1880 Farmhouse Demolition Spurs Four-Month Delay

PORTLAND, Ore. – The proposed demolition of a 137-year-old farmhouse in the Reed neighborhood of Southeast Portland has triggered an extended demolition delay due to the property’s status as a historic resource.

Located at 4731 SE 36th Place, the house was built in 1880 and sits on an 8,000-square-foot lot.

Photo credit: RMLS

On Jan. 19 the county recorded a $564,900 sale of the property to Jeffrey Koopman. Two weeks later, the city received an application to demolish the 137-year-old house. Koopman is listed as the contractor, Carol Fyfield is listed as the owner and Zac Horton of Faster Permits is listed as the applicant.

The house was included on Portland’s 1984 historic resource inventory, which noted the building’s architectural significance, particularly its “hip roof with wide eaves and exposed rafters,” “one-over-one, double-hung windows,” “window labels,” “encircling porch with square posts and decorative brackets” and more.

Photo credit: RMLS

This publication has reported on several cases in which historic resource properties were removed from the inventory concurrent with a demolition application, meaning a 120-day delay for issuing a demolition permit to a historic resource did not apply.

But a state supreme court ruling in August set the stage for that to change. It clarified points about owner consent to historic designation, including that owners can refuse to consent to historic designation but that if they withdraw the property from consideration once it’s begun, a 120-day delay is legally required before demolition or modifications can take place.

The historic resources inventory, while not a historic designation, is a step in the designation process, meaning the law applies when an owner removes a property from the inventory. Shortly after the ruling, prompted by historic preservation groups and citizens, the city determined it would be violating state law by allowing property owners to circumvent the 120-day delay in this way. In September the city began requiring a 120-day delay period between the date a property is removed from the inventory, and the date it can receive a demolition permit.

Photo credit: RMLS

This rule only applies to “ranked” properties on the historic resource inventory. Some properties on the inventory are ranked in order of significance from I to III. The 1880 farmhouse has a rank of III.

The demolition delay will likely expire in early June.

Although the property is located within an R5 zone that indicates a maximum of one residence per 5,000 square feet, it qualifies to utilize grandfathered zoning regulations that allow for more units.

The property contains two underlying lots, each 4,000 square feet in size. City code allows builders to “reopen” these historic lots for new development. In the R5 zone, reopened underlying lots must only be 3,000-square-feet in size, meaning two new units could likely be built on the site.

Last Thursday the city received an application to confirm both underlying lots, likely signifying the plan is to build multiple new units.

Photo credit: Portland Historic Resources Inventory

The real estate ad for the property alluded to the lot line potential: “Own a piece of Portland history, city says dividable lot as well, inquire for more info,” it reads, adding that the existing home “needs some updating to bring it back to it’s glory.”