North Macadam Urban Renewal

Randy Leonard

North_macadam
B!x has done the community a service with this excellent explanation of Urban Renewal Districts. Urban Renewal is very arcane stuff and his explanations are good.

I was in the State Senate in 1996 when Measure 47 passed, the property value growth cap. To make a very long story short, it was unworkable. Some of us thought we should let the courts dispose of it. Others thought we should rewrite it and send it out to the voters in a way that reflected the intent of measure 47 but accomplished it's aspirations in a way that was constitutional and practicable.

The latter view prevailed and the result was Measure 50. B!x has described accurately, as near as I can tell, it's impact on URA's (I say as near as I can tell because even though I helped write Measure 50 on a legislative committee, I would not want to stand up in front of a group of people and explain what it says.... so again, my hats off to B!x).

Since being on the Council, I have tried to take a more global view of URA's. I have boiled down the arguments that exist on both sides to one fundamental question:

Does a particular URA cause development that would otherwise not occur?

If the answer is No, one can stop further analysis there.

It the answer is Yes, a series of further questions need to be asked before an URA should be approved.

For an example, when the Council recently debated whether or not to extend the Downtown Waterfront Urban Renewal Area I voted No because I was not persuaded that the Downtown URA would cause development to occur that would otherwise not happen. I argued then, and still believe now, that the synergy caused by the Downtown Waterfront URA’s adjacent URA, otherwise known as The Pearl, etc., make this area an ideal investment for the private sector without the need for public funds to stimulate that investment.

The question for me with respect to North Macadam is the same. Is that geographic area of the city one that would develop absent infrastructure (sewer, water, streets, streetcar, etc.) investments made using Urban Renewal funds? Given the challenges presented because of pollution in and around the development site, I have concluded that the answer in No.

Fine. We now have a North Macadam Urban Renewal District. Ok, what do we build there?

It was decided by a series of city councils beginning in 1988 that that area should be mixed use. That vision morphed into what is now the issue at point: Are 325-foot residential towers appropriate at that site?

I never have been nor do I pretend to be an urban planner. I am used to climbing flights of stairs in these high rises with full fire protection gear to put out a fire, not designing them.

However, the Council must resolve what, and now it appears if anything, will be built there.

I believe that the project as it is envisioned will create family wage construction jobs, will provide an expanded tax base for the city and, last but not least, will recover a parcel of Portland land along the Willamette River that has been an eyesore. Additionally, the project will create a dynamic live/work environment that is central to what Portland has been envisioning for decades. The project, when completed, will allow residents of all income levels to live in a neighborhood that will eliminate the need for an automobile.

However, after listening to hours of debate last week, I tried to craft language that I thought addressed the core of what the neighborhood was concerned about. That amendment required that, contrary to what the developers and the Bureau of Planning wanted, all buildings maintain a minimum of 200 feet of separation between them. That language will cause two things to happen:

1) East and west view corridors will be maintained (I am going to strengthen the language this week to assure that) and;

2) There will be fewer buildings constructed overall in the project.

A leader of the opposition from the neighborhood testified last week that my amendment would satisfy his concerns with the planned North Macadam development.

Urban Renewal Areas is a subject that is difficult to understand, much less explain. They are a powerful tool that if used properly can create success where failure reigned.

That is why it is all the more important that the city council oversee urban renewal districts in a thoughtful and judicious manner.

Some on the right, including Lars Larson, et al., are enticing some otherwise well meaning members of our community to join with them in helping to undermine urban renewal districts. These are the same people who are hell bent on destroying our public schools and anything that has to do with government.

I would only ask that you completely understand what it is that you think you are fighting and not accept as gospel what Lars Larson, et al., tell you as fact. Ironically, a good place to start would be in "enemy territory". The Portland Development Commission web site is an excellent place to begin understanding what Urban Renewal Areas are, how they are created and what they do.

Portland is a unique place in this country. Other cities have seen their core central areas wither to the point that their entire regions become plagued with economic decay. Not so Portland. One of the reasons, I believe, is that we have used the potent economic tools available through Urban Renewal Areas to stimulate smart growth. While I too have objected to some of those uses, I do understand that the overall good caused by Urban Renewal Districts has created a synergy that our entire state has benefited from.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    The project, when completed, will allow residents of all income levels to live in a neighborhood that will eliminate the need for an automobile.

    Lofty goals, but time will tell whether they can be achieved. Which of three huge cranes down there now is building low-income?

    Some on the right, including Lars Larson, et al., are enticing some otherwise well meaning members of our community to join with them in helping to undermine urban renewal districts. These are the same people who are hell bent on destroying our public schools and anything has to do with government.

    This is guilt by association. The frustration level with the PDC and the City Council over projects like North Macadam is very high, including among many of us who have no general ax to grind about taxes. When you push people to the point of frustration, they push back. To put it more bluntly, Lars isn't enticing me to do anything that I hadn't already thought of doing.

    Mayor Potter has it right: The public has not been given the respect it deserves on North Macadam, and many other urban renewal projects. The Council has shown absolutely zero interest in reforming the process. So someone else may try to reform it for them. Good for them.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Jack- I agree with some of your concerns. For an example, I voted against the Downtown Waterfront Urban Renewal Area. I passed an ordinance –without the cooperation of the PDC- restricting the use of tax abatements. I voted No on the Transit Mall Light Rail financial plan because downtown condominium owners were excluded from having to pay for the improvements.

    I also support amending the city charter to abolish the Portland Development Commission and transfer its functions to a bureau directly overseen by a member of the city council.

    I am sure that the PDC would be the first to tell you that there is no small amount of irony that I am defending their work at North Macadam.

