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East Portland hosts Portland Plan kickoff event


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.

Coming up, the city hosts a kickoff event for the Portland Plan - an updating of the city's master plan - at David Douglas High School in Mid-county.

In addition to the Portland Plan, several other planning processes took significant steps forward last month; the Airport Futures Group, the Bicycle Master Plan and the Invasive Species Policy were also updated.

Also in this month's Potpourri, Perlman reports the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association has concerns about two establishments in its area applying for liquor licenses.

Members of the Madison South Neighborhood Association reported four acres of the 26-acre former landfill along Northeast 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street would become a soccer field.

And finally, community organizer Mike Vander Veen is rehired as part of the East Portland Neighborhood Office staff.

But first, to the big Kahuna of all city planning efforts…

East Portland hosts Portland Plan kickoff
More than 100 people crowded David Douglas High School last month to give initial input on the Portland Plan, an update to the 1980 Portland Master Plan.

Such workshops are taking place throughout the city, but Mayor Sam Adams and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability seemed to place special emphasis on this part of town. The week before, Adams held a press event to kick off the effort at the East Portland Community Center. Speaking with him were the superintendents of Portland Community College and all five public school districts, as well as Multnomah County Commission Chair Ted Wheeler.

“In 1980 the city was essentially talking to itself” when it did the Comprehensive Plan, Adams said. “In 1980 we were a very different city (because) one-third of our land mass did not exist. We're lucky that out here we have the East Portland Action Plan, which a lot of people spent a lot of work on. While we work on the big plan, I'm glad that here we have our to-do list.”

Superintendents Barbara Rommel of David Douglas and Karen Fischer Gray of Parkrose also attended the public event. The David Douglas district board canceled its own meeting to attend the exercise, and district personnel urged parents to attend. Another guest was Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

Adams, acting as master of ceremonies, treated those present to a series of facts on various subjects. Among these: Portland has the lowest cost of living and some of the lowest housing prices of any west coast city, yet residents on average spend 45 percent of their income on shelter, well above the national average. We spend only about a third of what Seattle does, per capita, on the arts. A full 60 percent of us live within a half mile of a full-service grocery, and 40 percent within a half mile of a major shopping center. Only 61 percent of high school students graduate on time.

Those present held small group discussions on a variety of subjects and then voted on what direction the city should move toward or aspire to.

Community activists Mark White of Powellhurst-Gilbert and Mike Vander Veen of Hazelwood said they were favorably impressed with the process. Frieda Christopher of the David Douglas School Board said she would reserve her verdict until she sees what use the information is put to.

Russell Neighborhood Association Chair Bonny McKnight boycotted the event, but not the process. She, together with members of her association as well as people from Parkrose Heights and Wilkes, held a meeting the very same night in which they discussed the plan. They downloaded the voting questionnaire and submitted their responses electronically.

Other planning processes
In addition to the Portland Plan, several other planning processes took significant steps forward last month.

Airport Futures: As part of this update of the Portland International Airport Master Plan, last month this process's Planning Advisory Group (PAG) unanimously adopted an ongoing Citizen Involvement Process. The Port and city will form a new 20-member committee which will include a representative from each of the four neighborhood coalitions that border the airport (North, Northeast, Central Northeast and East), one for Washington community groups, one for transportation and mass transit issues, and one for Environmental Justice. This body will meet at least once every three months, more often as need dictates. Rose City Park neighborhood activist and PAG member Fred Stovel said, “This will be a sort of successor to AIR.” AIR is the activist group Airport Issues Roundtable of which Stovel was a member.

Bicycle Master Plan: The Portland Planning Commission approved and sent on to City Council this plan for future bike routes, with some significant changes. Project Manager Ellen Vanderslice told the commission that the Portland Bureau of Transportation received more than 150 e-mails about the plan in the last two months. Only a few opposed the plan outright, but nearly half called for changes. The early draft contained a list of Tier One projects, most likely to be implemented in the short term, which leaned heavily toward bike boulevards. These are low-traffic streets where cars and bikes share the road without special facilities.

