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March 2015 -- Vol. 109, No. 7

Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


The next BEE is our April
issue, with a deadline of March 19.
(The May  issue has an ad and copy deadline of April 16.)


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But, if you would rather not do it online, you can E-mail or telephone 503/968-6397. The 12-issue annual subscription rate is $14 per year for addresses located in Multnomah County, Oregon; and $24 for anywhere else in the U.S.(it's based on the differential postage rates for our class of postage). For international rates, inquire via that e-mail address just above!

Daily news!  The all-new daily PORTLAND TRIBUNE website  is updated throughout the day, every day, when news breaks out.  Click the banner at left to keep up to date on the banner news throughout the Rose City!

THE BEE has a second website -- it's searchable for past stories.  The content for the current month is similar to this one, presented in a different format.  To visit the other website, click the banner at right!

Car crash, skid, UPS Store, Sellwood
A deflated airbag hangs over the steering wheel, after the driver was removed from the Toyota Corolla he smashed into the Sellwood UPS Store. (Courtesy of Shon Boulden)

Driver skids 250 feet – into Sellwood store


Movie fiction swiftly turned into reality for Sellwood resident Shon Boulden, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, February 18.

Boulden told THE BEE that he’d stayed up late, watching neo-noir crime thriller “Nightcrawler” – a film about a man who videotapes wrecks and crimes during the hours of darkness, for use on news channels.

At 2:51 am, he heard the unmistakable sound of tires squealing on the pavement outside his S.E. Tacoma Street residence – followed by a grinding crash.

“I jogged across the street, and saw a car stuck halfway into the Sellwood UPS Store,” Boulden reported. “The car was full of smoke, from the airbags deploying.”

A couple standing nearby were already on the line with the 9-1-1 Center, so he checked on the driver of the smashed-up Toyota Corolla. “He was mumbling under his breath; I wasn’t sure what he was saying. I helped him up, and laid him down next to the car. 

“He was totally out of it,” Boulden continued. “He was saying he couldn’t be there, and kept asking us to just let him go.”

The other witnesses helped calm the crash victim down. “He had blood all over his arm, and I could hear his back creaking and cracking as he tried to get up,” Boulden recalled.

Within minutes, Westmoreland Fire Station 20’s crew rolled up to the scene, and firefighter-paramedics took over the care of the crash victim.

Sellwood, UPS Store, crash, skid
Some 250 feet of skid-marks marked the path of the Toyota Corolla that smashed into the Sellwood UPS Store at 2:51 am on February 18th. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Then, Boulden took out his camera, and – like the central character of the movie he’d just watched – began snapping photos of the scene for THE BEE.

After the police and firefighters cleared the scene, Boulden said he didn’t want to leave the storefront – which was now missing two of its four plate glass windows – without covering the gaping hole. “I had some plastic left over from a painting job, so I thought that I might as well tack something up, so that the store just wasn’t left wide open.”

The next day, Joel Fields, owner of the Sellwood UPS Store, told THE BEE that he appreciated that Boulden, a frequent customer, had taken the trouble to tack up the plastic sheeting.

“I first learned about this from my worker who came to open the store this morning,” Fields said. “I came down here immediately; my landlord was already here.  He sent over a construction crew right away to clean it up.”

Nearby, the owner of the block-long Sellwood Plaza building had little to say, but shook his head as watched one of his workers clean up debris at the front of the store.

Fields pointed out the 250 feet of skid marks along S.E. Tacoma Street, which started west of the 13th Avenue intersection, imprinted on the pavement eastward up the street, over the sidewalk, ending where the car rammed the front of his store.

“Fortunately, none of our primary operating equipment was damaged,” Fields observed. “But, the impact knocked a heavy case of paper about 30 feet across the shop, when he broke through the front windows.”

Although some witnesses at the scene suspected the driver was tipsy, Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said that the driver had not been cited for Driving while Under the Influence of Intoxicants. Simpson confirmed that the driver was transported to a local hospital, but the man was apparently not seriously injured.

Reflecting on the experience, neighbor Boulden commented, “What an experience – right after watching that movie! It made the situation that much weirder!”

