- Origins of the Eastmoreland Historic District
The pursuit of the Historic District (HD) began after many years of efforts by the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA) and its Land Use Committee (LUC) to work with city officials to create controls regarding demolitions and the quality of new development. As a last resort, after efforts to work with the city were exhausted, the ENA decided to pursue a Historic District.
- The HD Designation Process
The HD Process takes months to complete and involves preparation of a complex application with reviews at the city, state, and federal level. The application requires a sponsoring group of citizens or an organization.
The ENA, the sponsor of our neighborhood application, hired a consultant, AECOM, to prepare the application and submit it.
The application requires surveying of existing housing and research into the history of the neighborhood. This was performed during the summer of 2016 by volunteers from our neighborhood under AECOM supervision.
Approval of neighborhood residents is not required to submit the application, but the application can be rejected if 50% +1 of homeowners inside the proposed district boundaries object. Homeowners have until July 1, 2017 to submit an objection. The application can also be withdrawn by the ENA at any time until it is submitted in May to the National Park Service.
Although it is not required, the ENA committed to performing an opinion poll to determine the neighborhood’s support for the historic district. Now that the application is complete, the details are known, and the state historical preservation office has certified it as valid, distribution of the poll ballots by mail has begun. Upon receipt, please return yours promptly.
- Stopping Demolitions of Historic Homes
As a result of the survey, houses are designated as being one of two types: contributing or non-contributing. Contributing houses are considered consistent with the historical styles of the neighborhood and constructed within the historical period of the neighborhood (1910-1961). Non- contributing houses are not consistent with historical styles or were constructed after 1961. During the current review process, designations for individual homes can be challenged and amended.
A contributing house cannot be demolished without City Council approval and expenditure of at least $9,000 in review fees. Since it would be very unusual for the City Council to weigh in on one particular home, this essentially prevents demolition of historic houses. This has been the result thus far in other Portland historic districts.
A non-contributing house can still be demolished with regular city staff approval.
There is no additional cost to live in an historic district and no impact on property taxes. There are costs associated with new exterior remodel projects. There are no HD costs or review required for interior remodels or for exterior maintenance and repair.
Although the exterior remodel review process and fee is a drawback, we feel that this a necessary price to pay for retention of our neighborhood character, which is so critical to Eastmoreland’s beauty and livability. The most common fee for simple external alterations of existing features is $250. Fees increase depending on the nature of the remodel and the construction cost. More detail is available in our Historic District Review Process and Fees document.
- Remodel & Building Guidelines
The HD will allow construction of a new house in a style consistent with the historical period the district covers. Remodels can also be done so long as what appears from the street is consistent. You can still make any changes to the interior of your house, regardless of style.
If the HD is approved, the neighborhood will work with the city to define guidelines for exterior changes. This will cover modifications such as:
- Adding a second floor within an existing roof line by adding dormers.
- Replacing existing windows with fiberglass covered windows of the same frame
- Replacing siding with cement siding of the same profile.
- Adding a covered entry porch.
- Adding a second floor ADU within an existing roof line on top of the contributing garage with dormers.
Contrary to what some opponents of the HD claim, if done sensitively and according to the guidelines, remodels are absolutely supported. Hiring a design professional (one who is familiar with the HD rules) will greatly ease the process.
- HD Impacts on the new Residential Infill Project up-zoning.
The Residential Infill Project (RIP) was originally conceived as a city-sponsored effort to address demolitions and quality of infill housing in the neighborhoods. However, the concept plan approved by the city council does little to achieve those goals. Instead it encourages more demolitions and more development by allowing the following:
- Up to two ADUs (accessory dwelling units) per lot which can be separately owned as condominiums, in addition to the main home.
- Duplexes on existing historically recorded lots.
- Duplexes with a detached ADU.
- Triplexes on corner lots.
- Garden apartments on lots that are 10,000 square feet or greater.
Proponents of the RIP use a dubious claim that the floor area ratio (F.A.R, or the amount of floor square footage relative to the lot square footage) will result in a smaller footprint for replacement homes. However, the floor square footage does not include detached buildings like ADUs nor does it include finished basement square footage if done a certain way. It will still be possible to reduce greenspace and be out of touch with our neighborhood character by building out a good portion of the lot.
Another claim is that the RIP’s thirty foot height limit measured from a low point will result in less incentive to demolish and replace with big houses. In fact, this will have little impact on discouraging demolitions as Eastmoreland has relatively few sloping lots. Thirty feet of height still permits three stories and encourages low-sloping unattractive roof lines in the process.
Without an HD, the character of Eastmoreland may be in serious jeopardy.
Opponents claim the HD discourages affordability because it will discourage increased density in Eastmoreland. This is not true. Unfortunately, building new homes does not result in affordable housing. For example, new attached housing near Milwaukee Ave. was listed for over $700,000 per unit. As usual, developers will seek whatever the market can bear!
Costs will only slightly decline when supply outpaces demand. We know this from previous downturns in the market. Even if there is a sudden glut in the market, homes renting for $2500 per month will not decline to $500.
The only way to conceivably provide affordable housing in Eastmoreland is to take an existing house (which typically has low mortgage payments due to the age of the house and the date of purchase) and add an ADU (which is limited to a maximum of 800 square feet), by remodeling or addition. This is the only way to limit the cost in order to obtain more reasonable rents, or to obtain a purchase price that more people can qualify for.
Opponents of the HD insist Eastmoreland must do its part to provide sufficient housing for projected population growth in the city.
Current Portland zoning will already accommodate 200,000 additional units to meet projected population growth by 2030.
Some areas of the city are better suited to provide increased density than others. Downtown Portland is appropriate for high-rise development, but other areas of the city are not. Each neighborhood is capable of absorbing a reasonable increase in density without destroying its character. If ADUs are built in Eastmoreland, density can increase with much less impact.
Character is what makes Portland unique. Character is among the features that bring quality of life and value to a neighborhood. We do not need to overbuild our way to the future and destroy livability in the process.
For these reasons, HEART supports the Eastmoreland Historic District.