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MarkDaMan

I have great respect for Homer Williams and what his visioning has brought to Portland. I too am curious about his future plans, and what if anything will he bring Portland besides condo towers.

Brian, it would be interested if you could get an extended one and one interview with Homer and post it here as you have done with others in the past.

Chris McMullen

"...Homer Williams has been great for Portland, and we need more like him."

Yecchhh...I can barely keep my lunch down with that statement, Brian. Homer Williams succeeds because he has connections. It's hard to fail when city officials are in your back pocket and tax dollars bank-roll your projects.

SoWa had the opportunity to be substantially funded privately. Instead Vera and Eric decided to gamble with our tax dollars under the auspices of 'density.'

It's really sad that people in the architecture community (like you and Mark) condone lining developers pockets with tax dollars while public safety and schools go underfunded. And in return, we get to have more buildings that look just like the Porkland Center Apartments.

Yippee.

Brian Libby

Chris, if Homer succeeds because he has connections, then that's his recipe. I don't think he should have to apologize for that. I don't buy the notion that making friends with those who can help you bespeaks a lack of integrity. Ever hear you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?

And I also don't begrudge the city for investing in SoWa. Would you rather we sprawl onto some more farmlands? And if it was so easy for private investors to transform this longtime urban wasteland, how come so many have failed over the decades?

As for the city's SoWa investment hurting schools, I don't think it's a fair argument to act as if those are the only two items on the scales. By that rationale, cops and firefighter are part of the problem too. I'd like to see schools AND high-density development supported by the city. That's gonna take a change in the tax structure.

I'm not going to return your serve when it comes to all the hyperbole about vomiting and shedding tears. I welcome your input even if we disagree. Although, to quote one favorite movie of mine, "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

MarkDaMan

Chris, I'm very curious about your comment: 'SoWa had the opportunity to be substantially funded privately. Instead Vera and Eric decided to gamble with our tax dollars under the auspices of 'density.'

I've asked you on other blogs to please provide a source backing up those claims, but you seem to gloss over the request. Doing some searching on my own, I've found that your comment isn't entirely untrue, but I do find it a bit misleading.

A company that currently owns about 10 acres in the South Waterfront District, Prometheus, had plans to build a suburban style gated apartment community on the few acres they own. From my understanding the plan never got far enough to discuss who would pay for the infrastructure (ie road, sewer, and electrical connections). Therefore it is a bit far to say the development would have been privately funded. If you can find a larger development planned for the 120+ acre SoWa, or even the current 35+ acre RiverBlocks under construction, that Vera walked away from, I'd be really interested in studying it.

In any case I ask myself which would I rather see and what would be better for Portland and the region? A gated community with an eight of the current density on a small portion of the entire 120+ acre SoWa district with or without public subsidies to connect the development. Or. Condo towers creating the most dense-transit oriented neighborhood in Oregon, saving over 10,000+ acres of farmland and forests at build out, creating a new campus for a Portland-based research institution, the possibility of significant highest of the high paying jobs, and a green 21st century community. Even with the $100 million + in city costs that will be 100% recouped from new residents in the district, I think the city is getting a steal.

bob

Now I thought that the original north macadam residential development idea was to build some sort of gated-community mcmansion development on the waterfront, complete with armed guards toting AK-47s. I'm personally glad this has not come to pass.

Chris McMullen

Bob, Mark and Brian. You can find an outline of the Schitzer/Zydell development plans here:

http://www.brainstormnw.com/archive/sep02_feature.html

Nowhere is a "gated community" ever mentioned.

Brian, private development in SoWa failed because the city demanded unprofitable high-density condo towers. If high density is so attractive, why does it need subsidy? SoWa could have been a nice neighborhood ala Northwest Portland or Eastmoreland. Instead, it's become a great way to make rich developers richer with our tax dollars.

And Mark, density does not preserve farmlands and forests. Sprawl has been checked by the stoopid urban growth boundary, not ones desire to live in unaffordable condo towers. Thanks to the UGB, the middle class can't afford a modest, suburban home and quaint neighborhoods are become jam-packed with condos and McMansions.

However, unincorporated areas like Newberg and McMinnville are exploding. Why is that? Seems your "density preserves natural areas" argument falls flat on its face.

nathan

Chris,

My first impression is that you don't really understand that these are complex issues requiring more than face-value assessment.

