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Gateway Green needs ODOT approval to proceed


Editor's note: Welcome to Perlman's Potpourri for January, a roundup of news items from the Gateway and Parkrose neighborhoods of mid-Multnomah County from veteran Beat Reporter Lee Perlman.

Coming up, Linda Robinson's Gateway Green project holds a signing ceremony for her plethora of supporters. But, there is still no agreement with ODOT, who owns the 35-acres Robinson envisions as future bicyclers paradise.

The City continues its long-range planning efforts, and lo and behold, it discovered the Gateway area is one of two areas in Portland (Hayden Island is the other) that have “the highest constraint-free capacity for development.”

After many delays, the Portland City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed Citywide Tree Project in February.

Also in this month's Potpourri, more improvements scheduled for 102nd Avenue.

Grants from the East Portland Neighborhood Office, down from last year, are announced this month.

Finally, this month, the Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal Area Public Advisory Committee discussed the district's budget for 2011-12.

First, to news about Linda Robinson's Gateway Green project …

ODOT agreement missing from signing at symbolic ceremony
The jury - or at least the one that really counts - is still out on Linda Robinson's Gateway Green, but it is making some progress.

Last month, at a soiree held at the swanky Aloft Hotel in Cascade Station, a group of project backers signed a Declaration of Cooperation. The Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau has been designated the lead agency for management, but the Friends of Gateway Green, now a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization, is the conduit for contributions in anticipated fundraising. The total build out of the plans for the 35-acre parcel at the confluence of the I-205 and I-84 freeways as a bike and pedestrian Mecca would be $20 million.

With all this, the advocates have yet to achieve their first and most important objective: Permission from the Oregon Department of Transportation, which owns the land, to use it in this way. According to Linda Robinson, ODOT officials have never refused to consider the plans, and have shown a willingness to work out issues associated with the proposed use, but have yet to result in an agreement.

The community groups, city bureaus, state agencies and businesses signing Robinson's Declaration of Cooperation last month were Mayor Sam Adams' office, the bureaus of Environmental Services, Parks & Recreation, Police, Transportation and Water. Metro, TriMet, Multnomah County, the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District and the City of Maywood Park also sent representatives to the symbolic ceremony. Private businesses, including the Bike Gallery, King Cycle Group, planning consultants David Evans & Associates Inc. and the Aloft Hotel all pledged support. The Hazelwood and Woodland Park neighborhood associations, the Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal Area Program Advisory Committee, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, the East Portland Action Plan and the Central Northeast Neighbors Coalition are some of the community groups involved in the project.

For more information, visit

City continues long-range planning
The Portland Plan process continued last month, perhaps under many people's radar, as the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission accepted 20 background papers and the Buildable Lands Inventory.

The plan is an update of the 1980 Portland Comprehensive Plan; it will set zoning, other regulations and policies governing private development and public action. The background papers contained information on aspects of the proposed plan, including transportation, education and economic development.

The Buildable Lands Inventory identified places in the city that are currently either undeveloped or significantly below the level of development the zoning allows. It then identified areas where “constraints” could prevent full build out of these lands. According to Eric Engstrom of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, two of the areas showing the highest constraint-free capacity for development were Hayden Island and Gateway.

“Constraints,” by the BPS's definition, including regulations such as environmental overlays or historic district designations, lack of infrastructure or geologic conditions; an example of the latter would be the Johnson Creek flood plain, Engstrom said. In answer to a question by Karen Fischer Gray, Parkrose School District superintendent and commission member, Engstrom said that local school capacity was not identified as a constraint. A lack of improved streets is a “real constraint, but it wouldn't prevent development from occurring,” he said. “Policies and zoning don't necessarily protect neighborhood livability,” he said. “They're supposed to, but there are differences about how well that works.”

He added that the inventory does not represent a policy decision or “a statement of what we'd like to happen.” Rather, it shows what could be done under existing conditions, he said.

The inventory shows even with all the existing constraints in place, the city has the capacity to build enough housing to meet the expected demand. However, he said, it is deficient in the amount of available industrially zoned land. Other findings were that 60 percent of Portland's existing housing stock is single family in character, but 60 percent of what has been built in the last 10 years is multi-family. The report also found that 40 percent of regional jobs were within Portland's city limits, but only 11 percent of recent new jobs were within the city. BPS Director Susan Anderson said that it is rare for any American inner city to have such a high proportion of regional jobs.

