Demolition of Noyes Street Property Not Finalized Says Contractor; * 2/3 Public Hearing

Julie Sullivan, Acting Chief of Staff, is Task Force Facilitator.

Julie Sullivan, Acting Chief of Staff, is Task Force Facilitator.

IMG_0966By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,291)

The contractor for the demolition of the Noyes Street rental property that burned last November said that he still does not know when the city will approve an application to demolish the abandoned building that sits as a reminder to neighbors of the horrific fire in which six (6) young people lost their lives.  “I think the city might be negotiating with the insurance company about taking it down,” said Ed Benjamin, Benjamin Construction, of SoPo.  “I will take it down just to the first floor so that it can be rebuilt sometime from there.  My real concern now is disposing of the snow and the added expense it will cause because of the additional weight of the snow.  I’m even more concerned about what lies under the snow.  That’s trash and other stuff that will have to be removed when the weather improves,” said Benjamin in a telephone conversation this morning.  “The press doesn’t give Greg any positive feedback.  He can’t talk to the press cause they crucify him.  Have you ever seen a smoke detector on a front porch?”  Benjamin asked.

Benjamin who talks to Greg Nisbet, the owner of the property, several times a week, says he’s  devastated by the fire and loss of life and wants to get out of the real estate business. “There’s not enough money to bring these big, old Portland buildings up to code.  I think the city is going toward sprinkler systems which could cost about $20,000 – $30,000. “I think Greg should declare bankruptcy, but he doesn’t agree.”

Enforcement of violations against landlords who are repeatedly  in conflict with city ordinances has received the least attention from the city’s Fire Safety Task Force which met once again this afternoon at city hall as it has been for several months now. While there is interest in inspectors issuing tickets in the field, missing from the discussion were recommendations on the cost per ticket an offending landlord would receive before being booted.  (Parking tickets are the example here). How much should each ticket be? Sullivan admitted that is something a city committee could ask the Task Force to revisit at a later time.  How many violations before the landlord is “booted”  or stronger action taken? After all, it was a breakdown in enforcement of numerous violations at the 20-24 Noyes Street property that led to the formation of this Task Force by Acting City Manager Sheila Hill-Christian. The Parking Division would not tolerate this kind of “behavior” by drivers!

There are between 17,000 – and 20,000 rental units in the city of Portland according to city records.  There have been discussions on how to inspect the units that are currently covered by the city’s ordinance –  rental buildings with three units or more. The sense of the Task Force seemed to be that all units should be inspected which requires an ordinance change.  Crandall Toothaker, one of two landlords on the Task Force said:  “We need to inspect all rental units within three (3) years or this process is not working.  If you don’t want to be a good landlord – stay away – we don’t want bad landlords in Portland.”

*A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 3, 5:30 – 7:00 pm in Room 24, in the basement of city hall.  Public testimony will be taken. on Tuesday February 10th, at 5:30 pm., there will be a presentation before the Public Safety Committee in City Council Chambers.

No tenants are on the Task Force as as previously reported – an unfortunate oversight by the City.


One thought on “Demolition of Noyes Street Property Not Finalized Says Contractor; * 2/3 Public Hearing

  1. I do think in this instance the press has been lax in decent reporting. Anyone inspecting Craigslist “rooms and shares” will see that there many listings offered by those who’ve had a roommate leave, and there’s no mention in the ads of anyone needing to sign a lease or be cleared by the landlord or rental agency before being approved to move in. This is not the fault of the landlord, but of those who remain living in an apartment. Those on lower incomes or just wanting to save money will frequently rent out a living room or what is supposed to be “office” or “storage space” in their apartment–and pack the place up. It is quite possible that those people using the third floor at Noyes Street were there without ever telling Mr. Nisbet–and whoever was supposed to let Mr. Nisbet know didn’t–because they could as a group decide to each pay less by packing the place up with too many people. Who knows? However, you can guarantee that since the fire on Noyes Street, landlords are going to be far more attentive to what is going on in their properties. This is a good thing. In fact, I suspect landlords will start asking for higher deposits; have a clause in the lease that states disengaging fire alarms will be cause for eviction and property damage, and a clause stating that renting out to more than the rental agreement states is also a cause for eviction; and perhaps even evict current tenants for failing to make sure their leaving roommates haven’t cleared out their belongings, or in fact advertise a room for rent without informing the landlord. It was remarkable to me that the PPH never bothered to get any details from the Code Enforcement crew about the 188 Dartmouth tenants’ complaints about sparking light switches, so either the tenants were creating a story to sidestep the issue about the amount of garbage that had built up in that place (clear from the video), either because in fact there was no electrical issue; or the PPH is just siding with the tenants in a biased fashion.

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