Google's Kevin Rose upsets Portland neighbors with home demolition
A neighborhood group calls on the millionaire to halt the demolition of a 122-year-old house, so as not to lose "old structure, old bones, history, and community."
San Francisco isn't the only city experiencing a techie backlash -- it appears some Portlanders are also getting up in arms over uber-rich entrepreneurs' spending whims.
A neighborhood group in the Willamette Heights section of Portland, Ore., has started a Change.org petition to try to get Digg founder and Google Ventures partner Kevin Rose to change his mind about demolishing a 122-year-old home.
Rose and his wife Dayra bought the home in February and reportedly said they only planned to remodel it. So, their neighbors were surprised when it was learned the house was actually slated to be demolished.
"At seemingly lightning pace, it appears that you notified the City of Portland that you were withdrawing the house from the City's landmark inventory, applied for a permit to build a new house on the site, and obtained a permit to demolish the house," the petition reads. "Because you withdrew the house from the landmark inventory, you were no longer obligated to give public notice of the intended demolition, nor were you required to delay the demolition so that neighbors' comments could be received."
The neighbors are asking Rose to either keep the house and remodel it or sell it to someone else who values the historic home.
"We hope to convince you that there's a better prospect for the future," the petition reads. "The alternative would be terrible. We see neighborhood protests and calls to action. And ultimately, likely, we see destruction, and a new house. Nice as it might be, it stands out oddly in the neighborhood. There's a family there, sometimes, but they don't enjoy the neighborhood, as they don't interact with it. And there's something lost: old structure, old bones, history, and community."
Upon learning of his new neighbors' complaints, Rose wrote a response in the comments section of the petition. He said that he'd always intended a "major remodel" with plans on "making it more contemporary." Historical restoration was "never our intention," he said.
Rose said that after an architect and contractor inspected the property and assured him that "there is nothing historically significant" about the house, he asked that it be removed from the historic inventory list. He also said the cost of remodeling the home was far too expensive.
"After the inspections we were properly alerted to several areas that needed to be addressed. Electrical, plumbing, foundation/basement work, and asbestos," Rose wrote. "The costs were higher than we anticipated, and we knew we could never recoup that kind of money on a 100 year-old house."
Home demolitions in Portland appear to be a growing trend. According to The Oregonian, there were roughly 275 home demolitions in 2013, which is 43 percent more than the previous high in 2007 and 2008. In Rose's case, the fact that he could probably afford a remodel and the home was considered historic likely adds fuel to his neighbors' fire.
This isn't the first time Rose has been targeted for changing a neighborhood with tech wealth. A group of protesters picketed in front of his San Francisco home in April saying, "The startups that he funds bring the swarm of young entrepreneurs that have ravaged the landscapes of San Francisco and Oakland."
The tech industry has become a flash point for wealth disparity and gentrification in San Francisco and other cities around the US. Protesters have blamed many Silicon Valley tech giants and their high-paid tech employees for driving up rents and home prices in the areas where they live.
As for Rose's home in Portland, he said that he has offered the home back to the original seller and if that doesn't work he'll move forward with the demolition.
"We've offered the house back to the original seller. We've encouraged him to take back the house, fix the asbestos and other issues, then resell it," Rose wrote. "If that doesn't happen then we're going to proceed forward with deconstructing and donate everything to charity so that it can be reused and live on."