Squatters, Southeast Portland, theft of power, burglary
A police officer writes up a citation for a person accused of “squatting” in an empty Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood house. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

TheBee investigates: Squatters still settling in Southeast


You may not have heard much about this problem lately, but it hasn’t gone away. The problem of an ever-increasing number of empty houses being taken over by squatters in Inner Southeast Portland remains a significant and complex quandary, according to law enforcement officials.

Members of the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct Neighborhood Response Team, and a Portland General Electric inspector, were called on February 18th to a slightly run-down looking Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood house at 7805 S.E. Flavel Street.

An East Precinct District officer accompanied the two NRT officers as they walked through the gate and entered in the yard at 12:14 pm that afternoon, investigating a potential robbery. The PGE inspector looked at the electrical service drop that appeared to be “hot-wired”, allowing power into the residence, even though there was not an electric meter in place.

The “probable cause” prompting the police investigation: Out of view of the street, a window had been kicked in, a door pried open, and a water heater, washing machine, and dryer, had been pulled out of the house and dragged into the side yard.

After detaining two suspects who were on the property, PPB NRT Officer Joe Brown told THE BEE that it was the call of a neighbor that had alerted police and PGE.

“The neighbors said they used to go to church with the elderly couple who lived here,” Brown said. “But they said that the residents have been deceased for a while, and it’s been sitting vacant and unoccupied.”

Records of the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services – the agency that deals with abandoned and “nuisance” houses – shows that the house was inspected in July, listing “Vacant house with tall grass/weeds” as the reason.

“The neighbors told us, based on what was going on with the power, and the open window at the back of the house, the bicycle sitting there – that they were concerned people were breaking into the house,” Brown said.

Seeing the appliances pulled into the side yard, Brown commented, “It's an indicator of a burglary and crime activity. And it’s not necessarily a crime by the people squatting in the house at that moment of discovery. Apart from a confession, we have no way of proving ‘who did what’ in the house. 

“But based on our records, talking to the neighbors, and talking to the man and woman we found in the house today,” Brown added, “we’ll be able to determine whether or not they have lawful authority to be in the house.”

To clarify, THE BEE asked, “Does it appear as these two individuals are ‘squatters’ in this property?”

Brown responded that because the term “squatter” is a “politically-loaded”, they prefer to use the terms “transient” or “homeless”.

“But, the first thing the female suspect told us when we contacted her this afternoon was that they were ‘researching squatter’s rights’,” Brown admitted. “There appears to be a misunderstanding about ‘squatter’s rights’ in the homeless community. The word is getting around it if one finds a vacant house, one has the right to break into it and take possession of it.”

For the record: That is not true. You don’t get to keep it. You may get arrested instead.

The term “squatter” is not pejorative, according to its dictionary definition: a noun: “a person who settles on land or occupies property without title, right, or payment of rent.”

An Internet search for the term “squatter’s rights” produces more than 100,000 results. But in fact, no specific “list of rights” exists. “Squatter’s rights” refers to an arcane legal principle called “adverse possession”, in which an individual might gain ownership of a property by taking up residence.

However, Oregon’s Adverse Possession law §105.620 states: “A person may acquire title to real property by adverse possession only if the person and the [legal owner] have maintained actual, open, notorious, exclusive, hostile, and continuous possession of the property for a period of 10 years.”

Brown commented, “Homeless people are still saying that this concept gives them legal justification for secretly breaking into an empty house and living there.”

PPB crime statistics show that when squatters move into vacant houses, “Nuisance Crimes” spike up in the area. “There is an increase in neighborhood livability concerns surrounding abandoned houses,” Brown pointed out. “In addition to an increase in petty crime, because a house is being occupied without working utilities, they also become public health and public safety concerns.”

One would think the problem of squatter-occupied houses would primarily be in low-income areas of the city. Not so. At the present time, Portland Police NRT officers are keeping track of “several dozen” abandoned “nuisance houses” in Inner Southeast Portland. There could be one near you.

“It’s a huge problem,” Brown admitted. “There are many vacant homes here, and many people with need for a place to stay – and this becomes an issue.  We are sympathetic, and understand the plight of those looking for a warm, dry place to stay.”

In the case of the two suspects found that afternoon, Brown remarked, “It’s quite apparent that they do not have permission to be here. We will check them for outstanding warrants. If they are clear, we will release them with a citation and an exclusion order.”

