A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Vagrants, doors and city rules

Written February 25th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

The new security doors at the Knights of Pythias Building on Lyon Street downtown.

The security gate at 230 Lyon St. downtown was installed to keep trespassers out, and now the building owner is asking the city council for permission to let the doors swing out. Here we have a reminder of two things Albany has plenty of — vagrancy and rules.

The city council is dealing with part of this at a work session on Monday. The agenda includes a request by Daren Clowser, owner of the former Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall at Lyon Street and Third Avenue, for a “license to occupy public right of way.” This is to accommodate the doors he had installed at the foot of the stairway to the residential top floor.

Because of the geometry of the entrance, the doors could not be made to swing inward. So they extend on to the sidewalk when somebody walks in or out. The sidewalk is 12 feet wide, leaving plenty of room for people to pass the open doors.

“I installed the doors because of the ongoing problems with the transient population,” Clowser wrote to the city. “I have 14 apartments upstairs and was constantly getting complaints from tenants of transients sleeping in the hallways and stairways. The police would remove the person(s) but that did nothing to deter them.”

The result was damage including graffiti and even human waste. “It got to the point that the female tenants were scared at night to walk the hallways alone,” Clowser wrote.

Another reason, besides the layout of the entrance, for the doors to swing outward: “Because of fire code.”

A year ago, Clowser got a $10,000 grant under Albany’s downtown storefront restoration program, and the building got a facelift last summer. Now, the license to occupy the sidewalk with his doors is not the only thing he’ll need, according to the paperwork before the council. He’ll also still need a building permit and “land use approval.”

Land use? Yes, changes on the outside of the former lodge, built in 1913, are subject to applying for “historic review” and getting the city’s OK.

But whether it’s in keeping with history or not, the building owner clearly had no choice but put in doors with a security lock in order to keep vagrants out. (hh)

UPDATE: The city council voted 6-0 on Monday to approve the “license to occupy” that the owner needed.

6 responses to “Vagrants, doors and city rules”

  1. centrist says:

    Seems there’s a regulation for pretty much everything in this city. The building owner has taken the initiative to protect the safety of his tenants but run afoul of a “beauty” rule.
    If the intent is to make the area vibrant, allow a building owner to protect his tenants at his expense. If not, well it’s gonna cost public money, but the tenants will be gone.

    • Bob Woods says:

      If the owner got a $10,000 grant last year for building facelifts, he should be well aware about requirements on historical buildings, and maybe just figured the door didn’t count. It’s hard to imagine that any downtown building owner was not aware, because the regulations have been around for decades.

      Next, someone probably filed a complaint, because city staff do not go patrolling around looking for people to ding.

      And here is what the staff memo says IN THE VERY FIRST LINE OF THE BODY OF THE STAFF REPORT.

      “Staff recommends Council review and approve a License to Occupy Public Right-of-Way for the Knights of the Pythias Lodge Hall, which is owned by Daren Clowser. ”

      So Mr. Editor, why for heaven’s sake, didn’t you report the staff recommendation? No news day?

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    Who pays for the injuries that pedestrians receive from walking into a suddenly opening door?

    • John Dunshee says:

      Indeed. It should be the same people who cover the injuries from Pushing on doors marked Pull.

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    On a quick glance over as I drove by, I thought nice design! The “shield” is great. Big but it stands out.

    Who knows….in 50 years it might be protected by city code and the template for all the others.


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