You can see leaves of Sylvester Sycamore in the foreground-hiding the pavement that Portland Art Museum has chosen to pave all the way to the sidewalk that smothers some of Sylvester’s roots. We will seek to follow the example of the native tribes who came before us and see the tree as our ancestor with a garden nurturing it.. We hope that First Unitarian Church (that you can partly see to the west) will get its alternative housing project done first. .
“Where there is no vision, there is no hope”
George Washington Carver
I have long railed against what I call Downtown Portland’s Treeless Asphalt Deserts. Besides their daily assault on the health and well-being of downtown residents, try walking past a series of them on SW 12th Ave or SW Main Street when it’s 105 degrees and smoky. Encouraged by my Portland State University Site Design class instructor, I re-designed one of these deserts: 935 SW Main Street—the 25,000 square foot surface parking lot owned by Portland Art Museum for the last 30+ years. I see this proposal asone exemplary step towards solving our housing crisis in a systemic way.
HERE’S OUR VISION (written as the developer) . . .
The mixed income Etta Cooperative will be in a multi-story, multi-level building owned by the residents as a limited equity cooperative. The land will be held in trust by a community land trust, a 50-year old model for a new system of land tenure that takes land off of the private, commodity, speculative market and puts it into trust. The CLT issues 99-year leases to buildings on that land—buildings that can be privately or cooperatively owned—or rented.
It is named after Henrietta (Etta) Eliot who supported her husband (first minister of First Unitarian Church, Thomas Lamb Eliot) in the many social causes he championed for the poor and disenfranchised. They raised eight children on this spot and their legacy still lives in the activist Church one can see from the site. The site’s rich history—including its Native American history—will be celebrated throughout.
Figure 2 The best residential site in Portland has been kept as a downtown surface parking lot by Portland Art Museum for 30+ years
Since the cost of the land will be separated from the cost of the housing, shares in the units can be purchased at a very reasonable price–all the more remarkable because the Etta will sit on what is arguably the best residential site in Portland with its cultural, educational, park and transportation amenities. We’ll reach out to the many people of color organizations we support to generate participation from those populations. Through impact investing sites and media, we’ll seek to reach wealthy and middle class folks who want to put their bodies where their hearts are—by living in a racially diverse mixed-income community that demonstrates climate justice.
The land will be purchased from the Art Museum by a Portland philanthropist—akin to Sam Gary who founded Denver’s Urban Land Conservancy with a multi-million dollar donation in 2003. WE ARE NOW LOOKING FOR THAT PERSON.
Elm Row apartments at SW Market & Park has, as part of its open space, a plaza that is open to the public. It is just a few block from the Etta site. It also has an eatery (SW corner) and fountains at this level. The Park Ave level has additional retail.
All Etta Cooperative’s power needs will be supplied by the renewably sourced district energy/combined heat and power plant Apple [We have yet to approach them] will build as part of its development to the immediate west of the Etta. (Its’ precursor district energy plant sits atop Whole Foods—owned by Amazon—in the Pearl). Since we won’t need our own boilers or chillers we’ll have more space for our common areas and community center. [Some of the common area will be open to the neighborhood–similar to Elm Row, a few blocks away.] And we’ll have more money to use other resource-conserving technologies—e.g, triple-paned windows, superinsulation and a bioreactor to treat toilet and greywater for reuse.
Our green roofs will provide garden spaces for residents—who will be encouraged to garden there–and on their balconies too. Native trees, shrubs, vines and wildflowers within the site will create a haven for humans and pollinators. Signage at those spaces will also help teach children about nature and add to the ambience of the Green Loop at our front door.
Our heritage tree, Sylvester Sycamore, will have its own rain garden around it–rather than a parking spot paved to the edge of the sidewalk as Portland Art Museum does now. Considering our site’s current use as a parking lot, our rain garden will demonstrate mycoremediation–the use of fungi to take up pollutants.
By being a highly visible model in downtown Portland, our vision for an Etta Cooperative will help to educate people—both Portlanders and visitors—that we are not stuck with the housing system we have. As we watch the current system leave more and more people on the street, a system that treats housing as a social good will inspire others to mimic it. Contact us to schedule a slide show or otherwise help with Etta’s progress.
We are thrilled to be part of a new group emerging in 2021–Oregon Cooperative Housing Network .
Although our idea for the Etta first emerged in 2019, we are thrilled to be part of a new group emerging in 2021–Oregon Cooperative Housing Network . This network has people with the right skills to help us achieve the above vision: Planning, designing, permitting, financing, developing. We encourage you to join!
Mary Vogel, through her WBE, PlanGreen, works on issues of climate justice, especially housing and green infrastructure. She has promoted the CLT model since 1978 and would love to live in one that encourages carless living by its location to amenities and transit. She can be reached at mary(at)plangreen(.)net.
Is This What It Means To Be An American? If we acquiesce to a system that creates such glaring inequality, we are saying YES!
Instead we could pursue a Social Housing Development Authority at the federal level. I hope those maintaining HOUSING JUSTICE IS CLIMATE JUSTICE will embrace this concept and promote it with policymakers.
On April 16, this sprawling homeless encampment at the edge of downtown Portland displayed a FREEDOM sign. Find it in the shade of the upper right corner.
By Jun 9 FREEDOM was gone! I’ve searched around in the rubble, but no trace of the sign. The very small tent that is partially hidden by two tarps is still there today.
Independence Day is usually a time when I see historical reviews examining where we’ve come from and analyzing where we may be going. This July 4, 2021, I thought I would make my own attempt. The scenes around me in downtown Portland, Oregon are of increasing sidewalk tents filled with humans that most of our business community wants to see swept away so that people with money will come back to downtown.. Some of them are willing to help build more shelters to get folks off the street. They hope to hide the glaring inequality our society has produced through it’s housing policy.
A few days ago, I was reminded of an underlying cause of this housing inequity situation by an ad in our statewide newspaper, The Oregonian.
This half-page ad in The Oregonian Jun 20 offering a tax break to the wealthy symbolizes a root cause of the housing crisis.
