LUTC Minutes 2011-11-21


November 21, 2011 Eliot Land Use and Transportation Committee Minutes

Submitted by Chair, Mike Warwick

6:35 pm call to order

Present:  Mike, Clint, Allan, Jason, Laurie, Kirsten, and Lee.  All of the current LUCT members were present.  Visitors included Greg Stone from VOA and Vic Remmers from Everett Homes NW.

VOA purchase of adjacent residence for client housing

The first item of business was the proposed purchase of a single family residence at 423 NE by VOA.  This structure is adjacent to the VOA facility that fronts on MLK.  It is one of two sngle family residences on the west end of Sacramento.  It is across the street from a vacant corner lot and a two story residence that the owner intends to sell for development or develop himself.  The home has some deferred maintenance therefore the sale price primarily reflects its land value as it is zoned EX.  VOA uses another single family home for permanent housing for program graduates and would like to use this one for the same purpose.  There are four tenants in its other home, all but one of which has been there for multiple years.  Tenants are able to return to the VOA facility for meals and rents are nominal, so tenants tend to stay once they are selected to live in the home.

Committee discussion centered on concerns that this purchase would expand the VOA program and converts a single family home to an institutional use, both of which are opposed by Eliot policies and the Good Neighbor Agreement with VOA.  Greg indicated the home would remain a residence and would not be use to expand treatment.  He also said the purchase has not been approved by the VOA Board so nothing is imminent.  Lee proposed a condition of approval be an amendment to the GNA to require the use for permanent (rather than transient) housing and prohibit any other use by VOA.  Greg said he found that acceptable and again indicated the Board has not approved the purchase and my not do so.

The committee voted to approve the purchase conditional on restrictions in the GNA as stated by Lee.  There was one abstention.

Confirmation of Committee Members to the Board and Officer Election

The Committee is required to confirm its membership for Board approval annually, along with the Officers for the year.  All committee members want to continue to serve on the Committee and their names will be presented to the Board for approval.  The current Chair (Mike Warwick) and Vice-Chair (Laurie Simpson) agreed to serve in their respective position again.  Allan pointed out that the by-laws for the Board limit terms of standing committee officers to three years.  Mike pointed out the LUCT Rules and Procedures do not limit terms for either officers or members to ensure continuity of experienced members and officers due to the complexity of land use decisions and importance of land use and transportation issues to Eliot.  He also pointed out the LUCT Rules were approved by the Board this past year and there was no discussion of changes to this provision, despite the Board having several months to review them.  Finally, he noted the Board’s by-laws have been in the process of being reviewed and revised for at least two years and therefore are less current.  Allan noted that he was just pointing out an inconsistency between the Board by-laws and the LUCT Rules and that since there were no other candidates for officer position he had no objection.  There being no other candidates the Committee voted to confirm Mike and Laurie’s re-election.

Neighborhood notification of lot subdivision

Vic Remmers of Everett Homes NW, came to the meeting to satisfy the requirement for subdivision proposals to notify the neighborhood.  Everett Homes has taken over the residential development proposed for the parking lot of the former Cox and Cox funeral home on the corner of Graham and Rodney.  The initial buyer had proposed constructing 3, 2-unit townhomes on the site and obtained a 6-lot subdivision.  Everett Homes plans to build 5, single family homes instead and needs approval for a 5-lot subdivision instead.  They presented their subdivision plan and expected building plans.  They indicated they have had great success with the development of two-story, single family homes that look very much like other homes in Eliot on narrow lots.  Each home will be about 1,600 Sq. Ft. with a Victorian look and front porch spanning the front of the home.  No garages or driveways are planned.

