Historic District Designation for Neighborhoods
One of the main goals of the McCulloch Foundation is to save, beautify and preserve heritage homes, buildings and neighborhoods. An effective way to do this (though one of the most difficult and time consuming) is to have a neighborhood (or home or building) designated as a Historic Landmark or District. We have been working with many Laurelhurst residents to show that there is enough support among the residents (there must be at least 51% in favor) to have the Laurelhurst neighborhood recognized as an official Historic District in Oregon and nationally.
This process is complex and lengthy, and requires some funding to pay for historians and others to help with the necessary research and documentation (or the involvement of dozens of dedicated volunteers). It is the goal of the Foundation to use our expertise and resources to help Laurelhurst residents and others who would like to protect historic homes, buildings and neighborhoods through the Historic Landmark designation process.
Across our metropolitan region, housing pressures have been building for years. Portland’s striking landscape and vibrant culture attract some 40,000 new residents a year. This steady demand—coupled with an established urban growth boundary—has driven home prices inexorably upward, creating new worries about affordability, and a situation where land can be worth far more than the house that sits on it.
Portland’s City Council has responded with new zoning infill rules that will take effect in 2017. For Laurelhurst, these rules allow for the construction of triplexes and duplexes on every street—and 45 neighborhood lots have been re-zoned to allow six-plexes after demolition. This is a clear win for developers and for those with a greater interest in profits than Portland culture and legacy. Demolishing historic single-family homes and replacing them with larger homes or multiple units sold for $800,000+ will not solve an affordability crisis.
A review of demolition & rebuilding permits in the Laurelhurst neighborhood over the past 10 years shows a sharp upturn in the number of demolitions just in the past few years. Very few if any of these rebuild projects have created more affordable housing. The destruction of the older homes hurts the environment, history and livability of the city without improving affordability.
Neighbors also worry that the well-intentioned changes could markedly alter the character of the neighborhood—with the loss of small historic homes and mature trees, the incongruity of towering multi-family units on every block, increased parking pressures, and the inability of neighborhood schools to meet new demands.
“For generations, people have been attracted to Laurelhurst because of its special character and beauty,” said resident Tanya Baikow-Smith. “Once that is lost, it is lost forever—not just for me and my family but for every generation to follow.”