Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS A NATIONAL HISTORIC DISTRICT and HOW IS IT DESIGNATED?
"A district is a geographically definable area, urban or rural, possessing a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united by past events or aesthetically by plan or physical development. A district may also comprise individual elements separated geographically but linked by association or history."
Any individual or group can prepare and submit a historic district nomination of the neighborhood to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). If SHPO determines the nomination qualifies, it will forward the nomination to the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS makes the final decision.
WHAT IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION DOING REGARDING AN HISTORIC DISTRICT?
The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA) has spent approximately $49,000 of neighborhood funds to pay a consultant to do the work required to nominate Eastmoreland as a historic district. Under its current timeline, that consultant, AECOM, expects to finish the nomination by Nov. 1, 2016. However, the ENA Board President recently stated that the nomination process is about a month behind schedule. Update: as of late January 2017, the draft proposal has been submitted to the State of Oregon, with the formal review by the state board scheduled for February 17.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT WHETHER EASTMORELAND BECOMES A HISTORIC DISTRICT?
Living in a historic district will have a direct impact on almost all exterior remodels, renovations, and repairs you might want to make to your home; as a homeowner, this will fundamentally change your property rights as you know them today.
HOW WILL MY PROPERTY RIGHTS BE AFFECTED IF EASTMORELAND IS DESIGNATED AS A HISTORIC DISTRICT?
Many exterior alterations, remodeling, land development and other changes to the structure of your home or garage will have to go through a city process of historic resource review. Historic resource review takes more time, additional fees are charged, and the outcome is uncertain.
WHAT IS A HISTORIC RESOURCE REVIEW, HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE, AND HOW MUCH WILL IT COST ME?
Almost all exterior alterations are subject to Portland’s historic resource review code. This means:
- Additional fees, ranging from $250 to around $10,000 for base fees, depending upon review type and the valuation of exterior work
- Additional time, ranging from 35-103 more days; this could extend by much more if application is deemed incomplete or appeals are necessary
- Might require additional consultants to prepare and revise remodeling application, such as an architect
- Notice will be provided to neighbors and neighborhood association; all can comment
- The city's decision on your remodel can be appealed to the state level by neighbors or the ENA
- Please see the Land Use Review Fee Schedule and Land Use Review Types & Triggers/Making Sense of The Land Use Fee Schedule
WHAT TYPES OF CHANGES TO MY HOME MUST GO THROUGH THE HISTORIC REVIEW PROCESS?
Most exterior alterations and additions must go through historic resource review:
- Contributing resource house: All building facades
- Non-contributing resource house: All street-facing facades and facades visible from the street, and all non-street facing facades if alterations >150 sq. ft.
- New structures >200 sq. ft. or within 40 ft. of front property line
- Solar systems and roof skylights if on front-facing roof
- Some windows
- Siding replacement if over 50% of the home
- Other non-exempt exterior alterations, including driveways and window replacements
- (Examples of the above include dormers, replacement windows, expanding the foot print of the house, adding a kitchen sink bay window, remodeling a front entryway that alters the exterior, solar panels, skylights, and ADUs if they are not inside the house.)
- Please see Land Use Review Types & Triggers/Making Sense of The Land Use Fee Schedule and Remodeling Examples in a Historic District
WHAT CRITERIA WILL THE CITY USE TO EVALUATE MY APPLICATION FOR MY HOME RENOVATION PROJECT?
The city will apply its 10 historic review approval standards to your proposed exterior alteration, which are fairly restrictive. For example, if your home is a "contributing resource" to the historic district (and most homes will be), that means it is considered a "record of its time" and "will remain" as such. Your home's "historic character" is to be "retained and preserved." That means that "historic features will be repaired rather than replaced," and if you do replace features, such as windows, these approval standards favor using the same materials as the original, even when less expensive, more energy efficient materials are available.
WHAT ABOUT THE EASTMORELAND DESIGN GUIDELINES THAT THE ENA BOARD HAS TALKED ABOUT?
The ENA Board has paid AECOM to develop Eastmoreland Design Guidelines. However, these will have no binding authority on the city when city planners review any exterior remodel proposals for properties in an Eastmoreland historic district. Rather, the city will apply its 10 historic resource approval criteria. The only way Eastmoreland can have binding neighborhood-specific design guidelines is to have the city council adopt them – and that is a long process, taking over a year. The city will develop the actual design guidelines, and the city council must adopt them after hearings. The ENA’s guidelines will be informative, but not controlling, on what the city adopts.
