Land Use News For Winter 2012

New Construction Means New Residents

Proposed Development for the corner of Rodney (top view) and Graham (Bottom View)

Two new residential in-fill developments are moving forward in Eliot.  The first one is rising on the site of the former Morning Star Baptist Church.  While it was sad to see the church leave the neighborhood, the vacant lot wasn’t a welcome replacement.  Now several duplex-style townhomes are being built on the site.  These will soon be joined by five single homes on the parking lot of the former Cox and Cox funeral home (Graham and Rodney).  Despite the sour real estate market, Eliot remains an attractive location and the builders of both projects claim they have had no problem selling these types of homes elsewhere.

Two New Apartment Complexes on MLK?
A proposal to construct a new 40 (-/+) unit affordable apartment complex on the corner of Cook and MLK seems to have hit a snag.  The developers have presented their design to the Land Use Committee twice and were preparing to do so in November, however they cancelled their appearance.  They said they would reschedule, but haven’t thus far.  The PDC owned lot just north of this site (Ivy and MLK) has attracted the interest of another developer.  They have yet to appear before the Land Use Committee, so their plans and the status of their plans isn’t clear.  Regardless, the continued interest is encouraging.

New Resident Coyote?
The vacant lot at Cook noted above seems to be a haven for a resident coyote.  It was observed Christmas Day running down Fremont after it was flushed from the brush by dog being walked by a neighbor.  She lost control of the dog in the heat of chase and was giving the coyote a run for its money.  The dog returned to the owner.  A coyote has been sighted frequently around 17th and Fremont.  This may be the same one.  In any case, it looked well fed and now that it is clearly prowling in Eliot, this prompted an article about coexisting with urban wildlife elsewhere in the paper.

The Big Plan
The Portland Plan continues to grind through its process.  A draft plan is out but comments will be closed by the time this article appears.  It can be found at http://www.portlandonline.com/portlandplan/index.cfm?c=56527&.  The Plan recognizes that current fiscal realities limit how “big” the City can dream.  It also emphasizes “equity,” which is a pet for the current Mayor, but may not be for his replacement, partly because it isn’t well defined.  As the plan acknowledges, public resources are limited.  Providing public support for one element of the population can only come at the expense of another.  Portland already taxes its residents more than surrounding cities and has much higher permit fees for just about everything.  There is a risk that increasing taxes, fees, and permit requirements will drive middle class residents and small businesses out of the city, as they have many wealthy Portlanders.  As the plan states on the first page, “We need a better plan.”

The draft Plan will be reviewed by appropriate commissions and elected leaders and adopted by City Council next year, after which its recommendation will be implemented in policies and zoning changes.

The Little (but More Important) Plan
Within the larger planning process the City is also revising the Central City Plan.  That process began about a year ago with revisions to the Northeast Quadrant of the Central City, and area that included parts of Eliot south of Russell as well as the Rose Quarter and Lloyd District.  The Quadrant Plan is more specific than the Portland Plan, as it includes specific recommendations for changes in zoning and realignment and re-designation of roads in the district.  Chief among these is a proposal to widen I-5 by removing the existing over-crossings (Broadway, Weidler, Vancouver, and Flint).  Some of these would be replaced: exactly which ones and where is a hot topic in the planning process at this point.  Freeway engineers want to redesign the I-5 on/off ramps with wide lanes and sweeping turns that better suit a suburban location.  The limited land area for those changes mean the proposed designs will be disruptive to nearby residences and businesses.  The current proposal also re-routes some of the bus routes and other traffic onto a new overpass at Hancock.

At this point, the residential neighborhoods involved in the Quadrant Plan process (Eliot, Irvington, Lloyd, and Sullivan’s Gulch) see no benefit to any of us and much harm from the disruption of traffic, streetcar use, and development plans that demolition and reconstruction would require.  Privately, traffic planners concede the primary benefit of these changes is to reduce the bottleneck on I-5 which will be even worse if the Columbia River Crossing it built.  In the view of the residential neighborhoods, our livability is being sacrificed to speed Vancouver commuters through town.  Accordingly, we are opposed to the whole idea of the project, although we favor improvements to Broadway and Weidler where the freeway ramps intersect.  Those are necessary to make that area better for pedestrians and bikes.  Eliot is also on record opposing the proposed Hancock overpass as it would result in an increase in traffic, especially truck traffic, on Hancock and probably on Rodney as well.  The final proposed Quadrant Plan is expected this Spring.  Again, depending on who the new Mayor is, it may be dead on arrival.  (One candidate is a proponent of streetcars and likely would not support this proposal.  Another is associated with a firm in the immediate area that might benefit from the proposed changes, despite the harm they would do to Eliot.)

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