The ad invites readers to join Fund II for the 251 room Ritz-Carlton Hotel and the 132 luxury condominiums, along with 153,000 square feet of Class A office space. It’s a “Qualified Opportunity Zone Fund” –meaning that if you are wealthy enough, you can get a big tax break for such an investment. While downtown Portland’s designation as an “Opportunity Zone” was especially egregious when it was first declared, now, with all of its boarded up storefronts, such a designation for downtown would raise fewer eyebrows than it did when it first came out. Regardless, there is no better symbol of what’s wrong with United States housing policy than this enormous tax break for the wealthy.
CALLING FOR HOUSING AND TAX POLICY CHANGE
Dorothy Brown author of THE WHITENESS OF WEALTH @DorothyABrown
There is now a chorus of authors, myself included, who are calling for a “Brave New US Housing Policy”—one that treats housing as a social good rather than an investment. We are critical of the way that US tax policy has been used to make housing into a commodity–leading to greater and greater financialization of what should be a social good.. One such author, tax professor, Dorothy A. Brown, testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on April 20, about how current tax policy greatly disadvantages Black families.
Her book, The Whiteness of Wealth gives several solutions that would lead to more equity in the housing system. Brown makes a case for a far more progressive tax policy. The change that she feels will work is to eliminate all existing deductions and exclusions, reduce or eliminate income taxes for those taxpayers who earn less than the living wage in their geographic area and, in fact, pay those earning less the difference. This solution would not only help many in the Black community, but many in what used to be the “middle class” all races.
More recently, through a post by the PLACE Initiative, I learned about Gianpaolo Baiocchi and H. Jacob Carlson, two activist academics who came together to publish Housing Is A Social Good. Baiocchi is from NYU and Carlson is from Brown University. Not only do they offer a critique of the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan strategy in the housing arena, but they also offer a proactive solution.
The American Jobs Plan mirrors past efforts at affordable housing that contributed to our problems and failed Black Americans. We need to take housing out of the private market. say the authors
AMERICAN JOBS PLAN OFFERS MORE OF THE SAME
The American Jobs Plan calls for a new “Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit to attract private investment in the development and rehabilitation of affordable homes for low- and moderate-income homebuyers and homeowners”–according to the Administration.
Baiocchi and Carlson point out that “… the bulk of the proposals in the American Jobs Plan … mostly mirror earlier policies to stimulate ownership and new construction of affordable housing through subsidies and tax-breaks for private developers.”
Like Dorothy A. Brown, they point out that “These mechanisms have not only contributed to our problems, but failed African Americans. For the last several decades in the United States, the highly regressive policy of tax breaks for mortgage interest, for example, has encouraged greater household indebtedness while deeply disadvantaging African Americans.”
SOCIAL HOUSING DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
Published Nov 2020 by NYU Gallatin, this document is a manual for how the Social Housing Development Authority would work
I will get onboard Baiocchi and Carlson’s proposal for the creation of the Social Housing Development Authority, a federal agency that would purchase distressed real estate, ensure it is livable and environmentally sound, and finance its transfer to the social housing sector, including tenant cooperatives, community land trusts, nonprofits or public housing. And I will encourage the PLACE Initiative and other groups that I’m involved with to get aboard too.
But, before I go into greater detail, one area where the authors and I differ–they write: “Through its retrofitting efforts, the SHDA would also contribute to climate mitigation efforts.” They also mention in their Notes: “Retrofitting affordable housing is seen by many analysts as an important pillar of the Green New Deal.” I don’t disagree with those statements, but, because I believe that housing justice is climate justice, I believe their proposal relates to mitigating climate change even more than they may recognize.
Baiocchi and Carlson et al describe the institutional design of the SHDA. Part 1 describes the overarching mission and organizational structure of the SHDA. Within the mission we find: • Reverse decades of neglect, predatory practices, and discriminatory policies by focusing efforts on historically marginalized communities. • Invest in green infrastructure and climate mitigation by assuring that transferred properties are retrofitted.
Part 2 elaborates on how the SHDA acquires distressed properties. “It would likely prioritize housing that is at risk of predatory activity, such as what policy makers sometimes denominate “naturally occurring affordable housing” in gentrifying areas, among others.”
Part 3 outlines what happens while the SHDA holds the assets, from servicing mortgages to maintaining and rehabbing distressed property.“The maintenance function of the SHDA would be a significant stimulus into the local economy through maintenance and construction jobs.”
Part 4 lays out the asset disposition process. Preferred housing providers —community land trusts, housing cooperatives, tenant groups, non-profit housing organizations, public housing authorities, and other government agencies — gain first priority to purchase the SHDA’s assets.
Part 5 discusses two pieces of companion policy that would enhance the ability of the SHDA to carry out its mission: the repeal of the Faircloth Amendment and the establishment of a national Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (TOPA) policy.
I suspect that TAX POLICY is not something to which most of us want to pay attention. For those of us who run a small business, we may think the IRS Schedule C seems quite arcane, but, after our taxes are filed we put it out of our mind. It is the wealthy who hire tax attorneys and accountants to find every possible deduction they can take and buy into systems like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Opportunity Zones Tax Credits who are the real beneficiaries. “These market-oriented programs are fundamentally costly to public coffers and, at their foundation, prioritize profit over public function”, write Baiocchi and Carlson.
With Senator Wyden (D-OR) the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, those of us in Oregon have a special responsibility to speak out against this long-entrenched, but highly inequitable system to say that our present housing policy is NOT what we want as Americans . And Join me in calling for the Social Housing Development Authority proposed by the group from NYU Gallatin!
My search for the root cause of the housing crisis in the US has been fueled by the writings of authors as divergent as Samuel Stein, Diana Lind,, Heather McGhee, Karen Petrou and Alan Durning in addition to those mentioned above. The books or articles by these authors all go into far more policy history than I covered above–as does the Boston Review piece linked in this post.
