October 20th, 2009 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, CLEAN UP

Randy Leonard And The Portland Water Bureau Get Into Homebuilding Biz

Commissioner Randy Leonard -- lead negotiator in Portland's deal with Merritt Paulson to bring Major League Soccer to PGE Park, the go-to-guy on the "Made in Oregon" sign debate, prime mover behind the leasing of McCall's Waterfront Cafe, champion of the Loo and all things duct tape, and a newly minted proponent of armed Water Bureau guards -- has a new project: earth-friendly homebuilding.

Look closely at the City Council's consent agenda for tomorrow, and you'll notice an ordinance to accept the donation of "services and products used for the construction of [an] energy efficient and nature friendly single family home."

Meanwhile, over at the city's website for contract opportunities, there's an open bid for builders who may be interested in erecting a "water house" also known as a "sustainable/energy efficient home."

So what's up with that?

Water Bureau Director David Shaff explains.

The bureau better known for delivering drinking water also has numerous pieces of property it says it doesn't need. About 40, Shaff says, including one in outer Northeast Portland.

Rather than just sell the lot, which is surrounded by homes, the Water Bureau has decided to turn it into a showcase for sustainable and affordable homes, Shaff says. "Why not build a house to show infill can happen, that it can match the neighborhood, that it can be done in a sustainable fashion and that neighbors can accept?" Shaff says. "We could have just sold it, but then we would have had to deal with neighbors who might have been upset with what was built."

The idea is to build the house with donated goods, then leave it open for a year so Portlanders can tour the model home. A caretaker will live at the site and keep an eye on the home, too, Shaff says.

On the money front: Shaff says the bureau is neither aiming to make a profit nor lose money; the sale of the home is supposed to cover the cost of the building. "Hopefully, it will cost me nothing," Shaff says.

There are a number of curious footnotes to this story. One is that Bonny McKnight -- one of the six neighborhood activists who ran against Leonard in 2004 -- lives near the outer Northeast Portland lot the Water Bureau wants to develop. And, according to Shaff, she approves of the project's design, on which neighbors have given advice. (McKnight wasn't immediately available for comment.)

A call to Leonard was not immediately returned.

Finally, here's a PDF of the ordinance itself.
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