The next couple of years will see new plans and projects proposed that will affect the future of Eliot. There are outside interests driving these that do not necessarily have Eliot’s interests at heart. It is important for us, as residents, to make our interests known. Both the Eliot Land Use Committee and the Board are here to do that and, in some cases, we are already preparing, but we need to be sure we are accurately representing the neighborhood, so participating in neighborhood meetings is critical.
Portland is known for its “planning” and “process.” For neighborhoods, that means we as residents have ways to influence the plans and zoning that affect us. Portland uses “comprehensive plans” to provide structure and certainty for both developers and neighborhoods. These plans have a 20-year horizon and are updated as the end of the plan period nears.
The Portland Plan
The Portland Plan is nearing the 20-year mark. It covers the entire city and includes revisions to zoning, so it can affect how every property can be developed and used in the future. The Central City Plan is a subset of this larger plan dealing with the “central city” which includes the Lloyd District on our southern boundary. The Rose Quarter is within the Central City and will be included in that plan. Conclusions from the Rose Quarter Development Project and N/NE Development Economic Initiative will be reflected in revisions to both the Central City and Portland Plans. I recently heard that the planning process is likely to begin with the Rose Quarter and Eliot as soon as the plans for the Quarter are settled this spring.
The most significant impact of comprehensive planning is zoning changes. These can take the form of changes to what is allowed in existing “zones” as well as changes to the zoning of individual parcels of land. Areas where new zoning may be proposed include the area south of Russell and west of Williams and the area along MLK. It is unlikely residential zoning in Eliot will be changed although we may pursue “downzoning” in the historic core of Eliot if there is sufficient support. That would make it more difficult to construct modern in-fill condos and “skinny” houses.
Urban Renewal Areas
Eliot is also included in two Portland Development Commission (PDC) urban renewal areas – Interstate and Convention Center. The Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal Area (OCCURA) includes the Lloyd District, the southern portion of Eliot, and extends along MLK and parts of Alberta and Killingsworth. The area expires in 2013 and there are projects the City, citizens, and developers would like to see PDC continue to support, including programs that help businesses and property owners along MLK.
The N/NE Economic Development Initiative is considering what properties north of Broadway to include in an expanded Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area (ICURCA); see map. There are three options: to limit expansion to that area currently included in the OCCURA; increase the area from the sidewalks to the adjacent commercially zoned properties; and to include all of Eliot (except the hospital which wants to be exempted). Expansion beyond the current boundaries brings potential benefits to properties included. For commercial properties, these include subsidies and loans for business expansion and development. For residential properties these include assistance for low-income homeowners and for development of low-income housing.
Unfortunately, Eliot’s experience with housing development is that it comes at the expense of our existing historic single family housing. Expansion to include Eliot’s residential areas poses a real threat to accelerated demolition of this housing in favor or high rise, low-income units and condos. Accordingly, Eliot is opposed to expansion in these areas but in favor of expansion to properties along MLK not suitable for single family housing.
Rose Quarter Development
The development of the property immediately north of the Rose Quarter could be stimulated by new uses at the Quarter. Unfortunately, large parcels in this area are in public use and not zoned for development. There is suggestion that this area should be included in both the Rose Quarter Development Strategy and in the Central City Plan. In Eliot this is roughly from Vancouver west to the river and south of Russell. West of I-5 the area may extend no further than N. Tillamook. Most of the land is owned by Portland Public School District or the City. Private land owners have expressed interest in residential development like the Pearl, but only if the public land was rezoned and slated for sale.
If the Rose Quarter is developed as a “24-7” community based primarily on entertainment facilities, it would benefit from an adjacent residential neighborhood. A dense residential neighborhood would also stimulate location of services currently missing in Eliot, especially a full service grocery store.
Columbia River Crossing
The Columbia River Crossing project has been surrounded by confusing claims and actions by project supporters and detractors. Despite its distance from Eliot, it and other planned transportation projects will impact Eliot, largely negatively, despite their merits for the larger region. The Multnomah County Health Department responded to the CRC impact statement saying the project will negatively impact the health of county residents, especially those along I-5. Their comments apply generally to any and all transportation projects that increase auto traffic. Read the entire response here.
In brief, they claim: the projected traffic increases (roughly 40% more during the PM commute) will increase pollution and noise related health problems; facilitating increased commuting will increase obesity rates; the planned bike lanes are too narrow for safe bike commuting; and they decry the potential of new ramps to disrupt existing communities and further divide those currently bisected by I-5. With respect to the last point, the most recent proposal is even worse as is puts a 12-lane freeway down the middle of the Hayden Island shopping center dividing island residents in two, isolating them from each other, and moves the freeway adjacent to a mobile home park occupied by mostly elderly, fixed-and-low-income residents.
Regardless where individual Eliot residents stand on the bridge, for or against, it should be clear it will have negative health and community impacts on every Eliot resident and those along the length of the I-5 corridor through north Portland. Eliot residents should also be aware that the bridge will make congestion along I-5 in Eliot worse. There are plans to “improve” this area as well. The plans I have seen include widening the freeway which will remove some businesses and put the freeway in the backyards of Eliot residents south of Russell.