Since this post was first published in July 2021, the book, Only the Wealthy Can Play by David Wessel was published. It is getting a great deal of publicity, e.g.:
The Hill https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/574446-only-the-rich-can-play-documents-how-republican-program-to-help-the-poor
To expedite building market rate housing, as well as more public housing, that is affordable to BIPOC communities and to young people, we need to lobby for TAX POLICY CHANGES that will shift our perceptions about “the American Dream”–away from homeownership and towards security, equity and legacy for all.
HOUSING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A COMMODITY
For the last few years, as long as the issue was housing, I could be found on Fridays at the Q&A microphone at Portland City Club Friday Forum. I would ask: How can you square promotion of homeownership as a means of wealth building and reform of our housing system?
An example of a Portland City Club Friday Forum ad for a housing forum 11-15-19. Image from XRAY-FM.
Wealth building depends upon housing being a commodity to be bought and sold for a profit. Rather, don’t we need to see housing as a social good that all have the right to access? If I could get away with a few extra seconds, I might add: The Community Land Trust, as it was originally conceived, is a NEW MODEL OF LAND TENURE that provides security, equity and legacy, but doesn’t promote housing as a commodity. Isn’t that what we need to be moving quickly toward?
Young people at this 2016 Bernie rally showed great enthusiasm to transform healthcare. We need to repeat that for HOUSING in 2021-2022! Photo by PlanGreen
Housing has NOT gone away as an issue, but you wouldn’t know it from the last two cycles of Presidential debates, which had almost no questions of any substance about housing. As a supporter of Bernie Sanders in 2016, I became irritated with my candidate when he virtually sidestepped local Portland TV reporter Laurel Porter’s question to him about housing affordability and homelessness. I had been attempting to get him to awaken his Millennial base to the idea that we did not necessarily need to continue the current system of housing. I tried hard to get my blog Housing Affordability: Put a Bern on It to members of his campaign and to the candidate himself, but seemingly without success. Since Bernie was Mayor of Burlington, VT when the largest Community Land Trust in the nation was started, he understands the potential of this new system of land tenure. He even told the CLT at an annual meeting that helping to get them federal funding was the best thing he had ever done as Mayor. As Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, he can still mobilize that base.
NEW OPPORTUNITY WITH SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Now, young people through groups like Portland: Neighbors Welcome, Sunrise PDX, and NextUp now find that their Senior Senator, Ron Wyden, has become the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Peter Wong in a Jan. 21 article in the Portland Tribune lists the priorities for Tax Code reform that Senator Wyden laid out at a January Town Hall in Forest Grove. OR. Corporate Taxes, Capital Gains, Energy, Health Care, and Infrastructure are priority areas, but HOUSING is not one of those priority areas—even though it is probably the largest expenditure in most Americans’ budget. (See comments for update.)
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we,, shouldn’t try to plant the seed for profound change to US housing policy while Wyden is up for re-election. I loved the suggestions from Diana Lind’s Brave New Home:Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing because they match so nicely to my own. Lind began her book after the birth of her son because she felt isolated and disconnected in her own single family row house–and this was before COVID-19. She is Executive Director for the Arts + Business Council for Greater Philadelphia which hardly makes her seem like a radical.
I’d seen other authors question the mortgage interest deduction (MID) before (e.g., Matthew Desmond in Evicted and Richard Florida in The New Urban Crisis), but I believe Lind goes further when she questions the entire assumption that homeownership does or should present a path to wealth building for most Americans. She wonders why the government would continue its subsidization of homeownership when so many homes have now been bought up by multinational companies like Blackstone and affiliates. She also questions such a subsidy even though the mortgage interest deduction is one of the country’s largest regressive tax loopholes and even though student debt has changed the landscape of housing choices for young people. Lind travels the country exploring what people are doing for alternatives.
WE BUY UGLY HOUSES.COM HomeVestors: America’s #1 Home Buyer. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen taken in east Portland, OR
Any system that pushes housing as an investment (hence a commodity) is bound to attract those who are ready to game the system. It should be no surprise that we see hedge funds, REITs and institutional investors buying up single-family housing and developing portfolios of thousands of properties. They comb sites like Zillow and the MLIS to find, renovate and flip undervalued properties. They buy billboards and post signs on lampposts. Their size allows them to fix prices and this price-fixing becomes a primary reason for skyrocketing housing costs. Yet in Portland, and I believe elsewhere, these companies often face less resistance than new construction or redevelopment—even though they are likely to be bigger contributors to gentrification.
POTENTIAL ASKS TO SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE
I’ve come up with these broad directives (with a nod to Diana Lind) that will need to be further fleshed out to be actionable:
Actively transition our policies away from homeownership and single-family homes.
Investigate how best to subsidize people, rather than their property.
Regulate landlords and buyers who own hundreds to thousands of properties, while finding ways to leverage their scale for good.
Rethink zoning that privileges single family homes
Rethink the variety of ways the federal government incentivizes and rewards single family housing—e.g., IRS, FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac.
I’We might also explore our connections to members of the coalition that got the “Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act” (H.R. 4351) passed in the US House in 2020 and help them to get an even stronger bill passed in the US Senate in 2021. (See update in comments.)
SHIFTING PUBLIC OPINION
Let’s team up with well-known authors such as:
Matthew Desmond (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City )
Richard Florida (The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class-and What We Can Do About It
Diana Lind (Brave New Home: Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing)
who can get media attention of all kinds: TV, radio, social media, newspapers, magazines, etc. Locally, we might team up with Sightline Institute Founder Alan Durning who recently authored The Problem With US Housing Policy Is That It’s Not About Housing. Durning begins: Here, I sketch the hidden reality of federal US housing policies: they are about real estate appreciation, not housing. And I spell out how they polarize wealth, exacerbate racial inequality, cut productivity and job creation, speed climate change, and exaggerate the ups and the downs of the business cycle. He plans to next address how we might form a left-right coalition to shift federal policy.
THE BUDGET AS A MORAL DOCUMENT
Many of us–especially in my Boomer generation–find it difficult to rethink long-held assumptions and perhaps to give up some financial privileges. Some of the most introspective among us–such as those in Portland’s Interfaith Alliance on Poverty have been exploring the root cause of poverty and homelessness for the several years.
