This just in: Short film on density –

Very pleased to see this today.

I’m still watching it.  More later.


RIP House:  2808 SE Belmont

I drew this February 10th and I’m not sure why it’s not in archived posts.  The lot has been split in two , apparently.  At least the new units aren’t big cubes, but the echo of old styles, just built quickly and with lesser materials. The old house was “nice”; I wonder if any of it was salvaged.

According to the notes scrawled on the page, this may have initially been the house of one E. W. Ring.  According to , it was built in 1908, making it 104 at the time it was razed.  I have no idea why it was sold.  It was a huge house.  I doubt that splitting the lot and making two smaller houses actually surpasses the number of people who could live there, and my understanding of tree replacement would mean a LOT of trees must be planted to offset the loss of those old trees.

I am bad at trees, so here’s the old Street View:  Click here

Impending destruction : Demolition map

Found on the Portland Chronicle website.  I see they’re planning to demolish quite a bit, some within my radius of walking.

On the one hand, I’m very happy to have access to this information, but effectively it’s like knowing someone is going to die.  By mauling.

Too little too late? City of Portland just now considering how it manages infill development?

Very recent development.  Does the study equal a moratorium?  Judge for yourself.

Stemming the flow of character and solid construction?

This is from February, but relevant nonetheless.

So there’s a pledge to look into things, but the measures will be slow, and demolition is happening now.  Hmm.

Slowing the cubification of Portlandia: Some good news on the demolition rules

I felt pretty vindicated when I read that it wasn’t just me who thought the demolitions were a bit too frequent in these parts.  Turns out so many people thought this for various reasons (neighbors, preservationists, etc.) that it was put to a vote recently.

That is a great move.  I remember a time when I thought, “Yeah!  High density is the only way to solve sprawl!”  Unfortunately, it has done nothing created but a speculation frenzy that leaves the unmonied behind and with no choice but to move.  This is my usual rant, so I’ll cut it short.  The news speaks for itself. 🙂

Imbalance of power, retro edition: Urban renewal in SW Washington, D.C.

Trying to get a better idea of what mid-century people were thinking, pushing forward with urban renewal projects that demolished thousands houses and displaced hundreds of thousands of low-income people, I’ve been watching documentaries online.  Today’s documentary goes a little bit into what happens when an area is declared a slum and cleared, when promises to the displaced are broken.  Whether it’s clearing a neighborhood for a freeway, a mall, an arena, or bulldozing individual houses so you can pack as many people in as possible, the power is never with the individuals, and for some reason governments are too inefficient to help.  This pains me to say; I would love to see helpful and effective government agencies, but they are often conspicuously absent from these stories.

More steps to nowhere 

I thought I’d walk around and enjoy the dogwood trees before they drop their colors.  I really like the mini-valley over around SE 30th between Harrison and Division, which also happens to have a lot of dogwood activity.  Along the way, I noticed a familiar sight at 30th and Grant:  missing trees and a vacant lot.


It’s a sizeable lot. If it’s truly for high density redevelopment, you can cram a lot of people on that corner.  There were no yard signs expressing frustration at the direction the neighborhood is headed.  This is very close to the canyon of cubes on Division, so the situation bears monitoring.

The previous house was built in 1920.  It survived 95 years.

What is to be learned?

Expand, contract.  Build, demolish, build more.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

I was talking today with someone from Russia about the bankruptcy of Radio Shack.  She had no concept of Radio Shack and no experience living anywhere with malls older than 15 years old.  My conversations with people in Europe and Russia, when the topic turns to architecture, manifest at least one of the following points:

  • America is a young country; our idea of “old” is different than in most of the rest of the world.
  • Historical architecture is rare and also very difficult to maintain and preserve in the United States.
  • If the person I talk to is from a country with a history of massive upheaval and/or dictators, they may distrust demolitions of large areas because that tends to be what totalitarian regimes have done in the past.
  • If the person is from an area with a lot of restored architecture, they have a hard time understanding how Americans can bulldoze a Victorian mansion while in Europe, they go to great effort to rebuild architecture that was blown to smithereens.
  • People move all the time, everywhere, but the rise of the suburbs and White Flight is not something Europeans have a concept of.

I explained that in a significant shift in attitudes over the last several decades, how Americans increasingly want to live not in small towns, not in suburbs, but in cities, and that the push for the most dense areas is paving the way (no pun intended) for an uptick in demolitions here and in other cities.  I didn’t have time to talk details, but I mentioned that urban malls represented mass displacement that came with waves of “urban renewal”, and how that never does bode well for the poor and for minorities.

I also wish I’d had time to explain that even shopping malls had aspirations of permanence when they were starting out.  I didn’t have time to show my conversation partner a picture from the Northland Shopping Center in St. Louis, where the mosaic in the entryway floor of the former Baker’s Shoes actually spelled the store’s name out.  Now tenants come and go in malls over rent hikes, and my understanding is that malls change management companies with alarming regularity.  This page about the Northland Mall, although it’s not about the urban core and high density housing, is still about learning from past mistakes…or not.  And I don’t think people are learning.

Goodbye, old gray 1890 house     

I’d seen the demolition notice on this house, and while it was clearly a humble home from the word “go”, it is or was the oldest house on SE 35th Place .  To the best of my knowledge.  I’ve been told no block will follow.  I hope so.  I’m a renter; I don’t do committees, so I have no input here.