East Bayside isn’t exactly the Western Prom. This jumble of 1970s-vintage public housing and triple-deckers with shingled siding has a bit of an urban-jungle vibe going on. Yet like many downtrodden areas, East Bayside is home to a handful of civic-minded residents who work hard to improve their neighborhood. These folks are understandably unhappy when an abandoned property stinks up the joint even further.
Case in point: 35 Mayo Street. This three-unit apartment building wasn’t doing so well even before a fire gutted it in May of last year. Since then, it’s been downhill all the way.
“Nothing’s been done with the building since then,” said Belinda Ray, vice-president of the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization.
The burnt-out shell of this dump is worse than unsightly. Ray, who lives next door, said she’s also concerned about the threat it poses to public health. “It smells toxic,” she said. “Bits of it fall off onto our property, especially during storms. It doesn’t seem terribly safe over there.”
At least the property isn’t plagued by criminal activity — anymore. Shortly after the fire, Ray said she heard rumors of copper thieves stripping the ruins and bike thieves using the basement to store hot two-wheelers. (Portland Police Sgt. Bob Martin said he hasn’t heard those rumors.)
Most of the inspections complaint reports on file at City Hall predate the fire. In August of 2002, inspectors took note of illegal wiring in the building. A complaint dated March 10, 2005, noted “long-standing heat issues.” In fact, inspectors were scheduled to visit the building on May 29, 2007 — the very day the fire took place — to investigate tenants’ complaints about lack of heat and claims they were using a space heater to keep warm.
The fate of this gutted hulk — last listed as being owned by a man named Alam Khasru — is still up in the air. The property is currently going through a foreclosure process. It was scheduled to be auctioned off last May, but city attorney Mary Costigan said the auction was postponed pending settlement of insurance claims. The mortgage company handing the foreclosure, Saxon Mortgage Services, is represented by Portland attorney Leonard Morley, who declined to be interviewed.
City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, whose district includes East Bayside, said he’d like to see the process move forward at a faster pace, but there’s not much he can do. “I don’t have any tools in my tool box,” he said.
In the meantime, neighbors can’t do much more than wait and watch out for flying pieces of the dump when the wind picks up.
Ray hopes to see the property become a spot where neighbors can gather. “I think it’s a beautiful place for a community center,” she said.