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102nd Avenue street work begins January

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102nd Avenue street work begins January

LEE PERLMAN
MID-COUNTY MEMO

Publisher’s note: For your reading pleasure, we present Perlman’s Potpourri — a roundup of news items from the Gateway and Parkrose neighborhoods of mid-Multnomah County from veteran Beat Reporter Lee Perlman.

Perlman’s first report this month is about Russell neighborhood’s Russell Academy of Academic Achievement’s participation in the Safer Routes to School program.

Traffic jams on Northeast 102nd Avenue will become a daily occurrence as the city gears up to begin improving this Mid-county arterial beginning Jan. 2008.

His next item is about some development hot spots in Mid-county, followed by news from Senior City Planner Barry Manning.

Perlman then chronicles that property developers in Portland are looking at a proposal from the city to more than double the Systems Development Charge fees.

They say that boxing is the only sport where neither participants nor spectators know who is ahead until the contest is over. SmartCentres of Canada, Wal-Mart developers, had looked to be way ahead in the fight to build a big box behemoth in Mid-county despite neighborhood counterpunches. Then, last month, and most surprising to those fighting it and spectators of the match, SmartCentres withdrew its zone-change hearing request to the city. It’s true; you never know how it will end until the final bell. Is this the end of the match? Stay tuned.

That’s it for this month, but if you crave more of Perlman’s reporting (who doesn’t?), look for more of his articles inside this issue.

Safer Routes at Russell Academy
Russell Academy of Academic Achievement is moving ahead with Safer Routes to School, making it the latest school in the Parkrose School District to use the pilot program. Since the start of school, 35 fourth- and fifth-graders have participated in a Pedal Power class; after receiving instruction in bike safety, they took a supervised ride “all over the neighborhood,” Principal Debbie Ebert told the Memo. Meanwhile, the second- and third-graders have been participating in a pedestrian safety class, again with instruction followed by supervised trips. In February there will be passenger safety classes on the proper use of child booster seats for kindergarteners and first-graders.

Still to come is the parent component of the project — identifying safe walking and biking routes to school, and safety issues on those routes — then finding ways to overcome them. This portion of the program was scheduled to kick off with a meeting at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the school. Parent volunteers, school and City of Portland officials will take a “walkabout” tour of the neighborhood at 3 p.m. Nov. 20.

102nd work to start in January
Phase I of the 102nd Avenue Improvement Project should begin in January, a city transportation planner Dan Layden told the Gateway Urban Renewal Program Advisory Committee last month. Beginning at Northeast Glisan Street and moving northward, the project will provide bike lanes and a mixture of center medians and left turn lanes on the street, plus new lights, ginkgo street trees and wider sidewalks where the land is available. The bike lanes will extend south to East Burnside Street. At the jug handle at Northeast Weidler Street, the project will install a windscape sculpture consisting of recycled concrete and plastic rods that will lean when the wind is blowing.

The Portland Office of Transportation has acquired $6.2 million in federal and local funds, and originally hoped it would pay for the entire project from Northeast Weidler to Southeast Washington streets. However, drastic increases in the cost of construction materials have forced the city to break the project into two phases. Phase I will cost about $5.2 million, Layden said. “We didn’t get as much money from Metro as we hoped we would,” he said.

The project will not include new public benches as originally planned, he said, because it runs counter to a new city policy based on a lack of ongoing funding for maintenance. Several PAC members expressed disappointment at this. One, Frieda Christopher, said, “After all the time we spent on this, a new policy shouldn’t be used to take this out.”

The street will include extensive storm water retention facilities. “This will be the greenest arterial street in the city,” Layden said. When PAC member Jim Doig said that there is a chronic flooding problem at intersections, Layden said, “We’ll clean them out, but in some cases the sumps may be failing.”

This prompted PAC member and former Chair Dick Cooley to comment, “It would astonish me if you spent all the money you’re planning to spend on making this a green street and you didn’t solve the problem of street flooding. Do you think the community will thank you for that?”

“It depends on the condition of the sump,” Layden said.

“It seems a little flippant to say that the condition of the sump is beyond the scope of the project,” Cooley said. “Your comments suggest you don’t think it’s a problem.”

“I do think it’s a problem,” Layden said. “I’m saying this is new to me. We’ll try to fix it.”

Work on the project will occur between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to avoid affecting peak hour traffic, he said. There may be times when it will be necessary to close a traffic lane, but at no time will traffic be halted, he said. The work will be done in two-block segments, with crews completing each segment before moving on to the next. “It’s more expensive that way, but it’s less disruptive,” Layden said. Sidewalks may sometimes be closed on one side, but they will be opened for use during non-work hours.

Development news
According to Portland Development Commission staffer Justin Douglas, property at 102nd Avenue and Stark Street recently changed hands. A 12,000-square-foot parcel on the northwest corner will be developed for some sort of retail, possibly a plasma center, he said. Another 2.5 acres surrounding this parcel is “for lease, not for sale.”

A junkyard at Southeast 101st Avenue and Ankeny Street, long the bane of PDC and urban planners, is being cleaned up.

According to Douglas, J.J. North’s Restaurant on Northeast Halsey Street in Gateway has recently been sold.

El Carreton, a bus that owner Jorge Blackmore used as a Mexican restaurant, earning complaints from nearby residents and businesses, was towed last month from its location at Northeast 141st Avenue and Sandy Boulevard — much to the delight of neighborhood leaders and nearby businesses.

East Portland Plan gears up
Senior City Planner Barry Manning is getting ready to begin work on a proposed East Portland Plan, starting with formation of a citizen advisory committee. Some 60 people applied to sit on this body, Manning told the Memo, and the city should have 15 selected by November.

City proposes higher development fees
The city is proposing to increase its System Development Charge (SDC) fees for new park development, volunteer Linda Robinson told the Gateway Urban Renewal Program Advisory Committee last month. The fees are intended to pay for the urban infrastructure an expanding population calls for, and are assessed based on new development projects.

According to information supplied by Portland Parks & Recreation, the average current SDC charges in Portland for a single-family home are $3,117, the 12th highest among 14 local jurisdictions surveyed. This provides for 25 percent of the cost of new parks needed to maintain the bureau’s service standards. The city proposes to increase the rate to about $8,632 per project, which would make Portland’s rates the highest in the region and represent a 75 percent cost recovery. The city is also considering imposing fees for commercial development.

Robinson said she felt the proposed rate was fair, and possibly too low. “At that rate the deficit just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” she said. Such fees have helped pay for improvements at Senn’s Dairy and Wilkes parks and the Columbia Slough Trail, and acquisition of new parkland at Clatsop Butte and Southeast 136th Avenue and Holgate Boulevard.

A City Council hearing on the issue is tentatively set for Dec. 12.

Little fighters TKO big boxers
The Save Madison South campaign scored at least a temporary victory last month. SmartCentres of Canada, which had sought to build a 180,000-square-foot big box retail facility on a former landfill on Northeast 82nd Avenue at Siskiyou Street, abandoned its request in advance of a scheduled hearing on Oct. 16. The Madison South and Roseway neighborhoods had opposed the project, charging that the building would probably house a Wal-Mart outlet, and that in any case this sort of facility would be inappropriate for the site. They had raised thousands of dollars and recruited hundreds of sympathetic residents to purchase anti-big box lawn signs, write letters of protest and pledge to attend the hearing.

SmartCentres retains an option to purchase the 26-acre property through January and has pledged to put together a new development proposal. The company, and property owner Mike Hashem, have also promised to meet with neighborhood leaders to seek a compromise.

Madison South and Roseway are aiming to put together alternative development proposals and are seeking possible developers to pursue them.

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