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October 2015 -- Vol. 110, No. 2

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 November
issue, with a deadline of October 15.
(The December issue has an ad and copy deadline of November 12; it's out at Thanksgiving.)


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Sequoias, Eastmoreland, Remmers, Robert McCullough, Arthur Bradford, deal to save trees
Late on September 18, Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association Chair Robert McCullough and the contested property’s next door neighbor Arthur Bradford, smiled – moments before the announcement that the property deal had been signed. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Deal reached; Eastmoreland sequoias stand


The story of a developer with a permit to cut down three 150-foot sequoia trees to build a new home on S.E. Martins Street – and Eastmoreland neighbors and environmental protesters trying to block his actions – has more twists and turns than climbing up the mountain past Multnomah Falls, and at times it seemed just as risky.

The saga began when, on April 1, 2015, Everett Custom Homes, Inc., filed Warranty Deed number 2015035965, buying the house and two lots at the combined address of 3646 S.E. Martins Street for $326,500.

On April 10, the developer was granted a Demolition Permit, and the house was torn down in June.

Then, as reported in THE BEE, neighbors stepped in to try to save the three sequoia trees that stand on one of the two lots. A coalition of neighbors set about fundraising to buy the lot from Everett Customs Homes, and worked to come up with the $900,000 purchase price reportedly set by the company’s owner, Vic Remmers.

It seemed that those wishing to save the trees, and shoo off the developer, were “winning”, although they said they were quite a bit below the asking price for the property – but on the morning of September 14, a tree specialist company, reportedly hired by Remmers, rumbled up the street, and the crew members started taking out chain saws, climbing gear, and rope.

“We've been talking with the developer, Vic Remmers, we had a meeting from him on Wednesday, September 9, and were awaiting a response,” Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA) Chair Robert McCullough told THE BEE.

“This apparently is his response – contracting with the company to take these trees down today,” McCullough continued. “The problem with ‘stealth’ tree cutting in a neighborhood like Eastmoreland is that we live here. I think we can stand under the tree is longer than he can pay the crew who is here to stand by idle.”

Calmly a Portland Police Bureau sergeant and two officers, informed McCullough, and others standing under and around the trees, that they were trespassing on private property and were subject to arrest.

“I recently had my 65th birthday, and I’ve never been arrested,” McCullough commented.  “What a day, when a 65-year-old Republican can be seen as being so far to the left on an issue, and be on the verge of being arrested by professionals from our Portland Police.”

After checking with their commanders, the officers declined to make arrests, because the “complainant”, in this case Mr. Remmers, failed to come to the site, and thus those individuals stopping the work had not been formally “trespassed”, or blocked, from being on the property.

The tree-cutting contractors closed the front fence gate, “locking in” several of the protesters. But because the fence didn’t surround the property, it was more of a symbolic gesture more than anything. About fifteen minutes later, the tree cutting contractors picked up their chainsaws and equipment and slipped out through the side of the fence.

The drama for that day concluded at 11:10 am.

Some time on the following day, September 15, fencing contractors erected a new and more formidable fence surrounding the entire lot. On the fence were posted “No Trespassing” signs. That evening, private security guards were posted on the lot.

When THE BEE stopped by on September 16, one of the guards said, “We’re here to inform people that this is private property, and they are trespassing if they go onto the lot. And, we’re here to promote public safety. If someone is injured inside, we’re instructed to call for emergency services for them.”

At an opening in the fence, a security officer made no attempt to stop protesters from entering or leaving the property.

“Who is guarding whom?” McCullough quipped. “The environmental protesters are ‘guarding’ the trees. Who or what are the guards guarding?”

About 7:30 am on September 17, about a dozen members of the Portland Police Bureau moved in and started arresting protesters. However, one man scampered up a tree, out of reach of the officers.

“Mayor Charlie Hales has asked Vic Remmers of Everett Custom Homes to delay removal of the giant sequoias, following concerns the ancient trees would be removed today,” McCullough said that morning. “I am meeting with Remmers and Mayor Hales to discuss a solution.”

Until mid-afternoon, officers closed off Martins Street at S.E. 36th Avenue, allowing only residents past the yellow police tape stretched across the street.

When the fence gates were opened, and police left the area, neighbors believed they’d scored a victory – until the tree-cutting crews again pulled up the street about 2:00 pm.

The protesters joined hands, blocking the entry of the tree crew, who after making cell phone calls, left the scene again.

“I think it was a ‘negotiating tactic’ by Everett Custom Homes,” said Arthur Bradford, the homeowner to the east of the property.

