Land Use Summer Update

There isn’t much to report on but things that are pending may fill the entire fall issue of Eliot News! The “big” issues are the pending Williams and Rodney bike projects and the next version of the Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) proposal. Also, there are two developments proposed, one at Williams and Fargo and another at 7th and Brazee.

The Williams bike project has been extensively discussed in the News and neighborhood. Construction is planned for this summer. The Williams portion is “final;” however, there are ongoing discussions with the City on how new traffic signals on Cook will facilitate traffic cutting through Eliot. In addition, Rodney is planned as a more novice friendly bike route. This typically involves removing stop signs and adding speed bumps, which may further encourage cut through traffic and may shift some bike commuters to use Rodney instead of Williams, creating unintended bike/vehicle conflicts. Both projects were discussed further at the June 16th meeting. A formal letter stating Eliot’s position is expected from that meeting and will be reported on both in meeting minutes and the next Eliot News.

Previous issues of the News have also discussed the Comp Plan and Eliot’s request to change many of the current zones to accomplish a goal of preservation of our historic resources and directing new, high-density housing and “mixed use” development in appropriate areas along MLK and between Williams and Vancouver. The next draft of the Comp Plan is due in mid-summer, and it will be our next opportunity to see if they took any of our recommendations and to propose changes and offer additional comments. The biggest issue will be what the City does with our proposal.

A new housing project is being proposed for Williams and Fargo. We got our first look at this proposal June 16th. Land use committee notes will summarize what we learn in that meeting.

Another project is being proposed for the old gas station site at NE 7th and Brazee. We don’t know much about the project but the developer from Eugene suggested it would be a huge building with a maximum height of 75 feet and a 2-3 story building fronting the corner. This height and mass is allowed because the site is within 1,000 feet of a “major transit corridor.” Of course, all of the Historic Conservation District is within 1,000 feet of one of these, either Williams or MLK which makes a mockery of the preservation objective of a District! This is a major reason we proposed zone changes in the Comp Plan. There is only one building this high in Eliot, the new Children’s Hospital on the Emanuel campus and no others anywhere else in NE Portland north of Broadway. Obviously, a building this out of scale is inappropriate in a single family residential neighborhood and opposition to the concept is building. The developer will meet with the Land Use Committee July 21st to present their proposal and we will know what to expect and how to respond at that time.

I have received a number of calls, emails, etc. from a number of Eliot residents concerned about the number of homes for sale and the potential they will be demolished and dense infill developed in their place. For example, there are 5 houses for sale along NE Tillamook east of MLK! These are reasonable concerns. The only thing that can slow that process is that sellers demand very high prices for their homes, often by ignoring what realtors tell them, since by and large realtors are more interested in a quick commission than preserving neighborhood character (Kirsten excepted). Infill developers are happy to pay $300,000 so they can tear down a historic home and replace it with townhomes, so if you know anyone planning to sell a home on a standard lot, try to convince them to list it for a high price. They can always accept a lower offer if they want, but are limited by who they choose if the listed price is so low developers are interested.