Chair, Les Wardenaar, has an eloquent “Commentary On The Budget As A Moral Document” in the January 2021 issue of the Alliance newsletter showing that he has given some deep thought to the Alliance’s series on the topic over the last few months.. He especially cites OCPP Executive Director Alejandro Queral’s presentation (Oct 2020) on the Oregon tax structure and the benefits that many of us gain from it at the obvious expense of those with lower income. That prompted him to ask himself the question: “how much of my personal finance and with it my lifestyle am I willing to sacrifice to make the system more just?” Wardenaar goes on to conclude:
As one of my Alliance friends put it, “The Budget as a Moral Document” ultimately demonstrates that we—as Portlanders, as Oregonians, as Americans– are deliberately choosing to perpetuate social and economic injustice. We choose to force people to live on the streets. We choose to provide a sub-standard education for many of our children, thus impacting their chances of lifting themselves up. We choose to put “people of color” into a chasm of inequity that only a small minority could ever climb out of. And we make those choices year after year after year.
Many more in the Boomer generation are even more fearful–without being quite so introspective and soul searching as those in the Alliance. Some reinforce each others fears in neighborhood associations where they attempt to block change.
HOUSING JUSTICE: CLIMATE JUSTICE AND PUBLIC HEALTH
Housing Justice is Climate Justice is a meme embraced by BIPOC advocates in Oregon and many supporters such as those in Portland: Neighbors Welcome, Sunrise PDX, and NextUp
What if, rather than bemoan the change to our single-family neighborhoods, we embraced it instead? Ever larger American homes have become a huge factor in climate change at the same time they have led to increased loneliness. And public health officials are recognizing that loneliness is the new smoking or worse–equivalent to 15 cigarettes a day! As homes have become bigger they have led to increased emissions from heating and cooling, more furniture and appliances to fill the space and more fossil fuel to travel further distances–all with a carbon cost. “Why isn’t there a more robust public conversation about how living differently–more affordably, more communally, and more simply–could strengthen our society, economy, and health?” asks Lind.
An equitable housing policy at the federal level needs to be a policy that will expedite building market rate and public housing that is affordable and available to BIPOC communities and to young people. That will happen only when we shift our perceptions about “the American Dream” away from homeownership and towards security, equity and legacy for all.
Our Future in Smarter, Simpler, Happier Housing could be around the corner–we first need to permit it, fund it and build it! And the fearful may then want to get on board.
Screen capture of Twitter site by PlanGreen
UPDATE May 19: While preparing a slide presentation for the PLACE Initiative Climate Summit, I found out that the Senate Finance Committee held a Tax Inequality Hearing on April 20, 2021. The first person to testify was Dorothy A. Brown, author of The Whiteness of Wealth and tax law professor at Emory University.
Also see my slide show embedded in my post of May 20. I’m working on including the text that goes with the slides.
Most of my blogs these days focus on the main purpose of my business: achieving CLIMATE JUSTICE. And I’m ever so thankful to friends in the myriad organizations I support who do that work (with or without me,). Instead, I’m going to spend this blog on what I am (or would be) most grateful for with regard to my mental health. I’m asking for your help!
Covid-19 restrictions have made most of us more aware how important connection with others is for our mental and emotional health. I thought that the pandemic might be a boon to my mine because large gatherings—especially happy hours with lots of background noise—were no longer any fun for me. In fact, I often came home feeling depressed–but hopeful that I had made someone else’s evening go better by approaching those on the fringes.
ReSound Multi Mic pairs with ReSound hearing aid
Despite my fabulous ReSoundMulti Mic that I, or someone else in the meeting, would run around from speaker to speaker allowing me to get something out of some gatherings, I was beginning to feel less and less connected. But it was important to stay in touch by more than email, Facebook, Google Groups, Slack, MapApp or listservs,
So I started out enthusiastically with virtual or online meetings! But now I discover that I’m having trouble with those as well.I try to practice what I preach below so I have some really great headphones with an external mic to listen and talk to you. (Those of you who give me feedback tell me that you can hear me clear as a bell.) The problem is, with most of you, I don’t UNDERSTAND you! My online hearing difficulty extends to public meetings too– both those who testify at them–and often city staff and/or Commissioners.
I’m deeply grateful to those few of you who are using best practices for virtual meetings—practices like:
USE AN EXTERNAL MICROPHONE close to your mouth
Use a front light and avoid backlighting–it’s important to those of us with hearing loss to see your face, even if we don’t read lips
Open your mouth and enunciate and keep your hands away from your mouth
Fill the screen with your face—as opposed to your ceiling, your ceiling fan, your window(s), your garden, your bed, your bookshelf, your kitchen, whatever. . .
Project your voice. Pretend like you are going to an interview for a radio sports announcer!
Editors Keys answers numerous questions w/that name. His 3 minute video was one of the first and most succinct.
I’m one of those 48 Million Americans who have a significant level of hearing loss. You can better accommodate me–and a few others in your circles–by following the suggestions in this 3 minute video: How To Improve Your Zoom Video And Audio Quality . There are hundreds more videos on the topic, but this was one of the first and most succinct .
Such practices will get you more than gold stars in my book, they will make you look and sound more professional and credible–maybe to your next employer.
This struggle with online gatherings for me has been going on ever since Portland’s Mayor Wheeler told those of us who showed up at City Hall to testify in person on Portland’s Residential Infill Project on March 12 to go home. It has caused me extreme frustration, alienating me from organizations I have long supported–organizations that have been an important part of my identity and sense of community. One example is expressed in my May 29, 2020 communication with Abigail Sheridan, VP of the Congress for the New Urbanism:
After participating in each of the On the Park Bench sessions, I’m beginning to rethink my registration as there were many speakers that I could not understand–even with Bosch noise-canceling headphones on. I know I’m not the only one as I watched Marcela struggle to hear in the last session too. She was the best of that group–with a good microphone, front lighting and close so you could see her face well and hear her clearly.