The committee discussed the plans and the lack of parking.  The city conducted a parking study and did not find a parking shortage; however, those studies are done by counting free parking spaces in the middle of the night.  Clint pointed out that on evenings when there is an event at the Wonder Ballroom parking is at a premium.  Nevertheless, parking is not required in most of Eliot.  The homes will be sited close to the sidewalk (the minimum setback is 10 feet), to create a large back yard.  Yards will be fenced and there was a discussion about how a fence along the length of the lot on the corner would isolate the homes from the rest of the neighborhood.  Vic indicated they were primarily interested in fencing rear yards and side yard fences would be negotiated with the buyers.  Once the subdivision is approved, the construction plans can be approved by City staff without any further input from Eliot.  Accordingly, the Committee wanted assurances that the plans presented would be the final product.  Vic indicated the plans he reviewed with us were essentially final, so that would be what was built barring any changes required by the City.

No action was required by the Committee.

Assorted updates

Mike was asked to review the status of the NE Quadrant Planning process.  He make a presentation similar to the one he gave to the Board the previous week.  The major planning issues seem to be going Eliot’s way at this point.  The re-zoning of the commercial enclave between Williams and I-5 has been incorporated into the proposed plan.  Building heights along Broadway will remain as they are currently.  They are currently the same along the Irvington portion and Irvington wants them reduced.  They feel they intrude too much on the historic feel of Irvington.  Mike argued similar heights should be maintained throughout the corridor since Irvington abuts a major commercial district with 20-story office towers.   A sudden transition to 2-4 story buildings makes little sense.  It appears Irvington will get what it wants, as usual.  However, Mike thinks he has been successful in convincing Planning staff that the maximum heights allowed in the Eliot portion of the corridor should not be allowed “by right” but restricted to serious proposals.  That change is needed to discourage speculators from squatting on the property in hopes someone will eventually want to purchase it to build a 100 foot tall building.  He has pointed out that has been the legacy of property up-zoned in the Albina Community Plan and it shouldn’t be duplicated in the next 20-year plan.

Transportation issues continue to be dominated by plans to widen I-5.  The two major impacts to Eliot will be the demolition of the I-5 overpasses to widen the freeway and reconfiguration of Flint to merge with Vancouver to accommodate a new overpass on Hancock.  Demolition of the Broadway and Weidler overpasses (as well as those for Flint and Vancouver) are needed to widen the freeway.  That could not occur for at least 5 years and more likely 8 to 10.  Mike has opposed this for two major reasons.  First, when the overpasses are removed it will seriously disrupt access via the Broadway Bridge to the Lloyd District as well as to the Rose Quarter from the east.  Construction is expected to take at least 18-months.  Typically, this kind of traffic disruption results in the failure of local businesses.  Obviously, the lack of access will reduce attendance at events in the Rose Quarter and probably lead to fewer events being scheduled.  It will also cause landowners along the streetcar route to postpone investment in new developments.  That would also include redevelopment of the Blanchard Block.  It appears other neighborhoods are siding with Mike on this point, although it is not clear their concerns will be reflected in the final plan.  That will require Eliot and others to attempt to address this issue politically.

The Hancock overpass is needed to provide a route for the Number 4 bus to Williams due to reconfiguration of the southbound off-ramp from I-5.  Mike has consistently opposed the Hancock over-crossing proposal as it provides no benefit to Eliot residents and will stimulate more truck and commuting traffic through Eliot.  Unfortunately, the most likely proposals to emerge from the planning committee require the Hancock overpass for the bus.  In recognition of Eliot’s concerns, transportation staff have an alternative design that will discourages (but not prevent) cut-through traffic.  They have indicated a willingness to install physical barriers to prevent it if needed.  If the overpass is inevitable, this compromise would significantly reduce the risks Mike fears.  Mike provided a schedule for the next few Planning meetings and sketched out the likely schedule for future public meetings as best they can be known.

Mike also noted that two developers hoped to attend the LUC meeting to discuss their affordable housing proposals for the lots south of Fremont on the east side of MLK.  One of these has met with the committee before, but the other is new and has a proposal for the Grant Warehouse site.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 PM.