This tear down on Southeast Knapp Street in Eastmoreland was not considered a demolition by the city because part of the old house remained intact. Melissa Binder/The Oregonian
At the root of the debate are two technical aspects of city code. The waiver is the first.
Developers may choose to be courteous, but the delay and notification requirement was never intended as a kindness to neighbors, said Ross Caron, spokesman for the development bureau.
The requirement was added to city code in 1988 to prevent large backlogs of vacant land from building up. The waiver option was added in 1990 to allow property owners to move forward more quickly if they were ready to build.
The second technicality neighbors cite as a problem involves what the city considers a true demolition — and the difference between a demolition and a remodel.
This tear down on Southeast Knapp Street in Eastmoreland was not considered a demolition by the city because part of the old house remained intact.
City code defines a demolition as a complete removal of a structure. If any portion of the to-be-razed home remains — say a bit of wall or floor framing — a demolition permit is unnecessary. An alteration or addition permit is required, but that does not involve a delay or notifying neighbors.
There have been about 2,700 alteration and addition permits thus far this year, up 24 percent from 2011. Projects range from remodeling a bathroom to building an entirely new home with a bit of an old wall or floor still intact.
To the city, these technicalities are separate issues. To neighbors the problem is uniform: Homes are being torn down, and they’re being caught by surprise.
New homes are being built in established neighborhoods throughout Portland, particularly in the Southeast. Photographed here, a new home nearly four times the size of houses around it is being constructed in Mt. Scott-Arleta. (Melissa Binder/The Oregonian)