    Portland is the city that you love for a reason. It thrives. But it doesn’t thrive by accident or happenstance.

    It thrives in part because of a decision made by the Oregon Legislature over 30 years ago to create urban growth boundaries. It thrives because of the vision of the city council in the 70’s led by Mayor Nei…(Oh…never mind, one fight with you at a time). It thrives because there is a connection between what happens within the beating heart of the city’s core and the circulating energy that transfers life to its vital extremities, otherwise known as neighborhoods.

    And it thrives, Jack, because of the work done through the powerful Urban Renewal Area economic tools that have caused development and growth where once poverty reigned.

    I too lived in Irvington. I was born there in 1952 and lived there until 1972, when my parents sold – no, change that – fled from Portland.

    My childhood neighborhood was not the neighborhood that it is today. Thank God. I am partly the way I am because I learned I had to fight to survive…and I don’t mean that figuratively.

    When I was growing up in Irvington, my friends who lived east of NE 15th were not allowed to come to my house by their parents. Not because they were racists, but because they were scared for their kids’ safety…and for good reason. It was rough and only a fool walked through Irving Park at night.

    Because of Urban Renewal (known as Model Cities in the 1960’s) and the other initiatives I mentioned previously, that has changed. We now have another problem caused by that phenomena that you and I also have discussed in the past….gentrification. I will only say that other large US cities wished that was the worst of their housing problems.

    So let’s keep this conversation going and make the changes that having Tom Potter as Mayor will now allow us to do.

    But let’s do this in a way that is respectful but focused. Let’s push to take Portland to the next level, not join forces with those whose goal in life it is to bring Portland down to the lowest common denominator.

  • steve schopp (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Randy, I got to tell you, that post was an absolutely asinine blowing of smoke. Who helped you write that?

    Do you honestly believe that it is helpful to toss out insults?

    I have never heard Lars profess to be an expert in urban renewal. He has had callers such as myself who have followed Urban Renewal and understand it fully.

    Who helped you write that? Fess up. Smart growth, synergy. Oh brother.

    So this is what it has come down to.

    A commissioner trying to calm all the dummies out here by insulting half of them and telling the other half what is being done is called "smart".

    """"""1) East and west view corridors will be maintained (I am going to strengthen the language this week to assure that) and;"""""""

    That hardly touches the problem. You're talking about 325ft high buildings. If only keep the 200 ft. North to South spacing any slight angle view will be obscured. Come on, I thought you weren't a planner. What's with this planner speak "view corridors"? Corridor? What the heck does that mean. Anyone lucky enough to live at the end of one of these corridors will like your plan?

    This whole approach is insulting.

    """""""2) There will be fewer buildings constructed overall in the project.""""""

    What about the 125 width limit? They want that removed. Are going to cave on that?

    """""A leader of the opposition from the neighborhood testified last week that my amendment would satisfy his concerns with the planned North Macadam development."""""

    That was his only concern? What's his name? """""Urban Renewal Areas is a subject that is difficult to understand, much less explain."""""

    Then maybe you are not the one to be advising us on it. Perhaps you're no more equipped to do so than Lars.

    """"""""Some on the right, including Lars Larson, et al., are enticing some otherwise well meaning members of our community to join with them"""""""

    This is where you go asinine. And it certainly is not nice.

    """"" in helping to undermine urban renewal districts. These are the same people who are hell bent on destroying our public schools and anything that has to do with government."""""""

    Why can't you just stick to explaining Urban Renewal? No wonder you have trouble, you can't keep Lars out of your head.

    """""""I would only ask that you completely understand what it is that you think you are fighting and not accept as gospel what Lars Larson, et al., tell you as fact. """""""

    Well, maybe if you completely explain things we'll completely understand. If you could put your republican hate aside for five minutes you might have a better shot at it.

    ''"""" Hell bent on destroying our public schools"""""

    That is great. What a persuasive explanation. South Waterfront and Urban Renewal are great because Lars and his friends want to destroy our public schools. Perfect. That demonstrates exactly what has been talked about out here in the real world.

    """"""Ironically, a good place to start would be in "enemy territory". The Portland Development Commission web site is an excellent place to begin understanding what Urban Renewal Areas"""""""""

    Now that's fresh. Go to the agency under heavy scrutiny and ask them if all is well. Why don't you go here. www.saveportland.com

    Sure, except for one thing. They leave out all of the down sides. That and misrepresent the upside.

    ''''''''''''''potent economic tools available through Urban Renewal Areas to stimulate smart growth'''''''''''

    How is density at all costs smart. Hell Randy the City planners won't even draw to scale. If you want to help why not simply make the planning department produce scale drawings, depictions and photo work of the entire South Watefront at build out. There's nothing quite like an accurate picture to help explain things.

    """"""While I have objected to some of those uses. I do understand that the overall good caused by Urban Renewal Districts has created a synergy that our entire state has benefited from."""""

    Does that mean you will help kill the Tram?

    Come on show the public you are a straight up guy and come out against the Tram.

    View corridors? Geez, I swear. What does it take?

    Be nice.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Gee Steve, even some of us Grant High School grads learned big words like "Synergy"!

  • Aaron (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Randy,

    The word "synergy" was allowed for learning for only in the Wilson-Cleveland-Lincoln high school cluster. You must have overheard conversations from one of your friends that went too one of those schools.

    Hehe

  • Sid Anderson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Randy, You claim it will create housing for all income levels. Has the Pearl done that? It doesn't seem like it, but if it has, where do the residents shop for moderately priced items? Whole Foods? Sur La Table? Where can they go for a moderately priced meal? The Blue Hour? Pho Van?