Too many speakers are backlit, so that you cannot see their faces. They stand too far from their computer microphones and cameras besides. That makes it hell for those of us with hearing loss–and probably some who don’t even know they have hearing loss. . . .
Otherwise, I will need to take advantage of one of the other options for my registration money–requesting a medical exemption from your May 25 deadline.
For better of for worse, I didn’t take advantage of one of the other options for my CNU 28.A Virtual Gatheringregistration money. Instead, I opted to try to get word out to speakers ahead of time via various social media. Nevertheless, I spent 5-6 exhausting days struggling to hear speakers at CNU28–only to be told at the end that my type of registration did not cover the ability to review any parts I may have missed! That would cost me another $50!!!
Before moving on from Accommodation, I do want to call out one organization that has demonstrated excellent online practices. In a Sightline Institute webinar this summer, every speaker had headphones with an external mic and used the other best practices that I suggested above. I understand that this was largely due to their Operations Manager, Riley Kent. Their professionalism showed them to be highly worthy of my small monthly contribution.
For more than ten years now, I have known about the research into hearing regeneration. With due consideration of their precious time, I’ve been seeking, hoping, cajoling, pestering researchers ever since. I did get into one clinical trial on the hormone aldosterone–and that was somewhat effective in my case. But it became harder and harder to obtain supplemental aldosterone after the study. After a couple years, when the Canadian pharmacy in BC discontinued it, I stopped looking.
Until today, I did NOT know that 43 companies have therapeutics for restoring the inner ear under development–as reported in this issue of theJournal of Otology & Neurotology. I was only aware of 3-4 of them in the US and acupuncture with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in China. (I’m getting at least one LAc here to try some of the techniques and to prescribe Er Long Zuo Xi Wan) but my hope of getting into a clinical trial in China has been put on a back burner!)
HEARING RESTORATION PROJECT CONSORTIUM
The Hearing Restoration Project Consortium is composed of 14 senior scientists working collaboratively on scientific research towards inner ear hair cell regeneration to accelerate the time frame for developing a cure for hearing loss. The HRP brings together researchers from Harvard University, Stanford University, Oregon Health & Science University the University of Washington and elsewhere with the goal of researching and developing a genuine cure for most forms of acquired hearing loss. They seek to do this by regenerating the inner ear hair cells that enable hearing.
I started out corresponding with Ed Rubel at the University of Washington about UW’s research, but then Ed told me there was a whole consortium of researchers and that its director was here in Portland! I then switched the focus of my correspondence to Peter Barr-Gillespie Ph.D., Scientific Director of the Consortium and Professor of Otolaryngology at OHSU.
Donate to advance hearing loss cures uhf.org/donate
Until recently, Dr. Barr-Gillespie was on the Scientific Advisory board for one of the private companies currently doing clinical trials for specialized populations w/hearing loss is: Decibel Therapeutics. Another company that has already started clinical trials for a more general population is Frequency Therapeutics. They are both in the Boston-area. I follow both companies on Twitter (@DecibelTx and @frequencytx) and have learned a great deal about hearing loss through them.
I would deeply appreciate your help in keeping up with the above companies. And I would appreciate information on the 41 other companies who are developing therapies for inner ear disorders.
BTW, most of my images link to the URL where I “grabbed” them . I hope you will check them out–and share them with your friends and relatives who just might have hearing loss themselves. I’m thankful for your attention–and I hope you will follow PlanGreen on Facebook, connect on Linked In and follow us on Twitter–where most of our posts will not be about hearing loss.
On Nov. 11, 2021, just as I was getting ready to go to my second PRP therapy for my hip and back, I learned about PRP for the ears. Only one hearing researcher from India, Dr. Tyagi, ENT,, seems to have published anything that is widely available on the web. And he was only allocated a poster session with a five page paper. I’ve read that the Schoen Klinik in Germany has had success with PRP and ears. But they have been in lockdown to any new patients (and apparently not answering their questions) until the surge with the Delta variant subsides.
Another exciting find for me has been Dr.Cliff AUD who helps folks find audiologists who follow the best practices he has developed. He also does product reviews of hearing technologies and expresses other opinions on YouTube. Let me know in Comments if you find anything interesting there.
June 12, 2020 – Originally given June 3, 2020 as oral testimony to Portland City Council on behalf of Portland, OR Small Developer Alliance. Items in brackets were added to the testimony for this blog.
Hello Mayor and Commissioners:
I’m Mary Vogel, Principal of PlanGreen and co-founder of Portland Small Developer Alliance. After the events of this week, I hope the amendments before you—as well as the RIP [Residential Infill Project] itself—can play a small role in allaying some of the pent up anger at a housing system that especially excludes African Americans.
African American Historic Resources Endangered by RIP
In consideration of Denyse McGriff’s March 10 testimony about unequal impact of RIP on African American historic resources, we DO NOT suggest eliminating Amendment 7—(Although we would like to see it revised). Could it instead apply only to the area that was part of the 1993 Albina Plan? Or could we come up with a revised amendment that addresses McGriff’s concerns without becoming a loophole for wealthy neighborhoods to avoid the RIP?
[When I talked to Denyse McGriff, now a City Commission member for Oregon City, she told me that her involvement in historic preservation spans several decades. She is on the Board of Oregon’s Architectural Heritage Center and is proud of some of the work they have done with the African American community. “Cornerstones of Community: Buildings of Portland’s African American History” (adjacent) is an example. Others can be found on AHC’s website.]
[For those of you who won’t go to links, Ethan writes in part: The RIP is one of the most important planning decisions the City will be making in my entire time in Portland, now going back over 40 years. . . Rather, it’s past time to expect that every neighborhood offer the opportunity for broad range of housing options to be found there. . .First, I am in opposition to Amendment Package 7. As written, it could apply the term “contributing structure” to an entire district. This only furthers the perversion with which historic districts have been created throughout the city, mostly, in my view, with dubious links to history and too little specificity regarding the rationale for historic significance.