When they roust squatters, officers also provide the homeless with helpful resources, such as guidebooks, shelter lists, and other information. “We will encourage them to utilize these resources; and then, send them on their way.

“Homelessness is a social problem; police officers don't have a solution for it,” Brown observed. “At the same time, not only do we have an obligation to stop crimes that destroy the value of this property – whoever owns it – but we also have the responsibility to reduce crime and improve livability for the neighbors.”

If you have an abandoned house in your neighborhood that you perceive as a problem, see the specific Bureau of Development Services webpage at:, and click on the “Enforcement” tab for more information. You’ll also find an on-line reporting form there, too.

Paul Cook, Cleveland High School, Principal
Cleveland High School Principal Paul Cook listens, as members of the school’s community advocate having a say in his replacement. Cook is set to retire at the end of this school year. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Choosing new CHS Principal dominates PPS meeting


Some 75 people turned out for a meeting and conversation with the Portland Public Schools Board of Education, in the Cleveland High School Library on Monday evening, January 26.

One of the announced topics was proposed changes to the inter-district transfer and enrollment policy that would end the “lottery system”, replacing it with a petition-based request system.

“The policy changes do not affect sibling priority at focus schools,” assured Board member Greg Belisle. “And we are still permitting hardship transfers; this is done on a case-by-case basis, as situations arise.”

However, the main focus of the meeting turned out to be the hiring of a new Principal for Cleveland High School – who will replace Paul Cook, who retires at the end of the school year.

Attendees asked polite-but-direct questions about the transition – and specifically, the hiring process. It became clear to the PPS Board members that many of those attending the meeting wished to see a high level of community involvement in the hiring of a new Cleveland High Principal.

“We want to be sure our voices are heard during the hiring process,” said an attendee, summing up the sentiment.

Stepping outside the meeting, Cleveland High School Principal Paul Cook spoke with THE BEE about what he’d heard.

“I really appreciate the community’s desire for involvement,” Cook reflected. “A unique and empowering thing, here at Cleveland, is that we have always done our best for all groups – from parent groups, to alumni, to students, to the student's parents.

“All this is coming through at this meeting,” Cook said. “It is good to see that they feel that they are empowered; that they know what it takes for leadership to continue moving our school forward, and improving.”

Cook is the honoree at the annual CHS Auction on Saturday, March 7, at the Melody Ballroom in Southeast Portland.

Amtrak, car rear ended on tracks
With a loud crash, and with sparks flying, this Amtrak engine slammed into the back of a stalled Toyota – whose driver took a wrong turn onto the tracks in Southeast Portland, a little north of OMSI. (KOIN 6 News photo)

Confused driver’s car hit by Amtrak near OMSI 


What started as a Valentine’s Day outing for an elderly couple and their granddaughter nearly had a fatal conclusion, when their white Toyota was rear-ended by an Amtrak Train near OMSI – the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, just north of the Ross Island Bridge.

After dark on February 14, at 6:25 pm, Central Precinct police officers responded to a report of a car stuck by a train on the railroad tracks. Two minutes later, Portland Fire & Rescue units were also dispatched to the scene – at S.E. Madison Street and First Avenue.

By the time emergency first-responders arrived, the Amtrak passenger train, with 21 passengers aboard on its way to Seattle, had already run into the stalled vehicle, pushing it down the tracks amid a shower of red sparks.

Fortunately, the occupants had already bailed out of their hopelessly-stuck car, high-centered on the tracks. The driver, Rosemary Franz, told reporters she’d apparently “made a wrong turn” onto the railroad right-of-way.

“We were stuck,” Franz said. “Some people tried to help – but then we saw the red lights of the train coming. Everybody jumped away from the car.”

Even after the emergency braking and the impact, none of the Amtrak passengers or crew members were injured.

Asked by reporters if she felt lucky, the passenger in the car, 10-year-old Madison Bain, said, “Not so much.”

Rail traffic through Southeast Portland was stopped for hours, and several crossings were blocked, as Union Pacific investigators carefully inspected the track as police completed their investigation of the crash.