To my knowledge there is no connection between the UGB and rising home prices. Rather, home prices are rising *everywhere* and especially on the West Coast.

Density is a neccessity in every large urban area. However, there are many areas in the PDX metro where you can find very low density detatched housing.

Portland and the world are changing rapidly. Emotional decision-making doesn't solve problems, and blaming the local people that build our city for problems that are present globally isn't constructive.

Whether you like it or not, PDX will grow by 50 percent in the near future. Most Portlanders, I think, would like to see that growth happen in a fashion that improves our city. That will require public/private cooperation and visionary leadership.

nathan

Chris,

My first impression is that you don't really understand that these are complex issues requiring more than face-value assessment.

To my knowledge there is no connection between the UGB and rising home prices. Rather, home prices are rising *everywhere* and especially on the West Coast.

Density is a neccessity in every large urban area. However, there are many areas in the PDX metro where you can find very low density detatched housing.

Portland and the world are changing rapidly. Emotional decision-making doesn't solve problems, and blaming the local people that build our city for problems that are present globally isn't constructive.

Whether you like it or not, PDX will grow by 50 percent in the near future. Most Portlanders, I think, would like to see that growth happen in a fashion that improves our city. That will require public/private cooperation and visionary leadership.

MarkDaMan

That article Chris is rich...rich...

I don't know much about Brainstorm NW but I do understand it has a conservative slant. I read the article, once with an open mind, the second time a little more critical. I still don't see any information to support your firm stance that something better was planned for SoWa. In fact, even though the article spread the 'plan' out over about 10 paragraphs, it doesn't give much information at all. In fact, the only thing it says about the plan from the early 90's is:

"The two largest property owners put forward a development concept in 1993 that would have produced millions of dollars of investment with no public subsidy required. But Portland planners, convinced that the district needed to be developed at Manhattan-style density, rejected the plan as too suburban."

"The plan featured long cul-de-sacs and suburban-type densities. It was rejected by the city."

Specifically, Stacey wrote, “City staff will be happy to assist you with the land use reviews you need to begin development of the Martin concept. With the exception of the street pattern, we see no significant problems in obtaining approval.”

"Anticipating the gauntlet of reviews that hostile city bureaucrats would impose, and facing redesign of the street pattern that would totally change the market viability, Schnitzer and Zidell withdrew the proposal."


From the way I read the article, the city prioritized SoWa as more than a Beaverton type community, and the property owners didn't. Ultimately our city council had to make a best use of land decision and was willing to work with the property owners. The property owners walked away from the table.

The crux of the article is how expensive and poorly planned the district is. In the middle of the article, the author takes a wild turn and now makes the property owners out to be the victims for having to pony up for public benefit:

-For riverfront property owners, there is a minimum setback of 100 feet from the top of the riverbank, which may translate into an actual setback of 120 feet or more, depending on the slope of the bank.

Within that greenway, ecological, trail and transition areas must be provided in specific sub-areas, at landowner expense. The area closest to the river (the riparian zone) must be left in its natural state. The next zone is for landscaped vegetation, and the property owner is required to choose plants off of a specific list and meet a minimum amount of landscaped area.

-Property owners along the waterfront must provide “major public viewpoints.” These facilities must include benches, lighting and landscaping in conformance with specific Bureau of Parks regulations.

-Locker rooms are required in any building with over 100,000 sq. ft. of non-residential floor area, in order to encourage bicycling.

-The code identifies a specific required residential area. Projects will be required to include one dwelling unit for every 500 square feet of net site area, a density of more than 80 units per acre.

-Surface parking will be prohibited within 200 feet of the streetcar. Retail outlets larger than 40,000 square feet are generally prohibited, with exceptions allowed up to a cap of 60,000 square feet. This will prevent any larger retailers such as Costco or Fred Meyer from building in the district, as their stores typically require 120,000 square feet or more.

And than some lady:

“There is a fairness issue here,” she says. “I have no problem with the current 25’ setback. We could require property owners to build a trail as they would a sidewalk in a more traditional neighborhood, and I don’t think they’d object. But when you get out to 75 or 100’, who is going to pay for that? In order to avoid this requirement, the riverfront owners will be the last to develop in the district, and that’s wrong.”


As if the Meriwether and Atwater haven't been the first condo buildings going up, right on the river.

