What's happening now

Formerly the home of Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth, the Portland Land Matters blog explores citywide land-use concerns, such as home demolitions, with the belief that development should create an improvement.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Picture this: scenes from ground level

Some images write their own captions all day long.

Here are some photos taken during construction of the high-impact project on Northeast Fremont between 44th and 45th avenues. With two cars damaged so far, along with neighbors' fences and trees, as well as crew members running heavy trucks roughshod over Fremont sidewalks and a general disregard for allowed work hours, few friends are being made out there. It shows—among other things—how inappropriately small the site is for the size and ambition of the project, and makes us wonder how the rest of construction will go. If the crew can't take care of the little things, how will they finesse building infrastructure?

Looking south on Northeast 45th, not a lot of room for 36 additional cars.
Looking north, not a lot of extra space either. The street is so narrow that when both sides are parked up, through traffic becomes one-way only. 

Typical rush-hour morning traffic, backed up for three blocks and idling on the crosswalk.
The site's sidewalk closure poses a safety hazard to all.

With bungalows selling for $50,000 over asking and McMansions sprouting in their places, the hammers continue to swing around Beaumont-Wilshire as well as at the contested site of Wally Remmers's low-amenity four-story building on Northeast Fremont. The fact that such an out-of-scale project with outsize impact was given the city's nod makes me recall when, not long ago, the city was accused of being anti-business. Now, with developers exploiting communities across the east side, could the city have swung to the other extreme, to anti-neighbor?

Hopefully this case can be sorted out by the state Land Use Board of Appeals. If all goes to plan and process, the city will produce the record of the permitting decision this time around. When Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth filed its initial notice of intent to appeal, which triggered the LUBA process, it was a day or two before the city's deadline when suddenly the permit was withdrawn for "strengthening."

With the Richmond debacle fresh in our minds, we hope this appeal goes smoothly, that all parties can fulfill their required duties in the time allotted. When I queried Mike Hayakawa, supervising planner at the Bureau of Development Services, about the permissibility of withdrawing the permit to tweak it thus, he said that what they were doing wasn't in the code at all, explaining: "The City of Portland withdrew the building permit decision for the purpose of the legal proceeding at LUBA. Because it is part of the LUBA proceeding, this is not in the city code." How handy that the permit can be fixed while the developer continues to build.

For some background to the no-parking controversy, listen to Rick Michaelson (sp?), testify at City Council last month (fast-forward to 104:55 of Part I), explaining how we came to be in this predicament. Basically, in 1975 as Portlanders saw ever more buildings demolished in the highly dense northwest part of Portland for parking lots, CS-zoned parcels were exempted from parking requirements. With one fell swoop, the city created a neighborhood known for parking hassle and an ongoing migraine for the city's east side. 

It's worth noting that Michaelson, one of the architects of limiting parking lots in Northwest Portland, testified in favor of the parking minimums recently passed by City Council, suggesting they should apply to buildings with as few as 20 units. It's also worth noting that the Northeast Fremont project wouldn't be permitted today as designed. Of course, Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth maintains that it shouldn't have been permitted in the first place, for reasons of parking and many others.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Let it be LUBA

At a well-attended meeting May 22 (many thanks to those who were able to be there, and for the thoughtful contributions), Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth decided to continue our efforts seeking to influence the outcome of the apartment building project on Fremont between Northeast 44th and 45th avenues. 

We will resubmit a notice of intent to file an appeal with the state Land Use Board of Appeals. The previous notice of intent to appeal filed by our group was stalled by the city and the developer who, instead of producing the record of the permit decision as required by LUBA, withdrew the building permit to "strengthen" it. After the city resubmitted the permit, and LUBA was notified, the appeal process had to begin again.

This pivotal meeting of BWNRG members focused on the realities of the larger impact this apartment building has; not just in the immediate vicinity of the project, but also the broader implications for development in the Beaumont-Wilshire (and more) neighborhoods along Fremont as well as in the other communities in Portland being impacted by large-scale development. We remain committed to maintaining our presence in this important conversation.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Does the project have a permit? Depends on who's asking.

With both the city attorney and the developer claiming to have withdrawn the permit for the Northeast Fremont building, it's hard to know who will make what happen next. City staff seem to say that despite the permit being withdrawn for LUBA purposes, it's still in effect at the local level. According to news reports they took the action in order to "strengthen" the permit. Hopefully they come back with amended plans showing a greatly improved building.

Dodging their first deadline to submit the record of the permit to LUBA, the codefendants with this interruption create a longer process, but one that can be restarted if necessary. Despite the setback (ha), Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth hopes for a transparent, cooperative effort that leads to a more successful project and mitigation of outsize impacts.