I was a little bummed when Red Cap—the queer bar across the street from the Ace/Clyde Common—went out of business, and I didn't blink an eye when Aura slipped permanently into my well of unconsciousness. Now that both are gone, it's been officially revealed (-ish) what will be taking its place: Union Way is set to be a compound of shopping, eating and drinking that will either certify the West End of downtown's crushing dominance or be the breaking point at which it becomes clear that this city can't support our own grand ambition. Either way, this description is pretty exciting:
Portland calls for a new kind of shopping experience. Its climate and culture lead us to an urban indoor/outdoor space for eating, drinking, and shopping. Union Way finds its origins in the streets and alleyways of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and serves as a counterpoint to the typical urban retail block or the suburban festival marketplace. The public promenade draws people through the building, which is bookended by Powell’s Books, a major retail destination and The Ace Hotel, an iconic contemporary hotel. Union Way houses a collection of carefully curated shops and restaurants providing an authentic and unique shopping experience while adding energy and momentum to the West End neighborhood. Since the Alley is a private walkway through the block, new types of ways to eat, drink and shop will emerge and end in an exciting symbiosis between merchants and their customers.
The photos published in the Daily Journal of Commerce help paint a picture of what the finalized space will look like and at least one of the restaurants involved, Micah Camden's Boxer Ramen, has been confirmed. As for retail, the unconfirmed rumor has it that Steven Alan is coming to town, but I'll believe it when I see it (or when they respond to my emails, which they so far have not). Another clue: Steven Alan is one of only 11 things that Union Way "likes" on Facebook. Yep. If that indicates what I think it does you might also want to keep an eye on Bridgeport vegan restaurant Morso and San Francisco clothing store Self Edge, since everything else on their "like" list already exists in the surrounding neighborhood.
The Kerns Neighborhood Association appears to be seriously considering a formal fight against the proposed construction of a building at NE Couch and 20th. That building will contain four floors and 50 units and, like a bunch of apartments that have popped up over Portland lately, has no planned on-site parking.
That, unurprisingly, isn't sitting well with neighbors of the proposed development, which was first reported by the Mercury. Like folks in Richmond and Beaumont-Wilshire, neighbors worry on-street parking will become non-existent and say the building is out of step with the rest of the neighborhood.
Beaverton Developer Dennis Sackhoff applied for a building permit for the project last month. It is the last proposed project in the city to take advantage of laws that allowed even large developments within certain zoning designations to forego on-site parking. The policies went out of effect May 9, after a city council vote last month.
"I'm gonna look out my window and see balconies out there," Kerns resident Marti Heard said at a neighborhood association meeting this evening. "This is going to destroy the livability of this hub."
More-colorful were comments by area resident Jeremy Ginzberg, whose hat—black, emblazoned with the words "Good guys wear white hats"—I admired. Ginzberg described a large parking-free development near the Hollywood Theater as a "Stalinist monstrosity"
He called Sackhoff—who's behind similar buildings all over town—a "repulsive human being," and said the proposed project is "nauseating."
As is often the case in these debates, many folks in the room championed the idea of urban density, but argued the building coming to the neighborhood would only hurt the city.
It was not a particularly kind room to be in if you were David Mullens, a representative for Sackhoff's company invited to the meeting to explain the project. After a half hour or so, he seemed to grow tired of the epithets being hurled his way.
Regardless of neighbor's opinions, Mullens' company can move forward as it pleases. Portland zoning laws allow the project to proceed without public scrutiny, and this realization led the neighborhood association to discuss their options.
Looming large is a LUBA appeal, a last-ditch protestation which earlier this year stalled a large Sackhoff project in Richmond, but ultimately caused little change. Neighbors also considered lodging an objection with Portland's Bureau of Development Services, which will vet the permit application in coming weeks.
"Sounds like we have to work fast," said Angela Kirkman, the neighborhood association's chair.
Speculation developers might overwhelm the city with a flurry of apartment-free parking proposals in the run-up to Portland's new parking minimums did not come to pass.
Today marks the end of Portland's progressive parking policy for large developments—something many decry as a step back for the city. As of noon, when the Bureau of Development Services stopped taking permit applications, only two proposals for large parking-free buildings had emerged since council passed the legislation last month.
The first, widely anticipated, was a resubmitted application for the building on SE Division and 37th that's sparked much of the contention over the issue. That application has since been approved and the building—loathed by some neighbors—is back under construction after a months-long stoppage.
The second—also proposed by Beaverton developer Dennis Sackhoff—will potentially rise four-stories near the intersection of NE Couch and 20th.
Amid the clamor over the 81-unit Division Street project, representatives for Sackhoff indicated they'd learned a lesson from the process, and would be more open with residents about future projects. As of last week, though, no one in Sackhoff's organization had reached out to the Kerns Neighborhood Association about the Couch project, which is slated for 50 units with no parking.