On Friday morning, September 18, the trees remained standing, and one protester remained in the tree. That morning, Bradford told THE BEE, “If the deal is completed, another developer will build the western lot, and keep the trees.”

The fund to buy the property was a bit short, Bradford said, but contributions from neighbors, and recently “South Park” co-creator Matt Stone, brought them closer to their goal. “We’re hopeful that through donations and grants, the property can be preserved as a place everyone can enjoy.

“It’s become more significant than a place with just three big trees,” Bradford added, “It is a place of community significance.”

By mid-Friday afternoon, the fences were taken down, and the neighbors sensed victory.

Late in the day, about a hundred neighbors, supporters, and a half-dozen news reporters gathered at the site.

McCullough was wearing his “Mayoral Hat”, and Bradford was all smiles, standing with him on a bluff that served as an impromptu stage.

“Minutes before 5 pm today, the ‘deal’ was signed,” McCullough revealed. “There are final details to be worked out, but it appears as if these magnificent trees will continue to grace our neighborhood. They are now owned by ‘Save the Portland Redwoods, LLC’.”

A cheer went up through the crowd, and the environmental protester who’d been ensconced in the southernmost sequoia tree came down from his perch.

McCullough used the opportunity to decry “flawed regulations” in the City’s code, that permit trees such as these to be cut in established neighborhoods. THE BEE attempted to contact developer Remmers at Everett Custom Homes for his response to the sequence of events, but nobody was available to answer the phone – and the voice mail was full, so we were unable to leave a message.

After the celebration, both McCullough and Bradford individually declined to discuss the final details of the deal, citing confidentiality commitments they’d made to the parties involved. McCulloch provided a further comment on his perspective of the whole matter, in a Letter to the Editor in this issue of THE BEE.

The confidentiality agreement was soon breached, after THE BEE went to press – although who was first to do so is unclear. The neighborhood nonprofit, “Save the Portland Redwoods LLC”, for its part, announced that it is paying approximately $800,000 for the two lots involved, and will sell one of them – the one on which the home on the property had previously been demolished by Remmers – to “Ethan Beck Homes”, which will build a small home on the lot without the sequoias.

The lot with the three sequoias is to be retained by the nonprofit, as a “public park”.

Developer Remmers apparently concurs as to the nature of the agreement.

Brooklyn fire, fatal house fire
From the exterior and inside, fire crews work to extinguish the intense house fire on September 8th in the Brooklyn neighborhood. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Officials mum on details of deadly Brooklyn house fire


Smoke rising from the fire that broke out in a Brooklyn house on September 8, reported at 1:40 pm, could be seen from much of Inner Southeast Portland that afternoon.

Neighbors watched as crews riding 16 units from various Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) stations snaked hoses through the streets, just east of S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard, at 4237 9th Avenue – near S.E. Cora Street.

Several neighbors watching the firefighters pull water lines and shooting water into the blazing house expressed concern for “Steve” – the man who they said lived there.

“It seems like he ‘lived’ on his front porch,” said Annette Johnson. “But when I looked, he wasn’t [out] there, and smoke was coming out of the house.”

Johnson said that she recruited a man to help her rescue the man she believed to be trapped inside the burning house.

That man, a real estate agent who was at a nearby home, tried to make entry with a garden hose in hand, but instead of reaching the victim, he himself suffered minor burns.

PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Tyler told reporters at the scene, “The flames were so hot that he was not able to get in there, I don't know whether his injuries were sustained due to standing outside trying to put water on the fire, or trying to get into the home."

When fire crews arrived, Tyler said they found flames and smoke pouring out of all sides of the house.

The fire in the home, built in 1924, burned with such heat, it took firefighters over half an hour to extinguish it, and they stayed on-scene for hours further, to make sure the fire did not reignite.

“Crews found an adult male in his 60's, already deceased inside the house,” Tyler later reported.

We followed up with Tyler a week later. He told THE BEE, “We are not releasing any further information ... due to the ongoing investigation of this fatal fire.”

Franklin High School, Marshall High School campus
Franklin High students entering the Marshall High School campus in Lents to start the fall term were surprised and pleased to see their own school’s name over the main entrance. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Franklin students open school year at Marshall


When Portland’s Benjamin Franklin High School students started school on August 27, it was not at S.E. 52nd and Woodward. They headed eastward, toward the former Marshall High School complex in the Lents neighborhood, just over two miles away from the school’s traditional campus.

Surprising to some, all traces of the closed Marshall High’s signage had been removed from the building. Gleaming chrome letters on the outside of the main entrance, and banners inside the building, now proclaimed it to be Franklin High School (FHS).

