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BAC Takes Stand Against Poorly Planned Infill

The BAC Board has voted unanimously to oppose a proposal to divide a parcel of land located at 3523 SE 13TH Avenue.

This was a difficult decision for our organization to make. Unlike many other neighborhoods in Inner Southeast Portland, the Brooklyn Action Board generally supports residential infill development. Increased residential density reduces suburban sprawl, revitalizes nearby commercial areas, and helps to provide much needed affordable housing.

The Brooklyn Board believes that the partition proposed for Mr. Haak’s land at 3523 SE 13TH Avenue sets a dangerous precedence for the neighborhood. By a unanimous vote, the Executive Board of the Brooklyn Action Corps has voted to oppose the proposed adjustment.

Chief among our concerns is the minimal setbacks being proposed for the existing home on the site. City Code 33.110.220 states that the purpose of setback regulations is to “maintain light, air, separation for fire protection, and access for firefighting”.

Fire access to the existing home will be seriously compromised if this partition is allowed to take place. The northern property line lies only 1.3 feet north of this house. If a fire was to break out on this side of the home, it would be next to impossible for a firefighter in his or her fire gear to navigate through this space in order to access the back or side yard.

The new southern property line proposed for Parcel #1 is only 3.3 feet from the existing home. Adequate fire fighting access to the back of the home and to the back yard area will only be possible by crossing onto the neighboring properties to the north and to the south. A setback of 1.3 and 3.3 feet leaves very little defensible space to prevent fires from spreading from one vehicle to the next. We believe that this places an undue burden and risk onto the adjacent property owners.

Allowing an adjustment to the standard requirement of 5.00 foot setbacks will also place an extra burden on the natural environment. Setbacks of 1.3 and 3.3 feet do not allow for adequate access to the sun for natural heating and light. This lack of sunlight will lead to increased electrical use for heating and light in the cool, dark weather that is common here during eight months out of the year. A lack of adequate air circulation will likely lead to increased air conditioning costs during the other four months of the year when it is warm.

If the narrow setbacks are allowed, the existing home will have very little privacy from its neighbors. This problem is compounded by the fact that the house has a very small setback from the front property line. This places the existing home within close proximity to three out of the four property lines. This appears to be directly contrary to the stated purpose of setbacks in City Ordinance 33.110.220 to “promote a reasonable physical relationship between residences” and to “promote options for privacy for neighboring properties”.

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