" historic designation.

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