WHAT IMPACT MIGHT THE HISTORIC DISTRICT HAVE ON MY ABILITY TO SELL MY HOME?
As ENA Board members have stated, there will be winners and losers in an historic district. Whatever the effect on property values generally, designation is sure to lower the value of some houses.
The value of a house depends on the willingness of people to buy it, and historic designation will scare buyers away from some houses. When looking at homes, most potential buyers consider changes they could make to accommodate their own family’s needs, such as having children, making a home accessible as they age, or enlarging a kitchen. And there are some houses that could use some upgrading: they haven't been remodeled, the siding needs replacement, the garage is small and deteriorating, dormers would add light and space. These sorts of improvements will be at a minimum more expensive and take more time in an historic district, and some will not be permitted at all. House-hunters will shy away from houses with that much uncertainty, or will not be willing to pay as much.
When people buy a house they usually and naturally want to fix it to their liking. And that's just it: in a historic district, you can't fix your house to your liking. Eastmoreland will become a tale of two neighborhoods – those homes that have already been remodeled, and those that have not.
DO I GET TO VOTE ON THE HISTORIC DISTRICT BEFORE IT MOVES FORWARD?
No, there is no legally binding requirement for the ENA (or any person) to get a majority of the homeowners in the designated district to vote for the proposal at any time. The only legally binding way to stop the historic district is after the ENA (or anyone else) submits the nomination to SHPO.
More than 50% of the homeowners in the nominated historic district must provide SHPO with a notarized letter objecting to the historic district in order for the nomination to be rejected.
WHAT IS THE "POLL" THAT I HAVE HEARD ABOUT?
The ENA has said it will conduct a "poll" prior to submitting the historic district nomination of Eastmoreland to SHPO. However, the ENA has not yet determined how the poll will be conducted or whether it will be of the whole neighborhood or only of those homes in the proposed historic district boundary. The question(s) in the poll have not yet been determined, and a neutral method of counting them has not been determined. The ENA has also said that the poll will NOT be binding on them. Update: as of late January 2017, the ENA has indicated that polls are going out in the mail.
IS THERE A FAIRER WAY TO ADDRESS CONCERNS I HAVE ABOUT THE DEMOLITIONS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
Yes. Portland's residential infill project proposes to reduce the height and size of new homes and significant remodels in all single family neighborhoods, including Eastmoreland, to keep them compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. This will address the scale concerns of new homes, and make it economically less attractive to tear down an existing home. In addition, in early 2017, the state is likely to adopt changes to state rules that would allow individual property owners to opt out of an historic district. The ENA should await these fairer solutions.
Moreover, a historic district will not stop demolitions. Any houses found to be "non-contributing" will still be able to be demolished, as today. And while it will be difficult to demolish "contributing houses," it is not impossible if the city’s criteria are met.
WILL A HISTORIC DISTRICT HAVE ANY IMPACT ON THE ABILITY TO DEVELOP EXISTING LEGAL LOTS?
No. A historic district will not prevent a property owner from developing a legal lot. The home(s) built on the legal lot will have to meet the city’s historic resource approval criteria.
WILL A HISTORIC DISTRICT HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE ABILITY TO DEVELOP A DUPLEX ON A CORNER LOT?
No. Under current zoning and under a historic district, a corner lot can be developed with a duplex.
WE WOULD LIKE TO ADD DORMERS TO THE FRONT OF OUR HOME. IS THAT ALLOWABLE IN A HISTORIC DISTRICT?
If your home is identified as a "contributing resource" it is unlikely that you would be able to make significant alterations to the street-facing facades, including dormers, porches or room additions, unless evidence can be presented to show that these elements existed on your home historically. Few, if any, of these projects have been approved for "contributing" homes in other historic districts.
If your home is identified as a "non-contributing resource," exterior alterations to street-facing facades will be reviewed for compatibility with your home and adherence to historic district standards.
IF I OWN A 1-STORY HOME, CAN I ADD A SECOND STORY TO IT IN A HISTORIC DISTRICT?