Members of the association said they were in the process of reaching out to Sackhoff project manager David Mullens, to see if he'd speak at the group's meeting next week.
UPDATE, 5:25 pm: According to Angela Kirkman, chair of the Kerns Neighborhood Association, Mullens has agreed to speak with the group about the project on Wednesday.
" Not sure that they will change any plans, but I suggest having a clear list of concerns/requests prepared," Kirkman said in an e-mail to the Mercury. "Also, I know that construction can be quite disruptive so I want to be sure to find out plans for closing traffic lanes, managing contractors, etc."
During his short tenure atop City Hall, Mayor Charlie Hales has made it a point to keep out of the squabbling over the Columbia River Crossing—a marked change from his predecessor. Turns out Hales, unlike many others, is relatively dispassionate about what would be the largest infrastructure project in the state's history. He just wants a decision.
In Hales' first-ever State of the City address Friday, he used a question about the future of West Hayden Island to take a swipe at the $3.4 billion proposal's prolonged planning. The CRC is currently being debated by lawmakers in Olympia, who are deciding whether to match Oregon's allotment of $450 million.
"If they don’t, it’s time to say 'enough,'" Hales said. "We’re sorry."
Asked about the remark after the speech, Hales said he's purposely refrained from weighing in on the bridge, but that he'd like it to "stop lurking."
"My earnest desire is that this thing gets decided," he said.
The waffling in Washington has been a hot topic in Oregon, with the Oregonian unleashing a chiding at Olympia today. Earlier this month, a leaked video showed Washington Republicans posing hard questions to US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the project. Up to $1.2 billion in federal funds may hinge on whether the state approves its piece of the project.
"If you shuffle and mumble with Ray LaHood, he's going to walk away," Hales said today. "He means what he says and says what he means."
The mayor hasn't always been reticent to speak on the CRC. It was an inevitable topic of last year's mayoral race, during which Hales said he likes the project's light rail component, but would favor design changes.
To all the costly facets of the new Sellwood Bridge, add paying rent.
Or, as Multnomah County legalese terms it: a "settlement of condemnation litigation associated with the Sellwood Bridge Project."[PDF]
The County Board of Commissioners tomorrow will vote on a proposed settlement with the owner of several parcels of land at the bridge's east end. Officials need the land—both to widen Tacoma Street and to use as a staging area—so they're buying it off owner Diana Richardson for almost five years, she said today. The county will return the land 57 months later.
"We've come to an agreement," said Richardson.
Neither Richardson nor a county spokesman would discuss how much the settlement is worth, saying the arrangement has yet to be finalized. Richardson said she'd be paid fair market value for the land.
The parcels currently include a number of businesses, including the Riverside Corral Strip Club (NSFW). Blogtown needed to know: Was the county going to own the Riverside Corral?
"We're not in any way, shape, or form operating a strip club," said County Spokesman David Austin.
The settlement instead only involves a portion of the Riverside Corral's property. Richardson said the business will remain open during bridge construction.
The county also will temporarily purchase a vacant lot south of Tacoma Street for storage.
"Eventually I want to build something there," Richardson said. "I had planned to do it sooner, but this came along."
While fresh plans for a 50-unit, parking free apartment building in Kerns are just being revealed, Beaumont-Wilshire residents are attempting to derail an almost-identical project.
Bolstered by a partially-successful initiative in the Richmond neighborhood, the group Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth earlier this month signaled it will appeal the city's permitting of a four-story, 50-unit project without off-street parking at 4425 NE Fremont.
The city now has 21 days from the April 11 filing of the notice to submit a record of the permitting process, says Kelly Burgess, who works at the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). The body handles appeals of local land use decisions in the state.
"Once we receive that, that sort starts the wheels turning," Burgess said.
It's unclear from the notice [PDF] on what grounds the group is disputing the permit. The matter is being handled by Ty K. Wyman, the Portland attorney who represented the group Richmond Neighbors for Responsible Growth in its fight against an 81-unit development at SE Division and 37th. That effort resulted in LUBA reversing the city's approval of a permit. Developers of the project have since reapplied.
Such decisions are rare, but if LUBA were to reverse the city's decision on the Fremont apartment building, a fresh permit application could run afoul of the city's new parking requirements, slated to go into effect May 10.
Neither a representative for the Beaumont-Wilshire group nor Wyman have responded to requests for comment.
The era of the parking-free apartment building isn't dead yet.
Taking advantage of doomed zoning policy before its May demise, Beaverton developer Dennis Sackhoff last week applied to build a 50-unit apartment building at NE Couch and 20th Ave., the Mercury has learned. Planned on-site parking spaces for the project? Zero.
