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.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Positive change is possible—let's see some

While the city rolls up its sleeves to clear the way in the comprehensive plan for the mostly out-of-town developers and Wall Street investors plying our city, it's worth wondering why. It used to be people picked Portland as a place to live because they wanted to be part of the creativity, and contribute to it. They would throw in together as roommates, renting homes in real neighborhoods and pitching in for causes that interested them. There was no expectation of gleaming new loft apartments with dog washes.

Listen to one Seattle artist's commentary:


John Criscitello (Excerpt, 2015) from Jason Evans on Vimeo.

Now people arrive in Portland with cravings for cupcakes, ice cream, and cocktails (not that there's anything bad about those things), but actual participation in the community beyond a commercial bent ranks low. In other words, if you're bringing to the party nothing beyond an appetite, it's like showing up at Burning Man with a six-pack, a video camera, and an RV—nothing to share, everything to take.

If Portland pursues this kind of immigration wholesale, seems like we'll just have more selfie takers and jokes at the shooting scene and more newcomers mowing down creative, valued members of our cultural scene.

Killing us softly, I see.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman (in tie) drops by the October meeting of the
Development Review Advisory Committee, where Development Services
Director Paul Scarlett (on his left) talked about the bureau's
continued cost-recovery mode even with $30 million in the bank.
Rich with cash, poor on enforcement

Senior planner Barry Manning and others at the Bureau of Planning love to say that "one size does not fit all" when it comes to Portland development. So why do they want to collapse nine existing zones into four? This doublespeak recalls some of the finest heard from the Bush enterprise, viz., if one's military record is at issue, go ahead and attack the competitor's Purple Heart, or if one's cozy familial relationships with Middle East interests are called into question, start a war there.

Manning attended the Development Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) meeting Oct. 15 to present the mixed-use zones concepts, where "bonuses" such as additional height will be awarded to developers to do the right things. When Los Angeles tried something similar, the new rules had the opposite effect and projects emerged even bigger and more onerous, leading to a building moratorium there until such loopholes can be closed and code fixed for the better. Hopeful moral to that story: We don't have to go south to learn from others.

A demo worker taking down a house on Southeast Hawthorne
Boulevard had this to say to antidemo activists last month, but
he should save it for the bosses who exposed him
to hazardous materials that could affect him for life.
Courtesy Julie Handsaker Gray
At the same meeting (more on it here), DRAC members again expressed concern about the Bureau of Development Services' running balance of $30 million, how that looked to outsiders and whether the funds were enough (!) and whether they would be poached by City Council. All good questions. Presumably, the bureau awaits the bill from the seemingly apocryphal computer system called ITAP, which may make the Water Bureau's software debacle look like kid stuff. (Maybe like a good wrestler down for the count, BDS should have ITAP-ped out by now.)

In the meantime that $30 mil just sits there. I asked whether some of the money could be used for enforcement, and Director Paul Scarlett answered, "Yes and no." Given the lack of oversight over demos and building, the latter answer seems most accurate.