The current Comprehensive Planning process provides city planners with a once every 20-year opportunity to rethink planning processes and tools. It is evaluating two tools that are important to Eliot as part of that process; the Ex zone and “institutional” (hospitals and colleges) land uses and users.
When the current Comp Plan was adopted in 1993, mixed-use developments were an exciting and encouraging development but still relatively new. Financing a project with both commercial and residential elements was difficult so the need for a new “mixed use zone” wasn’t clear. The Ex zone was supposed to encourage “Employment,” but also allows residential development. It has since been a favored zone for mixed use developers, however, in order to accommodate “employment” activities, it has lax design requirements. Also, although residential development is allowed, it is not required. One consequence is that property zoned Ex may be used for a fast food drive through or a convenience store rather than a more dense development offering more employment opportunities and housing options. This concern led Eliot to encourage use of an Rx zone at the corner of Fremont and Williams recently, to its regret. (An Rx zone is Central housing, and allows buildings up to 100 feet high.) Planners expect to select citizen advisers to help evaluate the need for and characteristics of a new mixed use zone in January. That effort may not be completed for a year; however the “new” zone may be included in the draft Comp Plan this summer.
The City views colleges and hospitals as future “engines of growth.” Most colleges and hospitals in the city operate as “conditional uses” generally in the midst of residential neighborhoods. Emanuel Hospital is an exception, largely due to the fact it eradicated a large swath of Eliot to create its current campus and, as a result, Eliot demanded procedures to prevent its further encroachment into the neighborhood. The result was an Institutional zone for the Emanuel campus and adoption of an Institution Management Plan (IMP) to govern development within the campus. Although the IMP is complex and awkward to apply, it has served Eliot well. Nevertheless, Emanuel chaffs under its restrictions, there are areas Eliot would like to see improved, and other institutions in the city want more certainty than “conditional use” provides. (Conditional uses must be reaffirmed every 10 years and, in theory, could be revoked.) Planning staff have selected advisors to evaluate how it should treat institutions going forward. Generally, residents are fearful existing institutions will encroach or otherwise debase their neighborhoods, and institutions like Emanuel, covered by IMPs, want looser rules. This advisory committee will try to work through these issues to fulfill the City’s goal of accommodating economic development and neighborhood goals of preservation and enhancement. Eliot has a representative on this committee as does Emanuel. The current plan is for results in a year and input to the Comp Plan as it is developed.
Finally, the Bureau of Transportation has two ongoing projects that will affect Eliot in the near future: the Williams Traffic Improvement Project and the Rodney bikeway.
The Williams project has been covered in the News previously. Briefly, traffic will be reduced to one-lane along Williams except near New Seasons. Bike lanes will be improved and revised. Some parking will be removed and new traffic signals will be installed on North Cook. We have discussed potential traffic evasion problems with nearby neighbors and the City already, but more discussions are planned as construction starts. Rodney is targeted for a “neighborhood greenway” in the Portland Bike Plan. These are generally routes that have less traffic, slower vehicle speeds, and are better suited to occasional and timid riders than hard core commuting routes. When this was first proposed there were concerns that the street south of Sacramento is already too narrow for two cars to pass and fear that parking may be removed. We are inviting the lead Transportation planner for these projects to a special meeting of the Land Use Committee on February 3rd. Check the Eliot web site for further information.