Historic neighborhoods: preserving culture or perpetuating segregation?

Portland Historic District proposal receives overwhelming public opinion

PORTLAND, Oregon (KOIN) – Historic Neighborhoods: Do They Preserve History Or Perpetuate Exclusionary Housing? This controversial ongoing debate has captured the attention of Portland residents since 2017 and is now being brought to Portland City Hall.

Portland City Council held the first audience for the recommended project of The Draft code of historical resources (HRCP) Wednesday, November 3, after nearly four years of focus groups, roundtables and public hearings.

It comes after the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) voted unanimously to propose that the City reform its rules regarding historic districts and adopt new amendments relating to the identification, designation, protection and reuse of historic resources.

During the hearing, the President of the PSC, Eli spevak addressed the forum saying, “Wielding the power of zoning for historic preservation also creates responsibility. We need to make sure that the lofty stories and the protected resources reflect the wide range of stories found in our city – not just a few. “

Houses in the Historic Alphabet District of Portland Oregon USA on a sunny morning

The hearing coincided with growing tensions and mixed views on the issue, as the city publicly acknowledged that preservation districts often result in the exclusion of BIPOC and low-income residents, further exacerbating the housing crisis. affordable.

“The processes by which rules are adopted to protect resources must be local and democratic,” Spevak continued. “With opportunities for public input – as we do here today – and they should be guided by clear evaluation criteria, informed by experts in architectural heritage, equity and racial diversity …”

town planner and Historic Resources Program Director Brandon Spencer-Hartle opened the hearing by describing the HRCP and the code changes proposed by the project.

The proposal asks that Council be able to determine which sites are historic and authorize the City to modify the existing boundaries.

Generic Eastmoreland District 03152016_282911
Eastmoreland neighborhood, Portland.

Additionally, the recommendation suggests getting rid of existing regulations for historic neighborhoods that unnecessarily restrict unattended home modifications.

More than 100 people have tune in to hear and participate in public comments regarding the HRCP and the proposed amendments, with eager supporters and those opposed to the recommendation also sharing their voices.

Johann Hannesson, volunteer and lobbyist for Portland: Welcome Neighbors testified on behalf of the organization, stating:

“The draft Historic Resources Code takes vital steps to make our historic resources and neighborhoods more democratic, more equitable and further contribute to our housing goals. However, there are gaps in these changes that risk retaining some historic protections as a tool of economic exclusion and preventing some of our most promising neighborhoods from contributing to our housing and equity goals. “

Developer to demolish 92-year-old Eastmoreland house
The developer will demolish the 92-year-old Eastmoreland house. July 30, 2019 (KOIN)

Hannesson called on the council to adopt the HRCP with four amendments, including allowing the council to resize, demote, or remove conservation status for districts with a history of racial pacts, and fill in the gaps that currently allow wealthy landowners to veto council maps by expanding the criteria approval for the review of demolition in the districts of the national register.

Irvington resident Woody Mosby said: “One of the reasons we moved to Portland was that there were beautiful historic neighborhoods that were still affordable.”

Mosby goes on to say, “I almost feel like we’ve been targeted like the enemy by some of these groups, like Portland: Neighbors Welcome. They make me feel very unwelcome.

Mosby explained that his neighborhood in the Historic District is diverse, with varying income levels and racial backgrounds. He urged Council to rethink the proposal, citing concerns that the unique architecture and design of these neighborhoods could be at stake.

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