Two students spoke with THE BEE about the transition from one campus to another.

FHS Senior Matthew Cardwell said, “It was a little weird coming here the first day, because I spent three years at the original campus.

“The former Franklin grounds had plenty of landscaping, but no on-campus parking,” Cardwell said. “Sometimes I’d have to park up to four blocks away, and walk in from there. With on-campus parking here, it makes it easier not to be late to my first class of the day.”

Adjusting to the new layout was relatively easy for Cardwell, he said. “First, because there are several entrances; the student’s aren’t all packed in the front entry of the building when school starts.

“And, I do like the square layout of the building,” Cardwell commented. “It's a lot easier to navigate going to and from classes.”

Helping in this transition was that all of Cardwell teachers, as well as some new additional teachers, came with the student body to the new location.

“The cafeteria and kitchen are larger here; it’s not like in the old building, where it felt small and crowded,” Cardwell said. “And, there are a lot more places to eat, close by, off campus.”

Being on the football and wrestling team, Cardwell said that he likes the sports facilities at the new campus. “The wrestling room is right next to the weight room – making it easily accessible. But, I did like playing on the Franklin grass football field – the turf here is okay, but I like getting dirty when we play a game!”

FHS sophomore Lucy Shadburne told THE BEE she enjoyed her freshman year at the historic Franklin school building.

“But I really like how this new campus is set up,” Shadburne remarked. “Because it’s a big circle on two floors, it’s easier to get to classes. Because I don’t have to run from one end of the school to the other, I haven’t been late to a single class this year.”

The classrooms seem a bit brighter to her, too Shadburne said. “There a lot more windows, so there’s more natural lighting in the classroom.”

“I really miss the huge Franklin High Auditorium,” Shadburne said. “All of the students could be in there at the same time.

“And, there was a special feeling of history you got just being in there,” Shadburne reflected. “My great-grandmother went to Franklin; and when I stood in that auditorium, I could imagine her sitting in one of those same seats.”

As a participant in the spring musical, Shadburne she’s already appreciated the difference in the two buildings’ theater stages. “At the old school we had this huge, deep stage, with a large proscenium that was especially good for the dance program.”

However, she pointed out that the stage equipment at the old building could be considered antique. “I think this [new campus] theater stage equipment is probably safer.”

Shadburne added that she, too, likes the new campus’ gymnasium. “I play volleyball, and also use the weight room. They’ll work out well.”

Cardwell didn’t seem put off that he won’t be graduating from Franklin’s traditional campus; Shadburne told us that she expects to be back in the “all new” Franklin High for her senior year.

While the complete renovation of the old Franklin campus proceeds without the difficulties of working around the student body, the Franklin students bring life back to the closed down Marshall High campus, where education is back in full swing again – at least temporarily.

Orange Line, MAX, Southeast light rail, Tilikum Crossing, first train
The first official train traveling the TriMet MAX Light Rail Orange Line stops before starting to cross east on the new Tilikum Crossing transit bridge near OMSI. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Thousands “Catch the Orange” on MAX opening day


With great fanfare, TriMet’s Inner Southeast MAX Light Rail Orange Line – known as the “Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project” – opened on schedule, on Saturday morning, September 12.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and his wife Nancy waited with a handful of others on the Bybee Station platform for the 8:35 morning train that would take them to the official inauguration celebration, held near Portland State University downtown.

“I am hugely excited about this for our neighborhoods, for our city, and for our choices for how we get around,” Hales told THE BEE. “As a longtime proponent of light rail, I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time, having been involved in establishing the airport [Red] line, and the Yellow Line.”

Hales recalled the Orange Line as part of “the ill-fated ‘South-North Line’ rejected by voters in both Oregon and Washington a long time ago. But, we figured out a way to move forward.”

The Bybee Station is a five-minute walk from his house, Hales observed. He said the Orange Line would benefit Inner Southeast Portland in several ways. “It’s especially going to help support local small businesses. More people get to the storefronts if we have a great transit system.”

Mr. and Mrs. Hales joined many elected officials and dignitaries who had boarded the train in Milwaukie, including U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts, and current Governor, Kate Brown.

The train, with its digital signs flashing “FIRST RIDE!”, rumbled north, and turned on S.E. 17th Avenue at McLoughlin Boulevard, heading into the Brooklyn neighborhood. Riders took in the sights as the train passed the Oregon Rail Heritage Museum, and stopped to wait for a green signal to travel west on the new Tilikum Crossing transit bridge.

The train’s riders all piled out on S.W. Lincoln Street at 3rd Avenue, and swarmed into the cordoned parking lot of the University Place Hotel.

