My View: Laurelhurst is welcoming, not racist
Mary Vogel's opinion piece on Laurelhurst's effort to become an historic district (Historic district retains segregation, Nov. 8 MyView) contains incorrect and misleading statements. The Tribune's layout augments the problem.
Vogel begins her criticism by stating, "The Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association's primary stated motive for the historic district nomination is to prevent infill development of small multifamily buildings under the Residential Infill Plan (RIP)."
There is no such Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association statement.
The LNA has expressed concern about the demolition of existing houses, because of the justified fear that developers will target smaller, more affordable houses and replace them with larger, more expensive structures. At the same time, the LNA has supported — and becoming an historic district would not preclude — ADUs and the internal conversion of existing structures.
Vogel next claims misleadingly that the LNA's report to Laurelhurst homeowners "makes little case that the neighborhood is historically significant."
The report to which she refers, I presume, is the report of the Exploratory Historic District Committee completed in spring 2016.
Subsequently, after receiving overwhelming neighborhood support for pursuing the possibility of historic district status, the LNA commissioned a study, which amply demonstrates the historic significance of Laurelhurst. That study is available, as I'm sure Vogel knows, on various websites, including those of the State Historic Preservation Office and the LNA.
Then, after citing Laurelhurst's racially restrictive covenants (which the U.S. Supreme Court declared unenforceable 70 years ago!), Vogel misleadingly asks, "Does a neighborhood with this special history of racial exclusion deserve to be honored as a national historic district?"
Sadly, racial covenants are part of our collective history. But Laurelhurst does not have a "special history of racial exclusion." Nobody has yet documented the full extent of racial covenants in Portland, but they were common in Oregon and the rest of the country.
Even more sadly, racism is alive and well today. People can be and are racist. Nazi flags and monuments glorifying white Confederate values are racist symbols.
However, homes, tree-lined streets, and the ambience they create — despite what previous or perhaps even some current owners may believe about their white entitlement — are not racist. Rather, they are part of our existing, welcoming environment.
Protecting that environment is not racist, and such protection does not create a racist symbol. Rather, granting historic district status to Laurelhurst will preserve its beauty, including its smaller, relatively more affordable homes.
As a result, historic district status will increase the neighborhood's ability to contribute to diversity and more affordable housing.
The Tribune fosters the misleading nature of Vogel's piece with its headline, "Historic district retains segregation" and its accompanying photo of one Laurelhurst arch.
The headline falsely implies that Laurelhurst currently is segregated. While Laurelhurst, like most of Portland, is predominantly white, people of multiple ethnicities are an integral part of Laurelhurst; and Laurelhurst Elementary School has a 20 percent minority population. (To her credit and the Tribune's shame, Vogel makes no claim about current segregation.)
The photograph, showing only a single arch, misleadingly implies exclusivity by suggesting that one must pass through a narrow arch to enter Laurelhurst. In fact, the Laurelhurst arches stretch across public sidewalks on both sides of wide public streets. They are indeed symbolic of Laurelhurst, but not of exclusivity.