My View: Infill Project Should R.I.P.

Another cogent article on RIP.   The author, Fred Leeson, is a Portland journalist with an interest in the city’s history and development; he can be reached at

This was originally printed in, and you can still read it at, the Portland Tribune.   We have reproduced it here with some formatting changes.

In its bumbling attempt to destroy Portland single-family neighborhoods, the city’s planning bureaucracy is basing its final proposal on several important deceptions. Let’s look at a few:

1. The Residential Infill Project was started under Mayor Charlie Hales in an attempt to reduce the hundreds of demolitions of small Portland homes.

The process was co-opted by the development community, coordinating with Thousand Friends of Oregon, which found ways to increase demolitions. A reasoned minority report essentially was excluded and demoted far back in public comments.

2. The subsequent proposal started with triplexes on corner lots and duplexes and accessory dwelling units in mid-blocks. Then it advanced to duplexes, triplexes or fourplexes on all lots.

The final version by the Planning and Sustainability Commission will be achieved in private sessions without public commentary — which likely would have been unheeded. The unstated premise is that everyone in Portland should live in apartments.

3. Making almost every single-family lot eligible for greater development likely will have property tax valuations rise on the underlying property.

The PSC has not obtained any answers from the Multnomah County property assessment office on this important tax issue.

4. Literally hundreds of smaller Portland homes are occupied by renters, who will be forced out as these properties become targets for redevelopment.

What does the PSC say about this displacement? Nothing. They want to leave any displacement policy and its costs up to the City Council. Oh, sure.

5. One PSC member has been relentless in pushing his version of cottage clusters. Eli Spevak, under legal threat of violating conflict of interest rules, won’t vote on this element, but his aggressive self-interest throughout the process suggests he will get what he wants anyway.

Public representatives should not be voting on, or necessarily pushing, their private interests.

6. Early on, there was talk about housing affordability. That has gone out the window. Now the blather is about “filtering” … how an increase in housing will make old, existing units more affordable.

But recent figures show the “trickle-down” theory is not working. While there is some easing of rents on thousands of new apartments (“Get one month free when you sign a lease”), rents are continuing the escalate on our older units, despite our surplus of new apartments.

7. Opponents of RIP have been accused at times of being racists, because some older Portland neighborhoods were developed with racial restrictions in their deeds. Never mind that these covenants have not been enforceable since 1948, long before most current homeowners bought their houses.

The phony racial narrative is an attempt to twist the story away from developer greed.

8. Most of Portland’s developable residential land is east of I-205.

“Nobody wants to live out there,” a Realtor told me. Developers would rather piggyback on neighborhoods with curbs, gutters, sidewalks, parks and streetlights. We shouldn’t let developer interests supersede 30 years of Portland planning.

So where should new residents live? Accessory dwelling units in older neighborhoods. Apartments on Portland’s many acres of undeveloped apartment-zoned land. Urban communities in East Portland. These solutions are not difficult.

Posted in: RIP