PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – Following outcry from neighbors in Northeast Portland about plans to cut down a historic tree for a redevelopment project, the investor who bought the property spray-painted a message on the condemned tree’s trunk.
“To me, it’s antagonizing the neighborhood. It’s very mean-spirited,” said Michael Johnson.
Neighbors claimed Jodi Jennings, the new property owner of the lot on Northeast 22nd Avenue, spray-painted “Sawdust coming. Rest in Peace: 1937-2014” with the words “Cut here” and a line at the bottom of the western red cedar tree’s trunk.
“It just seems very bullying,” said Nancy Flynn.
Title records from the recent sale of the property identify Jennings as an investor.
She agreed to turn half of the lot over to developer Everett Custom Homes, who plans to build a house in what used to be the driveway, requiring the tree to be cut down.
The home’s former owner, Mark Kent, said he thought Jennings was going to sell it to a single family or eventually flip the house for a profit. Kent said if he knew the historic tree would not be preserved, he wouldn’t have sold the property.
“Cutting down this tree is just way too much. I loved it. The neighbors love that tree, and it will just change the character of that neighborhood way too much,” said Kent.
Neighbors, including Johnson, said it’s not so much they have a problem with change but rather the manner in which developers are going about it.
“These developers and investors come in and have no problem offering another $5,000 or $10,000 over to come in and be able to tear these things down and split the properties and build a snout house or what have you,” said Johnson.
The Portland Historic Landmark Commission recently brought up the issue to City Hall, raising concerns that lot splitting and demolitions are changing the character of Portland neighborhoods.
“A tree like this will never be replaced in our lifetime,” said Johnson.
Neighbors living along Northeast 22nd Avenue said they’re willing to buy the property to save the tree and their neighborhood.
“The neighborhood is talking about chipping in. We’re really looking for solutions like Eastmoreland did,” said Flynn.
Vic Remmers of Everett Custom Homes said he is willing to talk to neighbors about selling to them once he gains full control of the property from Jennings.
He added that he thought the spray-painted message on the tree was “pretty disappointing.”