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Sid- While I was not around when the agreement was forged for the Pearl, I did arrive on the council in time to join forces with Commissioner Sten to assure a good mix of low income and moderately priced housing in the North Macadam project.

    Additionally, Commissioner Sten assisted me in assuring that the jobs created in the $2 billion construction of the project would be family wage jobs.

  • (Show?)

    I tell ya, Randy, I'll believe the low-income part of South Waterfront when I see it. These guys always start off promising that, but shucks, they never do seem to deliver, do they?

  • Steve (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Mr Leonard - If we could start by dropping the "I'm Randy Leonard and everyone who disagrees with me is Lars' puppet and hates government" and deal with issues, that would advance the conversation you desire.

    OK, the South Waterfront could use development, but I think the over-arching issue is that PDC has turned into the Central Planning Committee. Decisions such as trolleys, gondolas, developers and ground-breaking happen before any public input at all, but looking at who contributes to City Hall campaigns (with the exception of Mr Potter) this makes sense.

    If living-wage jobs are an issue, then build Intel/Nike a factory there, this makes a lot more sense for sustainable jobs. If affordable housing is an issue, then 300+ foot condos are not going to have too many $150K units in them.

    If building a beating heart of the city is an issue (lets ignore every other part of town that is paying for this), then maybe building family housing might be better. Somehow, I don't see kids 30 years from now saying, oh yeah, I'm a Pearl-ie or Macadammer.

    When Mr Working-Two-Jobs to pay his mortgage/taxes and Grandma Looking-At-Bigger-Property-Taxes-On-A-Fixed-Income sees 10% of their bill subsidizing $500K condos, asking why they don't get the same respect/taxbreaks might be forseeable.

    If you want public input, then back it up with some actions instead of going thru the motions to slip this past the people who pay your salaries - the taxpayers, not developers.

  • steve schopp (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Well, Randy that was exactly what I expected. You totally avoided my point and responded only to one I never made. I never said I didn't know what synergy meant.

    I did, however ask you about the Tram and you don't want to talk about that. I can only assume you believe it to be a wise investment, regardless of the cost.

    I asked you about the other proposed changes involving removal of the limits on building width and overall size. You don't want to talk about that and let people know how you will be voting on those changes.

    I asked about having city planners produce accurate depictions of the plan. You apparently see no need for that. Even though the vast majority of the public have no idea of the mammoth dimension of South Waterfront and it's impact. Apparently you don't want to confuse the public at large with an accurate presentation of the proposal.

    I'll ask you now what the City's plan is for traffic in the area. Since there is no plan you'll have no comment.

    I'll ask you about the recent increase of proposed housing units from 2000 (with 150 so called affordable units) to 8000 units (and no mention of increased affordable units) and why no additional considerations of the obvious overall impact is merited. Does the same plan for 2000 work for 8000?

    """""The project, when completed, will allow residents of all income levels to live in a neighborhood that will eliminate the need for an automobile."""""

    There is so much wrong with this it's almost not worth commenting on. Are the thousands of folks adversely effected by the project supposed to feel good because a few folks in the new luxury tax subsidized condos don't need a car? Eliminate? What folly. The entire area promised to be a gridlocked night mare. Your approach is a continuation of the business as usual which as delivered far more trafiic/transportation/commerce troubles than remedies and will feed the trend of declining mobility in all sectors. This is what we get from planners and politicians who see no value in genuine traffic studies and planning. Who can't see the connection between congestion, commerce, our Port, shipping, jobs and our overall economy.

    The fact is Randy the developers in South Waterfront have shot for the moon because they had a good idea the folks at city hall would be malleable enough to hand over just about everything they could imagine. Boy have they been right. They could have advanced more moderate proposals but then why would they? As demonstrated by your current willingness to provide additional concessions (as if the 325 ft isn't enough) they are spot on and raking it in.

    "View corridors" I still can't get over that nonsense.

    You know it's funny that when the 325ft height was proposed it was "pin towers" offered as a "compromise", siting Vancouver BC as a model.

    Now the developers are saying they can't sell units if the towers have 125ft. width limits yet BC has 90 ft widths and is now longer the model?

    This further demonstrates a swarm of continued deception and manipulation.

    There isn't any justification for the massive build out with the 325 ft. heights and hopefully the public will gain enough awareness in time to stop the deception.

    Along with never a published accurate portrayal of the dimensions of South Waterfront the ultimate public cost in dollars has yet to be revealed. It is obvious to those paying attention that cost doesn't matter and will not sway the agenda regardless of it adverse impacts including basic city needs.

    Your notion that nothing will happen, that it's this plan or nothing, for the area is a farce. There are many forms the area could take which would be far preferable with every concern. You are supporting the worst possible outcome as the only option. Simply put you are wrong.

    North Macadam-South Waterfront can and should be developed with a fraction of the proposed public investment, compatible with the area and as an enhancement to greater Portland.

    Of course that would take real planning to avoid the misdirected, ill-conceived outcome we are facing.

    The current push to bring about wider buildings-closer together, while maintaining the already excessive heights and paltry greenway, is movement in the opposite direction the public's interest demands.

  • Jim (unverified)
    (Show?)

    While this discussion has been entertaining to track I think that PDC has been unfairly targeted as the bad guy. I can pretty much guarantee you that in the South Waterfront if PDC didn't step up and do something then nothing would get done. The market will not invest - particularly not in an urban brownfield - without some sort of assistance or action by the public sector that helps to minimize the risk. If Portland didn't have the PDC then Portland wouldn't be nearly as nice a place to live as it is. Look at the Pearl and other areas of the City that urban renewal has helped. Does PDC need to be more public minded? Absolutely. Does it need to be shut down? Not if Portland wants to continue to be viewed as one of the beter cities in the country in which to live.

