Testimony in favor of the Residential Infill Project

Published 2020-01-15

I strongly SUPPORT the Residential Infill Project.

I could echo the hours of facts and math you’ve already heard about how RIP will help Portland. I think they are all accurate.

I could also appeal to our collective spirit of progressivism on tackling problems of climate crisis, economic inequality, and racial injustice. I think the infill project will improve (not solve) all those problems.

I also have a personal story about my own little infill project. My family of five moved from a rental in Collins View to our own house Sellwood a few years ago. A year later my father-in-law joined us and we built an ADU. Living in a dense neighborhood has immensely improved the quality of life for all three generations in our household.

I want to make this experience available to all Portlanders, of all ages, and all incomes. I believe RIP is an important first step.

But I REALLY want to talk about how all the best bars in Sellwood are closing. Penguin Pub, Black Cat, Iron Horse, Laurelwood, (And some other businesses too like Dairy Queen, Mikes Drive In, Mekong, Sock Dreams, Ugly Mug.) One after another they’ve closed, and they all cited rising commercial rents as a main reason.

It’s my belief (perhaps not well founded) that current residential development practices are a factor in rising neighborhood commercial rents. When the demand for housing is high, and the only place where more housing can be created is in narrow zones along commercial streets, those zones become a canyonland of medium-rise mixed-use buildings, whose commercial spaces are too expensive for Penguin Pub or Sock Dreams.

I believe that life is change, that “he not busy being born is busy dying.” If we try to seal off the neighborhood, it will eventually suffocate.

So I want to spread development around a little. I like having multifamily housing in the neighborhood, but a 500SF condo shouldn’t be the only affordable choice for a family who wants to move to Sellwood.

Selfishly: I want more — and more diverse — neighbors, and I want more commerce. We moved from a forest neighborhood to a city neighborhood, to be near city things. People and shops and libraries and parks. And bars. But the only people who can afford to move to sellwood in 2020 are wealthy, and our favorite businesses are closing. I wish we had the RIP five years ago.