Encouraging words for a conflicted friend

A couple days ago, I was speaking to a friend in the neighborhood. He told me that he supported the Historic District, but felt hypocritical about doing so because a few years ago his family had done some renovations to their home that affected some portion of the home exterior and footprint. Like most Eastmoreland residents, the design retained the home’s original (in his case, 1930’s) style. How could he in good conscience support the HD knowing that the remodel he had done was not subject to the historic reviews and the associated additional fees?

I thought about this for a moment and explained that these things are not in conflict at all. The bottom line is that today’s situation is different from what existed 5 years, 20 years, even 50 years ago. As things change, it’s important to reevaluate things, including laws and regulations. We willingly (or sometimes reluctantly) accept less freedom to do whatever we want. When I grew up, small children could ride in the front seat with no seatbelt or safety harness. Times have changed and it’s now the law in most places that describes where small children can sit in the car and requires the use of car seats and safety belts. It’s an erosion of my choice as a parent and car owner, but I accept that. My child’s safety is more important.

In Eastmoreland, we’re not saving children, but we are saving something else that’s precious – our neighborhood. Most of us chose to live here and bought property here because of what Eastmoreland is. Sure, we love our neighbors, but when I chose to buy my home, I didn’t even know them. What I loved was the layout, styles, character of homes, and being a single-family neighborhood. It wasn’t just the home I bought, but the sum of the parts in all of Eastmoreland. To me, this is worth saving.

But, and what I told my friend, things have changed that threaten Eastmoreland in a way that they didn’t years ago. We have a City government that thinks increased density is appropriate everywhere even at the expense of Portland’s historic single-family neighborhoods. And we have developers who are taking advantage of this and other permissive regulations to enrich themselves. They are not the neighbors I will live next to. And so I won’t fault or judge any Eastmoreland resident who made decisions about their property before now. And I won’t judge anyone who chooses to live in a developer-built house. They all want to live in Eastmoreland too…can you blame them? However, the Eastmoreland we all want to live in is changing quickly by forces outside the control of its residents. At some point, we will look around and see something that does not resemble why we came here in the first place.

So, to my friend and anyone else I can call a neighbor, you should not feel conflicted about your past choices with respect to your home. Things have changed and we must decide now – today – what is best for our neighborhood. I ,for one, am not willing to entrust the City of Portland or for-profit developers with Eastmoreland’s destiny.