  • Steve (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Jim - My problem is not with PDC, per se, it is how they spend the rather sizable sum of money they get from us. It seems like the sexy projects in the "heart" of the city get what they want.

    Most family areas get nothing and pay most of the property taxes supporting PDC. Also, look at a lot of the high-traffic areas like NW 23rd, SE Hawthorne where people hang and I don;t see a lot, if any, PDC support.

    PDC - OK idea with no control and bad execution.

  • Aaron (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Jim brings a good points:

    Does PDC need to be more public minded? Yes, they need to listen to the public 1st and foremost and be unbiased about the project.

    Does the PDC need to be shut down? No, it does not. However, it needs to be under the direct oversight of city council and not a quasi-independent agency with it own say too everything. As well, with the ex-officio presence at county and metro; too make sure that what it does has the harmonious cohesiveness with the long term planning with the county and metro. Because Portland is the largest city in the region, but it is does not have the majority voice in the region.

  • Jerry Ward (unverified)
    (Show?)

    by Liz Callison
    I have testified for years -- beginning when South Waterfront was the North Macadam urban renewal plan. In fact, I invited Jerry Ward to join with me for a couple of KBOO broadcasts several years ago to argue against the N.Mac/S. Waterfront plans.
    1000 Friends has always been very much in favor of density in this area, regardless of the environmental hazards posed by floodplain development. Also, in the original N. Mac. Greenway Committee meetings, Mike Houck (as a city appointee) represented "environmental interests" and initiated the sell-out position. Willamette Riverkeeper's position followed Houck's sell-out: i.e. the so called "buffer" which was then supposed to mitigate for even higher building profiles. As you may know, the (fantasy) buffer was the key to both W-R and Audubon's sell-out position: they shut up about the density and utility subsidies while saying that greater vertical density was okay as long as the "buffer" was 75 to 100 ft. wide. In fact there was never any real buffer: most of the promises were empty and were a shell game to move the negotiation along and cut the grass-roots enviro activists out of the discussion. And, the result was that the sell-out position became the standard. Naturally, now that the sell- out has been accomplished, property owners can keep pushing the city for more and more concessions.
    I cited the N. Macadam problem on my campaign literature back in 1998 and every election since then including my most recent re-election to the West Mult. SWCD in 2004. I also testified at public hearings re the Ross Island dredge permits, and cited the Ross Island fiasco on campaign literature beginning in 1998 when I was running against Dave Bragdon, who was getting campaign money from Pamplin. I brought it up on a number of community media programs which I hosted or was a guest. As you recall, Houck was on the governor-appointed Ross Island advisory committee for the so-called management plan. btw, Amanda Fritz has always supported the Houck positions, no matter how convoluted, counterproductive and irrational. I have a large file on Ross Island including news clippings from pre-1970 : as well as selections from the Corps of Engineers, City and DSL permit history.

    I do believe the O would meet with a few of us on the topic of waterfront urban renewal, and I will explain why I think so. First, please check out the forwarded letter from the Oregonian Public Editor which was written to me last year: (there is more correspondence but you'll get the idea from this one)...I've also forwarded to you a resolution adopted by the Eastside democratic club (also adopted by the Mult. Co. Dems) at my instigation last year. (NOTE: the language about riverfront "conservation priority areas:" These are not intended as new or expanded regulatory areas per se, but "eligibility" areas. They are areas which would be eligible for public greenway acquisition and set aside as a continuation of the existing greenway and would be at least 100 ft. wide. There are state and other funds available to purchase such greenway lands but the city ignores the option.)

    The city never needed to sell out for vertical density: In the first place, the city should never have upzoned waterfront properties for higher density but should have left them with their original industrial zoning designation, or, in the case of land already owned by the public (such as the Port properties), it should simply have rezoned them as open space.
    With either industrial or open space zoning the property value would be minuscule compared to what it is now thanks to the city having changed the base zone to the mixed use, high density. The property owners are now about to realize extreme windfall profits because of the city's new mixed use zoning as well as the publicly subsidized utilities. (No wonder these property owners have invested so willingly in city council and metro council campaigns... )

  • auggie (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Here is what I am not understanding about the North MacAdam plan – what happened to the goal of enticing bio-tech to the region, or as it is phrased in 1 of 8 specific goals of the plan “capture spin-off activities from OHSU’s bioscience/health technologies research and development”? OHSU does have the potential to create spin-offs from the expansion of biotech in the region, as a natural-cluster phenomenon (i.e. Portland’s cluster of recreational companies resulting from Nike, Seattle’s cluster of emerging bio-tech in the Lake Union Area, etc.)

    If the goal of biotech is still on the table – why increase the allowable height of the buildings? My understanding of the building requirements for biotech, are that the really tall buildings the council has voted to approve won’t accommodate biotech – as there are massive mechanical & cooling systems required that just won’t work on a high-rise.

    If someone could please enlighten me - Is biotech still a goal for the area? If so, what is there in the plan to assure that there will actually be buildings that will accommodate such businesses?

  • steve schopp (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "Is biotech still a goal for the area?" czar Sorry friends that too has been a deception. There was never a case built and presented that made that a plausible outcome. In fact the expert bio-czar OHSU hired to lead that charge concluded Katz and Kohler were having "delusions of grandeur" thinking it would happen. He left for a New Jersey biotech cluster a few months after being hired.

    The city has hundreds of employees working in planning and associated bureaus. The PDC has 200 employees.

    Why is it the public cannot get an accurate accounting or presentation of anything South Waterfront?

