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Aria apartments gain design approval

Editor's note:
Welcome to Perlman's Potpourri, news items from across the Gateway and Parkrose neighborhoods of mid-Multnomah County from veteran Beat Reporter Lee Perlman. A selection of highlights for August follows.

Coming up, developer Eric Rystadt gains approval for his office-building project in the Gateway Urban Renewal Area from the Portland Design Commission.

Also in Perlman's Potpourri, the move to liberalize the Gateway Street Master Plan to encourage development of streets in Prunedale - roughly, the area from the I-205 freeway to 102nd Avenue and from Northeast Pacific to Southeast Stark Street - where relatively few properties are subdivided and developed.

Next, the Portland Streetcar Systems plan gets an airing before the Portland Planning Commission with only the Gateway Loop - the route from the Gateway Transit Center to Adventist Medical Center - the only route in east Portland receiving serious consideration at this time.

And, the Citizens Noise Advisory Committee gathered at Helensview High School last month to listen for themselves to the thundering F-15 supersonic jet fighters to determine if they are too loud for the neighborhood (yes).

Plus, The Oregon Department of Transportation is zeroing in on a design for its proposed 82nd Avenue pedestrian barrier, despite some ongoing objections to the plan.

Next, Perlman lists Parks & Recreation free concerts and movies in east Portland parks for August.

And finally this month, Russellville III, the new four-story, 155-unit facility grand opening celebration will be held next month. Russellville was one of the first large multi-family developments in Gateway, responding to the call for higher density in the Outer Southeast Community Plan of 1996.

But first, the newest apartment building in Gateway gets design approval …


Aria Apartments conducted through design review
Jeff Stuhr lied.

At a second hearing, Stuhr, chair of the Portland Design Commission, promised developer Eric Rystadt that his Aria Apartments between Northeast 99th and 100th avenues north of Burnside Street would be “in and out in 15 minutes” with an approval.

Instead, the session on July 2 lasted 40 minutes, and the commission gave Rystadt and his architect Ralph Tahran orders to use panelized garage doors with glass panels to look through; not to use bark dust as landscaping, and to buffer the lights from the garage so they didn't shine directly into neighbors' windows.

However, the result was what Stuhr had promised: a six to zero vote of approval.

The Aria will be six stories high, tall for Gateway but considerably less than the 120 feet allowed at this site. It will have 51 units. Rystadt was required to provide an eight-foot easement on the north side for a future pedestrian path linking 99th and 100th avenues. The siding will be various kinds of metal.

The commission spent some time discussing the details of the project, especially spillage of light from the garage. Commission member Tim Eddy, who is often concerned with this issue, conceded that devising conditions to prevent it is “very challenging, and the results are probably unenforceable.”

Eddy eventually told Rystadt, “We've seen a range of projects come through this neighborhood. You're raising the bar. I give you credit for something that's head and shoulders above what we've seen.”

Stuhr said, “Everyone is providing a fairly standard apartment look. This is a step up, a much more urban response in a transition area.”

Most favor street plan changes
A liberalization of the Gateway Street Master Plan won the approval of the Portland Planning Commission last month with the support of several local activists, in spite of the opposition of some who felt the changes didn't go far enough.

The strategy in 2006 was to create a long-term plan to build streets in an area where relatively few properties are subdivided and developed, Justin Douglas of the Portland Development Commission told the Planning Commission. The problem, he said, is that the obligation to build 60-foot wide standard streets has deterred owners from development or participating in land assembly. “We haven't been able to implement a single segment of the plan,” Douglas said. “It's time to try something else.”

The revised plan requires fewer rights of ways than the original one. In some cases, smaller streets or bike and pedestrian easements may be substituted for standard streets.

In answer to a question from commission member Jill Sherman, city traffic engineer Courtney Duke said that under the new plan, the city might not achieve a standard 200' by 200' grid, but would have blocks no larger than 350 feet.

Gateway Urban Renewal Program Advisory Committee Chair Bob Earnest, Vice-Chair Jackie Putnam, member Ted Gilbert, Hazelwood Neighborhood Association Chair Arlene Kimura and member Linda Robinson all spoke in favor of the change. “Our most pressing need is infrastructure, especially streets,” Earnest said. The lack of them is “the single biggest impediment to quality development.”

“The existing plan is a placeholder that was put in place without regard to the facts on the ground,” Gilbert said. “We want our transportation plan to be an asset, not a liability.”

Allen Pliska and his son Kevin agreed with Gilbert that the existing plan was created without regard to facts on the ground - or regard to them. They objected to a proposed MAX Light Rail crossing at 100th and 101st avenues in both plans. They claimed that they had never been notified or consulted about the plans, even though they are among the largest property owners in the area. They said both plans call for a street going through a building on their property. “Our plan always was to redevelop as we could afford to,” Kevin Pliska said. “Now we can afford to, but the code requirements create a roadblock.” He said that he was land use chair of the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association and was familiar with city procedures.

Douglas said that the Pliskas' description of their relations with the city was not accurate. He and other staff had had repeated conversations with them and Kevin had attended the Program Advisory Committee meetings several times. “No one is proactively acquiring property or using eminent domain,” he said.

Commission member Irma Valdez said of Kevin Pliska, “He was not credible when he said he didn't know about this. You can't be a land use chair and not know about things like this.” The commission approved the revised plan five to zero. It will go to the Portland City Council for enactment in the fall.

Commission discusses, raises concerns about streetcar routes
The Portland Planning Commission also dealt with another transportation planning issue last month: the draft Streetcar Systems Plan. This would designate future routes for the car.