Demolition, home replacement, apartments, no parking
Developers say they are demolishing Inner Southeast homes for new construction, because “this is where people want to live”. A home that had been made into a triplex was demolished, here on the corner of S.E. Harold and Milwaukie Avenue, to be replaced by a three-story apartment building – with no on-site parking. (Photo by Eric Norberg)

Activists want bigger, faster effort by Portland to “save neighborhoods”

The Portland Tribune

Special to THE BEE

The neighborhood and preservation activists who are hoping the city will act quickly to slow the increase of residential demolition and replacement projects are going to be a little disappointed.

Mayor Charlie Hales said that preserving neighborhood character is a top priority during his recent State of the City speech. He also has promised to appoint a task force to address the issue. However, the two specific initiatives that have been proposed to date could take years to complete.

Both initiatives are included as budget requests from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. One request is for $332,000 to pay for an 18-month Single Family Development Review Program. The other is for $133,000, for the first phase of a multiyear project to update the city’s Historic Resources Inventory.

The funds are requested for the annual budget that begins July 1. They must be approved by the City Council for the projects even to start.

Activists repeatedly have testified before the council that there is no time to wait. They include representatives of the grassroots United Neighborhoods for Reform, the Architectural Heritage Center, and Restore Oregon – all nonprofit organizations – as well as Portland’s Historic Landmarks Commission.

Residential demolition and replacement projects are increasing as the economy improves. According to the most recent figures, the Bureau of Development Services is expected to issue 370 demolition permits this year, up from 281 in 2013, and 312 in 2014.

That does not include permits for major renovation projects that replace the majority of existing houses; activists are calling for “remodels” like this to be considered home replacement if a substantial portion of the existing structure will be removed in the process.

The activists complain that the replacement houses are almost always much larger and more expensive than the original houses, reducing the amount of affordable housing and changing the character of the blocks where they occur. Many of the projects are happening in a limited number of desirable close-in neighborhoods, particularly including Inner Southeast areas, increasing their impact.

Home builders say they are only responding to market demand for new houses in those parts of town where people most want to live. They say the replacement houses are larger and more expensive than the original ones simply because that is what buyers are looking for these days.

The Single Family Development Review Program is intended to respond to those concerns by exploring possible size and design restrictions on the replacement houses, among other things. According to BPS, the money would fund 2.6 full-time-equivalent positions, and the Bureau would dedicate another two FTE to the project. It would require extensive public outreach and engagement in almost all neighborhoods.

The Historic Resources Inventory project is intended to update the list of historically-significant properties in the city that was first compiled in 1984. In addition to now being out of date, the original inventory did not survey many properties east of the Willamette River, which the request says is “underappreciated as a cultural resource to the city”. The current inventory only includes one property east of S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses.

Both requests say that grants also will be sought to increase the funding available for the projects.

Other issues the activists want addressed include the way houses currently are being demolished. Most are simply knocked down by heavy equipment, with the resulting debris hauled off to landfills.

Complaints include hazardous materials being released into the air – including asbestos, and lead-based paint particles – and the loss of reusable building materials. The activists argue the city should require that the houses be “deconstructed” by hand, with strict environmental controls.

Sellwood Bridge
An excavator, equipped with a powerful jackhammer, demolishes the old eastern bridge abutment wall of the Sellwood Bridge. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Sellwood Bridge’s eastern abutment readied for new steel spans


For those who travel over the Sellwood Bridge – or around it, on their way to Oaks Amusement Park Skating Rink – it might seem as if little construction is taking place right now on the replacement bridge project.

But, far below the bridge deck, workers have been busy drilling and setting foundation pilings for the new eastern approach.

“Contractors have demolished a section the old east approach,” Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge spokesman Mike Pullen pointed out, during a February 10 tour of the worksite.

“We will be able to put in most of the easternmost spans of the bridge this year,” Pullen said. “It could be that we will have the full width of the new Sellwood Bridge in during 2015, which would put us ahead of schedule for that work task.”

As we watched, workers were preparing for the arrival of more new steel bridge spans, to be barged up the Willamette River from the fabricator in Vancouver, Washington, in March. “Crews are working with the concrete, and the in-river pier, right now; these need to be ready before those east-side spans can be put in place,” Pullen remarked. 

If all goes well, the middle and eastern spans may shortly be hoisted into place.

“Unfortunately we can’t build the whole half of the northern portion of the east approach yet, because of [presence of] the existing bridge,” Pullen pointed out. “That portion of the work will take place in 2016.”

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