    Not with the size and scope of the development. We have yet to see a single scale depiction of the project. Not one. Are our city officials worried the public cannot understand the truth? No traffic report. No model to clearly know the impact on views. No to-scale presentation of the greenway in proportion to the high rises. No effect on the river and Ross Island. What, are they too busy? There is a company in town who can create real life perspectives from any angle of any proposed development. Why don't we have those? Can we the public see what the proposed project will look like?

    In the case of Biotech there has been no shift in emphasis or clarification since the realization of the biotech fat chance. It was the primary genesis for the plan. "5000 or 10,000 biotech jobs" And the Tram is a "vital link" Did anyone at the city ask on what basis that claim was made? Was it simply made up with not so much as a crude study to check viability? Did anyone at the city follow up on the notion?
    Does it matter?

    The first OHSU building now under construction in South Waterfront is planned to have 16 stories. The top few floors for administration offices. Several at the bottom for a health club, a couple floors for a women's clinic and some of what's left for research space. Will the new offices house luxury suites for Kohler and company on the top floor? Now there's a real biotech stimulus. I reckon that needs explaining too.

    Once again we have a failure of the city to develop an accurate presentation, assessments of circumstances, potential growth or even the ultimate public cost.

    Fore the life of me I can't see how they call this planning.
    With so many unanswered questions it appears to be reckless and risky abandonment.

  • hilsy (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Mr. Schopp,

    I have also been highly concerned about the traffic impact of the South Waterfront development, but from the perspective of how I think it will completely screw up traffic in my neighboring neighborhood of Brooklyn (ie Ross Island Bridge headaches will only increase).

    I feel I need to correct you on one point and that is a traffic study was performed and published. How do I know? Last summer, in response to an email inquiry from me, the city sent me a copy of the study and a report detailing the future plans/decision-making regarding traffic. I may even still have it at home if you would like me to mail it you.

    My biggest grief after reading the report, however, was that it only addressed traffic issues on the west side of the river (gee, surprise). Not everyone who will work in the new buildings (that are already springing up) will live down at South Waterfront or exclusively on the west side of the Willamette.

    One more general point/question for the Blue Oregon crowd: How does the budget breakdown of PDC look? How much of the PDC budget (our money) has gone to or will go to the Pearl and South Waterfront (leaving out tax abatement issues)? What other projects has PDC accomplished/planned besides these big ticket targets?

  • steve schopp (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Hilsy writes """My biggest grief after reading the report, however, was that it only addressed traffic issues on the west side of the river (gee, surprise).""""

    I have another surprise. The study did NOT included or consider traffic coming from the South. Not from Barbur, I-5, Macadam or the Sellwood Bridge.

    Therefore, in my judgement there was no report. There is no traffic plan at all and the city planners do not see this as a problem. Or they are less than open and frank and can't see a way to inject honest information and still accomplish the objective. Thanks for the feedback

  • the prof (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Randy, As always, I appreciate your courage in taking the public fire on this forum.

    That being said, my skepticism regarding N. Macadam is growing. I've read the City Club report on PDC with care, and their interpretation of the contributions of the PDC, UGA, and the UGB to Portland's vitality is far more skeptical than your own. PDC and UGA deserve some credit, but are not panaceas, and clearly redirect funds from other worthy purposes.

    I see no reason to allow the higher and closer towers. The property in N. Macadam will be prime and expensive real estate filled with offices and expensive condos. There is no need to block one of Portland's premier and landmark views from Terwilliger, Lents Hill, OHSU, and even Council Crest.

    The originally proposed towers are sufficient. Hell, even six story buildings would probably fill up with people, if not fill Homer's pockets.

    And please, let's stop the fantasies about automobile-less, mixed income housing. I understand the advantages of attracting high value real estate to downtown. But face facts -- the majority of these residents are going to pile into their cars and head out 26 to their jobs. They will drive to the Zupans on Macadam and the Safeway on 10th. And they'll be almost zero low income and middle income folks there.

    I don't mind that, but let's be honest: that's what this project offers.

    I'm with Steve Schoop, horrifying though that may seem. I have a family and a middle income and no interest in living in a dense urban condo setting. I want an affordable house, good schools, and some brake on my taxes (this is why I've always respected your support for skinny houses -- not popular, but forces those who say they are in favor of affordable housing like Cmmr. Sten to put their vote where their ideology lies).

    I like living in Portland but I find it increasingly difficult to do. Will this project help me or folks like me? I'm not so sure.

    By the way, unlike some others, I like the Tram. I think it will be a treasured addition to the Portland skyline. But why the heck has it doubled in price??

  • Jim (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Steve,

    PDC does what is legally allowed to do with the increment it obtains. The money they "take" from the taxpayer isn't citywide - it only comes from the urban renewal area boundaries where the increment is obtained. And, by law, it can only be spent within that area on what is referred to as "bricks and sticks" - or simply put - buildings or infrastructure.

    The historic work that PDC has done has added a lot of value to the city tax roles and that value does - in some way - reduce the overall burden on the taxpayer. What would your rates be if the buildings in the Pearl weren't worth so damn much money?

    That being said - having once worked there I do know that for the most part the people who work there have the best interests of the City at heart and would like nothing better than to have every project be completely successful and meet everyone's needs.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Prof-

    The amount of money that the city gets for services from within the boundary of the North Macadam URA will remain, albeit frozen. However, if the project builds out as is expected, it will create exponentially more revenue for schools and local government compared with the revenue it produces now in an undeveloped and polluted state.

    Interestingly, I visited an 8 story residential building yesterday, owned and operated by Central City Concern, that was built using urban renewal dollars. This building, built on the downtown park blocks, houses people in recovery from various addictions. It’s construction has allowed people, many of whom had been living on the street, to have a place to live in dignity as they begin navigating their new lives as clean and sober people. This building, in addition to providing housing, serves as a medical clinic and provides on site counseling.