The proposal will likely reignite a debate that's flourished in the city over the last year. Sackhoff has been at the center of that controversy, with his planned 81-unit building on SE Division and 37th Ave. drawing the bulk of neighbors' ire.
But while Sackhoff was required to apprise neighbors of his plans on that project before filing for permits, the development at 1924 NE Couch requires no such communication. So has Sackhoff made residents aware of their potential new neighbors?
"Not yet, but we plan to," David Mullens, a project manager with SK Hoff Construction, tells the Mercury. "We're way early on this one. We just wanted to get in for a permit."
Representatives from the Kerns Neighborhood Association weren't immediately reachable for comment.
The timing is important, here. Earlier this month, city council approved parking minimums that critics say hamper Portland's legacy as a leader in smart growth. Those laws require parking on a sliding scale for buildings greater than 30 units, but don't go into effect until May 10. Any permit applications filed in the meantime aren't subject to the rules.
The site that would house the building is currently occupied by the Spunky Monkey House of Coffee, which will be removed if the project is approved.
"It was obviously well under way prior to the rules changing," Mullens said. "That's the last one without parking."
UPDATE, 5 p.m.: Brendon Haggerty, a co-chair of the Kerns Neighborhood Association expects news of the project will be met with dismay.
"We have (a parking-free apartment building) that's coming close to being constructed now at 30th and Burnside," Haggerty said. "That sparked quite a bit of controversy last summer and into the fall."
While Haggerty has been supportive of parking-free development, he thinks a majority of the neighborhood association's board will be concerned about the project.
But he noted: "I don't think we would have the reaction you're seeing on Division."
Nike announced this afternoon that it will expand in Washington County, where it already lives, on land it already owns. By spurning Portland, which would have offered a 29-acre site for the company to sprawl into, Nike is passing up what the Oregonian reported were tens of millions of dollars in city and county tax incentives and abatements.
Mayor Charlie Hales' office issued a release that does its best to put a good face on the company's decision—coming after months of civic pursuit, threats by Nike to leave the state, and a crash special legislative session last year that, in turn, handed the company a tax deal meant to quell those threats.
“The city, the Portland Development Commission, and Multnomah County presented Nike and its representatives with a comprehensive and compelling proposal,” Hales said in the statement. “I’m proud of the effort our team put together. And I’m thrilled that the project, and the jobs, are staying in the metropolitan area.” Later, Hales said, “This expansion will have a huge impact on the regional economy.”
The statement said the negotiations with Nike started last summer after Nike approached Portland about a potential move. The company was interested in a swath of land owned by the Zidell family. The city put that land in a state enterprise zone, back in December, a clue that Nike was likely considering the property.
PDC Director Patrick Quinton echoed the mayor in the prepared remarks, talking up regional "efforts to present greater Portland as the global hub for the athletic and outdoor industry."
Hales also promised to find another taker for the Zidell land, still seen as a linchpin for giving South Waterfront the critical mass of humans it sorely lacks right now.
“The site offers a unique opportunity for Portland to create an urban corporate campus,” Hales said. “It’s a 30-plus-acre site, on the riverfront, connected to a public transportation system and – hey, it’s got a view of Mount Hood! If there’s a better urban site for redevelopment in America: Show me.”
The trees and paths of St. Francis Park are about to give way to Portland's inexorable push toward density.
If all goes as planned, the unassuming private-public space that's sat on SE Stark Street between 11th and 12th Avenues for more than three decades may soon play host to nearly 150 apartments with ground floor storefronts—that standard of Portland infill.
"The reality is most of the time the park is empty," says Valerie Chapman, a pastoral administrator for St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, which owns, and abuts, the park. "Its day has come and gone."
So St. Francis is in the process of selling the land to Catholic Charities, which hopes to install a massive development that would feature 144 apartment units—some of them affordable housing— and eight townhouses according to interviews and documents filed with the city. The land, according to the city records, is worth over $1 million.
"It’s a tremendous opportunity for the neighborhood, for the park itself, for what is now considered by many as a blight," said Pietro Ferrari, Catholic Charities' executive director, said last week. "Unfortunately, it just experienced deterioration."
The park at one time played host to kids who attended a school on the property. That shuttered in 1987, and with the schoolchildren went the park's energy, Chapman said.
"They didn’t keep coming down here any more," she said. "There weren’t more children to replace them."
In the intervening years, the park became more associated as a hangout for the homeless, who made daily trips to the St. Francis Dining Hall. Problems escalated to the point the city forced the park closed for a six-month period in 2003.
Crime doesn't appear to be a factor today. Police records show just two police reports filed from incidents at the park since 2010. Twenty-two reports originated there in 2002.
But the church needs money for upkeep, Chapman said.
"I love this park," she said. "It's never felt dangerous to me.
