After neighbourhood pressure, Google executive agrees to sell historic Portland house

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PORTLAND, Ore. – A Google executive who had planned to tear down his historic Portland house has instead opted to sell it after outraged neighbours complained and 3,000 people signed an online petition urging him to preserve the 19th century home.

Earlier this year, Kevin Rose, a general partner for Google Ventures, paid $1.3 million for a house built in 1892. He initially planned to renovate the old place. When that proved costly, he decided to tear it down and build a 5,900-square-foot home.

On Tuesday, Rose and his wife, Darya, agreed to sell the home for $1.375 million. The couple said in a statement that they did not want an adversarial relationship with their neighbours and new city friends.

“Over the last few days we’ve watched as comments and emotions flared on both sides of the issue,” the statement said. “Some folks arguing for homeowner rights, others for the preservation of old homes. We’ve read all of this, along with your emails, and took it all to heart.”

The primary goal of the neighbours was to preserve the home that has been the site of many gatherings, including annual Easter egg hunts, said Will Aitchison, an attorney who lives in the neighbourhood and represented opponents.

A secondary concern was the proposed replacement — referred to in plans as the “Deku Tree Retreat.” The modern, flat-roofed design would clash with other homes in the Willamette Heights neighbourhood.

Aitchison said the couple’s plan was perfectly legal, and he acknowledged that the community reaction put them in a tough position.

“I think the Roses underestimated how neighbours would react to the demolition of a house from 1892,” he said.

The buyers are Tom and Jennifer Saunders, who have lived in the neighbourhood for many years. Tom Saunders is a developer who has bought and renovated many homes, Aitchison said.

Aitchison, who emailed the offer to the Roses late Monday, said he expects the deal to close by the end of the week.

Kevin Rose tweeted to his 1.46 million followers, “for those of you following our house drama, we decided the best outcome is to preserve the house.” In a follow-up message, he added, “for those that have no idea what I’m talking about . keep calm and carry on.”

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Follow Steven DuBois at http://www.twitter.com/pdxdub.

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