An Apartment Developer Decries Permitting and Public Safety Woes in Lents

Combine the city’s inclusionary zoning policy with the I-205 bike path and nothing happens.

Address: 9243 SE Holgate St.

Year built: 1959

Square footage: 1,330

Market value: $332,000

Owner: Bob Foglio

How long it’s been empty: More than four years

Why it’s empty: Permitting woes

In August 2018, when “pandemic” was still just a crossword puzzle answer, Bob Foglio, a developer and real estate agent from Gladstone, bought a tear-down in Lents.

The ramshackle home just east of Southeast 92nd Avenue and Holgate was beyond repair. But for Foglio’s $320,000 purchase price, the real value lay in the lot—about 13,000 square feet altogether, or nearly three standard city lots.

Foglio knew the neighborhood well; he already owned an adjacent eightplex. Things were happening in the neighborhood—a nucleus of bars, restaurants and retail sprouting around the intersection of 92nd and Foster Road, and the growing popularity of the Portland Pickles baseball team at Lents Park, to name a couple.

Foglio had big plans. In 2020, records show, he began the permitting process to build 30 apartments on his new property. Those units would be welcome in a city that has among the nation’s lowest residential vacancy rates.

But Foglio says trying to get the project financed is difficult, as is dealing with public safety issues on a property that abuts the Interstate 205 bike path and a TriMet Park & Ride lot.

Foglio’s no rookie—he’s been in the real estate business for 25 years. But echoing a familiar refrain from other developers, he says trying to navigate the city’s inclusionary zoning regulations is nightmarish as is trying to qualify for system development charge abatements to make the project pencil. (For one thing, Foglio notes, bankers are leery of the city’s requirement that he commit to keeping his units “affordable” for 99 years while getting only a 10-year tax abatement.

“I’ll be long dead by then” he says of the 99-year requirement.

Another impediment to his project: persistent lawlessness in the neighborhood and particularly on the bike path, a longtime nexus of tent camping and drugs. “I already can’t get the police to come to my eightplex when they are called,” Foglio says. “And the bike path—the city ought to condemn it and move it somewhere else.”

Foglio’s wish: that City Hall would focus on policies that maximize the production of new apartments. “Inclusionary housing is a joke,” he says, “and leadership is a mess.”

Every week, WW examines one mysteriously vacant property in the city of Portland, explains why it’s empty, and considers what might arrive there next. Send addresses to newstips@wweek.com.