My own neighborhood, Alameda, were it to be proposed for historic status, would, like all of the other historic districts in the city have to be recognized for it’s legacy of overt racial and ethnic segregation and exclusion, the true historic legacy of these neighborhoods. Amendment package 7 simply creates another barrier to real housing production and reform due to its sweeping language and invitation for imprecise application. . .]
Adaptive Re-use Recommendations
If the goal is to encourage adaptive re-use of historic resources—the City needs to provide building code changes and appropriate incentives to ensure their success. In Small Developer Alliance’s Feb 13 testimony, Garlynn Woodsong had in-depth suggestions for regulatory changes
The Dekum Charles was redeveloped by Woodsong Associates from a single-family to four condos. Woodsong concluded that he could have torn down and rebuilt the same house for much less time and money. Photo: PlanGreen.
Amongst the areas it covered were Building Code Classification (commercial v residential)–then such common items in the Oregon State Building Code as fire sprinklers, window openings, insulation, sound transmission, elevators and greywater that make it very difficult and expensive to do internal conversions/adaptive re-use of existing homes. Portland’s City Code largely obstructs adaptive re-use of large single-family homes for group living as well.
Building Code Change Coalition
We are aware that City staff is already working to change some of these regulations at both the state and local level and we hope we can coalesce folks to support the City’s efforts in the building code change process as soon as you pass RIP! Continued work on such changes—as well as incentives—will make it economically feasible to adapt and re-use historic homes at reduced cost without any sacrifices to safety or health.
Mary Vogel, CNU-A/PlanGreen consults on climate resiliency and climate justice and co-founder of the Portland, OR Small Developer Alliance, a group related to CNU and the Incremental Development Alliance. She welcomes your response to this blog.
June 11, 2020, first given as oral testimony May 28, 2020
This blog calls for equity for the low-income people on the front lines of air pollution in downtown Portland. It was written as a testimony for a May 28 hearing on the re-adoption of Portland’s Central City 2035 Plan,
Honorable Mayor and Commissioners:
I’m Mary Vogel, a climate resiliency/climate justice consultant based in downtown’s West End who has been involved in Central City 2035 since its inception. So much air-time was given to neighbors who wanted height limits in the West End to be limited to 100 feet, that those of us from SW 12th Avenue didn’t get sufficient consideration of our health, safety, air quality and other resiliency concerns.
Frontline for Worst Air Quality
Residents in the low-income buildings (both subsidized and market rate) that populate much of SW 12th Ave. are downtown’s buffer to the worst of the air and noise pollution from I-405. And that’s some of the worst in the nation—see Figure 1.
So, I am asking you to consider a new design for SW 12th Ave from SW Montgomery to West Burnside—one that better fits the original proposal from Portland Bureau of Transportation. That proposal was to make SW 12th the Urban Greenway my neighbors and I deserve to better protect our health!
I was puzzled about what happened to that Urban Greenway–until investigative journalists Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland and Sarah Mirk of Portland Mercury explained how West End business owners and Portland Business Alliance got the project nixed.
Both of these articles focus mostly on the bike lane, rather than the Greenway. But the Greenway would address the needs of a far broader spectrum of people. It would also contribute far more to livability and urban biodiversity.
Re-Design for Climate Justice
I want you to consider adding to CC2035’s Transportation System Plan–and to subsequent street plans–an improved version of this crude version I did on Streetmix.
The three motor vehicle travel lanes would be necked down to a single “Sharrow” for motorized and non-motorized vehicles. I keep parking lanes on both sides of the street to help the churches and businesses losing parking when the surface parking lots that dominate the street are re-developed. Planting strips are my stand in for stormwater planter basins that will filter stormwater using native plants. Some, but not all, parklets could be “Street Seats” (a PBOT program) for restaurants. In any case, they would only take up part of each block. The rest of the space would be devoted to stormwater planters, bike corrals, and bike or scooter share facilities. New buildings would vary in height up to 15 stories+. Where a curb cut for a loading dock or garage or underground utilities take up a tree space, green walls will be required up the first 10 stories of the building. All of this would contribute to renewed health–for residents, for businesses and for the environment.
My plan assumes that you will keep the ecoroof requirement in CC 2035 that I myself and others worked so hard to get into that policy. One of my advocacy groups put out a distress call that you may be planning to eliminate it.
In the name of climate justice and equity, I’m asking you to put the SW 12th Avenue Urban Greenway back into CC 2035. Please bring it back to protect those of us on the frontline of pollution. THANK YOU!
Slow Street/Safe Street
We realize full design and implementation may take awhile. So, please make SW 12th a Slow Street/Safe Street by necking it down to one lane throughout its length–along the lines of the image above. One lane has been done many times in the past six years for two-block segments due to construction. There has been little to no impact on motor vehicle traffic. A SLOW STREET now will make a great Tactical Urbanism approach to ultimately achieving the URBAN GREENWAY that SW 12th Avenue residents deserve.
Mary Vogel, CNU-A/PlanGreen consults on climate resiliency and climate justice and is co-founder of Portland, OR Small Developer Alliance, a group related to CNU and the Incremental Development Alliance. She welcomes your response to this blog.
Portland City Council held hearings on three policies involving housing density in May and June. One of them–the Residential Infill Project–has been FIVE YEARS in the making. A number of neighbors point to the current pandemic as a reason NOT to amend zoning regulations that would add more density to their single-family neighborhood (or historic district in the case of Central City 2035). I think that would be a big mistake as there is abundant evidence that density is NOT dangerous! In fact, denser communities give their residents better infrastructure to shelter in place.
• Suburban Montgomery County, PA v. Philadelphia, PA. As of Friday April 3, the county had one case per 2,924 people where Philadelphia had one case per 3,940 people. So Montgomery County had a greater infection rate, yet it has one-seventh the density.
• In New York City infection rates in Stanten Island were approximately the same as Manhattan—with 8.5 times the density.
I’ve taken quotes from a few more studies that may be helpful in assuaging our neighbors’ fears that further density in their neighborhood may fuel pandemics.