Not much has been said lately about the Lloyd District's upcoming "superblock," the mammoth mixed-use development announced by former Mayor Sam Adams in his 2012 State of the City address.
But there are fresh signs the project's moving forward. Portland's Bureau of Development Services yesterday posted a public notice [PDF] of the development on its website, with a formal hearing before the Portland Design Commission set for May 23.
The proposal calls for three new apartment towers, ranging from five to 17 stories, in the block bordered by NE Multnomah and Holladay streets and 7th and 9th avenues. Developers plan to break the large existing block, which also houses, the Lloyd 700 building, into four smaller parcels. They envision shops on the ground floors of each of the buildings, with a grocery store potentially anchoring one.
The project's current iteration is smaller than developers first envisioned. Initial reports on the project announced 780 residential units. The city's public notice now mentions "over 600 apartment units."
Portland firm GBD Architects is handling design of the project for San Diego-based developer American Assets Trust.
And, yes, there will be parking. City documents call for "1,200 below grade parking stalls."
The chambers of Portland's city council were sleepy today, as commissioners formally enacted the most-controversial legislation it's grappled with in recent months.
In an expected 3-1 vote (Commissioner Steve Novick was absent), council established parking minimums for new apartment or condo buildings of 31 units or more. In doing so, the city rolled back decades of zoning changes that have made Portland a national leader in smart growth policy. Advocates of those policies say the requirements won't substantially help the parking issue, and that the city should be looking toward permitting to manage parking.
The subdued tone of the meeting was a stark contrast from the heated hearings that have marked the debate. Council's first consideration of the matters last week drew a packed house and lasted nearly six hours.
"While I don’t think the package before us is perfect, I do believe it’s thoughtful and balanced and has a clear rationale," said Commissioner Nick Fish, who convinced his colleagues to agree to more-stringent requirements than were initially put forward by the city's Planning and Sustainability Commission.
Mayor Charlie Hales, who last week said of the changes he was "sure we haven't gotten it right," changed his tune today, saying of the exact same legislation: "I think this particular set of code adjustments is the right set of moves to make now to respond to changes that are urgent in the community and respond to some market forces that are more robust than some of us expected."
Commissioner Dan Saltzman, the sole "no" vote, said he wasn't comfortable with Fish's more-strict requirements, and that he's concerned the policies could "move portland backwards as effects its climate action plan.”
The new regulations kick in in 30 days. In the mean time, developers will be free to apply to build parking-free buildings under current law.
When city council considers whether to require parking at Portland apartment developments later today, expect emotion from both sides of the fractious debate. Expect testimony from dozens of speakers, and expect policies to move forward that would hamper future projects with no on-site parking.
Don't expect those changes to take root right away, though, as they might if council voted to make the matter an emergency ordinance. And don't figure new policies the city eventually adopts will apply to the SE Division Street development that's drawn so much attention in this debate.
According to Commissioner Nick Fish, a leading voice on city council in this heated discussion, commissioners aren't likely to treat the measure as an emergency, nor require Dennis Sackhoff—developer of the stalled 81-unit project at SE Division and 37th Avenue—to abide by new minimums for the building.
"My sense from my conversation with my colleagues is council is unlikely to require whatever we do tomorrow will apply to that developer," Fish told the Mercury on Wednesday. "In some ways there’s been too much attention paid to one developer and one building. The proposal we’re taking up tomorrow applies city-wide."
That's good news for Sackhoff, whose 37th Street Apartments project is already partially built, but sits dormant due to a ruling from the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals and neighborhood pressure. It might also figure into Sackhoff's reasons for setting up a meeting with his chief nemesis in the matter, the group Richmond Neighbors for Responsible
Another thing to count on at today's hearing: The proposed policies to shift.
As first reported by Willamette Week, Fish plans to toughen up the proposed minimums a bit, assigning requirements to smaller buildings than initially proposed, and upping requirements for larger buildings. He tells the Mercury he's got the votes to get those measures passed.
"I think we’ve hit the sweet spot," Fish said. "I expect the vote to go forward."
Other commissioners may have a say, too. Fish expects one of his colleagues to float an amendment that will limit the amount of parking developers can offset by offering car share spaces, bike parking and other perks.
That notion—giving developers ways to offset building expensive parking spaces—is one Fish hopes to explore further in the future. He'd like to offer developers reduced minimums if they designate a certain percentage of units as affordable housing.
"None of these apartments are affordable; let's just be clear," he said. "I think we can be creative for coming up with voluntary mechanisms for encouraging affordable housing for these units."
We expect that will add to this afternoon's discussion.
