From The Editor

Itís not just homeowners and drivers who are alarmed by new city policies
Westmoreland, Portland, Oregon, Bybee and Milwaukie
If the city doesnít moderate its plans to require businesses to do a costly analysis of whether or not their buildings even need an earthquake retrofit Ė and then if it does, to require it, even if it closes the businesses for a year, without financial assistance Ė itís all the local businesses like these that will be closing, or being demolished. (Photo by Eric Norberg)

Recently, we’ve written about some of the unintended side effects of the City of Portland’s drive toward accommodating an expected tide of new residents in the next quarter century or so.

The latest proposed bunch of zoning changes were the subject of our editorial last month – on which we did not specifically take a position, but which we want to make sure all Inner Southeast residents are aware of.

The densification drive has already created parking problems in parts of the city, including now parts of Inner Southeast, as we pointed out. Eliminating the providing of parking for tenants of new apartment houses – and there sure are a LOT of new apartment houses in Inner Southeast already, and many more are on the way – is supposed to allow more apartments to be built where parking might have been provided instead.

It’s also supposed to encourage the addition of some “affordable” apartments to apartment house developments, although the city policy that allows developers with multiple projects throughout the city to transfer any “affordable apartments” to less-in-demand parts of the city, from the high-rent-area projects where they are required, seems to defeat that purpose!

The decrease in available parking while the city population is increasing also reflects an entirely different policy, too – the idea that cars are evil and owning one should be discouraged. Bicycles and public transit are supposed to be the answer, but some bike routes are hazardous and there are conspicuous holes in public transit – and anyway, the freedom that cars have provided Americans for over a century is not as easy to quash as it may seem.

Many of the young renters of all the new apartments in Inner Southeast own cars. Some of them are buying new cars. And all of them are now having to park on the street, where nearby homeowners used to be able to park.

All of this we have called to your attention. But there is one thing we haven’t, yet – and that is a new city plan that may close your favorite small business. The city’s business districts are aware of it and are increasingly alarmed. It has to do with retrofitting old buildings for better earthquake resistance.

A good idea, you might think – now that we finally recognize that every few centuries we have unimaginably big, apocalyptic earthquakes here. And we might be due for one today – or sometime in the next couple of centuries, anyway.

The problem is, the city seems to have overreacted, in a “guilty till proven innocent” scenario.

It is talking about requiring hugely expensive earthquake retrofits for older buildings THAT CURRENTLY MEET CITY CODE. And you’d have to close the business and spend half a million, a million, or more, to do the retrofit over a year or two time period – unless you spend the considerable amount money needed to determine if it is actually necessary!!

Chain stores and big businesses might be able to do that and survive – small business owners who own their own building are unlikely to survive that requirement. And the knowledge that this obligation is hanging out there would make it hard for the small business owner even to sell their building for anything like what it is worth; developers would have easy pickings among buildings they’d buy cheaply, demolish, and then reopen with new tenants.

The small businesses that are the lifeblood of our city could be wiped out.

To quote a portion of a letter written by the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association on October 10 to the City of Portland Mayor and Commissioners, the Bureau of Development Services, and the Bureau of Emergency Management:

“Our community's historic buildings create the ambience that makes Portland, Portland. Insurance costs will rise. Bank loans will rarely be available, and rents cannot be increased enough to make $600,000 to over $1,000,000 retrofits feasible. We insist that the Bureau and the City defer this mandate until a time when community funding is guaranteed

“The Hawthorne Boulevard Business Assn. Board has seen that over 40 District buildings are targeted in the URM inventory and the proposed retrofit will lead to – presumably – unintended consequences. Clearly, without funding, mandating this retrofit project is irresponsible. This project is a larger community obligation that the community has not stepped up to fund. Approving any mandate is an invitation to decimate Portland's small, older buildings.

“Do not do this to 1600 or more building and property owners in the name of safety and fear.”

If a building does not now meet code, this would seem to be a reasonable requirement. But, for those that currently DO meet code, it seems an irresponsible unfunded burden that is more likely to diminish the community than to improve it, in the view of this business association, and several others around Inner Southeast Portland.

All these matters we have been calling to your attention lately will have an effect, possibly a negative one, on the livability and desirability of our city. Eventually it could so erode our desirability as a place to live that the anticipated in-migration ends and our city would start to decline. It’s a possibility that should not be overlooked in these deliberations.

Letters to the Editor

Thanksgiving search for Reed’s Ginkgo tree


On Thanksgiving Day, we tracked down a Ginkgo tree on the Reed College grounds that has a new lease on life. 

Phyllis Reynolds, author of “Trees of Greater Portland” (Second Ed., 2013), led the trek on the Reed College Campus to find the remarkable tree.