Density Is Not Destiny
Vancouver, BC is nearly 3x denser than Portland, OR, but it had a lower rate of infection–45 v 54; Seattle, which is about half as dense, had a rate of 205. Photo: Global News
In Density is Not Destiny: Covid in Cascadia in City Observatory Joe Cortwright states “Vancouver [BC] is in the same region, and roughly the same size as Portland and Seattle. It is far denser, and yet it has performed the best of the three in fighting the spread of the Corona virus. It should be pretty compelling evidence that density is not a determining factor of whether one is vulnerable to the pandemic or not..”
The New Face of Urban Density
In late April, San Francisco had only 1300 confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to 8450 in Los Angeles. Photo: AARP Guide
Liam Dillon, LA Times staff writer in Coronavirus: The New Face of Urban Densitywrites “At the same time, there’s lots of evidence that shows density isn’t destiny. . . “An analysis by New York University’s Furman Center found no relationship between the coronavirus and overall population density within New York City, with neighborhoods in Manhattan, the city’s densest borough, having some of the lowest infection rates.” “. . . The same is true for America’s next densest big city, San Francisco, which. . . [in late April] had reported only about 1,300 confirmed cases — compared with more than 8,450 in the city of Los Angeles.” The LA Times continues to track figures throughout the state and the ratio holds today.
Evidence from China
Some of China’s densest cities–Shenghai, Zhuhai (shown here), Shenzhen, Beijing and Tianjin–have managed to keep the lowest infection rates. Photo: Shutterstock
On a World Bank Blog, Wanli Fang and Sameh Wahba’s write in Urban Density Is Not the Enemy in the Coronavirus Fight: Evidence from China:
“. . .To find out whether or not population density is a key factor in the spread of the coronavirus, we collected data for 284 Chinese cities.” They found that China’s densest cities tended to have the lowest infection rates. They surmised that “Higher densities, in some cases, can even be a blessing rather than a curse in fighting epidemics. . .For instance, in dense urban areas where the coverage of high-speed internet and door-to-door delivery services are conveniently available at competitive prices, it is easier for residents to stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact with others.”
Crowding Is Dangerous and New Zoning Policies Will Help
The NYU Furman Center studyand the China study too, did find that the virus is more prevalent in areas where more people are crowding into homes—say six people into a two-bedroom apartment. So it’s CROWDING that is dangerous, not density.
Crowding exists in Portland too, BUT rarely in the neighborhoods where neighbors are expressing the greatest concern. Adopting the housing policies under discussion: Expanding Opportunities for Affordable Housing and Residential Infill Project and Re-adoption of Central City 2035 will likely help to lessen, not exacerbate, such over-crowding in the Portland lower-income neighborhoods that currently experience it.
There is abundant evidence that density is NOT dangerous! In fact, denser communities give their residents better infrastructure to shelter in place. Regardless of whether you support proposed infill housing policies or not. I hope you will continue to educate yourselves! Please study the facts!
Mary Vogel, CNU-A/PlanGreen consults on climate resiliency and climate justice. She is also co-founder of Portland, OR Small Developer Alliance, a group related to CNU and the Incremental Development Alliance. She welcomes your response to this blog.
Last year, as part of its Comprehensive Plan update process, Portland City Council passed CC 2035, an updated plan for the central city. The Key Elements of this plan give interested residents strong footing to address the surface parking lots in downtown’s West End as the fourth key element is: 4. Redevelopment. Encourage new development on surface parking lots and vacant lots..
Surface parking lot owners have negatively impacted the health and well-being of downtown residents for far too long. Besides the noise and air pollution that they bring to their neighbors these treeless asphalt deserts are more than 10 degrees hotter than surrounding areas. When it’s 105 degrees and smoky, walking by them for block after block is nearly unbearable–especially for the many downtown residents who use canes and walkers. Take a look at what I’m talking about–bearing in mind that this is DOWNTOWN Portland. . .
Image 1 Treeless asphalt desert SW12th and Main looking north towards Salmon St. The tree on the right is a highly invasive Ailanthus that has since been removed.–leaving residents of the Pinecone Apartments with no shade from the southwest sun. Photo by PlanGreen.
Image2. Treeless asphalt desert SW12th and Salmon looking southwest with First Unitarian Church in background. Photo by PlanGreen.
Image 3. Treeless asphalt desert, SW12th and Taylor St. looking northeast to Morrison St where there are two food carts. Photo by PlanGreen.
Image 4. SW 12th and Washington St. is the only lot that has a development proposal, 11 West–submitted by the owners of the lot and their development partners. Photo by PlanGreen.
Image 5. SW 11th and Main St looking west with First Unitarian Church in the background. The church occupies the whole block and has four historic Hawthorne trees in front of Eliot Chapel. Photo by PlanGreen.
Image 6. SW Main St. and Park Ave. Three half block treeless asphalt deserts in a row looking west up SW Main. Photo by PlanGreen.
Image 7. SW 10th and Main St. looking north. Note the Museum Parking sign, the only hint that this lot is owned by Portland Art Museum although the Early Bird sign makes one think its City Center Parking. Photo by PlanGreen.
You might believe that with current real estate values, they will all be developed soon. But throughout the central city building boom in Portland, this hasn’t happened. In fact, Portland Art Museum’s lot depicted in Images 6 and 7 has been a surface parking lot for 88 years!
In August of 2017, commercial real estate consultant, Brian Owendoff explained to a Portland State University Real Estate class his opinion on why there will be little movement:
1. Land Price too high: very tough to make an apartment or office tower economically viable @ $600 SF for land cost.
2. The Inclusionary Zoning requirement reduces net operating income by 10%, more or less, making apartment development not economically viable.
3. Construction costs are very high due in large part to labor shortages.
All three result in project returns below what is acceptable for institutional investment or third party construction debt.