A few more tidbits from this "great" article that supposedly debunks SoWa planning:

-What is not generally known is that OHSU actually has room for that expansion right on land they already own up on the hill

-There is really only one problem with this option: it’s a road. And the City Council hates roads

-And finally, the entire idea of the City Council designating the area a “Science and Technology Quarter” is ludicrous. If politicians could make profitable economic clusters happen simply by issuing a press release and subsidizing a few buildings, the economy of Cuba would be flourishing and the Soviet Union would still exist.


C'mon Chris, give me something that isn't soaked in conservative rhetoric.

Rich

Mark, Nathan and Brian:

Thanks for taking the time to contend with the claims that Chris McMullen makes in his comments. Unfortunately, those claims are representative of an attitude that's fairly common, though not yet prevalent, in Portland. The attitude seems to combine elements of a love for the "free market" and a hatred of "government intrusion," nostalgia for the "old Portland," an exaggerated sense of how "liberal" this town is, a resentment of "wealthy developers," and alarm at the rapid increase in housing prices. It's a strange grab bag of views and complaints, but serves to provide rhetorical ammunition for attacks on all sorts of projects, policies and entities in Portland: from the tram to Metro, from the Pearl district to the UGB, from city hall to mass transit.

Anyway, y'all have provided intelligent and civil responses to that attitude. I'm cheered by your insightful concern with how our city grows and develops. And I agree with you!

Chris McMullen

It's always easy preaching to the choir, Rich. Perhaps you can let me know just where Mark, Brian et al have refuted my claims with any objective data?

All the responses have been pure opinion and conjecture.

However, the facts speak for themselves:

-The PDC has not released financial impact reports as required by state law.

-There's no proof urban renewal and TIF increase future tax rolls (probably why the PDC won't release a financial Impact study) as reported by the liberal City Club of Portland.

- 'Affordable' housing has yet to materialize in SoWa -- one of UR's main tenets.

- SoWa debt won't be paid until 2025 (est 1999)!! So, it'll be 20 years minimum before SoWa properties contribute to tax rolls.

- Public dollars 'invested' into SoWa are around $700 million and rising.

nathan

Chris,

I don't have the time available to research and refute your claims and numbers. I hope someone else might be able to provide us with that service.

But I think a fair question for you to answer is: what would you like to have seen in SoWa?

Since there was no legitimate private proposal for that land, would you rather the PDC just sat on the their hands?

Do you believe that new development that is entirely privately funded does not require public funds for things such as roads and power and sewers?

It seems to me that your views are a little more fantasy than reality. Can you provide us with a realistic and constructive vision of new urban development in a zone like SoWa?

I'd love it if the city didn't have to spend a dime on projects like this. But this is reality, and in the real world you have to make compromises. Pure ideology doesn't get us anywhere.

I'd love to hear your vision for SoWa...

Chris McMullen

Nathan, I really don't care what SoWa looks like. Whether it be a suburban residential area or a urban skyscraper mecca. I just don't like the idea of public dollars going to finance it. Do you really think $30M for 0.8 miles of streetcar is a good investment?

Look at Kruse way and Bridgeport village. No public money was used to develop those areas and they are thriving.

BTW, I love well designed skyscrapers and I think the John Ross will be a beauty. But, once again I ask; if density is so attractive, when does it need to be subsidized?

not a skyscraper

those aren't skyscrapers in SoWa. they are mid-rises in a reclusive retirement community.

nathan

Chris...
I think I see your real point. Which, I believe, is that public $$ shouldn't go toward development projects.

I one sense, I can agree with you on this. I don't like the exclusivity of SoWa or the Pearl. Mostly older residents, with money, are populating these zones.

On the other hand, I really do believe that cities require planning and vision. I'm totally against a rubber stamp development office that simply okays whatever project a developer wants to build.

I believe there needs to be public and private cooperation.

This is tangential, but suppose the residents of PDX, or a portion of the residents more likely, along with the PDC created a non-profit corporation aiming to create desirable new development. Especially with the aim of creating affordable housing. Alternatively, it could be for profit and attract investment.

Would something like that be more palatable to you?

Regardless, I'm a believer in city vision, organization and planning. Its like an organism after all and I'd rather see a well-functioning, attractive city than a disjointed free-for-all.

Bob

I'd actually like to see a nickel-smelter in place of this so-called residential development.

At least it'd provide some good 'ol fashioned blue-collar jobs, and revitalize this industrial site. It'd also pay money into taxes, not take away from it.

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