Commission member Irma Valdez, quoting from a recent Portland Business Alliance forecast called for job creation to have a “high priority.” This stirred the ire of another commission member, environmentalist Mike Houck. “This puts us right back in the 'environment vs. jobs' debate, and I don't accept that,” he said. “We used to hear, 'Nature is everything outside the Urban Growth Boundary, and everything inside it is up for grabs.' As far as I'm concerned, there's no prioritizing to be done; we should retain every one of our environmental goals.”

Only six people testified and only one - Linda Bauer of the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association - represented an interest east of 82nd Avenue. Questioned about this, Engstrom said that in seeking broader public input, “We may not have had as much contact with traditional neighborhood associations as we'd normally do.” He did say that all such groups received a letter in July informing them of the process and inviting input.

Smith suggested sending out one more letter inviting late input. “We don't want another letter from Bonny (McKnight) saying, 'We haven't been included yet.'

Tree Project hearing set
The Portland City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed Citywide Tree Project beginning at 6 p.m. Feb. 2 in council chambers at City Hall. The project will set new regulations for the planting, cutting and pruning of trees on all public and private land in the city. Project planners hope it will make the regulations more understandable, more consistent, and better enforced than they currently are. For more information on the project, visit

More 102nd Avenue work scheduled
The city will soon be moving on to Phase II of the 102nd Avenue Redesign Project.

Portland Bureau of Transportation's Project Manager Dan Layden was not available at press time, but Traffic Engineer Winston Sandino of the Bureau of Transportation told the Memo that the city will be moving forward soon with sidewalk widening and other improvements on the avenue between Northeast Glisan and East Burnside streets, similar in character to work done to the north. Where possible, sidewalks will be widened to 15 feet, less where existing buildings or billboards leave not enough room, he says. Survey work and some property acquisition will occur in 2011, with construction likely in 2012, he says. The project's $2.45 million funding comes from the federal Surface Transportation Program, Sandino says.

Neighborhood earmarks announced this month
According to East Portland Neighborhood Office Executive Director Richard Bixby, EPNO will shortly announce the recipients of $24,000 in neighborhood earmarks. This year the office received grant requests totaling $76,000. The grants are given annually by the city through the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement through EPNO and the city's six other district neighborhood offices. The earmarks are awarded for special projects that “increase the capacity” of local organizations, promote the participation of “under-represented communities” such as new immigrants and tenants and promote partnerships among community groups. This year, the total yearly appropriation for the program was reduced from $200,000 citywide in 2009-10 to $90,000.

Gateway Regional Center PAC reviews URA budget
At a special meeting last month, the Gateway Regional Center Urban Renewal Program Advisory Committee discussed the district's budgets - what was planned for last year, what was actually spent and what is planned for this year. The three budgets are strikingly different. Last year the Portland Development Commission budgeted $5.3 million for the district; the projection now is that $920,000 will actually be spent. On the other hand, for fiscal year 2011-2012 the draft budget is $7.7 million. The chief reason is that some work is taking longer than expected to reach fruition, and the money allocated is being carried forward. For instance, $525,000 was budgeted for the Central Gateway Redevelopment Strategy, $84,000 was actually spent, and $883,000 is budgeted so far for next year. On the other hand, just $85,000 was initially budgeted for work on a new Gateway Park and $212,000 was actually spent as the opportunity to proceed with this work finally paid off.

The Storefront Improvement and Development Opportunity Services grant programs (the latter providing property owners with free advice on how, and under what conditions, they can develop their property), which normally exhausts the money budgeted for them, went begging this year. Storefront and DOS spent only $11,000 and $15,000, respectively, of the $100,000 budgeted for each. They are budgeted for $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, in 2011-12.

This year, as it has been for some time, the Gateway Regional Center URA PAC's stated priorities are economic development and public infrastructure such as streets and parks, in that order. Housing is a lower priority, and home ownership is favored over rental, priorities that are not reflected in the draft budget.

The new budget calls for zero funds for “home ownership development” - down from $400,000 the year before - and $575,000 for Affordable Rental Housing. In addition, Gateway's share of overhead costs for the new Portland Housing Bureau will be $183,000.

The city's Housing Set-Aside policy dictates 30 percent of each URA budget be set-aside for the creation or maintenance of affordable housing. There are some indications in other districts that the new Housing Bureau - that will henceforth administer this part of the urban renewal funds - may take a harder line on this issue. In the Central East Side district, the position of that urban renewal district's advisory committee was the area had an over-abundance of very low-income housing, and that a higher priority was “workforce” housing and home ownership opportunities at the upper end of the “affordable” spectrum. The new Portland Housing Bureau's response, as relayed to the Central East Side by a staffer from another agency, was, “You can spend money on home ownership if you want to, but you're not going to take it out of the set-aside funds.”
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