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1.5 acres for permaculture IC in Portland--could this happen?  RSS feed

 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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There is a 1.5 acre plot of land, with a decent enough house, for sale in Portland close to Powell Butte Nature Park. Now, this is well east of the famed 82nd Avenue that realtors have told us to stay west of, but it is very close to the Springwater Corridor Trail and also not too far from my new job at the Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham. Looking around via Google Maps, it doesn't look like a "Felony Flats" neighborhood, but what do I know? You can check it out here (if the listing is still active).

My dream would be to buy the land (at $350K, we can afford it if our property here in Wisconsin sells), live in the house and eventually find a few like minded folks (like, 3-4 more couples or families) for a multigenerational intentional community. People would have their own homes, but they would be clustered so as to maximize sun aspect, etc for permaculture. We would likely build a new house for ourselves and sell the existing home once the new place is ready. What I'm asking the hive mind here (particularly those that know Portland) is just how crazy is this dream?

I know that toby hemenway is doing a 6 month PDC in Portland, but I can't take that as I'm not there yet and I won't start getting paid in my new job until August or September. I will certainly try to take a PDC from Toby in 2014, if such a thing happens. I might be able to get started prior to taking my own PDC by getting to know other permies in Portland (I know that Toby no longer resides there).

Is 140th Avenue simply too far east for any "cool" Portlandiers to consider, or does the proximity to the Springwater Corridor Trail, Leach Botanical Gardens, Zenger Farm and Powell Butte make a difference? There aren't any cool grocery stores or restaurants in walking distance, that's for sure. It is 6.4 miles to the New Seasons in Happy Valley and 8.7 miles to the one in Sellwood.

We don't want to repeat our experience (from Wisconsin) of having a lovely homestead that is a half hour drive from all of our social activities, so the idea of building a community is really key here. I'm OK with a 15 minute ride to the grocery store that I like (especially if I'm producing a lot of my own food, eventually!) but I am no longer interested in creating and managing a large landscape on my own.
 
ellen kardl
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I love the idea. I'm in Oregon City right now, in a rental I can't farm. Asking right now about it with someone who lives very near there.

Here is the response: "its not the best neighborhood but its for sure not the worst either".

How were you thinking of using 1.5 acres, in terms of other people joining? Would they also be able to build on the property, or place a yurt/tiny house?
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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I was definitely thinking of more than one dwelling on the land. We looked seriously at Cully Grove, even touring the site with Eli when we were in Portland for my job interviews. However, all of the places big enough for our family of four were taken, and we just couldn't see ourselves in a little townhouse, the middle of three in one building. Now, Cully Grove is pretty dense, with 16 homes on almost two acres. I'm thinking more like 5 or 6 homes on the 1.5 acres.

I've lived on my one acre here in Wisconsin for over 12 years, and I've done some amazing things, but keeping it going has been like a second full time job. My husband has been very helpful, but it's always been "my" thing. I would love to put in a full permaculture design on some land, but I don't want to do it alone. So, thanks for asking your friend about the neighborhood--this is the kind of information I am seeking. If the neighborhood is too dicey, only the most foolhardy will want to join us. Besides, my daughters are 6 and 9 and I don't want to worry too much about them! (We have found a private school we're going to use for at least the first year, since we still have no idea where we are going to live and Portland elementary schools are of varying quality.)
 
ellen kardl
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Well the number one question is "Can you legally put more permanent structures (homes) on the parcel". I wouln't worry too much about the location. THere really aren't super bad neighborhoods in Portland. At least I have yet to find them. And community is something you build from the ground up. And isn't an isolated island; you work with what works, ya know?? Look at what the Urban Farming Guys are doing in one of the "worst" neighborhoods in the country, in Kansas City.
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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From a blog post at CullyGrove.org by Eli Spevak:
[On December 5, 2012], Portland’s City Council voted unanimously to extend the waiver of Systems Development Charges on Accessory Dwelling Units for an additional 3 years. The waiver covers all new ADUs (conversions or new construction) that are permitted before July 31, 2016 and obtain a final inspection and certification of occupancy no later than June 30, 2017.

Critical to this decision was the overwhelming evidence of the waiver’s impact over the past 2+ years. Before the original waiver was adopted in early 2010, Portland was permitting 2.6 ADUs per month. That rate jumped to 8.7 ADUs per month in 2011 and is now on track for 12.8 ADUs/month in 2012, a nearly five-fold increase in ADU activity from before the waiver went into effect. There were undoubtedly other factors involved in this jump, including the available of Energy Trust of Oregon incentives for ADUs, zoning code changes to allow ADUs to be larger in comparison to the primary dwelling (but still capped at 800sf), new appraisal guidelines to make ADUs easier to finance, and a general lifting up of the housing market this year. But there’s no question that the SDC waiver has been critical in helping many builders and homeowners take the leap from “Maybe…” to “Yes, let’s go for it!” for their ADU schemes & dreams.