    Additionally, tomorrow I will make some remarks at Station Place Tower, a new housing high rise in the Pearl, that will house 200 low-income seniors, including 76 extremely low-income seniors (0-30% of median family income).

    These two projects are unique in city's such as ours. They provide dignity and a life line to people who would otherwise be destined to a miserable life. They would not have happened without the powerful and potent tools that a URA allow.

    As I hope I have made clear, I agree that we can improve how URA’s are managed. However, we need to focus on the facts and not on what some are representing the facts to be.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Sewer and water, and the like, are things for which the mechanism of System Development Charges have been created. This analytical regime is expressly intended to hold the developer, and the new residents, responsible for those costs rather than to impose those costs upon the community as a whole. Thus, your first criterion is totally backwards, and is not applicable at all to the analytical regime for Urban Renewal Districts.

    Urban renewal is to remedy blight. Urban renewal, and the bonds associated with them, are premised upon the resulting increase in value of the property above and beyond the present value. That increased value must be taxable for there to then be a return to repay the bonds. The sewer and water and road system, by and large, remain publicly owned and thus are not taxable and thus must be excluded from the Urban Renewal District considerations. Portland, for example, is still paying off bonds for past water projects and is incurring huge new bonds for fixing combined sewage overflows and these costs are not directly packaged with any Urban Renewal District.

    It is a grotesque analytical mistake to drag water and sewer costs into the Urban Renewal District analysis.

  • (Show?)

    PDC does what is legally allowed to do with the increment it obtains. The money they "take" from the taxpayer isn't citywide - it only comes from the urban renewal area boundaries where the increment is obtained.

    Generally correct, with the exception of the special levy which appears on everyone's property tax bill as "URBAN RENEWAL - PORTLAND" which is there to make up for shortfalls in Option 3 URAs which were caused by the changes of Measure 50.

  • Steve (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Jim - To get the money for the TIF district, CoP/PDC has to get a bond which obligates the CoP to pay for this hoping the tax revenues cover the payments. In order to keep CoP credit rating up, these bonds are paid before schools and police.

    The other issue with everyone in the city paying are the obscene tax breaks given out. If you go to portlandmaps.com and look up 625 NW 11th, you will see a $950K condo paying <$150/yr in prop taxes for 15 years. So now the fixed income / low wage earner pays the full prop tax bill to make up for this deadbeat.

    Sorry, PDC was supposed to create first/foremost affordable housing, not VancouverBC-Lite. My sense is most of the PDC people are frustrated developers/architects who get exploited by developers that know what they are doing. The lack of creativity of these people is pretty apparent when every solution they have is either a $500K+ condo or luxury hotel.

    In addition, once you get outside I-405 and the Willamette, they lose total interest. The majority of Portland lives out side of this boundary. Incredible as it may seem, there are a lot of areas that spring up without PDC/trolley/tram/lightrail help like NE Alberta, NW 23rd, NE Broadway that develop and increase property tax values of surrounding neighborhoods.

    I am not saying PDC is mean-spirited, just myopic and mis-guided and not a great investment of $75M/year of the CoP budget.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
    (Show?)

    If a particular development is excused from paying the SDC's it is a private benefit for which the balance of the community must cover. This is not even mentioned in the property tax bill. It is big bucks. The SDC's are one of the principle enemies to affordable housing, and are a proportionally larger share of the costs for lowly manufactured housing that could provide shelter for the poor . . . though it is not really applicable to the high-density-loving city of Portland.

    Should Randy seek to modify Urban Renewal legislation, for the benefit of low income housing, to excuse all such development from the SDC fees, and perhaps excuse the large application costs that get piled on too?

    Temporary shelter in a building that is owned by someone else should not be confused with dignity. The owners are the recipients of government largess through various devices to assure that the value of property always goes up. This near-guarantee of return on real property assets has no more equitable justification than establishing a minimum wage for the poor working class. The aid for tenants, in tenements, is for the benefit of the tenement owners. Randy, let's not get confused when talking about helping the poor.

    Did you go to Ronald Reagans's school of trickle down economics? The theory is no more wise if the government, through the device of Urban Renewal, has been coopted to felicitate the transfer of relative wealth to the rich. If this blog is about being progressive and acknowledging a class struggle then the first thing we need to recognized is the proper alignment winners and losers from government action. The current City of Portland policies for affordable housing taste like Castor oil, and has all the potency of snake oil.

  • Jim (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Steve,

    Actually - having worked outside of I-405 almost exclusively I don't think PDC forgets about those areas outside of those boundaries. I didn't work in the Development Department so I cannot really comment on the issues re: condos in the Pearl, however, if you take a look at the AV's of the properties in the Pearl compared to some of the N. Portland properties I think you will see a difference.

    More importantly - what would the central city look like without the work PDC has done? Nobody can really answer that for certain - but take a look at central cities in the east and I think you might have a good idea.

  • jim karlock (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Randy: The amount of money that the city gets for services from within the boundary of the North Macadam URA will remain, albeit frozen.

    JK: Frozen for twenty years? A tax dollar twenty years out is only worth $0.38 today (at a 5% rate)

    Randy: However, if the project builds out as is expected, it will create exponentially more revenue for schools and local government compared with the revenue it produces now in an undeveloped and polluted state.

    JK: Where would it build out to that is NOT in an UR district so as to share its taxes with all of us? Have you looked at the present value of tax from a probable build out to see how it compares to the present value of the tax loss? And don’t forget that the rest of the city has to pay for city services for all those people in the urban renewal areas while their tax money stays in their own neighborhood. Thereby raising our taxes, or forcing a shortage of services for everyone.

