It was with high hopes that residents of the Eliot and Boise neighborhoods took time out of their days to be active participants in the Design Advice Request (DAR) on Thursday. This was likely our last chance to voice our concerns over the development of the lot at NE Williams and Fremont and the future development of the overall neighborhood that each one of us has invested quite personally in. When City Council approved the zoning change from R1 to RXd, it was stated that the DAR hearing would be our guarantee of finding that middle ground where neighbors and developer would meet. This was not that place. It felt more like being stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean, trying to yell for help to the mainland. And we only get to yell for three minutes.
Many of you are familiar with the NARA Indian Health Clinic located on the corner of N. Morris and Williams but may not know much about the organization. Founded in 1970 in Portland, the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, Inc. is an Indian-owned, Indian-operated, non-profit agency. Originally an outpatient substance abuse treatment center, NARA NW now operates a residential family treatment center, an outpatient treatment center, a family resource program, transitional housing for Native women and Children, a primary health care clinic and Totem Lodge which serves as their mental health resource location. All services are centered on the family as it is NARA NW’s philosophy that, “Without the family circle there will be no future.”
Ben Kaiser’s proposed 85 foot tall building on the SE corner of Williams and Fremont went for a “design advice review” by the Design Commission October 24th. The Design Commission only reviews projects upon appeal or through Type III permit procedures. Ben could have avoided this review but he agreed to it during the Council hearing on his zone change request. Exactly what he agreed to is in dispute. I believe he agreed to Design Commission review and approval but the Planning staffer assigned to the case, Hillary Adam, told the Commission he didn’t need to consult them further. We are seeking clarification. Decisions of the Commission can be appealed to City Council, otherwise it is Hillary’s call and Type II permit reviews don’t provide much protection to neighborhoods.
A group of neighbors that are most impacted by a proposed development on the corner of Williams and Fremont have filed an appeal with the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) in opposition of a zone change made in June. They have also started a website for their cause.
During the great recession of 2008, many construction projects nationwide halted. New project proposals slowed to a rate that has not been seen in recent memory. Property values fell nationwide, but some interesting trends were associated with those changes. More Americans are starting to value walkable, close-in neighborhoods, like Eliot, over more car-dependent areas. And these preferences are not just with their hearts but also with their dollars. This was a trend that has been going on in Portland for quite a while, but it is having some real results on the ground in Eliot in the ‘10s.