Portland may expand which old homes must be dismantled by hand
On: November 07, 2019 | By:
The Portland City Council is considering expanding which older houses and duplexes it requires owners to dismantle piece by piece to salvage the building materials.
The council is scheduled to vote next week to amend city code to mandate that any Portland home built in 1940 or earlier whose owner wishes to demolish it must deconstruct it rather than mechanically knock it down. City code currently calls for homes built in 1916 or earlier to be deconstructed.
Historically designated homes of any age also fall under the deconstruction requirement.
The majority of council members said Wednesday that they plan to approve the ordinance, and Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Chloe Eudaly said they would like to see a more severe penalty for violators. A first offense can lead to a fine of up to $500 and a third or more can be up to $1,500.
“I support everything else, but I think if you’re going to hold people accountable, they’ve got to feel it,” Hardesty said. “This is not something that they’re going to feel.”
City officials noted that offenses also come with suspensions and fines of up to $10,000 for using heavy machinery in the deconstruction process. The city accepted public comment on the proposed ordinance Wednesday.
If approved, the new city rule would go into effect Jan. 20. The city adopted the current deconstruction requirements in July 2016, which city officials said made Portland the first in the country to do so.
The current requirements primarily cover homes in areas that lie along historic streetcar lines and extend to 82nd Avenue, city officials said. The expansion is expected to apply to other homes in those areas as well as neighborhoods east of 82nd Avenue.
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability officials said Wednesday that in the last three years, deconstruction has had a carbon benefit, raised the chances of finding hazardous materials hidden in structures such as asbestos and lead paint that could cause harm if the home were razed and created job opportunities for women, people of color and other historically disadvantaged people.
Shawn Wood, a construction waste specialist in the planning and sustainability bureau, told the council that more than 200 homes have been deconstructed since 2016 and over 2.4 million pounds of old-growth wood and other material that would have otherwise been burned or gone to landfills have been recovered for reuse. He also said two retail outlets have opened that sell materials salvaged from deconstructed homes.
City officials say salvaged materials have been repurposed in other remodeling and new construction projects, sleeping pods for the homeless, furniture for restaurants and coffee shops, and other things.
There are 12 companies certified to do deconstruction work in the city and three others on the road to getting there, Wood said. All the contractors have to be trained in how to deal with lead-based paint and asbestos as a condition of their deconstruction certification.
City records show the current ordinance covers about a third of Portland home demolition permits, Wood said, and the expansion would add roughly another third. But demolition permit applications have been declining since 2016, he said, from a little more than 350 that year to about 200 in 2018. He didn’t state a reason why during the meeting but said expanding which homes fall under the requirement now would present a low risk to overwhelming the industry since fewer applications are being sought.
Wood said city records show that for every Portland home deconstructed, 12 new housing units are created on average. He said the homebuilders’ association suggested adding a deconstruction exemption for houses removed and replaced with affordable housing projects. But he said that was denied by the planning and sustainability bureau and the Housing Bureau because there would be issues with implementing and enforcing it and other reasons.
Wood said mechanical demolitions take less time to accomplish but the time from when the permit is issued to when new construction begins is roughly the same — about three months.
Shane Endicott with Northwest Deconstruction Specialists testified that his business is one of the certified companies created in response to the 2016. He said his employees deconstruct about 20 homes a year and all but four have had asbestos in them.
Endicott said the company has been hitting some of the apparent goals of the ordinance, such as job creation. He said 90 percent of the business’ employees are people of color and they make up the entire leadership and management staff.
He said the company has fostered worker advancement and paid for employees to get training to take over managerial roles.
“We’re much more successful because of it, and we also have people who want other people to work there who they have relationships with, and that’s how it grows,” Endicott said. “We have the problem of a lot of people want to work there, but we don’t have a lot of openings. That’s a good problem, because we can fix that problem.”
He said the company has been getting more and more requests from clients to deconstruct homes that aren’t required to be torn down in that manner.
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