Governor Kate Brown, catch the orange, MAX
Governor Kate Brown shows THE BEE that she “Catches the Orange”. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

On the way in to the celebration, Woodstock resident and Oregon Governor Kate Brown showed that she’d “caught the orange” – TriMet’s marketing slogan – by showing the oranges in her hand.

“I'm a long-time supporter of TriMet,” Brown said. “I think they are a powerful force for our entire metropolitan region. I am so pleased to be here, at the opening of the Orange Line on the east side. This is really exciting.”

In her formal remarks from the stage, Brown said, “This is a great example of the ‘Oregon way’.  Collaboration, to achieve meaningful changes that make everybody’s lives better. Let's continue to work together, moving forward and creating more opportunities for all Oregonians to thrive. Let’s celebrate!”

In his remarks, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer highlighted the Tilikum Crossing transit bridge. “There are no cars on this bridge,” Blumenauer reminded. “But because of this vision and connections, all drivers in this region will be better off, because there will be less of us in front of them on the road. We should not be shy about making this point. This [bridge] makes the road system work.”

Upon taking the stage, Mayor Hales pointed out that he’d been given nickname “Choo-Choo Charlie” because of his support of light rail. “I’ve never been so proud of that, as I am today. This is my life’s work, and work of many people here – creating a city for everyone, with livability, equitably, and transportation moving people forward. What a great day! Congratulations!”

With that, the Orange Line, and the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, were declared open. A throng of pedestrians and bicyclists vied to be the first officially to cross the new bridge; and others waited their turn to ride the new seven-mile long, $1.49 billion MAX light rail line.

Orange Line, MAX, public art, milling wheel, Tacoma Street, station
This giant public work of art, visible from S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard, welcomed new riders at the S.E. Tacoma/Johnson Creek Station: It’s a giant poured-concrete sculpture, representing the logging and milling past of the Sellwood – and former Willsburg – areas. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Street fairs greet “Orange Line” riders on opening day


As the TriMet MAX Light Rail Orange Line opened on Saturday, September 12, the transit agency put all available trains on the rails to accommodate the crush of people taking advantage of the “free ride” day. The rides were not just free on all MAX trains in the region; all buses and trolleys and even the OHSU tram were free to ride all that day.

An estimated 10,000 people walked or biked across the Tilikum Crossing transit bridge for the first time, and some 40,000 individual trips were taken on the MAX Orange Line on opening day.

Neighborhoods were featured along the line with fairs set up at the stops. Jugglers and other street performers entertained folks who stopped at the OMSI/S.E. Water Avenue Station.

The largest fair, by far, in Inner Southeast was in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood, set up along S.E. Gideon Street, which was closed off to motor vehicles at the Clinton/S.E. 12th Station. Vendors, service organizations, and entertainers made for a lively community celebration.

There wasn’t room for a celebration at the Bybee Boulevard Station; the platform was packed with riders heading downtown, or to Milwaukie.

And at the S.E. Tacoma/Johnson Creek Station, a handful of kiosks were set up by business and community associations, arranged by the Sellwood Westmoreland Business Alliance (SWBA). Some visitors at the station strolled the newly-completed Johnson Creek Boardwalk.

Although temperatures soared by mid-afternoon, folks were smiling, as they rode the Orange Line for the first time.

August storm, rainstorm, windstorm, Portland
A family stops during their bike ride to look at the tree that fell into the back yard of homes on S.E. Rex Street, just west of Reed College Place. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Heaviest rain of summer blows in, August 29-30


Weather forecasters gave notice that a significant rainstorm, probably accompanied with some wind, would arrive in the Rose City on August 29. Sure enough, over that two-day weekend, a total of seven tenths of an inch of rain gave us a break from our dry summer, and rescued some trees and vegetation that had begun to wither from the lack of moisture.

Brisk winds did blow through as well, causing a number of small power failures in sections of Southeast Portland, but causing relatively little damage – mostly in the form of small branches and leaves blown from trees.

However, on S.E. Gladstone Street, near 36th Avenue, in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhhood, a massive tree fell on a car, completely covering it. The following day, Sunday August 30, City of Portland arborists were out dismantling the tree and shredding it. 

And, on S.E. Rex Street, just west of Reed College Place in Eastmoreland, a street tree fell sideways, into a back yard between two houses – managing to do little damage to either home. 

In the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, at S.E. 69th Avenue and Ogden Street, a tree blew into power lines, causing some arcing.

Other sections of the metropolitan area were harder hit by the storm, where thousands of customers lost electrical power, some for an extended period of time.

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