Civil War In Elite Neighborhood Nears Climax


The end may be in sight for a bitter battle being waged in an elite neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. The Portland City Council will meet on November 3rd to begin the process of determining how historic districts will work in the city and start to heal this broken neighborhood.

The issue of a historic district is at the heart of a vicious five-year dogfight in Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood. Against the wishes of its own homeowners, the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association (ENA) has sought to have the neighborhood declared a national historic district. What should have been a simple decision by its homeowners has escalated beyond the usual lawn signs into fierce hostilities with shaming, doxxing, property damage, intimidation, secrecy, even threats of personal attack and burning down a home.

Thanks to a quirky federal law, the ENA has been able to push through the historic district application without the support of its homeowners. The law allows anyone (anywhere, not even a resident) to nominate a place to be a national historic district, without even one owner being in favor (or even aware of it.) In Eastmoreland, neighbors have voted against the district and even sent over a thousand notarized letters of objection to the State, but the ENA has still proceeded with plans for the district.

The ENA says they want to protect the neighborhood from unwanted change and city codes that might promote affordability and density. In an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting, an ENA board member said “Our feeling is that the density should be where it belongs. You’re talking about lower-income people or younger people who want to rent or need to rent and they need to be where there’s good transit. This is a little oasis because it’s down here, and it’s just not appropriate.”

Some of the behavior demonstrated by supporters of the ENA has been frightening and possibly illegal. They have doxxed residents who have questioned the Historic District, releasing their names and addresses publicly. This has resulted in aggressive door-to-door harassment, often targeting elderly people. Dog feces has been thrown at known opponents of the Historic District. While a young mother and toddler daughter were playing in their front yard, a SUV drove up and a man reportedly moved toward them while making a mafia-style throat-slashing gesture with one hand, and a middle finger with the other. Another reported threat promised to burn a family’s house down with them in it unless they stopped their opposition to the Historic District.

Part of the problem is that no one knows how an Eastmoreland historic district will impact its residents.  The city of Portland will finally provide some answers starting November 3rd. “The rules that City Council ultimately adopts will determine the precise level of protection that would apply to an Eastmoreland National Register District,” stated Brandon Spencer-Hartle, City Planner and Historic Resources Manager with the City of Portland.

An end to this (un)civil war will certainly be welcomed by many. “I’ve lost longtime friends over this.  I know others who have been targeted, lashed out at, threatened, and ridiculed. But I have met hundreds of new neighbors who teach me about what’s best for our entire community. It’s so sad we’ve gone through this, and we didn’t have to,” said Patty Brandt, an Eastmorelander for 46 years.