“Neighborhood by neighborhood, we should take care of what we have and invest in the plans and hopes for Portland neighborhoods that they’ve established for themselves.” —Mayor Charlie Hales, from his 2015 State of the City address
If City Council approves two Argay Terrace neighborhood zone changes in the final version of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan), the single-family home neighborhood could add up to 1,300 apartment units when the two sites eventually develop. Changes on one site could occur in as few as two years.
The Comp Plan specifies each property’s use and guides planners as to the zoning applied to each property. If it’s in the Comp Plan, then an apartment building over your back fence, a machine shop down the street, or a gas station at the corner can become reality. Release of the Plan’s final version last month also signaled the start of public comment period on this change and others. The comment period closes April 20.
Argay Terrace is a residential neighborhood of, currently, about 1,400 single-family homes and 1,100 apartments from I-84 to Sandy Boulevard and from Northeast 122nd to 148th avenues.
With the families in support, a portion of the 16-acre Rossi/Giusto farm property on Northeast 122nd Avenue along Shaver Street is set for a zone change to apartments recommended not only by Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff, but sponsored by the mayor along with commissioners Amanda Fritz and Steve Novick. That’s three votes for it, which makes the change likely. The neighborhood association has formally opposed the change, preferring the property mirror the adjacent single-family neighborhood when it develops.
A few blocks away, Commissioner Dan Saltzman is sponsoring a change for the 13.5-acre Kmart site to apartments, also on Northeast 122nd Avenue, along Sandy Boulevard.
“This is not about changing the future use of a few parcels of land,” said Al Brown, Argay Terrace Neighborhood Association’s land use and transportation chair when he learned about the recently proposed changes, “it is about our elected officials destroying an entire neighborhood to accommodate people who might want to come to live in Portland.”\
Based on the last round of citizen comments and testimony about the Comp Plan, BPS staff made changes. City Council members voted on these and then added their own changes in joint work sessions which, according to BPS’ Eden Dabbs, they not only can do, but often do do. “Commissioners have the prerogative to make changes,” she said, even at the end stage.
Saltzman wants to change the Kmart site from a Mixed Employment designation—no residential—to a Mixed Use, which, under current city policies, could allow as many as 450 apartment units. Changes could occur in as little as two years when Kmart’s lease expires, if approved.
Paired with the likely Rossi and Giusto farm change, it could mean up to 1,300 new units in Argay Terrace when these sites develop, tilting the single-family neighborhood’s balance from 56 percent single-family and 44 percent apartments to, respectively, 37 and 63 percent.
“They [Kmart property owners] have very, to my mind, very attractive plans to make it residential and employment,” Saltzman said in a phone interview. “I feel we should allow that flexibility for that site. I think it has merits for employment, but also for housing,” Saltzman said he was not aware of neighbors’ objections to the change. “I heard proponent’s testimony; I don’t recall the neighborhood testifying against it.”
Saltzman’s decision goes against both BPS staff recommendations and neighborhood association testimony. “It’s their [BPS staff] job to make recommendations and ultimately council’s job to make the decision, Saltzman said. “We’ll have an up or down vote on it at some point.”
Brown asked rhetorically, “After six years as a county commissioner and 18 years as a city commissioner, how often have we seen Mr. Saltzman out here? Does he know about our neighborhood, how we want to live?” He adds “Over the last two years, BPS staff got to know our neighborhood and even though we didn’t always agree, they made sensible changes as their knowledge grew.” The Mixed Employment designation would not significantly change the use of the site, yet prevents new apartment construction.
“Under current city policies, no new neighborhoods like Argay Terrace can ever be built within Portland, and this unique site (The 25-acre Rossi/Giusto/Garre farm property site) in our unique neighborhood should be allowed to build out to the original intent of Argay Terrace’s founders,” Brown said.
Novick’s staff said he was unavailable for comment on his support for the Rossi/Giusto zone change. However,
Sara Hottman, spokesperson for the mayor, said in an email “Mayor Hales is recommending mixed-use zoning to allow for multi-family units and commercial use. Multi-family units and commercial properties will support the abutting school district (Parkrose), which is expected to have an increase in student population over the next 20 years.”
Housing, or people warehousing?
As density increases, it becomes a question of, ‘What’s being built? Brown says the city should not solve its housing issues on the back of one neighborhood. “When the rest of Portland neighborhood reaches our 44 percent ratio of apartments, then let the city come back to Argay Terrace and make a case for us to do more.”
Brown acknowledges the city thinks it has a housing crisis; however, he feels Hales abrogates his promise to preserve neighborhood character by backing zone changes in Argay Terrace. “We’re trying to do exactly what he (Hales) said he was going to do in his 2015 State of the city address,” Brown said. “We want the mayor to live up to the commitments he’s made to us and to everyone in Portland. We’re fighting to preserve the character of Argay Terrace and we want him and city Council to respect the plans we have established for our neighborhood.”