We also used the opportunity of some public testimony to nudge the city to consider adopting scalable SDC fees on residential homes – so that 1,000 square foot homes wouldn’t pay the same SDC fees as 5,000 square foot ones (as they do today). Based on feedback from City Council member Nick Fish, there might be some follow-up on this idea.


So, one thing that is possible is building more dwellings as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's), although they are currently limited in size to 800sf, which is petite, if not tiny. Also, what Eli Spevak does in Portland is that he sets up his communities as condominium organizations.

I am still looking for more information about the neighborhood. Is there anybody out there that is familiar with the Zenger Farm? Anybody go hiking at Powell Butte?
 
Sam Schauer
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Hi Julia. I'm a resident of deep SE Portland, or simply East Portland, and I very much like it. I moved this direction a year ago after simply being priced-out of NE. For example, the home you listed would probably be $500K+ in a "better" neighborhood, but out here you can still get 1.5 acres and a decent house without promising your firstborn, so more and more folks I know have been finding themselves moving this way. Yes, there's still some petty crime, but nothing scary, at least not in my neighborhood, which is getting better all the time. If you want to check out the crime and housing data for your possible neighborhood, check out http://www.portlandmaps.com/, it's city run and has lots of great info.

As to Zeneger farm, those people are fantastic! They run the Lents International Farmers market, which is small but the only market in PDX not part of the "Portland Farmers Market" umbrella, so the vibe is wonderful and very friendly. For example, one fo the main honey-sellers often brings his hive with him to the market! Very cool. Also, Powell Butte is wonderful, but currently undergoing a major construction/renovation as the city is installing a water reservoir up there, so until that's completed it's not much fun to hike there.

Hope that information helps, let me know of you have any other 'hood specific questions, and best of luck with the moving plans!

-S
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Hi Sam, thanks so much for the local info! You say that your neighborhood is getting better all the time--are you willing to say around where this is? Thanks for the link--I will check it out.

Something I really like about this particular plot of land is the nearness to the Springwater Corridor. If I lived there I could conceivably commute by bike to work, at least when I'm not on call. It's about 8 miles to the Mount Hood Medical Center via the Springwater Corridor. It's also about 8 miles to the shopping district in Sellwood, going the other direction on the bike trail.

My impression of this area is that is was being actively developed until the economy tanked, but things are beginning to perk up again. The empty land immediately to the east of this plot has maybe 10 more houses on the Google satellite view than on the closer in "airplane view." The photos for this land on Redfin show the land divided into maybe 8 lots. If I don't buy the land, this is certainly what will happen to it. It may still be the fate of this land, because we can't buy anything until our place in Wisconsin sells, but it is what it is.

I'm curious about the farmer's markets. Are you saying that other farmer's markets in PDX are not as friendly?
 
Sam Schauer
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The Springwater Corridor is great... I'm about 8 blocks away at 90th and Woodstock, ie right in the center of Lents. Lents used to be it's own municipality but was annexed by Portland a number of years ago when the 205 went in. It then went in to obvious decline, and yes, it's proximity to the infamous 82nd Ave does have it's drawbacks... but on the upside they are finally finishing all the street improvements making the sidewalks wider and streets more bike friendly, not to mention the rain gardens every 30/40 feet. We've also got a great Tool Library, Working Class Acupuncture, a hopefully soon to open Co-op, and of course the Lents International Farmers market. And while I wouldn't call any Farmers Market in Portland unfriendly, I will say that Lents has the best atmosphere. All of the other markets are managed by the same organization, so they have all the same vendors and selection. Lents is smaller but the focus in on small scale International vendors and very local produce.

see also
http://www.greenlents.com/‎
http://www.mtscottarleta.com/
http://www.zengerfarm.org/index.php?page=61

Last, I will say that the area you are looking at, a good 50 blocks further out from where I am, is actually quite nice. If I have it triangulated right I'm pretty sure it's in a good little pocket of quiet neighborhoods.

Good luck with the land swap!
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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This land is up for sale again! Or, still. I'm not sure I understand what's going on here. The price went up, then it was pending, then it was relisted, then the price went down. . .

Right now I don't think I'm brave enough to buy this big property and try to lure other people way out east to join us. I'm looking hard at a 1/4 acre property in Cully around 48th very close to the Columbia Ecovillage.

We'll be arriving in Portland on Saturday August 31st (whether I'm ready or not)!
 
Matt Richards
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Julia Winter wrote:This land is up for sale again! Or, still. I'm not sure I understand what's going on here. The price went up, then it was pending, then it was relisted, then the price went down. . .

Right now I don't think I'm brave enough to buy this big property and try to lure other people way out east to join us. I'm looking hard at a 1/4 acre property in Cully around 48th very close to the Columbia Ecovillage.

We'll be arriving in Portland on Saturday August 31st (whether I'm ready or not)!


Good luck Julia. Moving to Portland and starting a community was a dream of mine for a long time as well =)
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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