From The Editor

City closing Sellwood Community Center? Locals plan to run it themselves
From the Editor, Sellwood Community Center, SMILE, Sellwood Moreland Improvement League, Southeast Portland, Oregon, Portland Bureau of Parks
Showing support for the local effort to keep Sellwood Community Center open after August 31 are, from left: Gail Hoffnagle; Kelan Brandt; Amanda Demam, holding Julian, with his “heart” sign; Jasper Warner; Lisa Loffink; Simon Warner; and Clive Currin with mom Julie Currin. Standing behind is Jason Luedtke. (Photo by David F. Ashton)
In her retrospective of the history of THE BEE, on the occasion of its 100th anniversary in September of 2006, neighborhood historian and BEE historical writer Eileen G. Fitzsimons reported, “By 1910 Sellwood had the first neighborhood YMCA, branch library, and public swimming pool in the city.”

The historic Sellwood Park public swimming pool is again open for the summer as you read this, and although it is changed locations more than once, there is still a branch of the Multnomah County Library on the corner of S.E. 13th and Bidwell Street.

Although it was not long a YMCA, that building is still standing, and through the efforts of SMILE and Eileen herself, it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For most of its history it has been owned by Portland Parks and Recreation, and has been known as the Sellwood Community Center, on the corner of S.E. Spokane Street and 15th Avenue in Sellwood. And now, just a year short of its own 100 th anniversary, Portland Parks and Recreation has broken two promises and announced it will shut down permanently on September 1.

The two promises were, first, one from the Mayor, made last year, that all the regularly-threatened-with-closure small Community Centers in the city would have two more years of service, while the city conducted studies regarding their future; and second, in recent months, the Sellwood Community Center has been taking reservations for its childcare classes starting September 1.

With the regular annual threats, for many years now, that the Sellwood and other small Community Centers could be shut down to help resolve issues in the PP&R budget, residents and patrons have had regularly to rally to its defense. They have pointed out that in a city seeking “walkable neighborhoods” the nearest large Community Centers are unwalkable distances away, and the classes and services relied upon by local residents – often those least able to afford alternatives – are not otherwise available.

But the current leadership of PP&R seems more committed than ever to focus on large Community Centers – from which much of the city’s residents are quite distant. The nearest one of these to Inner Southeast is at S.E. 72nd and Harold Street.

Because of these annual threats of closure, the oldest Neighborhood Association in the city, SMILE – an acronym for the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League; it serves both Sellwood and Westmoreland, and probably should have the acronym SWIL!  – years ago formed a new committee called Friends of Sellwood Community Center, with the idea of trying to create a financial cushion for the Center to fill city-perceived deficits in its operation. Sales of cookbooks failed to build much of a cushion, and instead the committee turned to trying to build an endowment large enough to provide permanent supplemental funding to operate the Center.

Although raising funds for an endowment remained a challenge, one resident of the Brooklyn neighborhood – Helen Hiczun, who regularly attended yoga classes at the Sellwood Community Center and wanted it to continue in operation permanently – made SMILE a beneficiary of her will, by leaving it the proceeds from the sale of her house, with the instructions to dedicate the funds to “keeping the Sellwood Community Center open”.

Prior to investing the funds, the Board of SMILE decided it was necessary to adopt an investment philosophy and to interview several professional money managers to make sure SMILE was fulfilling its fiduciary responsibilities. Although the house sale proceeds were received in July of 2007, they were not actually invested until March of 2009, which proved quite fortuitous, as the funds were only in cash at the time the markets collapsed in 2008. As a result, the funds, which are accounted for separately on the books of SMILE, have grown considerably in the years since.

As the annual threats by the city to the continued operation of the Sellwood Community Center recurred each year, those funds were there if needed. Each year, local resident feedback managed to establish the importance of this Center, and funding continued – and as well, for the other small Community Centers in the city. Now that has changed, and the SMILE Board recognizes that it is time to use those funds for the purpose for which they were intended.

The Friends of Sellwood Community Center today is Chaired by Gail Hoffnagle. (Also prominent on the committee is Julie Currin, a parent who relies on the Community Center services herself.) Gail Hoffnagle, along with her SMILE colleague Nancy Walsh, are both retired former directors of Portland’s Community Centers and employees of the Parks Department. SMILE is fortunate to have two people in the organization who know exactly how to run a Community Center. And the Friends of Sellwood Community Center Committee is now hard at work developing operating plans for picking up on September 1 where the city leaves off.