UPDATE, 12:08 pm: Or if you want to know how today's council meeting will go, just consult the proposed ordinance posted to the Auditor's Office website. It contains this bit of omniscience:
As we'd long suspected he would, Mayor Charlie Hales this morning gathered in Southeast Portland with a host of local dignitaries to announce the city will have the money to fund a sidewalk on SE 136th, after all.
The project had been a hot topic—and among the few sources of political strife in the mayor's early tenure—since Toby Widmer, interim director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, proposed in February using the $1.2 million slated for the sidewalk on road maintenance. Active transportation types and East Portland advocates took immediate umbrage, and the matter wasn't helped when a five-year-old girl was run down while crossing 136th, blocks away from the planned walkway, in early March.
Letters and petitions quickly found their way to the mayor's desk.
Blogtown didn't attend this morning's avail, but we're told (via a press release) Hales applauded Widmer's controversial proposal.
“I asked Toby to be creative,” Hales said, according to the release. “Long before we discuss any new funding, we want to make sure we were being as creative as possible with every dollar we have now. Toby did exactly what I asked of him.”
The sidewalk—a little more than a half-mile—should be started this fall, according to the mayor's office.
For more on this—and other pressing matters that have occupied Hales' attentions since he took office— be sure to pick up a copy of today's Mercury, sizzling off of the presses any time now. Or check the website later today. Or do both.
As the Mercury reported earlier this week, Portland fire officials have been fretting over the stalled apartment structure at SE Division and 37th Avenue, fearing it might attract the attention of vandals or squatters.
It looks like those fears were founded.
As first reported by Willamette Week, Portland police arrested three trespassers at the site early this morning. Among what police say were the group's drunken escapades: setting fire to a blueprint and spraying fire extinguishers around the structure.
Officers responded to a call of trespassing around 1:30 this morning, according to Portland Police Lt. Mike Marshman.
"We get out there and they're not even trying to be quiet," he said. "They're all 20-somethings and they're all drunk."
Police at the time had no reason to suspect a fire, Marshman said, and told the alleged trespassers to scale the fence surrounding the nascent building to face arrest.
Later this morning, a staff member at nearby Victory Bar was examining the previous night's surveillance footage and noticed bright lights and what appeared to be smoke coming from the structure. Fire officials were called out to investigate, and found the charred remains of a blueprint, Marshman said.
Whatever blaze occurred was minor, though, and the lights and apparent smoke in the camera footage were actually from the alleged vandals' flashlights and the fire extinguishers.
The building's developers—who have been mired in conflict with neighbors because the 81-unit structure doesn't plan to provide on-site parking — plan to hire security for the structure beginning tonight, according to Project Manager David Mullens. He said the building was not damaged.
Marshman called the crime "totally unrelated" to the controversies that have swelled around the structure in recent days. The fire bureau is investigating the matter, and will ultimately decide what charges to seek.
The Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau has eyed the building uneasily since a ruling last month led city officials to issue a stop work order. The bureau took the rare step of creating a response plan—typically reserved for completed structures—for the site.
"If this building experiences a fire, expect it to be a fast moving and dynamic incident," the document said.
While rhetoric flies and the city's tenuous stance on the permit of a controversial southeast apartment project congeals into seeming permanence, one agency is quietly fretting on the sidelines: the Portland Fire and Rescue Bureau.
Fire officials worry the proposed 81-unit structure — incomplete and wreathed in garish yellow on the corner of SE Division and 37th Ave — could be prone to disaster.
"That's become one of our high-priority targets," Alan Ferschweiler, president of the Portland Firefighter's Association, tells the Mercury.
The project could attract squatters while it lies dormant, officials fear, or fall prey to vandalism. And the fact it's not complete means firefighters battling a blaze could be especially vulnerable.
"There's no sheet rock to protect the firewalls," Ferschweiler said. "We've had a couple instances where buildings have gone up in the middle of construction. It's a very dangerous situation."
So the bureau has taken a rare step, Ferschweiler said. It's developed a response plan for the site — something typically saved for complete buildings.
While construction on the project is stalled, minor activity has continued. Records show the site's fire sprinklers have been scrutinized by the city in recent weeks.
But no one knows when real progress might resume. After a dust up last week, Mayor Charlie Hales said the building's developer, Dennis Sackhoff, will have to wait until April 11 to file for a new permit.
I'm waiting on an official line from the Fire Bureau. Then I'm done writing about this for a while. (I think).
UPDATE, 3:37 pm: The stalled project is at its "most vulnerable state of construction" from a firefighting standpoint, according to the response plan [PDF] the fire department created.
"If this building experiences a fire, expect it to be a fast moving and dynamic incident," the document says.
Fire officials are particularly concerned that the structure abuts other buildings on Division, said bureau Spokesman Rich Chatman. The city has allowed developers to finish installing sprinklers at the site and asked that it be secured with fencing.
"Everyone was concerned about it enough that we said, 'Let's go ahead and map this out,'" Chatman said.