The draft so far designates inner city routes as the most favorable to develop in the short run, with only the Gateway Loop between the Gateway Transit Center and Adventist Medical Center as having comparable status. Other routes, including ones along Northeast Sandy Boulevard, Southeast Foster Road, Northeast and Southeast 82nd, and 122nd avenues are seen as being further in the future.

Commission member Irma Valdez objected to this. “Everyone knows I support the streetcar,” she said. “Everyone's depressed now. It's important to have a vision. We need to transform Gateway, Foster and 122nd, and spread the resources out fairly.”

Commission member Andre Baugh had a different set of concerns based on what might happen if these routes were developed. Because streetcars tend to drive up the value and cost of adjacent properties, encourage higher-density development and require assessment of owners through Local Improvement Districts, he feared they could drive away lower-income residents and small businesses. Moreover, because most of the areas under consideration are outside urban renewal districts, there are no funds to aid people at risk; “There's no (Portland Development Commission) to come to the rescue. I'm not opposed to development, but I don't want to drive out small businesses.”

Yet another commission member, Jill Sherman, recalled that on a recent tour of Southeast Portland, “People were not happy with big new buildings. How clear were people, when they signaled support for streetcars, that this is what they can expect?”

“We tried to make the relationship to development very clear,” Project Manager Patrick Sweeney replied.
Both Baugh and Sherman repeated criticisms voiced before that the Systems Plan dictates where higher density should go in advance of a broader discussion through the pending Portland Plan. Baugh called it “putting the cart before the horse.” Sweeney said the Systems Plan could always be revised based on what the Portland Plan determined. Sherman replied, “This looks like a plan and as such, we don't want to approve it yet. I want to make decisions based on all the policies together, not piecemeal.”

Valdez remained a believer. Later she asked Bob Earnest of the Gateway Urban Renewal District Program Advisory Committee (see above) whether he supported streetcars. “Absolutely,” he replied. “It says urban all over it.”

F-15 noise test
The Air Force National Guard conducted a noise test of its F-15 supersonic jet fighters Aug. 1 from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. The Citizens Noise Advisory Committee will observe the flight from the parking lot of Helensview High School, 8678 N.E. Sumner St., where they will also discuss the flyover later.

The Guard wishes to conduct training maneuvers by jets in areas close to the base in order to save money and fuel. Nearby community groups such as the Cully Association of Neighbors have objected to these activities by the planes, which are far noisier than commercial aircraft.

Planners refine fence design, some neighbors still object
The Oregon Department of Transportation is zeroing in on a design for its proposed 82nd Avenue pedestrian barrier, even as a few die-hards continue to question whether such a fence should exist.

The proposed fence would run along the middle of the avenue between Northeast Wasco and Jonesmore streets, adjacent to the MAX Light Rail 82nd Avenue station. Currently commuters switching from MAX to southbound buses, and vice versa, dart across the avenue in a way that disrupts traffic and endangers pedestrians. Officials hope that the fence would force these people to use a signaled intersection at Jonesmore.

ODOT showcased a new design by independent consultant Justin Gorman and Scott Pitek at an open house in late June at the Milepost Five housing development. According to Interim Community Affairs Manager Shelli Romero, a large majority of the 75 people who attended expressed approval of the design.
Among those who did not were a group of activists from the Montavilla Neighborhood Association who have consistently opposed the fence. They have charged that the fence inconveniences pedestrians to the benefit of motorists, without making the situation safer. They have called for a new signaled intersection at the crossing. ODOT and the Portland Bureau of Transportation in turn say such a crossing would be dangerous and wouldn't measurably stop jaywalking. Romero says a new set of responses is being prepared to the critics' position.

Parks offer free entertainment
The Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation, in cooperation with the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, is offering a set of free concerts in Ventura Park for the second year. This year the menu is gypsy band Krebsic Orkestar on Aug. 19 and Po' Girl on Aug. 26. Both start at 6 p.m. The Parks Bureau has been holding these summer concerts for more than 20 years, but last year the Ventura series became the first one east of 82nd Avenue.

If that doesn't excite you, how about a free movie in the park? The Parks Bureau offers the following free movies: Aug. 1 - “Shrek” at Earl Boyles Park, Southeast 112th Avenue and Boise Street; Aug. 4 - “Charlotte's Web” at Glenfair Park, Northeast 154th Avenue and Davis Street; Aug. 15 - “Iron Man” at Lents Park, Southeast 92nd Avenue and Holgate Boulevard; Aug. 20 -“Monsters Vs. Aliens” at Parklane Park, Southeast 155th Avenue and Main Street. In each case, the film begins when it gets dark, which can vary from 8 to 9 p.m., depending on the date, and will be preceded by some sort of free entertainment.

For both sets of parks programs, there will be food available for sale from vendors, but feel free to bring your own food and nonalcoholic drink along with your blanket and/or lawn chair.

Grand opening due for Russellville Park III
On Aug. 6, Russellville Park will have a grand opening celebration for its new addition at Southeast 102nd Avenue and East Burnside Street. From 3 to 7 p.m., there will be tours of the new four-story, 155-unit facility; live entertainment as well as delicious fare to eat, spokesperson Anna Skogland said. At 5:30 there will be speeches by dignitaries and a ribbon cutting. Skogland assured that units are still available in all three of the building's categories: independent living, assisted living and memory units for Alzheimer patients. For more information, call 503-254-5900 or e-mail
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