It won’t be and cannot be exactly the same. SMILE cannot meet the city’s employment contract terms, and it is unknown (until August 31!) which employees of the closing small Community Centers will be transferred to other jobs, and which will lose their jobs with the city.

SMILE’s first job is obtaining agreement from PP&R to start operating its building on September 1, and then to work on terms by which SMILE can acquire the historically-listed building. Long-term, SMILE is hopeful that the city will follow through on ideas it has pursued in the past to build and operate a new Community Center in Westmoreland Park.

But for now, the plan is to keep the Sellwood Community Center open after the end of August, and to operate at least the most essential family services that people in the area are counting on (especially with the departure of the former Meyer Memorial Boys and Girls Club).

As this is written, the city has yet to be responsive to SMILE requests for detailed condition reports of the Sellwood Community Center building, and the lists of reservations taken, in various classes, for September. As mentioned, the city is unwilling to disclose even what Community Center employees won’t have a job starting September 1, and says it won’t reveal that to the affected employees until August 31!

Those in the community who want to be involved in this singular effort to retain the Sellwood Community Center for the use of the neighborhoods in Inner Southeast Portland are invited to start by regularly checking the webpage at SMILE updating the progress of this effort –

Plan on attending the meetings of the committee (announced on the webpage), and also the meetings of the Board of SMILE – including the special Board Meetings – as announced at –

Consider volunteering. Several dozen Inner Southeast residents already have! There is a place online to sign up to volunteer; check it out –

THE BEE has reported on the developing crisis for the Sellwood Community Center over the past months, and will be continuing to report on this extraordinary clocal effort to keep the Center open for the Inner Southeast community; but now you have the background, and a better idea of just what is going on.

However, only motivated residents of Inner Southeast themselves in the end can make this work. Consider being one of them!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

A couple of other things

First, believe it or not, KATU-TV-2 with only four days left before it was supposed to change its frequency to complete an already extended FCC mandate, filed at the last minute for a SECOND extension – this time, till the middle of August. So – whenever over-the-air viewers find Channel 2 has vanished from their dial, all they will have to do is “rescan for stations” to get it back. The other remaining station mandated to change frequency did so at 11:59 p.m. on June 21 – KNMT-TV-24.

Meantime, all the other TV stations in the area keep having to reduce their power considerably, while the tower work for KATU is going on, to protect the tower workers – so if you’ve been having any trouble getting any of the other major local stations, that problem might be solved when KATU finally gets this job done.

Second – in a story by David F. Ashton some time ago, THE BEE pointed out that a weird court ruling in Oregon had effectively given car thieves a free pass to steal any car they wanted to without penalty – because the ruling said nobody could be prosecuted for the crime if they told police they had borrowed it with permission.

It was hard if not impossible to prove on the spot that they did not have permission from whatever person was supposed to have granted it; so, if they were arrested, they would be released by a judge, and no prosecutor would charge them because of the near certainty that they would be acquitted under this ruling. Needless to say, all the car thieves knew about this!

We are not sure why it took so long for Oregon’s state legislature to pass a law to override that ruling – maybe for a while they couldn’t believe such a dumb ruling could actually have been made! – but, on June 19, they finally did pass a remediating law – unanimously – and it went to the Governor for her signature.


Letters to the Editor

Limit fireworks just to July 4


I am a resident of Eastmoreland and a brain injury survivor, and for the past five years, I have tried to educate our community about how fireworks impact all of us – and in particular our returning veterans. Fireworks are fun – prior to my accident, I would never have considered there were people out there who could be seriously disturbed and physically impacted by the noise generated by fireworks.

But, fireworks are set off weeks prior to, and after, the 4th of July – how does it feel to a normal person to be woken up at 2 a.m. by what sounds like a bomb going off? Then how must worse it must be for someone brain-injured, with PTSD, or autism, etc.

There are many veterans living in our neighborhood and nearby, who have returned from action with an invisible injury to their brain – the result of concussive bomb blasts. These injuries often result in extreme pain from loud noises, and the torture of flashbacks (PTSD). And there are others, like me who are dealing with similar problems. This isn’t about simple noise sensitivity; the blasts from fireworks can cause the brain injured to have crushing head pain, weak limbs, even lose consciousness and have seizures.