Former Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder — who departed the body this year because of term limits — hasn't been shy in his criticisms of new parking requirements city council will take up April 4.
He testified at a meeting of the city's Planning and Sustainability Commission earlier this month — part of a minority urging caution on any new rules.
"Are we rushing into something that we may regret?" he asked.
Now, in light of the near-daily changes that have shaped the fate of a controversial development at SE Division Street and 37th Avenue, Burkholder's weighing in again.
"The new mayor, Charlie Hales, seems to be stampeded into responding to the concerns of a small, vocal group of protectionists, rather than supporting a deliberate, thoughtful approach to accommodating cars in the city," Burkholder wrote on his blog today. "Particularly troubling are comments from some Councilors and one member of the Planning and Sustainable Development Commission that “real” families can’t live in housing without off-street parking."
The debate over how the city should allow for parking with new development — and whether it should do that at all — has been building over the last year, but has reached a new fervor in the last week. After a ruling of the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals stalled the 37th Avenue project last month, Portland planners said its backers would have to apply for fresh permits to move forward. The Bureau of Development Services quietly changed it's mind on that last week, allowing developers to simply amend a former application and avoid a public hearing.
Neighbors and city commissioners loudly took exception, and Hales' backed off, announcing the project would need a fresh application after all.
The timing of this process is important, since it might determine whether the 81-unit building will be subject to any new parking requirements council enacts.
As Portland's back-and-forth over parking-free apartments reaches a fresh fever pitch — and council readies itself to discuss new mandatory parking minimums for bigger projects — this study [PDF] is making its way around the web.
It's a look at what happened in downtown Los Angeles when the city eased up on parking requirements and it's essential conclusion is something Portland's known for decades—limiting mandatory parking policy spurs developers to provide more and varied housing. Part of the study:
If a land use regulation increases per-unit construction costs, it can lead developers to supply fewer units, reducing the overall supply of housing and increasing its price. But land use regulations can constrain the supply of housing in three additional ways as well: by making it difficult to build housing for certain types of people, in certain types of buildings, or in certain neighborhoods. A residential minimum parking requirement can do all three.
While LA has enjoyed boons with these policies—finding them useful in repopulating underused areas—the pendulum is swinging the other way here. City council appears ready to scale back [PDF] zoning laws, enacted around 2000, that free developers from mandatory parking if they meet certain requirements.
Anyway, read the study if you can't get enough of this stuff.
Facing outraged citizens and the vexation of colleagues, Mayor Charlie Hales is pulling rein on recent changes that would likely mean clear sailing for the controversial 37th Street Apartments.
The mayor sent out a press release at 5:40 pm indicating he's instructed Portland's Bureau of Development Services to stall its vetting of a revised permit for the project — an 81-unit apartment building that's drawn umbrage for its lack of on-site parking.
“The city strives for fairness and doesn’t always get it on the first shot,” Hales said in the release. “That’s why I’m taking this action.”
This is backpedaling by the mayor.
It was only on Monday, after all, that BDS Director Paul Scarlett decided to allow the developer of the project — Beaverton builder Dennis Sackhoff — to revise his permit application, a move which ran contrary to BDS' earlier position Sackhoff would have to file a brand new application (and face a public hearing).
The 37th Street Apartments were brought to a halt last month, when the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals ruled the city erred issuing a permit because of a minor design matter. The building now sits on the corner of SE Division Street and 37th Avenue, partially built.
Sackhoff was ready with a revised permit on Tuesday, and only after he turned it in did BDS announce it had changed its mind. BDS had been in contact with Hales' office throughout the whole process, staffers said.
The sudden reversal set off no shortage of anger, both from the neighbors who oppose the project and city commissioners.
"If you tell people something and a few days later you learn it might not be true, I think you have an obligation to say: 'Hey we were wrong,'" said City Commissioner Steve Novick, who's been deriding Hales' treatment of the matter since Tuesday.
Novick said he'd expressed his displeasure to Hales' office, and that he received a response today — though he declined to say what it was or whether it satisfied him.
The timing of the permitting process is vitally important for Sackhoff now, as the city council prepares to discuss new mandatory parking minimums approved by the city's Planning and Sustainability Commission last week.
As the Mercury has reported, Sackhoff could be walking a fine line with this project. Depending on how his permit application is handled, the development could be left subject to any new rules council passes.
In this evening's release, Hales signaled an intent to take the matter up in council April 4. He also seemed to indicate Sackhoff would have to file for a new permit, after all, and that he'll need to wait until April 11 to do so.
