Design Commission finds issues at Yamhill Firs apartments
Leasing is open and rent checks are in the mail, but the Gresham Design Commission is questioning a local developer for not building exactly what's on the blueprints.
Appearing before the board is more than just a hassle for the developers of Yamhill Firs, a 38-unit, three-story, three-building apartment complex located at 19025 S.E. Yamhill St., just a few minutes' walk from the Ruby Junction light-rail station on 197th Avenue.
West Coast Home Solutions, the Wilsonville-based developer behind the project, told the appointed building board that some of city's proposed fixes could void their warranty and lead to water damage.
The problems might seem picayune at first glance. The Design Commission noticed some missing mullions — a term for the crossbars that divide glass panes in a window — as well as a concrete trash enclosure that wasn't painted. But West Coast also had installed window trim with a width that was 2 inches smaller than what was specified in plans approved by the city.
Replacing the trim would require workers to puncture the waterproofing system underneath the trim and re-caulk the area, creating the potential for water damage down the road.
"I understand there was a mistake on our end to not install the proper trim," admitted project manager Alex Labunsky. "But we also have to acknowledge, this is probably the nicest building in that whole neighborhood. Everyone's been commenting on how architecturally beautiful it is."
Gresham's Design Commission isn't unique — all of the smaller cities in East Multnomah County have appointed boards that oversee and approve developments that cross certain thresholds.
But representing the largest East Multnomah County city that's received the lion's share of new development, Gresham's commission is far busier. Developers sometimes argue that unnecessary rules drive up housing costs, while city planners say they're enforcing standards that protect renters and residents.
"What we're trying to do is raise the standards on the architectural quality of anything that gets built," explained Commissioner Mike McKeel near the end of a city meeting on Wednesday, March 7. "If we let what got built here for the last 40 years (continue), we're going to get the same result: poorly built, poorly managed."
In the end, the Design Commission ordered Labunsky to replace the trim, but only on a select few windows facing the street. They also stipulated that new landscaping elements be planted on site to compensate for concrete walkway pavers not comprising enough recycled materials.
John Bildsoe, land use chair for the Rockwood Neighborhood Association, said he thought setting aside money for a new park would be a better use of the developer's funds.
"I hope that whatever comes out of this, you don't destroy the integrity of the waterproof membrane, because that's just going to wreck this place," he noted.