    Randy: Additionally, tomorrow I will make some remarks at Station Place Tower, a new housing high rise in the Pearl, that will house 200 low-income seniors, including 76 extremely low-income seniors (0-30% of median family income).

    JK: Why are we subsidizing low income people to live on the most expensive real estate in the state, when they could live a short MAX ride away in Beaverton, Hillsborough, the Commons (67th ave overlooking Banfield - the one that looks like a Moscow apartment block) or Gateway?

    Thanks Jim Karlock

  • jim karlock (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Randy: The amount of money that the city gets for services from within the boundary of the North Macadam URA will remain, albeit frozen.

    JK: Frozen for twenty years? A tax dollar twenty years out is only worth $0.38 today (at a 5% rate)

    Randy: However, if the project builds out as is expected, it will create exponentially more revenue for schools and local government compared with the revenue it produces now in an undeveloped and polluted state.

    JK: Where would it build out that is NOT in an UR district so as to share its taxes with all of us? Have you looked at the present value of tax from a probable build out to see how it compares to the present value of the tax loss? And don’t forget that the rest of the city has to pay for city services for all those people in the urban renewal areas while their tax money stays in their own neighborhood. Thereby raising our taxes, or forcing a shortage of services for everyone.

    Randy: Additionally, tomorrow I will make some remarks at Station Place Tower, a new housing high rise in the Pearl, that will house 200 low-income seniors, including 76 extremely low-income seniors (0-30% of median family income).

    JK: Why are we subsidizing low income people to live on the most expensive real estate in the state, when they could live a short MAX ride away in Beaverton, Hillsborough, the Commons (67th ave overlooking Banfield - the one that looks like a Moscow apartment block) or Gateway?

    Thanks Jim Karlock

  • steve schopp (unverified)
    (Show?)

    South Watefront, a compromise? (Chapter two)

    Please read chapter one before moving on to chapter two www.saveportland.com/N_Macadam/Schopp050205.htm

    I remember that some folks were unaware that the 325 ft. limit for SoWa was established 2 years ago and is not part of the new proposal to get rid of other limitations. People are rightfully opposing a change which would make those 325 ft. buildings wider and closer together, but many are likely UNAWARE that there is NO CURRENT RESTRICTIONS on any SoWa buildings 250 ft. or less.

    The entire area is already zoned for unlimited building widths, spacing and crowding for heights up to 250 feet or around 25 stories. Imagine a four block thick wall of 250 feet tall buildings (with 325 ft. towers above that) running along the river from Riverplace to the Spaghetti House.

    Riverplace where a 150 ft. cap is being maintained to preserve current high rise views should and could be the model for South Waterfront if folks would demand that model. The ability to stop this assault on the City exists. The Mayor received over 400 E-mails a couple weeks ago when folks were outraged over the proposed changes. However, even then, folks were UNAWARE that the proposed changes were already codified for buildings 250 ft. and less two years ago.

    In other words, what people found most offensive, (excessively tall buildings with no limit on width, spacing and overall footprint) has been the zoning standard for all of South Waterfront for TWO YEARS now, for buildings up to 250 ft.

    And again, the 325 ft. building height limit was also approved two years ago.

    The current proposed concessions for developers seeks to remove the only remaining limitations to building dimensions and spacing left. Those addressing any 325 ft buildings.

    Again, there are no remaining limitations on any buildings 250 ft. or less and have not been for two years. The city and press have had two years to make that clear and have not.

    The three changes would 1) Remove the 125 ft. width limit on 325 ft. buildings 2) Remove the 200 ft. between building spacing requirement on 325 ft. buildings. 3) Removes the 10,000 sq. ft. floor plate limit for 325 ft. buildings.

    These changes if approved will result in the entire SoWa having no limits on building dimensions and spacing at all.

    These changes mean a lot to the developers of the first 325 ft. tower now under construction. It seems that first tower, having a building permit for foundation work only is being built at a 12,000 sq. ft. floor plate dimension, which would limit the height to 250 ft. They want the building to be 325 ft. to allow an additional 30 or so condos and many millions more in value.

    This is why if there must be a false "compromise" it's the unlimited floor plate increase they are after.
    This is a compromise where the public gets nothing that doesn't already exist and the developer has millions to gain.

    Apparently there has been some winking and nodding signals given by city officials since that first tower is being promoted as 325 ft. 12,000 sq. ft. tower. A size not currently allowed.

    Curiously the proposed changes in building standards are coming from the design commission when changes to standards are required to be processed through the planning commission. Furthermore the changes, which cover all of South Waterfront, appear to have been generated by the design commission itself and not by an applicant as required. Who is the applicant?

    Can or will SoWa ever be developed if the current plan is altered? Of course and the public has much to gain from forcing the city back to the drawing board.

    Contrary to news reports of developers suggesting so, the current objections and scenario surrounding the SoWa have nothing to do with any business unfriendliness or anti-business sentiment. This notion, with help from the press, is being used by developers as a lever to tip City Council towards approval. Council members should remember that hundreds of millions of tax dollars are at also at stake.

    SoWa is prime, river front, city center property with owners who previously spent considerable sums on plans to develop the area with compatible scale and without public funding. The City of Portland killed those plans and have now turned the planned development into the worse possible scenario. High public cost, worst possible effect on the city and highest benefit for the developers.

    South Waterfront is a recipe for a costly, dysfunctional and congested rat race with monolithic monstrosities blocking countless views. The river, Ross Island and Mt Hood from the West, hillsides, sunsets from the East, while delivering long term debt, irreversible tax subsidy dependency and a plan-less boondoggle advanced along a process riddled with red flags and fatal flaws.