"If the mayor has come out like this, it's a very powerful statement saying what BDS was doing was questionable at best from a legal standpoint," said Judah Gold-Markel, a member of the citizens' group that's fought the development. "We hope there will be more transparency. "
Backers of a controversial apartment development at SE Division Street and 37th Avenue have filed a revised permit with the city — circumventing further public scrutiny on the project and possibly eliminating risks the building could fall under new parking requirements headed to city council.
Beaverton developer Dennis Sackhoff's 37th Street Apartments have been a popular target for neighborhood activists, who fear its 81 units and zero parking spaces will result in choked streets. The project's detractors claimed a tenuous victory last month, when a ruling by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) found the project did not have a door where law required. The ruling forced the city's hand. BDS forced Sackhoff to stop work.
As the Mercury reports in today's issue, that ruling meant the development risked being left unprotected by Portland's progressive zoning laws—which allow some buildings to forego on-site parking spaces. The city's Planning and Sustainability Commission last week approved changes that would place parking mandates on larger developments—like this one— and council members have signalled they are anxious to vote on the matter.
According to a release on the Portland Bureau of Development Services website, Sackhoff's company filed a revised permit application with the city yesterday, foregoing an appeal process and skirting a fresh application, which would have required a neighborhood hearing.
If it is deemed complete by BDS, the permit will mean the project is vested in current ordinance, free from any upcoming changes to city parking policy.
Sackhoff has trepidations about those changes. He sent his lawyer to last week's commission meeting with a letter that made dire predictions for what parking requirements could mean.
"Builders need assurance that they are vested under the ordinances in effect when they applied for their permits," the letter said. "It is certainly a possibility that opponents, who are apparently unconcerned about investments based on existing policy or the goals of providing affordable housing and supporting transit, would argue that projects already in progress would be subject to this adopted ordinance."
Both Sackhoff's attorney, Michael Robinson, and Project Manager David Mullens have declined to speak with the Mercury about the development.
UPDATE, 4:05 pm: The revised permit was only made available as an option to the developer on Monday. That's when Bureau of Development Services Director Paul Scarlett reversed an earlier position that Sackhoff's company would have to submit a fresh application.
Major changes are on the horizon for the north end of Portland's NW district. Freight company Con-way owns nine square blocks between NW 19th and 22nd, Pettygrove and Upshur, which right now are a collection of warehouses and parking lots. But not for long! Con-way is working with developers and investors to convert the area into a medium-density, commercial and residential eco-haven (their plan uses the word "green" 51 times) and "an active and vital pedestrian environment" replete with pocket parks and a grocery store.
Con-way worked with GBD Architects to come up with a conceptual plan (pdf) this August that meets Con-ways needs (parking for 600-800 employees) and lays out a massive project for just over 1,200 residential units, two public parks, and 150,000 square feet of retail space on the nine blocks to be built over 15 years. Though its developing the master plan, Con-way aims to sell the property piecemeal to individual developers and investors and it's unclear what the final design for the area will look like.
All of this planning comes in the midst of the city's debate over the contentious new parking plan for NW Portland, the details of which city council is hashing out this week. If Con-way's conceptual plan actually comes to fruition, by about 2030 the neighborhood will be radically transformed from an edge-of-the-city industrial area to something like a new Pearl District. The whole of NW Portland west of the freeway has 9,400 residents, so entirely built-out, this development would increase the population of the area by more than 10 percent.
Concerns from the public during the current review process included the lack of detail regarding how the over-burdened shared sewer system would meet post-development demands, how the master plan meets area sustainability goals for storm water, the pollution from the high freight truck traffic, not enough parking, and that a proposed public square would attract homeless residents.
Portland's progressive parking policy has taken a beating recently. Under city code, developers are allowed to build some types of buildings in areas with frequent public transit without any parking. Developers love it (parking is extremely expensive to build), car-free renters love it (because they're not paying the added cost of a parking every month), and pro-density advocates love it, because Portland can build more units on small, urban lots if they don't have to worry about parking spaces.
But a spate of 29 parking-free multi-unit developments permitted in the past 18 months has neighbors worried that all those "green" apartments will just lead to car-owning residents parking on neighborhood streets. Responding to those complaints, the city published the results of a big parking study last week that dug into what has happened around eight of the new buildings that had fewer parking spots than units.
The big takeaway: There is still room to park around the parking-free buildings. Even at peak capacity, a two-block radius around the new buildings still had plenty of spaces. Here's the city's chart:
But the second finding: Most of the people living in low-or-no-parking buildings still own cars. According to the study, 72 percent of people in the buildings still own a car and the average number of cars per unit varies from .5 at NE Portland's Shaver Green to 1.2 at the Andria on SE 42nd and Belmont. That's roughly the same as the rest of Portland, since 73 percent of us own cars. But, the people who live in the new buildings are also more likely than the average Portlander to commute to work by bike, walking or transit: only 36 percent of residents drive a vehicle alone to work. That low-car-use behavior is long-term for goals like Portland Climate Action Plan.
