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Historic Code Hearings on Nov 3

Next Wednesday, Nov. 3, Portland’s City Council will consider the Historic Resources Code Project (HRCP), a proposal that will change the rules for protecting historic districts. The proposed rules could affect Laurelhurst since it is listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. It will be important to weigh in.

You can do so - by November 2 please! - by:

1. Going to, clicking "Get Involved", and clicking on each of the blue boxes. Each box focuses on a specific issue and clicking on it will provide you with a pre-addressed email on that issue to the Mayor, City Commissioners, and the cc:Testimony mailbox, with some possible comments that you can replace, change, and add your own words to. When you are happy with the email, click "send" and your testimony will be on its way! and you can click on the next issue. That website was built by volunteers from Irvington and other historic districts, and has a lot of great information.

2. Going to the city's Map App, clicking the "Testify" link and submitting your written statement by November 3 through the Map App

3. Going to the City Council Hearing webpage and pre-registering to testify (by Zoom) at the November 3 hearing at 2 p.m.. You have to pre-register by 4:00 p.m. on November 2nd. You'll have just 2 minutes so be brief, be yourself, get right to the point, and say what you want city council to know.

Why might you want to weigh in? Here's a few reasons we are thinking about - and the Building on History blog have a lot more information.

First, city council needs to know that Portlanders care about the historic places, buildings, and areas of our city. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in historic places and areas know that we are stewards of those places, we want them to be still here for future generations, and we want other Portlanders to be able to honor and protect their own special places.

Historic preservation doesn't stand in the way of building more housing. Less than 5% of Portland is a historic building or in a historic district. Historic buildings can be made into beautiful affordable housing - we have a great example right here in Laurelhurst's Mann House. Larger historic houses can be converted to multiple units, and as we're seeing in Laurelhurst, accessory dwelling units can add housing everywhere!

Second, the HRCP will remove the Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) from future historic district decisions such as whether Portland should ever create a new city Historic District, should eliminate a existing city Historic District, or shrink or expand an existing city district.

When city council considers these actions, the HLC will be silenced. The only body that will make recommendations to city council will be the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC). The PSC aren't experts in history or preservation. is hostile to preservation, and claim that historic preservation is racist. Will future city historic district proposals get a fair hearing from the PSC? Shouldn't city council get to hear from its own Historic Landmarks Commission? Why did the PSC write the HRCP to silence the HLC?

Third, we should support the many good changes in the HRCP. These include

- Greatly reducing the "historic review" effort of installing solar panels, replacing windows, and make other changes in city Historic Districts like Irvington (note: that doesn't apply in Laurelhurst, we're a currently only a National Register district and can do all those things without any special historic review process.)

- Also greatly reducing or eliminating the historic review effort of removing and replacing detached accessory structures (garages, sheds, etc) in city Historic Districts (again: there's no historic review in Laurelhurst)

- For the first time ever, giving demolition protection to historic buildings in Portland's Conservation Districts, many of which are in North and NE Portland and suffering from widespread demolition (of the buildings) and displacement (of the community).

Finally, here are a few more things that we don't think city council thinks about enough:

- Carbon dioxide emissions generated in Portland by the 823 house demolitions over 5 years are equivalent to the burning of 36 million gallons of gasoline or the annual emissions of 76,480 cars. The greenest house is the house that is already here.

- Historic building and areas support our community including our tourism economy. According to Arthur Frommer, creator of the popular travel guide series:

“The link [between historic preservation and tourism] occurs only when a community preserves entire districts, not just isolated structures. All over America we find cities that possess scattered historical structures, and yet they enjoy no tourism at all.”

- Most historic districts are pedestrian-friendly. Given the public health benefits of physical activity (especially walking), and the need to combat climate change in part by motivating people to take short trips by foot rather than by CO2-emitting cars (about 19% of all trips are 1 mile or less), Portland should not only preserve its existing historic neighborhoods but also work to ensure that new development is equally pedestrian-oriented.


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