Southeast Portland neighbors turn to city council to settle land use dispute

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Some neighbors in Southeast Portland are worried nearby historic homes will soon face a wrecking ball and developers will cram in more housing.

The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association hopes an appeal to the city council will stop it.

"Part of what we're doing is we're losing Portland's heritage," said Robert McCullough.

McCullough has lived in the neighborhood since he graduated from Reed College in1968 and represents the neighborhood association.

"The fact is for Portland, which talks green, to practice black, is the wrong answer," said McCullough.

He's talking about plans to demolish a house on a lot in the 3000 block of SE Woodstock Boulevard, directly across from Reed College, and replace it with two new houses. Everett Custom Homes bought the home for $529,000 last summer.

"When we first started this project we met with the neighbors. We showed them about 20 to 30 homes, of other homes in the neighborhood, and they picked a few out that they liked and then we custom-designed homes to meet those architectural standards that they liked to fit on these lots," explained Everett Custom Homes President Vic Remmers.

Everett Custom Homes has already done similar demolition and building a few blocks away at Southeast Woodstock Boulevard and 39th Avenue.

The lots on 39th and Woodstock were zoned R5, or allowed one dwelling to be built on every 5,000 square feet. That's how Everett Custom Homes was able to build two homes on some lots that originally had one home.

A city zoning map shows the lot in question across from Reed College is zoned R7, which allows one dwelling to be built on every 7,000 feet. However, the map also shows an R5 in parenthesis next to the R7. That's causing confusion over what the zoning really is.

McCullough doesn't believe the lot, or that entire block for that matter, was ever zoned R5. He believes it's always been R7.

"We have checked every document in the city archives. We've checked every document in Reed College's archives, and our own archives, The Oregonian, The Sellwood Bee. We have affidavits from board members at the time; that's hard to find after 34 years. Everyone is in agreement on one issue. This change never occurred."

Remmers said the city has already approved that change. He also noted every other nearby block is zoned for more than one home to be built on it.

"Through the comprehensive plan the city has designated this as R5 so you can go through the process we're going through and change it from R7 to R5," explained Remmers.

McCullough and his group are appealing to the city council to reconsider the zoning change. McCullough has a message for its members.

"It's very simple. Don't change it, if it never happened," he said.

The city council will hear this debate Thursday afternoon. Both the Everett Custom Homes and the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association will get their say.