The Reed Ginkgo’s own story began in about 1890, when the tree was planted at a residence elsewhere in the city. That spot later became a parking lot between 6th and 7th on N.E. Holladay, near Lloyd Center. Dr. Reynolds featured this magnificent Ginkgo in her book’s 1993 first edition (p. 83) with a fine photograph. That tree was then the largest Ginkgo specimen in Portland, and flourished in the Lloyd Center parking lot.

The Ginkgo rejuvenation story starts 21 years ago. In April, 1996, developers cut down Portland’s largest Ginkgo tree, despite objections by many. Maryanne Caruthers, a Portland photographer, drove by, saw the three-headed stump at the excavation site, and asked the crew to let her remove it.

Ms. Caruthers then asked her employers, Bob Walsh and Bob Forster of Walsh Construction, to let her store the stump at their work yard, and to help her move it. They agreed, and the stump (short, with severed roots, no branches) was hauled to a graveled equipment site, where she left it to cure – maybe a commemorative plaque could be created from the wood, she thought.

The Ginkgo stump sat at the Walsh equipment yard, covered in plastic. She checked it weekly, and in June discovered new shoots emerging from the stump – and called the retired City gardener, Robbie Robinson, to come out and see it. He cried, and told her it should be replanted. The story reached Phyllis Reynolds, who had long been connected with Reed College, and she arranged with Townsend Angell, Reed’s director of facilities, to find a suitable place on campus to plant the stump.

Walsh Construction again moved the 6,000-pound sprouting Ginkgo stump – this time to Reed College, where it was planted on Feb. 27, 1997. The story of the tree and its rejuvenation was memorialized by Oregonian reporter Kym Pokorny in a 2004 story still available in the Oregonian web archives.

When checked this Thanksgiving, November 23, the Ginkgo tree was thriving – for which, on that date, we were all grateful.

You can see the many branches emerging from the re-planted stump, about 100 feet southwest of the intersection of the Pedestrian Bridge path with the Grove Quad/Sports Courts path, down the slope on the Reed campus above Crystal Springs Creek. This feature of the Reed Canyon is unmarked so far, but perhaps a suitable memorial to rejuvenation should be arranged!

Cindy Barrett
via e-mail


Supermarket “sale” prices


I live in Westmoreland, but usually shop at Winco on 82nd. Occasionally, though, even though the prices are higher, I go to Safeway on Woodstock, mostly because I am in a hurry or simply don't want to drive to 82nd.

Last week I stopped at Safeway and purchased items which, according to the adjacent price labeling, were all on sale. I passed through the checkout lane, received a receipt for the items and proceeded to the exit. I glanced at the receipt and discovered, to my surprise, that I had been charged the full non-sale price for all the items. For example, the five frozen dinners cost me $4.97 each instead of the $2 sale price. The same error was true on the other items as well.

I returned to the checkout lane and pointed out the problem to the clerk. She seemed surprised, took my receipt and said, "I'll see about this."

She returned five minutes later, apologized and proceeded to make corrections. Instead of the $39.54 on the original receipt, the new, corrected price was $13.44, a difference of $26.10.

I could certainly give Safeway the benefit of the doubt. The fact that the software was not up-to-date could be a simple one-time error. But this is not the first time this has happened.

Ted Hoff
via e-mail

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since, in our experience, all Safeway sale prices are restricted to those who have and present a Safeway Card, we asked him if he had done so, and he replied that he had. His suspicion is that the sale prices are not always entered promptly into the store’s cash register system. We wrote him, “Although you could be right that Safeway is derelict about entering sale prices, the monumental difference in the charge that you encountered from what it should have been, noticed by you, would surely be noticed by multiples of other price-conscious shoppers in a very short time, and a cry would go up. It seems more likely to us that for some reason the machinery does not always respond to a Safeway card presentation and may give card-presenters like yourself the standard NON-card prices rather than the sale prices. It sounds like the clerk went back and re-charged the Safeway Card prices for you.” Anyhow, if his intent was to get shoppers to pay more attention to how charges relate to posted prices, he surely has done that with this letter.



In the last issue of THE BEE, we had a story about a safety update at Woodstock Park involving the removal of an increasingly dangerous shed, mentioning that Woodstock Park is on the list of projects benefiting by the recent Parks Bond. Mark Ross, Portland Parks and Recreation spokesman, writes that our article “misstated that Parks Replacement Bond money paid for the removal of the building at Woodstock Park. It did not. The removal of the building was not a Bond project, rather a project completed and funded by our Central Services and Assets divisions. We want to make sure that the public does not associate the Bond Program with removals of park features. It is accurate that Woodstock Park is on the Parks Replacement Bond Phase 2 list. The park is in store for a play equipment replacement (too soon to know how many pieces of playground equipment, or which ones).”

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