Blight allowed to fester (Oct. 2023)

Lombard Street, North Portland’s civic corridor, main street, and central transportation route, is plagued by several vacant buildings that create blight but fall through cracks of City of Portland code enforcement. After the Farmer’s Barn fire at N. Denver and Lombard on April 19 following a litany of complaints by neighbors citing graffiti, trash and repeated break-ins, the North Peninsula Review took a survey of other vacant buildings on Lombard.

7440 N. Lombard, former Dollar Tree store

7740 N. Lombard: Josef Liebhardt of St. Johns estimates he has reported the former Dollar Tree store, a burned-out, intensely graffitied building, at least 16 times over the last year. The effects of the fire in March of 2022 are still visible. Over the last 19 months its exterior has become covered with graffiti. 

The building owner, N&N Real Estate, has encircled the site with a chain link fence, but a human-sized gap near the entrance allows easy access for graffiti practitioners and others. He told the North Peninsula Review the building has become so defaced that it gives a negative impression of the neighborhood, lowers property values and attracts criminal activity.

In one complaint to the city he wrote, “Since the fire, it has become a haven for activity including drug usage [and] graffiti…right in the middle of our neighborhood…The building owner seems to have no care for the neighborhood or the illegal activity happening on their property.”

Liebhardt has faithfully reported the increasing graffiti on the city webpage devoted to that purpose, yet an employee of the code enforcement office told the North Peninsula Review that graffiti is not a code violation. Nor is criminal activity. Code Enforcement cannot take action on either. For graffiti they refer people to the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. For criminal activity they advise calling the police. Because Liebhardt’s complaints do not use the specific language that triggers an inspection, not even one inspector has visited the property.

7220 N. Lombard, former Parole Office Building

7220 N. Lombard: Just a few blocks south, a large single-story office building with an equally large parking lot appears empty and has become increasingly decrepit. In 2003, after residents roundly rejected Multnomah County’s proposal to make the building a parole office, it was surplussed. The CountyCommission agreed to sell with this stipulation:

…The RFP shall require each proposer to identify the proposed use of the property and to state how the use will contribute to the community.”

~ Multnomah County Commission, Resolution No. 05-088, May 26, 2005

The blinds are all drawn on the windows facing Lombard, but a one-foot space at the bottom reveals a jumble of junk, unkempt and dusty. The large unmaintained parking lot contains two vehicles. One is covered what looks like mold or mildew from long exposure to weather. There are odds and ends of construction materials in the lot including large pipes. Even more telling are ancient piles of shrub clippings strewn throughout the lot.

The building’s alcove doorway currently has cobwebs and a filthy rug that emanates a strong odor of urine. It appears that there was an attempt to kick in a lower window to gain entrance. The window is now covered with plywood. A small sign inside the main window says “MEIC-Charlton, Inc., Consulting, Engineers, and Scientists.” Another sign offers a phone number “For Entrance” that only connects to a voice messaging system. Though there is a small reception desk, it is obvious no one is there or has been for some time.

According to PortlandMaps, there was a nuisance report on the property in 2010 that listed as the complaint: “Dead shrubs/bushes creating a fire hazard.” Since that is a code violation it triggered an inspection.

When asked about the inspection results, an employee of the City Code Enforcement Office said a letter was sent to the owner. It was unclear what if any action had been taken before the inspector issued a nuisance waiver. When asked what the grounds for a waiver was, the employee could not tell, but stated that the inspectors have a lot of leeway in dealing with violations. He added that inspectors are often lenient and violators are given anywhere from a few months to a year or more to fix violations. The employee also stated that the enforcement process is completely complaint driven. If there are no complaints, their office does not intervene.

2630 N. Lombard: The building and parking lot take up an entire block of Lombard frontage approximately a quarter mile north of the former Farmer’s Barn Tavern site. It is located within the Arbor Lodge neighborhood association boundary. Formerly Tom’s Pizza and Bar, it went out of business several years ago. The site appears to have been vacant for some time.

2630 N. Lombard, former Tom's Pizza and Sports Bar

The building is completely covered top to bottom with large graffiti which as previously noted is not a code violation according to the City Code Enforcement Office. The parking lot is overgrown and very obviously unmaintained. Neighbors said trash was removed from the site by the City. There is a chain link fence around the parking lot and building but there is a gap large enough to allow easy access for those intent upon graffiti or other negative activities.

There have been complaints: 

• June 2023 – Trash and debris 

• April 2022 – Open storm drain entrances 

According to PortlandMaps a demolition permit was issued in July of 2023. A large excavator stands facing the building but has been there for at least several weeks with no discernible activity.