“We’re working now on our comprehensive plan, the blueprint for the development of our city over the next couple of decades. Here’s something I’m passionate about: Keeping great neighborhoods great, and extending the benefits of livable urbanism to more of our city neighborhoods.” — Mayor Charlie Hales, from his 2015 State of the City address
Tim Curran is an Argay Terrace Neighborhood association board member.
Comp Plan final version
In addition to Argay Terrace’s two major changes in the Comp Plan’s final draft (#8 and 9 in this list), we found a few more that alter neighborhoods:
1. Change number 316—8532 N.E. Knott St.—recommended by BPS staff. Changes use from Mixed Employment to Multi-Dwelling 1,000 to reflect current and adjacent uses.
2. Amendment M36—9200 N.E. Fremont St.—recommended by Mayor Hales for City Bible Church. Changes the site bounded by Northeast 92nd Avenue to the west, Rocky Butte Drive to the north and east and Northeast Fremont on the south from an Institutional Campus to Multi-Dwelling 2,000 sq. ft. per unit.
3. Amendment M69—9900 N.E. Multnomah St.—requested by the BPS staff for the Gateway MAX platform area. It changes this Open Space area to Central Commercial, or CX. The current Open Space designation doesn’t allow development near the platform areas. CX zone is intended for an attractive streetscaped, pedestrian-oriented commercial development of Portland’s most urban and intense areas.
4. Amendment M76—837 N.E. 102nd Ave.—recommended by BPS staff for the vacant lot across the street from Gateway Fred Meyer. It changes this property’s designation from Central Residential to Central Commercial, to better fit with adjacent development.
5. Amendment B12—12100 N.E. Prescott St.—recommended by BPS staff for the Russellville Grange. This changes the property’s current designation of Medium-Density Residential to Mixed Use Commercial, allowing both residential and commercial development and adjusting the designation to fit the current use.
6. Amendment B-1—15706 E. Burnside St.—requested by BPS staff for changes to this vacant lot from Multi-Dwelling 1,000 sq. ft. per unit to Mixed Use-Dispersed and allows a wider variety of development. The Mixed Use designation continues allowing both apartment development and commercial use.
7. Amendment M68—4048 N.E. 122nd Ave.—requested by Mayor Hales and recommended by BPS staff for the Post Office site in Parkrose on the corner of Northeast 122nd Avenue and Shaver Street. Brown said since the requested change doesn’t allow additional apartment development but continues the type of commercial use already on this and nearby sites, it is supported by ATNA as it should have no adverse impact on the neighborhood.
8. Amendment S9—12350 N.E. Sandy Blvd.—requested by Commissioner Dan Saltzman for the 13.5 acre Kmart site (see above).
9.Amendment F72—3839 N.E. 122nd Ave.—the southeast corner of Northeast 122nd and Northeast Shaver street—the Rossi/Giusto farm properties—recommended by BPS staff, Mayor Hales, commissioners Novick and Fritz. Changes the current zoning from two zones: west half commercial, east half R3 (apartment) to Mixed Use. Mixed Use allows commercial, commercial mixed with apartments, or only apartments. The Garre farm property to the east remains R3 apartment (3,000 sq. ft. per unit) under the current Comp Plan version. R3 can be reduced to 2,000 sq. ft. per unit under current city code provisions. The neighborhood’s position has been to retain the commercial zoning along Northeast 122nd Avenue to its existing depth to match development north and south of the area, but down-zone the remaining Rossi/Giusto property and the Garre property to R5 (Residential, 5,000 sq. ft. per unit) that allows single-family homes, matching the Argay Terrace neighborhood.
How do I comment on the Comp Plan’s final version?
The Comp Plan’s current incarnation is reviewable online at portlandoregon.gov/bps/mapapp. Click the “Land Use” layer. Click on the location you want to testify about, then click the “Comment” tab in the upper right of your screen and enter the requested information. Include the property’s location and Amendment Number.
As before, comments are also accepted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Comprehensive Plan Testimony” in the subject line. Include the property’s location and Amendment Number.
Send written comments to: Council Clerk, Comprehensive Plan Testimony, 1221 S.W. 4th Ave., Room 130 Port., OR 97204.
Portlanders can testify in person at one of two hearings, both in council chambers at City Hall, 1221 S.W. 4th Ave. The first hearing is Thursday, April 14, from 6 to 9 p.m. The second is Wednesday, April 20, from 2 to 5 p.m. Arrive at least an hour early to sign up and provide the Amendment Number of the property you want to testify about. Dates, times and terms of the hearings can change, so check in advance at portlandoregon.gov/bps/pdxcompplan or call the help line at 503-823-0195.
Regardless how comments reach BPS, they’re given the same weight as testimony at a hearing, according to BPS’s Dabbs. But she points out the value of testifying in person. “There’s no substitute for making eye contact with who you’re asking for help,” she said.