Kevin Rose Infuriates Portland Over Plans to Demolish Historic Home

If Kevin Rose's apparent move to Portland was in any way motivated by getting away from the anti-tech activists that protest on his San Francisco doorstep, he blew it. The Oregonian reports hundreds of the Google executive's future neighbors are fighting plans to demolish his new home.

Kevin Rose, who founded news aggregator Digg.com and is now a partner at Google's investment arm, Google Ventures, bought the Willamette Heights house with his wife, Darya, in March for $1.3 million.

On Monday, Portland development officials issued a permit to tear down the house. Because he plans to replace it with a new house, it's not subject to a 120-day delay.

While some moneyed tech exec dropping $1.3 million on a home just to tear it down may sound like the everyday humdrum of the Bay Area, this is grade-a outrage in precious Portland. Rose's plan is so controversial that over 800 Portlanders have signed a petition begging him to stop, lamenting over the loss of a historic structure.

The house was one of the first homes in Willamette Heights, built in 1892. There are pictures of the house from the 1890s, perched alone in grandeur on the recently logged hillside rising from Balch Creek. The years since then have seen multiple owners, and the house has been the site of many neighborhood gatherings, including annual Easter egg hunts — the sort of hunts and gatherings at which neighbors meet while their children play, and lifelong relationships are formed all around.

The house has been well-loved and cared for. To be sure, it's over 100 years old, like many of the homes in Willamette Heights. For many of us, that has meant upgrading wiring or plumbing, or even replacing foundations. We understand that you may be now facing those sorts of costs, and we can assure you that they're worth it. There's no greater value than in preserving the character of the neighborhood.

A broker for the realty company that sold the house to Rose was even left flustered, telling The Oregonian "We did expect him to do a substantial remodel, but you pay $1.3 million and tear a house down? In Portland? That doesn't happen in Portland."

But Rose is unmoved—he even had the property removed from a "historic property inventory" to expedite the demolition. Now he's telling his petition-signing neighbors that his $1.3 million house is a lemon, and the only way to salvage the property is to start over.

We were never asked to submit a letter of intent to the sellers of the house, as is customary for a home with so much sentimental value. However if they had asked us, we would have said that our plan was to do a massive remodel, essentially changing the layout of every floor. That said, one of the reasons we were attracted to this home is that we felt it "had good bones," and could handle the updates. Unfortunately we drastically underestimated the level of work required to bring it up to date. [...]

We were shocked at the price tag for repairs and remodel, which totaled much more than we paid for the house and far, far more than it would ever be worth.

But fear not, Portland. Rose insists the house will be "deconstructed" with all its vintage wood donated to charity "so that it can be reused."

[Photo: Realty Trust Group]