If you care about these kinds of issues, there is a big public meeting about Portland parking policy tomorrow at 1900 SW 4th Avenue, Room 2500. Sadly, it's right in the middle of the day, from 1:30-3:30pm.
Portland has a love/hate relationship with Walmart that's mostly tilted (except when Fred Meyer's and Safeway are closed and you own a car and don't mind driving to Happy Valley) toward the hate side of the equation. And with neighbors talking about that new Walmart in North Portland (and our formerly anti-Walmart mayor's softening stance), I couldn't help but share yet another set of terrible findings about Walmart's murderous effect on local businesses.
The closer to Walmart an existing business finds itself, the more likely it is to go belly up. That's the main finding in a University of Illinois-Chicago study, written up today by The Atlantic Cities, that began with an examination of Walmart's effect on one poor Chicago neighborhood. What that means is that any immediate jobs gains bestowed by the sudden arrival of big-box store are quickly eaten up by a steady, inexorably wave of carnage.
Farther out from the store, about four miles or so, the rate of closure is about average, or roughly 24 percent of small businesses, according to Persky. "Small businesses often close. They have a high turnover."
But the closer a store was to the Walmart location, the greater the likelihood it would close. Persky and his colleagues found that for every mile closer to the Walmart, 6 percent more stores closed. Close in around the store's location, between 35 and 60 percent of stores closed.
And depending on the type of business, the impact of a Walmart moving in can be much worse. Persky says that the per-mile closure rate increase for drugstores is almost 20 percent. For home furnishings, it's about 15 percent. For hardware stores, it's about 18 percent per mile. For toys, it's more than 25 percent per mile.
The study's author says there might be good reasons to dance with the devil; it's just that justifying that with a claim of "economic development" shouldn't be one of them. Walmart has answered the UIC finding with a much more favorable study by an "independent" researcher that the billion-dollar small-town harvester, it turns out, commissioned all by itself. Go figure.
This month, Portland unveiled the first outdoor cafe in its new Street Seats program, a venture that will convert on-street parking spaces into outdoor extensions of businesses. The first raised-platform seating was built outside Wafu on SE Division; by the end of the year, we'll see up to 12 of these little spots spring up.
Street Seats is in the same vein as the transformation of SW Ankeny into a car-free outdoor cafe. And it raises the same issues over how we use our city's streets: Is it a good idea to convert public right-of-way into private space? Twenty percent of Portland's land area is public right-of-way including streets, sidewalks, and on-street parking, so conversion of that space into other uses bit by bit could have a big impact over time.
While Street Seats is modeled on resoundingly successful "parklet" programs in New York and San Francisco, those cities' programs are different than Portland's in a key way. After they convert parking spots to outdoor seating, those seats are public and cannot be used for commercial purposes. That means New York and SF businesses can't restrict the space's use to just their customers, offer table service, or allow people sitting in the street-side tables to drink alcohol. Portland's new parking-spot-cafes will be reserved for use only by patrons of the restaurants sponsoring them.
The sponsor restaurants have to pony up some money for the new sidewalk cafe space. If the space was metered parking (like on SW Ankeny), the businesses have to pay the city the estimated lost revenue from the space. They also pay a $450 permit fee and bear all the cost of designing, building, and installing the cafe platforms. But in places without metered parking—like Wafu's spot on Division—they don't pay anything to lease the formerly-public land from the city.
The lot on SE Ankeny that currently looks like this:
Is slated to someday turn into this:
Five townhomes and one condo will make up Ankeny Row (pdf), an "urban green living" project from design-build company Green Hammer. The buildings are supposed use super energy efficient "passive house" construction and are priced at $581,200 for a three-bedroom street-facing unit. That's definitely a price jump for the neighborhood—the 1912 two-bathroom house directly across the street is assessed at a value of $290,500.
One thing worth noting is that the builders are using the bike-and-walk friendliness of the neighborhood as a major selling point. From their pitch:
The location of the project on an urban infill site in an existing, highly walkable neighborhood, allows a car-free lifestyle to be enjoyed, with all daily needs available by foot, bike, or public transportation. These human-scaled connections to adjoining neighborhoods allow the public realm to be an extension of the living space.
There are big plans for the big empty lot next to the vacant Washington High School on SE 12th and Stark. Behold: A vision of the future!
Part of the delay on this project is that Portland Public Schools sat on the adjacent, vacant Washington High building for years, until selling it to development company Venerable Properties for $2 million. DeMuro has long said that renovating the historic school into multifamily housing will cost a bundle.
So it looks like things are swinging into motion. But if the history of this site is any indication of its future, don't start holding your breath just yet.
|Most Popular||I, Anonymous||Best of the Merc|
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!