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Frank Dufay

The neighborhood association is bugged that anything other than residential use is happening in their neighborhood. (Funny, no one seems to complain when the non-residential use is a church.)

It's not "anything other than residential use" it is the potential for continuing outdoor parties of 200 people that's raised concerns, the way I read the same article. I can appreciate that concern.

As for no one ever complaining about a church, you either missed --or forgot-- the storm of protests when a City land-use hearings officer put a 70-person cap on the number of worshippers at Sunnyside Centenary United Methodist, in response to neighborhood complaints.

It's not "height" (or width or depth, or stucco) that neighborhoods fear, but "impact."
In HAND we've tried to address this with step-back design guidelines among other things where we anticipate --and encourage-- new, denser development.

I totally agree that this is a huge, hot-button issue and a forum for discussing this city-wide would be an excellent step in fostering the dialogue that needs to take place.

Density Dan

Context is everything. More density is important for the growth of Portland. However, adding density blindly for its own sake creates as many problems as it solves (growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell).

Eastmoreland isn't the Pearl and Multnomah Village isn't Irvington. That Portland's neighborhoods have distinct identities plays a large part in the appeal of the city (ephemeral or not). Drinking the new urbanism kool-aid and declaring that concerns about height will hurt Portland's future oversimplifies the issue.

For example, the issue with the Parker House isn't height. It's use. Reed College has proposed events for as many 200 people in midst of a residential neighborhood. If I lived 20 yards away from Parker House, I'd be legitimately concerned about noise and parking.

However, the real issue is Reed's disingenuous behavior. The original proposal for Parker House was for use as a residence by the university president with a cap on events at 20 people -- how did that morph into events for up to 200 with no residential use? Given the precedent of the Parker House, Eastmoreland residents have real concerns about Reed's plans for the nearby Willard House. There's no height issue with either of these structures and there's no issue with residential density.

If its time for a discussion about building residential towers in Eastmoreland to increase density for Portland's growing population, let's have that discussion, but this isn't it.

Brian Libby

You guys have sharpened the ideas we're talking about. There were some things about height vs. impact or the importance of context that I either didn't mention or didn't articulate. But I think my general point still stands, that while good for the city/region in many respects, increasingly density is going to amount to some turf battles, and it's going to necessitate good design even more.

Frank Dufay

increasingly density is going to amount to some turf battles, and it's going to necessitate good design even more.

Exactly. Design is becoming ever more important. But that suggests to me that rather than designing in a vacuum, context becomes critical.

Randy Rappaport proposes a "spaceship" (his choice of words) for a residential neighborhood, saying there is no neighborhood context. And this project, not surprisingly, is resisted.

Wouldn't working with the neighborhood, on design elements, be a better process for reducing the tensions that are an inevitable accompanyment to change?

Or...is working with the neighborhoods somehow seen as diminishing the creative muse?

I was going to post it on the Clinton thread, but I'll post it here instead. This isn't about Randy Rappaport. I'm sure he's a fine, interesting and caring individual. This is about process and product, not about trying to demonize anybody when we say a project isn't working for us.

I think we all recognize the need to get along and work together.


Henry Petroski published a book this year called "Success through Failure: The Paradox of Design". There was a great review of the book in the New York times on May 15th by Edward Rothstein. Petroski demonstrates how everything that is designed fails (bridges, software, spacecraft), and everything that fails leads to better design. I think there's a lesson to be learned from looking at design this way as it relates to design for these multi-story buildings in residential neighborhoods. Isn't this _relatively_ new territory? The BDS skinny house competition (http://www.livingsmartpdx.com/home/overview.asp) acknowledged that there is a paucity of satisfying design in that category. Maybe a similar competition for mixed-use and/or multi-story would be valuable. The point being-is it fair to say we should allow for some mistakes? This is of course not to say that developers shouldn't work with neighborhood residents on design issues. Or that neighborhood residents should roll over for developers and just hope they're not a casualty. Quite the opposite- I agree that a healthy neighborhood/developer dialogue is an essential way to alleviate potential design failures. But there will be failures and casualties nevertheless. I suppose I'm just echoing Brian's initial post, but adding that the battles will frequently be over what we have to understand is a process that involves inevitable failures.


I'd like to add that I'm only referring to design failures- not those buildings that fail to satisfy due to disingenuous behavior. I made an analogy in the aforementioned thread about the Clinton between surgery and environmental design. None of us wants to be among the small percentage that doesn't survive a potentially life-saving surgical procedure. But there are few of us who would refuse the opportunity to have the operation that could save us because of that small chance of failure. Likewise, few of us want our home in the shadow of a multi-story building, but what's the alternative? Even with the dialogue between neighborhood and developer functioning at its best there will still be people affected adversely by this type of development, just as even the best surgeon loses a patient or two. Is that an over-simplification? Is the analogy not accurate?

