PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jacob and Beth Adams were born and raised in the Portland area. The couple bought a house in the Hazelwood neighborhood at SE 139th and East Burnside in 2017. They had nice neighbors next door.
“We believed it was a decent neighborhood,” Jacob said. The neighbors were “very cordial, you know, ‘share a cup of sugar’ type of neighbors.”
But the previous owners sold that house in 2020. The new owners never moved in. “In the last 3 years,” Jacob told KOIN 6 News, that house has “gone exponentially downhill.”
Within months of the sale countless squatters moved in. Public records obtained by KOIN 6 News showed emergency crews have responded directly to this house 36 times since the new ownership.
911 records show firefighters put out a half-dozen fires at the abandoned house. Portland police responded to numerous calls for crimes like theft, disturbances, suspicious people and shots fired.
“When we almost lost our house and the fence burned, I no longer was going to take this silently,” Beth said.
There was a drive-by shooting toward a squatter who owed someone money, Jacob said.
“And just having the property owner saying, essentially, ‘If you don’t like it, move’ — as if, I am the problem because I’m annoying him with things that could actually end my life,” he said.
Who owns the property now?
The current property owner of 13828 E. Burnside is Aaron Mitchell of La Mota, one of Oregon’s largest marijuana dispensary companies. The La Mota website notes 22 locations throughout Oregon — from Rockaway Beach to Brookings, from Medford to Eugene and a cluster in the Portland metro area.
Public records obtained by KOIN 6 News show Aaron Mitchell filed for a permit to turn this property into a dispensary in 2020 but has not acted on that yet.
But who are Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares, the marijuana business owners behind the La Mota empire?
“It looks like they’re multimillionaires and they just have a lot of money,” Jacob said. “And this is how they treat the neighborhoods they own.”
Beth said that information is “really disappointing. I mean, to do business in our city but yet treat the neighbors this way. It’s not OK.”
Jacob said he’d be fine with the property becoming a pot dispensary.
“Honestly, I’m OK with anything that’s better than burning my house and having gunshots fly by me.”
Meanwhile, the smell of fentanyl and the signs of burnt foil perpetually permeate the property.
“We’ve been dealing with the Bureau of Development Services for years, and they have been outstanding,” Beth told KOIN 6 News. “But they can’t do anything about the people staying there.”
The BDS issued more than a half-dozen code violations on this house since 2021. To date, the City of Portland has charged owner Aaron Mitchell nearly $12,000 in liens — which are accruing interest.
City code enforcement inspectors have repeatedly gone to the house to deal with issues of illegal camping, fires, disabled vehicles, trash and debris. The structure was ultimately condemned.
The property is such a problem, city code enforcement recently took the case to a city hearings officer and asked for a series of orders to give the city the power to remove the squatters and demolish the house — at Aaron Mitchell’s expense with another pricey lien on the property.
In the April 11 hearing, Mike Masat, a senior housing inspector at BDS, told the hearings officer: “I believe this property and its associated dangerous structural conditions are consuming a disproportionate amount of city resources and creating a negative impact on the surrounding community that a vacate order and subsequent demolition are necessary.”
But Aaron Mitchell did not show up for the hearing. He has not paid the property taxes for 2022 that were due in November and February, according to the Department of County Management.
As of April 18, the city was granted authority to board up and clean up the property immediately. The city has the power to demolish in mid-August, if the property owner doesn’t step in.
Testifying to City Council
Recently, Jacob and Beth Adams took their troubles to the Portland City Council.
“We feel victimized by the irrefutable safety issues which happen so often,” Beth told the City Council. “We cannot stand by and continue to report and report without change.”
Jacob said his hope “is that the owners become better humans, that they take care of the neighborhood, and if they don’t have it within themselves, that the city will step in and take over the property.”
Their testimony evoked empathy from Commissioner Mingus Mapps along with promises of help from Commissioner Rene Gonzalez and Mayor Ted Wheeler.
While the City of Portland has been doing what it legally can to fix this, the responsibility lies with the business owners who signed the dotted line.
In recent weeks, after both media and government pressure, Mitchell erected a fence around the house and he’s stated he intends to demolish the house, city officials told KOIN 6 News.
The company, La Mota, sent KOIN 6 documents showing they have a construction bid to demolish the house. They say they already paid a 50% deposit on the demolition scope of work. A demolition permit was submitted on March 4th, and they say they’ve started removing/demolishing anything that they are legally able to do before receiving a formal demolition permit. The company provided an email thread between La Mota CEO Rosa Cazares and the city that dates back to April 13.
The correspondence shows Cazares communicating their permitting and demolition plans as well as the city notifying her as of April 26 that there are a few more steps to make in order to complete the permitting process.
Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares, the owners of La Mota, shared the following statement on 13828 E Burnside:
“It is completely understandable that neighbors are frustrated. We want them to know that we are working as quickly as possible to demolish this structure and redevelop the property. We have already hired a contractor, filed permits, paid deposits, and are awaiting final approval to proceed. We are sorry that this process has taken so long.”
At 11:30 AM on Thursday, KOIN 6 News learned from La Mota’s spokesperson that Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan has been a consultant for La Mota and will continue to work for them, which was confirmed by the Secretary of State’s office. Because of the relationship between Fagan and the owners of La Mota, Fagan’s office said she has recused herself from an audit, expected to be released on Friday, on the cannabis industry.
Later that afternoon, shortly after 4 PM the spokesperson for BDS notified KOIN 6 that Rebecca Esau, director of the Bureau of Development Services, sent a letter Rosa Cazares removing her from the City’s Cannabis Policy Oversight Team (CPOT), effective immediately.
KOIN 6 News continues to look into the business owners — who have given tens of thousands of dollars in political donations. KOIN 6 News is also looking to get answers from local politicians who accepted their political campaign contributions.