Critics said that more early consideration should be given to off-road trails and separated in-road facilities, such as bike lanes and tracks. Vanderslice said staff was tweaking the priorities to respond to this input. She also said staff is adding 122nd and 136th avenues to its list of Major Bikeways.

Commission member Chris Smith, the body's newest member and its strongest advocate for alternative transportation, proposed a series of amendments. These included the city adopting a goal of 40 percent of all trips made by bike (staff's goal was 25 percent); that funding for bike improvements and programs be set at $25 to $40 per capita per year; that in setting priorities for future routes, staff consider equity of resources for underserved communities such as Mid-county and that bike connections be established between all town centers.

The amendments were not well received by the rest of the commission. Commission member Michelle Rudd said she was not comfortable with Smith's 40 percent of trips goal. “I appreciate aspirational goals, but I don't want to set us up for failure.” As to the funding mandate, she said, “Does this mean we fund bike paths before we fund sidewalks? I want us to be able to make a two-to-one match for federal funds for streetcars if it is offered.”

Commission member Irma Valdez said, “There are so many details, we might strangle in the details, (but) I do like the equity part. We need to include parts of the region who don't feel they're included now.”

Smith defended his proposals, saying, “It would cost $500 million to build out the whole plan. I know that's a lot of money, but it's what it costs to build 7.5 miles of streetcar lines, 40 percent of the cost of our light rail system, one eighth the cost of the Columbia River Crossing.” One of the city's strongest streetcar advocates, Smith said, “I'd put money into cycling before streetcars.”

Despite this, the commission removed most of his amendments before unanimously approving the draft plan. It now goes to City Council for action.

Invasive Species: The Planning Commission also approved an update of the city's invasive species policy. Among other things, this calls for the city to discourage use or maintenance of certain designated plants, and to insist that they be removed from required landscaping. The policy orders the removal, whenever found, of 15 Rank-A (particularly dangerous or problematic species) plants that pose a particular danger. The new draft removes 24 species from and adds 43 others to a list originally compiled in 1991. Commission member Michelle Rudd asked, “(Can I keep a plant on the list) if I keep it in a little garden box and it's not hurting anyone?” Staffer Trisha Sears replied that if the plant is Rank-A, it has to be removed.

Staffer Jennifer Goodrich said Rank-A plants “take down trees, harm storm water absorption and spread wildfire risk. They change the soil chemistry so that trees can never grow there again, and in some cases are toxic to livestock.”

New Gateway businesses cause concern
Members of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association expressed concern last month about two new businesses proposed for a former Hooters restaurant, 9950 S.E. Stark St. According to Hazelwood Chair Arlene Kimura, Falco will be a sports bar. The adjacent business, Mystic, will have adult entertainment. Mystic was originally proposed as a juice bar where no alcohol would be served and people as young as 18 could enter; the owner is now seeking liquor licenses for both establishments. He is also proposing to keep them open until 4 a.m. daily, although state law forbids the sale of alcohol after 2:30 a.m. Hazelwood members were unenthusiastic about the plans in general and particularly concerned with the proposed hours.

Soccer for 82nd landfill
Members of the Madison South Neighborhood Association reported last month - and owner Mike Hashem confirmed - that Hashem is negotiating to lease four acres of his 26-acre former landfill along Northeast 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street for a soccer field. The facility would be available for rent for games or practices. “We don't have an agreement yet, but the developer is serious, and so am I,” Hashem said.

Hashem is continuing to market the total site, which was once proposed for a large big-box retail development. While some have expressed interest, so far none have followed through. He has proactively suggested to Commissioner Randy Leonard and team owner Merritt Paulson that the land is a potential site for a baseball stadium for the Portland Beavers. “It's shovel-ready and there's no conflicting use,” he said. However, he has yet to receive a response to his offer.

Vander Veen rehired
The East Portland Neighborhood chairs last month voted to support extending the contract of community organizer Mike Vander Veen as part of the East Portland Neighborhood Office staff. The vote was seven to one, with three abstentions.
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