Did you know that Megabangers, Boomers, canister and reloadable shells, repeaters, etc. (called artillery fireworks) are actually small bombs without shrapnel? There are no noise cancelling or noise reducing devices that will effectively eliminate the concussive sound waves of artillery fireworks. And not everyone has the financial or physical ability to escape for the 4th and the weeks after when fireworks are being set off.

What Can We Do? We can commit to setting off fireworks only on the evening of July 4th. Children are by nature sensitive beings. They don't want to cause pain or hurt anyone or any animals. And if you like the big bang effect, set off loud "artillery" fireworks in an isolated/industrial area. [Remember, those are illegal in the City of Portland.]

Every Fourth of July, let’s show each other some kindness and consideration. Thank you.

Philippa Courtney-Fiske
via e-mail

Thoughts sparked by June editorial


I got “fired up” reading your piece regarding the assumptions made and presented about replacing the Sellwood Bridge and just have to comment on a couple things.

First off, I've always felt a Willamette River bridge crossing from Lake Oswego to Oregon City or Milwaukie was an excellent solution to the congestion problems – not only on the Sellwood Bridge, but also along Macadam Avenue/Highway 43, and McLoughlin Blvd. 

Living in S.E. Portland just north of Reed College, I used to work in Tualatin, and 99% of the time commuted over the Ross Island Bridge and then traveled on I-5 to work. For the remaining 1% of the time, such as when there was an accident on I-5, I’d then travel through Lake Oswego and take the Sellwood Bridge over the river.  Getting onto the Sellwood Bridge then (prior to new construction) at times was like taking your life into your own hands, as there were no traffic control signals from Macadam onto the bridge.  Much has improved since that time as far as traffic control, but not the congestion. By the way, since I no longer work in Tualatin, I no longer travel on the Sellwood.

The thing that bothers me is, as stated in your editorial, that many of the commuters that use the Sellwood are traveling to and from Clackamas County and are not paying for it, as the bridge is owned and maintained by Multnomah County.  Because of that, since 2010, those of us who live in Multnomah County have had to pay for the Sellwood Bridge improvements through our vehicle registration fees to the rate of $19.00 per year ($38.00, each two year renewal).  This is in addition to the standard registration fee of $112.00 charged to all other counties in the state, which totals up to $150.00 every two years for Multnomah County residents. It’s time for Clackamas County residents to pay too.

Now here's the kicker – according the Multnomah County website, this additional $38.00 registration fee is currently paying not only for the Sellwood Bridge, but also for the “Planning Phase of the Earthquake-Ready Burnside Bridge Project”.  The key words in that sentence are “planning phase”, so my guess is that as soon as an agreed upon price for the project is made, we Multnomah County residents will be paying even more than just the current additional $38.00 in our fees, because we’ll also be paying for the Burnside Bridge improvements. Let’s just make everything fair...any suggestions?  

Jackie Flores
via e-mail


A co-worker showed me your column in July’s BEE about the [Cascade Policy Institute] Sellwood Bridge study. I enjoyed your take on the study. You have a long memory of what traffic was like before the bridge replacement.

I miss reading your paper on a regular basis.  Will make an effort to keep up with news in a favorite part of our city. Thanks for taking the time to share your views on the study.

Mike Pullen
Multnomah County

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Pullen was Multnomah County’s “point man” on the replacement of its Sellwood Bridge. From the very beginning, he was instrumental in all the Open Houses and studies, right up to the grand opening of the new bridge, and he was the unfailingly helpful contact between the county and the contractors, and the press and the public. We appreciate his thoughts concerning our editorial.


I was enjoying the June Editorial until one major hiccup in the middle and the train wreck that was at the end. First it was asserted that the only way to have avoided congestion with the Sellwood Bridge would be to have never built it. That is simply not correct. Proper variable timing, no price cap, anti-congestion tolling could solve the problem. But people don’t want to pay for things they believe is or should be free. Because of this every bridge in this city, major and some minor roads, and highways in this city are congested twice a day. People may not like the thought of tolls but when done right solves the biggest complaint people have.