Frank Dufay

Maybe a similar competition for mixed-use and/or multi-story would be valuable.

I think its very possible to do multi-story in a way that respects neighbors, and respects context. It can even be radical design.

The problem with the Clinton design is that it is simply the biggest box possible on that site, with some "fancy" coverings thrown in...but its still a box. Sorta like the Portland Building which remains a very unsuccessful decorated box, pleasing to the eye, perhaps, but a misery for its tenants.


I think we'd be jumping the gun a little bit to imply that the Clinton will be a misery for its tenants. In the earlier thread on the Clinton it was quite clear that this design has failed to satisfy everyone in the neighborhood. The finer points were pretty well established in that thread. But there's no telling what the tenants themselves will think or feel about the building years down the road.

Would it be fair to call the Clinton "experimental"? If we're comfortable with calling it that, and it fits within the required codes (whether by a thread or to a T) then I'm comfortable saying it should be encouraged in the spirit of innovating and seeing how something like this works. And I expect to hear that it's easy for me to say so since I'm not a member of that community.
But by being homeowners, business owners or simply members of a community we're all taking a risk, just by participating.
I live about 6 houses off Alberta St. in a house I've owned for only 3 years. I've been active in my neighborhood association and I spend a lot of time around the neighborhood patronizing the places that I enjoy. Seen some changes up there already to be sure, and there are certainly more to come. I might find myself in the shadow of a multi-story building. But I dig the location so I'm willing to take the risk.
There are many reasons why we want to protect our homes, most all of which seem to fall under either of two categories- (a) protecting our investment (b) protecting our quality of life. With respect to the former, we only have so much control. Which is why we're told to diversify. It could be unethical accounting practices in your company that cause you to lose your pension, the failure of a friend's business you invested in, a fruit fly that decimates a crop of plums on your farm, or a multi-story development that goes up next to your home. That's why we don't put all of our eggs in one basket. There's inherent risk that we can't control, so we control by spreading the risk.
With regard to quality of life, it's just so subjective. Lots of people in the neighborhoods where these multi-story developments are taking place are stoked. Another analogy- we could get angry about our neighbor painting his/her house purple with teal trim and putting up a bright yellow 6 foot fence around the whole yard because it affects our quality of life, but what can we do about it? It's up to code. The code doesn't account for taste. The code doesn't eliminate the risk of being a member of a community. As I mentioned above, I totally agree that the developer/neighborhood conversation is critical to maximizing the success of these developments. But even with this conversation functioning at its best, there's a lot of inherent risk in being a member of a community that just results from the social contract we enter into, and it can't be managed. It's just there because we're humans, part of the human experiment. I'm by no means in favor of Progress with a capital P, but I think most of us are glad that the Tacoma Narrows bridge failed so that we now know we can safely drive on bridges that are required to have stay cables. And a lot of software developers made a lot of mistakes so that we can be "blogging" right now. Risk and failure are an integral and inseparable part of this density/multi-story development equation.


I have been so frustrated by the misinformation being bandied about regarding Parker House. Fair warning: I am an Eastmoreland resident and also a faculty member at Reed.

Please don't be misled by the rhetoric about Parker House.

Keep in mind that the Parker House is an architectural gem, featured in "Classic Homes of Portland," sat empty for over three years, and was falling into serious disrepair before Reed College purchased it.

People raise issues about events with '200 people.' Have any of these posters actually been in Parker House? It is a HUGE house. The living room and dining room along could accomdate 150 people. The yard/patio area is bordered on all sides by thick vegetatation and constitutes another two full lots. Parker House is bordered on one side by a busy street, on another two sides by streets, and the fourth side is the house itself.

Parking is easily solved by installing a permit system along Moreland Avenue, a solution that the neighbors have refused to consider because they think it is inconvenient. There is little to no street parking along Moreland regardless.

The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association has *not* taken an official position on the Parker House. The O article quotes only one member--Mike Fisher--who lives across the street and who has publicly stated that he'd prefer the house remain *empty* rather than be used as Reed proposes.

Unfortunately, the ENA has allowed itself to be hijacked by Fisher and a small number of wealth neighbors who are dead set against Reed's proposed usage (and almost always expressing deep suspicion about their close neighbor of 100 years, meanwhile being quite happy to enjoy inflating housing prices and a large public "park" and dog walking area all courtesy of Reed).

Fisher raises the spectre of Reed "encroaching" onto Eastmoreland, which is silly, since Eastmoreland is one of the more overpriced neighborhoods in the City. If Reed wants to expand its operations, it will move west into the light industrial / warehouse area.

The ENA conducted a poll that showed that a majority of residents of the neighborhood supported Reed's proposed usage, but they have even spun that so that now they are arguing that just the opinions of the "most affected" neighbors ought to be considered.

There *is* another side to this story.

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