    And I haven't even mentioned the $40 million Tram, plans that change housing numbers from 2000 to 8000 or the baseless promise of 10,000 biotech jobs and $1 billion in research revenue.

    How many times must the public purchase, bargain or compromise for the glorified sidewalk greenway along the river? With the city granting so many concessions it appears the public has bargained for the same greenway many times over. Every time the developer/property owners and city planners get something they claim we are getting a greenway in exchange. A greenway which was required all along, was never at risk, and could be a much nicer public enhancement even if a few of the 100's of millions of tax dollars headed for the development were used to simply buy it.

    Through all of this SoWa planning process, one has to wonder who has been looking out for the public interest. It sure hasn't been the City, Metro or our newspapers.

    Steve Schopp

  • steve schopp (unverified)
    (Show?)

    South Watefront, a compromise? (Chapter two)

    Please read chapter one before moving on to chapter two www.saveportland.com/N_Macadam/Schopp050205.htm

    I remember that some folks were unaware that the 325 ft. limit for SoWa was established 2 years ago and is not part of the new proposal to get rid of other limitations. People are rightfully opposing a change which would make those 325 ft. buildings wider and closer together, but many are likely UNAWARE that there is NO CURRENT RESTRICTIONS on any SoWa buildings 250 ft. or less.

    The entire area is already zoned for unlimited building widths, spacing and crowding for heights up to 250 feet or around 25 stories. Imagine a four block thick wall of 250 feet tall buildings (with 325 ft. towers above that) running along the river from Riverplace to the Spaghetti House.

    Riverplace where a 150 ft. cap is being maintained to preserve current high rise views should and could be the model for South Waterfront if folks would demand that model. The ability to stop this assault on the City exists. The Mayor received over 400 E-mails a couple weeks ago when folks were outraged over the proposed changes. However, even then, folks were UNAWARE that the proposed changes were already codified for buildings 250 ft. and less two years ago.

    In other words, what people found most offensive, (excessively tall buildings with no limit on width, spacing and overall footprint) has been the zoning standard for all of South Waterfront for TWO YEARS now, for buildings up to 250 ft.

    And again, the 325 ft. building height limit was also approved two years ago.

    The current proposed concessions for developers seeks to remove the only remaining limitations to building dimensions and spacing left. Those addressing any 325 ft buildings.

    Again, there are no remaining limitations on any buildings 250 ft. or less and have not been for two years. The city and press have had two years to make that clear and have not.

    The three changes would 1) Remove the 125 ft. width limit on 325 ft. buildings 2) Remove the 200 ft. between building spacing requirement on 325 ft. buildings. 3) Removes the 10,000 sq. ft. floor plate limit for 325 ft. buildings.

    These changes if approved will result in the entire SoWa having no limits on building dimensions and spacing at all.

    These changes mean a lot to the developers of the first 325 ft. tower now under construction. It seems that first tower, having a building permit for foundation work only is being built at a 12,000 sq. ft. floor plate dimension, which would limit the height to 250 ft. They want the building to be 325 ft. to allow an additional 30 or so condos and many millions more in value.

    This is why if there must be a false "compromise" it's the unlimited floor plate increase they are after.
    This is a compromise where the public gets nothing that doesn't already exist and the developer has millions to gain.

    Apparently there has been some winking and nodding signals given by city officials since that first tower is being promoted as 325 ft. 12,000 sq. ft. tower. A size not currently allowed.

    Curiously the proposed changes in building standards are coming from the design commission when changes to standards are required to be processed through the planning commission. Furthermore the changes, which cover all of South Waterfront, appear to have been generated by the design commission itself and not by an applicant as required. Who is the applicant?

    Can or will SoWa ever be developed if the current plan is altered? Of course and the public has much to gain from forcing the city back to the drawing board.

    Contrary to news reports of developers suggesting so, the current objections and scenario surrounding the SoWa have nothing to do with any business unfriendliness or anti-business sentiment. This notion, with help from the press, is being used by developers as a lever to tip City Council towards approval. Council members should remember that hundreds of millions of tax dollars are at also at stake.

    SoWa is prime, river front, city center property with owners who previously spent considerable sums on plans to develop the area with compatible scale and without public funding. The City of Portland killed those plans and have now turned the planned development into the worse possible scenario. High public cost, worst possible effect on the city and highest benefit for the developers.

    South Waterfront is a recipe for a costly, dysfunctional and congested rat race with monolithic monstrosities blocking countless views. The river, Ross Island and Mt Hood from the West, hillsides, sunsets from the East, while delivering long term debt, irreversible tax subsidy dependency and a plan-less boondoggle advanced along a process riddled with red flags and fatal flaws.

    And I haven't even mentioned the $40 million Tram, plans that change housing numbers from 2000 to 8000 or the baseless promise of 10,000 biotech jobs and $1 billion in research revenue.

    How many times must the public purchase, bargain or compromise for the glorified sidewalk greenway along the river? With the city granting so many concessions it appears the public has bargained for the same greenway many times over. Every time the developer/property owners and city planners get something they claim we are getting a greenway in exchange. A greenway which was required all along, was never at risk, and could be a much nicer public enhancement even if a few of the 100's of millions of tax dollars headed for the development were used to simply buy it.

    Through all of this SoWa planning process, one has to wonder who has been looking out for the public interest. It sure hasn't been the City, Metro or our newspapers.

    Steve Schopp

  • jim karlock (unverified)
    (Show?)

    We should stop issuing more building permits until this whole mess is resolved.

    We should stop all public subsidies to this project which I think should be called Pearl South on steriods, or just Pearl South.

    JK

connect with blueoregon