This leads perfectly into my big complaint. Newly constructed apartments without parking is not the source of road congestion or publicly owned street parking. I think now would be an appropriate time to point out that the Editor of The Bee has two cars in permanent storage on publicly funded streets for which he has to use the street because the off-street parking available to him is occupied by his other cars. Sure if everyone in an apartment owned 4 cars we would have a problem but the reality is that two things are happening at the same time and no one including this editor is studying which is creating the problem. Yes it is true that many apartment owners do have cars. But when the rest of the neighborhood is very low density like Westmoreland/Sellwood public transit cannot be robust enough to get significant reductions in car ownership.

The other thing happening is our neighborhood is becoming wealthier. With wealth comes more homeowners with cars and often several cars. The simple fact is that car ownership is higher and vehicle miles traveled is greater with people owning single family detached homes than it is for those who choose in a free world to live in apartments. To mandate parking is absurd because off-street parking will be obsolete long before the life of a building ends. If you want to solve the problem of parking demand permit parking and auction them to the highest bidder. Take the revenue from those auctions and improve public transit for those who cannot afford cars.

Tim DuBois

EDITOR’S NOTE: We stand by the facts in the editorial – contrary to the assertions of the local Cascade Policy Institute think tank, the new Sellwood Bridge was NOT built by Portland, it was built by Multnomah County; and it was NOT built to reduce congestion! It was simply built to replace an obsolete and deteriorating old bridge well past its life expectancy.


“Joinery block” development in Woodstock


I am writing to express my deep disappointment over the city of Portland's short-sighted vision when it comes to growth, specifically the current Leeb development on the Joinery block in Woodstock. . .

I am a 22 year resident of Woodstock, and in 2014 participated in the neighborhood's “charrette” visioning process, a nationwide effort facilitated by Reed College with City of Portland, Woodstock Neighborhood Association, and Woodstock Community Business Association participation. Over the course of several months we met multiple times to collaborate, discuss, imagine, and put together a comprehensive plan for growth in our commercial area. The plan was forward-thinking, recognizing that growth would and should happen. Since that time, multiple buildings have been upgraded or built along Woodstock, and many businesses have come to the neighborhood. All have been in keeping with the neighborhood vision – most especially New Season's Market, which not only built to meet our neighborhood's specific needs, but has helped us thrive by hiring locally and giving back to the community.

The visioning plan did NOT include demolishing buildings that are beautiful and useful and replacing them with entire block 5 story sheer vertical complexes, which is what the city has given the developer via Leeb Architects permission to do. This development would increase the density on the block from 8 residents to 300, 92% of which will be fair market value rentals, more than half serving single people. How did we get from this comprehensive visioning process to the plan currently under consideration, and how is it that the City of Portland approved this project without consulting, or inviting the developer or architect to consult the Woodstock neighborhood's vision paper?

While affordable housing needs have increased since 2014, this project does not address them, nor do many of the other large apartment buildings in the area. The fact that many of them have high vacancy rates points to this reality. Leeb says that 8% of BEDS will be designated affordable housing; in a building that MAY house 300 people, that means approximately 24 low income people may find housing there. That's about 6 families, BARELY MORE THAN THOSE CURRENTLY HOUSED in the 4 houses to be torn down for this project.

I therefore see no justification for the scale of this building – It doesn't meet the needs for affordable housing or the needs of the neighborhood. Many neighbors spoke up at the post project-approval city-mandated Leeb / Woodstock neighborhood presentation. They expressed their concerns about the scale of this building and its impact on the neighborhood, and many gave specific suggestions for how Leeb could alter it to better serve our needs. Step-backs, a critical component of the neighborhood visioning paper, were requested numerous times. The only alteration Leeb made was to increase the height of the building.

This project is a money grab intended to fill the coffers of current city budgets and make developers rich, AT THE EXPENSE of the neighborhood and the people who live here. Portland needs to stop allowing short-sighted, money-driven projects to move forward so that Portland can continue to be a wonderful place to live.

Wendy Ferguson
Woodstock resident


After-school program enrollment is declining


More now than ever, kids are spending their time on technology, which is distancing them from emotional connection with others. This is problematic because if it continues, this generation may be unable to have real connections with others. This will only extend the societal norm of avoiding interaction with those you don’t already have a close relationship with.