The point of a historic district is to preserve history; adding a second story to an existing "contributing resource" will be close to impossible because there would be little remaining of the historic resource. You would likely have to prove that your home should not have been designated as "contributing" in the first place, and have its designation changed to "non-contributing", before an alteration of this type would be considered.
If your home is identified as a "non-contributing resource" a second story addition will be reviewed per historic district standards.
CAN I MAKE COSMETIC "UPGRADES" TO A "CONTRIBUTING HOME"?
Restoration of a "contributing resource" is very much encouraged in a historic district – decorative exterior elements, such as windows, trim and shutters shall be maintained to match the original exterior. Adding "upgrades" or profiles that differ from what was originally installed is strongly discouraged, as they are perceived as creating a false sense of historic development. Adding shutters, changing out exterior trim, or installing decorative carriage-house style garage doors likely will not be approved without some proof that these were part of the original historic design – especially on street-facing facades.
WILL THE HISTORIC DISTRICT RESTRICT MODIFICATIONS TO MAKE A HOME HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE?
Ramps or other needed improvements will need to be removable without disrupting the exterior of a "contributing resource." It will be difficult (if not impossible) to make alterations that permanently impact the street-facing facades such as expanding a porch, widening a front doorway or creating an addition to house a lift, elevator or permanent ramp. These types of alterations may be acceptable on non-street-facing elevations.
If your home is identified as a "non-contributing resource" exterior alterations will be reviewed for compatibility with your home and adherence to historic district standards
IF MY HOME IS LOCATED ON A CORNER LOT, TWO ELEVATIONS ARE STREET-FACING. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS FOR ADDING TO MY HOME?
"Contributing resources" located on corner lots will have limited options for adding space. Rear dormers will be the only obviously approvable addition. If an ADU can be located in a way that it doesn't greatly impact the existing streetscape, that might be an option as well. So while corner homes have more options for development outside a HD, they are the most restricted within a HD.
ONCE A NEIGHBORHOOD IS DESIGNATED AN HISTORIC DISTRICT, IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A PORTION OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD, OR FOR INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY, TO BE REMOVED FROM THE DISTRICT?
It is nearly impossible for a portion of a historic district or an individual property to be carved out of a historic district. A portion of Alameda was included in the Irvington Historic District, surprising many residents there. They pursued exiting the district at the State and National levels over five years without success. You can read about this process at the Alameda Overlap Blog.
Would the Historic District keep the Eastmoreland Golf Course safe from the City turning it into a parking lot for the MAX station?
In short: The historic district would not protect the golf course, but it doesn’t need additional protection anyway.
The City owns the course, so it can do what it wants, regardless of an Historic District. Designation in the National Register, as the current nomination aims to create, doesn’t give Eastmoreland any protection on its own. It’s the City’s guidelines that would enforce demolition and/or design review, not the State of Federal government.
Surveys during construction of the MAX line have already identified the course as eligible for National Register historic designation on its own. If someone were motivated to submit the paperwork, this could happen without rolling up the entire adjacent neighborhood into such a district. Again, the City could still bulldoze it under if this happened, per the previous paragraph.
However, several existing factors already make it unlikely that the course would be demolished or even changed easily:
- Portland Parks Bureau owns it, which would make it politically difficult to do anything adverse to the property
- The property is leased to an operator (another complication)
- The course is quite popular and highly regarded as an example of a municipal golf course
Finally, regarding parking for the MAX line, here's Jennifer Koozer, TriMet’s manager of community affairs: “TriMet is not pursuing a Park & Ride at the Eastmoreland Golf Course. We do not build Park & Rides this close-in, where there are good bike/pedestrian/bus connections, and we do not want to generate more auto traffic around the SE Bybee Station from Park & Ride users.” Another senior TriMet employee says that their priority for more parking on the Orange Line “would be to add additional floors on the SE Park Ave Park and Ride. Second to that would be to add a multi-floor structure at the SE Tacoma park and Ride. Both of those were in the original plans but were cut when the federal funding was reduced. We tried to add them back into the project when we were closer to the finish and able to come in under budget but the Feds would not let us add them back.”
WHAT CAN I DO IF I OBJECT?
Sign the petition, volunteer, become a notary, spread the word to your friends and neighbors, and tell the ENA Board that you want them to stop spending the neighborhood's resources on the historic designation.
If you don't want to sign the petition but still want updates about how and when to object, we have a separate sign-up.