"Charlie Hales vs. Bud Clark and 'solar access' in 1987: Portland City Hall roundup"
Periodically, the City Hall Watch blog cranks the way-back machine. Thursday, we're going all the way back to the 1980s when Portland mayoral candidate Charlie Hales was a young lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland and the hot topic at Portland City Hall was something called "solar access."
BY: Beth Slovic, The Oregonian
Periodically, the City Hall Watch blog cranks the way-back machine.
Thursday, we're going all the way back to the 1980s when Portland mayoral candidate Charlie Hales was a young lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland and the hot topic at Portland City Hall was something called "solar access."
The Home Builders vehemently opposed the regulations, which were designed to encourage the use of solar power by prohibiting new homes from casting shadows on neighbors. They were considered cutting edge -- Portland was the biggest U.S. city to adopt the rules at the time -- but the Home Builders said they were harmful to their industry.
"Solar access tends to produce a regimental style of development that puts houses in neat little rows facing south,'' Hales told The Associated Press in 1986.
Records in the city's archives also show Hales went after then-Mayor Bud Clark pretty hard because of the rules, saying the mayor has "failed to exercise any leadership" on the topic. He also threatened to drum up an opponent to run against Clark in 1988 " unless Bud can give some good reasons to feel differently."
A Jan. 12, 1987 letter from Hales to Clark spells out the dispute. Hales was 30 at the time.
"Ten months of living with these excessive regulations have obviously taken their toll," Hales wrote to Clark. "Bud, we are veterans of this kind of consensus approach to land-use regulations (remember our participation in Portland's Regulatory Review Committee?). For a variety of reasons (some of the fault is ours), that process didn't occur in the case of Portland's solar regulations. The result: we got some regulations stuffed down our throat (which makes us look foolish), and the regulations don't work well (which makes the city look foolish)."
Hales then advocated repealing one portion of the regulations related to infill housing and exploring a regional approach.
Clark responded Jan. 30: "I am not prepared to pursue your suggestion at this time."
That summer, Hales and the Home Builders were still mad, according to an Aug. 3 letter Hales sent to Julie Williamson, Clark's campaign manager. Much of his anger focused on then-Commissioner Mike Lindberg, the rules' sponsor who also ran the city's energy office. (Years later, the energy office became the Office of Sustainable Development, which became the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.)
"In my Jan. 12 letter, I suggested a course of action that would both
solve the problem and allow everyone to save face," Hales wrote.
"The only answer we can arrive at is that Bud doesn't have the leadership
ability to face Lindberg on this issue, or that he agrees with Mike and wants
to deflect the responsibility to him. That conclusion leaves us no choice but
to aggressively pursue improved leadership in the political arena. ... There is
growing opinion among our leadership that we should target the Portland mayoral
and city council elections this time around. We plan to do so, unless Bud can
give some good reasons to feel differently."
The following year, the Home Builders tried -- but failed -- to drum up an opponent for Lindberg in the May 1988 primary.
Around that time, however, the Home Builders and the city reached a compromise on "solar access." In an article titled "Solar code finally lets the sun shine through," The Oregonian reported on April 8, 1988 that "the three-year standoff between the city and the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland over solar-access regulations is over."
The story continued: "The long, often-unfriendly debate ended Thursday when the Portland City Council unanimously adopted new solar-access design rules that were acceptable to the construction industry for vacant lots in established neighborhoods."
Wednesday, Clark responded in an email. "Charlie and I had different jobs at that time," he wrote. "I was working for the People of Portland; Charlie was working for the Home Builders Association. I don't remember the Home Builders campaigning against me, but if they did, it didn't do them any good."
He signed the email with his trademark "Whoop! Whoop!"
As for Lindberg? He's now a member of Hales' 2012 campaign team.