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Planning and Sustainability

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Meeting 1 Minutes, April 15, 2015

Meeting Minutes

Meeting Date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time: 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Committee Members present: Bryce Jacobson, Shane Endicott, Mark Haley (for Joe Connell), Scott Yelton, Preston Browning, Barbara Kerr, James Ray Arnold, Alando Simpson, Brandon Spencer-Hartle, Ben Gates, Nancy Thorington, Kristin Cooper, Matthew Robinson (phone), Kathleen Petrie (phone)

Absent: Caroline Dao, DRAC Representative (awaiting their decision on rep), Rick Winterhalter, Heather Robinson

Staff: Shawn Wood, Alisa Kane, Madeline Kovacs

Visitors: Steve Hankings


Welcome and Introductions

Shawn Wood began the meeting with an overview of the Deconstruction Advisory Group (DAG’s) purpose, expectations, and timeline. Shawn also identified discussion ground rules and procedures, and reminded DAG members to please send another representative if they are unable to attend future meetings. Each member of the DAG introduced themselves and their areas of professional expertise, and BPS staff gave a brief overview of current deconstruction requirements/regulations in Cook County, IL, and in Vancouver, BC.

Next Steps

The next DAG meeting will be on April 29th, from 2:30 – 4:30 in the same room (1900 Building, room 7A). A total of four meetings are desired, between now and the hearing scheduled for City Council on June 3. Shawn asked DAG members to hold Wednesdays at this time on their calendars.

Members of the Advisory Group also suggested that some research be conducted for the next meeting. Bryce will share data on Metro’s current fee structure (now just above $90/ton). BPS staff will consult long-range plans (Portland Plan, Climate Action Plan), to help identify how DAG work fits into meeting expressed citywide goals. A request was also made to see statistics regarding the number of homes currently being demolished, and square feet of real estate.

Summary of background & purpose

The Deconstruction Advisory Committee addresses many issues simultaneously. As the economy continues to recover, there has been a subsequent up-tick in demolitions, most notably single family residences. Neighbors’ forums have been held and concerns have been voiced regarding scale and character of new buildings, neighborhood notification procedures, and pollution. Last July, the State of Historic Preservation report presented at City Council referred to an “epidemic of demolitions,” and asked the city to respond. As a result, BDS convened a DRAC subcommittee to develop code change recommendations for increased notification and demolition delay application. It was determined in part by the outcomes of this project that a group of experts should be convened to examine options for deconstruction more closely. 

DAG has been charged with advising Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) on options to increase deconstruction activities, to provide BPS with diverse input from a range of stakeholders, and to share any expertise critical to making deconstruction a success in Portland. DAG will bring a suite of options for action to City Council on June 3rd, and Council will direct us to move forward on those options they find to be most promising. There will also be the option for public testimony concerning which options we are directed to pursue.

Concurrent projects include:

1. The creation of a web-based deconstruction calculator to assist contractors and others in determining carbon and energy impacts of deconstruction versus demolition.

2. Deconstruction training for City contractors, preparing them to successfully bid on and complete the removal of city-owned structures (using deconstruction). First training is scheduled for May 29th & 30th.

Summary of discusson

Main points of discussion from the meeting are summarized below, according to topic. No comments are attributed to specific Advisory Group members.

Re-use market(s)
The group discussed many segments of the market that are potentially untapped and under-served, and/or present key opportunities for Portland:

  • ·   Lower-end re-use: Not only high-end materials are re-used, and lower-income people are actually a huge segment of our economy
    • o    The ReBuilding Center’s inventory is 70% non-high-end, and they have no trouble selling most everything
    • o    If there is a market for low-end materials at Home Depot, then there is also one for used low-end materials at a fraction of the cost
    • o    If people are better able to repair their own homes, that is also less money for taxpayers
  • ·   Aesthetic market not going anywhere: There will continue to be a market and profits in the re-purposing and re-use of old, high-quality materials
    • o    People love to hunt for gems/ quality re-used items
  • ·   Portland ethos & cultural shift around environmental stewardship
    • o    Re-used items that used to sit on the shelves are now gone in an instant
    • o    Shift is reflective of deeper values of the people who choose to live here
  • ·   Jobs market: Consider the wider range of beneficiaries       
    • o    Economic tool to provide green-collar jobs
    • o    Serve the people who have gone under-served, who are already here
    • o    Support the Portland story: Honest, working-wage jobs
    • ·   Place for education
      • o    All of the above will only expand the more the public learns about the environmental, social & health benefits of deconstruction


Making deconstruction competitive

  • ·   Can costs come down to consistently come within a couple of thousand dollars as compared with a demolition?
    • o    2009/10 grant findings support this: With training, over time, one crew averaged $12,000 per demolition, and $15,000 per deconstruction for a typical SFR (Seattle).
    • o  On a case-by-case basis, after tax credit and selling of materials, many deconstruction projects more than break even on their own
  • ·   Timing: One member shared that the typical SFR deconstruction project is about ten days, compared with a day or two to demolish
    • o    Frequently, lots sit empty after a demolition, so timing is not an issue
    • o    Permit incentives possible
  • ·   Incentive options include waiving fees and reducing tipping costs
  • ·   Prioritize education around health issues and environmental benefits of deconstruction  
    • o  With demolitions, who is responsible for what enters the air?
    • o  If the costs to clean up a demolition site according to health & safety and environmental standards when properly enforced are actually so high, then deconstruction becomes automatically cheaper by comparison
    • o  Recent examples of pollution and public exposure to hazardous materials due to demolition in Portland, one of which involved mercury & a $100,000 cleanup fee
    • o  Surgically removing hazards guarantees close to 100% recovery, and there is no way to get this using demolition


Key policy considerations

  • ·   Transfer and recovery fees, etc.:
    • o    According to which facility haulers choose?
      • o    Fee per ton/ what constitutes a real incentive/disincentive?
      • o    EcoTrust model: Utilities pay into a renewables & efficiency fund
  • ·   Consider the consumer and potential costs inadvertently passed on
    • o  Could be a good thing: We all need to internalize costs
  • ·   Are we considering only residential buildings, or commercial as well?
    • o  Higher turnover of commercial spaces and re-finishing between tenants constitutes a large segment of waste/re-use potential
      • o  Makes sense to lead with housing due to public awareness and attention
      • o  Phased roll out of incentives/regulations an option?
      • ·         Implementation and enforcement may influence our scope/ how broad our recommendations may be. What’s feasible?
        • o  BDS inspections are for fire/life safety, not equipped or staffed to take on the kinds of inspections we are talking about
        • o  We already have a complaint-driven system to help enforce a number of policies, and sometimes it proves very effective
        • ·         How do we level the playing field? Many companies want to do deconstruction, they just need to be able to convince the client to choose them
        • ·         Public health regarding asbestos and other hazardous materials
          • o  Regulatory hole: OSHA? EPA? DEQ? Who inspects and enforces what?
          • o  Asbestos and lead both keep coming up. No current asbestos abatement required prior for structures with less than four units
          • o  Mercury is virtually unaddressed, but a major health hazard in demolitions


Larger context

  • ·         What does the city need to see to make stronger regulations?
    • o  Economic, equity, environmental benchmarks
    • ·         Mayor’s office perspective: Keeping tons of waste out of landfills and addressing neighbor’s concerns is important
    • ·         The ethos in our society that we make anything to last only 30 years or less, to become landfill, needs to be fundamentally changed
    • ·         We should also take a look at how deconstruction aligns with other policies, with where we as a city have already identified where we want to go.
      • o  Jobs created, amount of material kept out of landfills, carbon reduction, water quality, public health and safety
      • o  (Climate Action Plan/Comp Plan)
      • o  MWESB job training and grant opportunities?
      • o  Other specific incentive/ grant opportunities?