I am 18 years old, and a senior at La Salle Catholic College Preparatory High School. This past year I have been volunteering to teach chess at Sellwood Middle School. I helped teach kids now concepts that improved their planning and problem solving in chess, which can directly improve their planning and problem solving in the real world. Chess, especially, is an after school program that can greatly improve a student’s ability to comprehend important material, and to make decisions in life.

As kids’ use of technology rises, the participation in after school programs is decreasing. This is unfortunate, because many such programs – like chess – can be extremely beneficial for kids, both socially and academically. Without these programs, kids will not be as prepared for social and academic life as they should be. According to the Washington Post, teens are spending nine hours a day, on average, consuming media. This is scary and needs to be addressed in some manner.

After school programs not only help kids improve their skills for life, but make productive use of time that might otherwise be spent on phones or playing video games.

Nic Richardson


New church is forming in Woodstock


Woodstock Community Church is a new church startup, and we would like to invite the community to our services on July 7, and every Sunday, at 5 p.m. People of all ages and backgrounds welcome. We are currently meeting at 4937 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard at the Chinese Presbyterian Church (diagonally across the street from the Woodstock library). Coming on July 30th, Woodstock we would like to invite everyone to a special night beginning at 7 p.m. – a great night of fun, worship, coffee, and light snacks, in partnership with two other local churches – Sojourn Church and East Bridge Church. For more info on the church or our special events e-mail –

Patrick Grant

Opposes “Historic District”


Many of the residents of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood in Portland Oregon are very concerned with the process from which a select few of our neighbors have submitted an application to designate our neighborhood as a Historic District under federal guidelines. A few of these concerns:

1. Designating one of the wealthiest enclaves as a historic district in Portland is the latest step in a long history of “redlining” or racially segregating Portland housing. . .

2. The application is now out of date. It was initially submitted over two years ago. In one of the hottest housing markets the West Coast has ever seen, turnover of ownership has been significant. This means that quite a few residents had no opportunity to object.

3. There is no accurate count of who owns property and how many of those people have submitted objections. . .

4. The majority of residents in the neighborhood don’t want the Historic District. A large section of the housing within Portland’s designated neighborhood boundary have been excluded from the application precisely because the majority of residents in those parts of the neighborhood would have objected to the application. . . 

5. The application was created using stolen resources. The application is also incomplete and provides provably false information. This includes designating individual houses as historic that have undergone major renovations that massively changed the character of the home.

6. There are pending lawsuits. It would be improper for the Parks Service to execute a permanent decision when there are still legal questions to be decided by Oregon State Courts.

7. Eastmoreland homes contribute very little to preserving history. Homes in Eastmoreland date from the early 20th century through current construction happening today. This spans architecture designs for nearly half the age of the country as a whole. There is no cohesive architectural style. . .

8. There are other less problematic ways in which individual homeowners may designate their own properties as Historic. None of the applicants have chosen to protect their individual homes in these ways. . .

9. SHPO has more work to do before the application is suitable for evaluation by Parks. SHPO has been ordered by the Courts to substantiate their rules making process and that process has yet to be reconciled.

10. Portland municipal law requires that renters are granted equal voices to landlords and property owners. Renters were entirely excluded from this process.

11. The proposed Historic District includes a golf course and a small liberal arts university. The management, users and residents of the golf course/university have had zero input into whether those areas are included. They had no opportunity to formally object.

Given these facts, we ask that the federal parks department reject the application for Historic District preservation of Eastmoreland.

Aaron Malone


Coyotes a danger to pets


Tyler Nordby here. I’m a native Oregonian living in Sellwood at the moment. I keep seeing signs all over the place in Sellwood and Westmoreland about missing animals. I believe I have a very solid theory why they’re disappearing. I think the community needs to be aware. I believe a Coyote is to blame. We’ve seen them before in Westmoreland Park, desperate to catch a goose or duck. They’re obviously hunting, and sadly I believe pets are victims. Figured I’d email since you folks are connected with the community.

Tyler Nordby
via e-mail

EDITOR’S NOTE: For years, pets – especially cats – have been found slain; and despite fears of animal-hating neighbors having killed them, in virtually every case the most likely cause is hungry coyotes. Along with squirrels, possums, raccoons, and other wildlife, coyotes do live here – in Oaks Bottom, Reed Canyon, and other places – and pets should not be left unsupervised outside at any time, and especially at night!

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