Except for the fact that some of the owners of the lots (the Goodmans, the Schnitzers and Portland Art Museum) also have the capacity to develop them, Owendoff’s market-based explanation may help explain why we’ve seen no redevelopment of the treeless asphalt deserts during the building boom.. But we can change “the market”!!! I have long suggested as a solution to this problem: the City of Portland should TAX LAND AT A HIGHER RATE THAN BUILDINGS. By taxing land at or near its development potential, owners of land that is used at less than maximum productivity–e.g.,surface parking lots–would be paying a disproportionate amount in taxes in order to keep it that way. See Land Value Tax for Downtown Portland.
Meanwhile, we could require that surface parking lots, while they remain, take a page from Ecotrust parking lot. Owners must install trees and bioswales that manage ALL stormwater onsite. They could even become fun places to hold events.
Ecotrust parking lot is enclosed on two sides by trees and mostly native shrubs and wildflowers. The surface is porous pavers. Its a delightful place to hold events, Photo: Green Hammer
Let’s demand more from downtown Portland’s surface parking lot owners. Tell City Council that it’s not fair to downtown residents and visitors that owners of surface parking lots help destroy our air and water quality–not to mention temperature and aesthetic quality–with such impunity. You can help end treeless asphalt deserts by developing a vision for what you’d like to see on one of them. Then get your vision out via mainstream and social media. Call the owner and present it to them too. Grab a space on City Council’s agenda and present your vision. And watch for my vision for the Portland Art Museum lot soon!
Published July 9, 2019. Adapted from CC2035 Testimony of Mary Vogel/PlanGreen Sept. 7, 2017
May 22, 2018 I just returned from the 26th Annual Congress of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Savannah, GA where I took the opportunity to go on the “Missing Middle Housing: Found!” walking tour with Savannah architect, Eric Brown, his two young staff members and about two dozen Congress attendees. It was revealing!
As a city that has preserved a great deal of its 285-year history in its buildings and neighborhood layout, Savannah (founded 1733) is an ideal place to understand how what we now call “Missing Middle Housing” was an integral part of the development of our towns and cities in this nation since the 1700s. Duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes along with carriage houses and lane houses coexisted nicely beside single family homes and mansions.
Since the current top priority of the Portland Small Developer Alliance is to get fourplexes allowed as a use by right in all Portland neighborhoods, I will focus on fourplexes first. I believe the images speak for themselves but do read the captions!
This fourplex with 2-way shared stoops was built as worker housing. It fits in well with the mix of homes, including single family, on this well-landscaped street. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
This is the same street as the previous photo. The grey/blue building in the background is also a fourplex–with each entry having its own stoop. It has Single Family homes on either side. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
This series of four row houses seemed common in the 1800s when these were built. They are each painted a separate color and at least one has a canopy over the stoop. Each have English Basements that are often rented out separately. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
While many of Savannah’s row houses from the 1800s came in sets of four, some are in sets of three–as illustrated below. I’m calling this a triplex!
This series of three row houses, while part of one structure, are sold separately as fee simple–as are the fourplex row houses above. They may have been workers housing for the staff of the elegant Single Family home next to it on the left. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
The realtor is advertising this structure as three floors–implying that each could be separate units. The bottom floor is used for a business (a day spa). And the flogs make it appear that there may be separate households sharing the other two floors. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
Duplexes were somewhat common too. They came in a variety of forms.
These duplexes with English Basements are being sold by different realty companies. This corner lot structure first appeared to be one large single family home. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
Another duplex that first appears to be a single family home. Note the difference in setback from the structure on the left. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
This double row house has substantial English basements that are often separately occupied–offering rental income or business space for the owners. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
Some of the row houses had simple signs about original ownership. I was surprised about how many seemed to be built for women. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
I talked to the current occupants of this home, originally built for Margaret Dibble. The woman of the couple had served many years on the neighborhood association board and was excited that CNU was in town. Although the siding of this home is different, it shares a wall with the Bridget Carey house. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
Although many of the English basements serve as ADUs, I found this one off a courtyard that appeared to be a shared space.
There appear to be two apartments off of this enchanting shared courtyard. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
This corner single family home has a carriage house in the rear–a lovely accessory dwelling unit or ADU. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
It appears that a second story was added over an original carriage house. Today, the upper story has a separate entrance, leaving one to believe that it holds two small apartments. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
Apartment buildings were an occasional part of the scene too.
This small apartment building was the only place I saw off-street parking on my tour–and that was likely added afterwards as the building probably had neighboring structures that were torn down to make way for it. Photo by Mary Vogel/PlanGreen.
I saw a number of drivers parallel park on the street while I was taking these photographs. They did not appear to have been circling to find a place as there were empty places on the street–even though I was photographing during “rush hour”.
I hope that the above images make a compelling case that fourplexes, triplexes, duplexes, ADUs and small apartment buildings can fit nicely into a neighborhood. They were certainly part of our early historic heritage–a heritage that I hope we will learn from as we now make single family-only neighborhoods a part of our history–a part of our history that has proved unsustainable. Let’s give our young people the opportunity to share our close-in walkable neighborhoods with housing prices that allow them to thrive. Let’s give our small developers the opportunity to build in ways that make sense for our current desire for 20-minute neighborhoods. The survival of our planet may depend upon it!
FOR PSC COMMISSIONERS READING THIS POST
The following is an amendment proposed by Portland Small Developer Alliance that we would like you to sponsor:
PSC Proposed Amendment to RIP
Allow four housing units on all residentially-zoned lots, by right, if within walking distance along a continuous pedestrian network to transit. Four units is considered by the Federal Housing Administration for mortgage lending to be a “house.” It is common sense to synchronize our zoning regulations with existing federal policy and definition. Given the high cost of land and development in Portland, new single-family houses on full-size lots affordable to average residents cannot be built. Dividing up the costs of site acquisition, design, permitting costs, impact fees, construction, and lending by four units allows the resulting cost per new home constructed to be affordable to a middle-class Portland household. Unit counts have a tiny impact on the surrounding community compared to building scale; within the regulated size of new projects, we should allow more units. Allowing a fourth unit gives us the opportunity to make the units we build more affordable to more people while still maintaining the scale and character of the neighborhoods we all enjoy.