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Monday, February 6, 2006

Engine noise

The February edition of the Hollywood Star is here, and as ever, this little monthly shopper paper keeps us up to speed on all sorts of land use and other issues affecting neighborhoods over here on the Idaho side of the river.

Two continuing stories jump out this month. This post will cover the first one: The family that owns the Colwood Golf Course out by the airport (the one you might cut through if you're coming into PDX from the west) is pressing ahead with its plan to have the whole joint, 140 acres, rezoned from open space to industrial. This is tragic on a number of levels, but my biggest concern is that "industrial" here means "airport." The bloated Port of Portland bureaucracy has been licking its chops over this land for years, to put yet another runway in.

With the land clearly identified on all sorts of airport master plans as the new runway, there's little chance, is there, that any serious industry would relocate there? Why would a business put down roots knowing that they'll be ripped out by a condemnation proceeding in a few years?

Tragedy level 2: PDX does not, repeat, not, need another runway. The place is already overbuilt, and this has the strong odor of a makework project about it. If we can't bring Porkland back as a real shipping port, the staff at the Port ought to be downsized, not egged on to spend more money.

Third problem, as is wisely pointed out by Star story: If a runway goes in, as a safety matter all the birds in the area will have to be actively chased away. This after environmentalists have spent decades trying to clean up the Columbia Slough, which runs right through the property, so as to attract wildlife.

And the noise! Any runway built where Colwood is now is going to have a majorly deleterious effect on homes in the Alameda and Rose City neighborhoods. There's already all kinds of static about the auditory pollution inflicted on area residents by the airport; why the neighborhoods are not putting 2 and 2 together and screaming bloody murder about the expansion of the problem is puzzling.

Finally, it's a real drag that the city isn't trying to get its hands on this whole tract and make it part of the municipal park system. They've got $7 million to buy contaminated land in the SoWhat district for a two-acre park for the empty nester condo dwellers, but there's not a penny left to save a blue collar golf course out on NE Columbia. It figures.

The City Council will eventually have to bless the rezoning, but based on its track record in matters such as this over the Katz years, I suspect it wll slide right through. Somehow the well-connected Tom Imeson types will make a few hundred thou off the deal. And as the golden era of the Rose City fades further into memory, the Colwood deal will be just another brick in the wall.

Comments (11)

Ok, nobody likes noise pollution. So why do people live near airports? It doesn't take much investigation when buying a house to determine if the house is under the flight path for an airport. I can understand the concerns of newly affected residents but cities have to deal with this problem in any new project, such as a freeway.

A North-South runway of a proper length is needed to allow aircraft to land safely when the wind is from the North or South. Ever have one of those landings where one side of the airplane touches down before the other? That is probably due to what is called a crosswind landing, where the wind is blowing across the runway and not down the runway. If the crosswinds get to be too speedy then the airplane cannot land.

That being said, the question becomes do we want to close PDX and move it somewhere else? It's going to need to expand as the area grows. Where should the new PDX be sited? McMinnville? Woodburn? Aurora?

Pretty interesting comment, coming from a Rockwell International IP address.

Nice try. The airport is fine as it is. There is no safety problem that requires another runway.

The people who bought their homes in Rose City and Alameda did so with the expectation that the existing landing patterns would continue. Airport weasels should not be able to change those patterns radically and then say, "It's your fault, you live too close."

The expansion of air traffic in this metropolitan area (if there really will be much) could easily be handled by places like Salem, Eugene and Hillsboro. The people in northeast Portland neighborhoods like Rose City and Alameda have the same right to the existing level of peace and quiet that those other cities enjoy. And the many Oregonians who drive long distances to PDX could get to their flights much more easily than dealing with I-5 at 4:00 in the morning.

While we're at it, let's have good, fast train service to Seattle and we can turn all of PDX into golf courses and bird sanctuaries.

Yes, the IP is correct, but I speak for myself and not the company.

Salem used to have airline service and deserves airline service but probably needs to do what Eugene did to entice more service - guarantee a minimum number of seats would be sold on each flight.

Eugene is already a good option for anyone down the valley needing connections to the east. Portlanders need to consider Eugene an option also as flights can sometimes be cheaper flying out of Eugene.

The City of Hillsboro restricts the size of aircraft at the present time. The FAA could probably get that restriction lifted by claiming Federal jurisdiction. Hillsboro Airport recently completed an extension of the main runway and I think the Port of Portland ended up buying some houses to do it.

As I said in my previous comment, the newly affected residents do have a reason to complain. I have no sympathy for residents who move next to an airport and then complain about the noise.

Thanks for the good info; I think we're in agreement on most of this.

PLM: I bought my house in the Concordia neighborhood eight years ago and the air traffic overhead was slight at best. Several years ago they shifted traffic that used to go over the west hills to our neighborhood (gee, wonder why that happened?) and its been a pain in the rear ever since. There has been some current movement to improve the problem (I'll believe it when I hear it), but dealing with the city/port/pdx on this is a nightmare. Not only do they not want to hear about the noise problems, they downright lie about routes and how low the planes are allowed to come down.

I did expect some noise being this close to the airport, but this has been absurd. And Jack's right: this airport doesn't come close to needing another strip.

I can walk out my door, stand in the middle of Cully Blvd, look NNE, and see the airport tower.

Brian K. Miller of GlobeSt.com Tuesday, January 03, 2006


With industrial development having steadily been pushed eastward, a large chunk of development ready land so centrally located between Interstates 5 and 205 will be quite valuable. While development ready parcels in outer northeast Portland are selling for between $4 and $6 per sf, the Colwood Golf Course property could sell for between $7 and $8 per sf, one local industrial broker tells GlobeSt.com. At that price, the developable portion of the land, maybe 115 acres, would be worth as much as $40 million.


I am a real estate broker with an economics background and I have sat in on some legal classes, as if that matters. I sit smack in the middle of the noise zone where departing aircraft will be using maximum thrust to gain altitude.

I am not here to argue noise, but money. I have farmed the Rose City Park area (in the real estate sense), and remain aghast at the prices for shelter (not investment) and at the extremely debt-overburdened set of glorified renters in the area. I have analyzed the details of price-level as best as one can from gleaning useful data derived from the tax assessor rolls and RMLS. I have even split out all the little neighborhood areas so as to understand nuances between them.

Let's substitute an alternative piece of property for consideration and comparison: the area bounded by Cully and 72nd, on the West and East, and Prescott and Killingsworth, on the South and North. The existing development in this area was not as well-planned as the area adjoining to the South and the area a bit further to the West. The prices reflect this lack of planning, at least so long as it remains restricted to haphazard residential development and limited-infill.

Let's alter just one key component of the zoning: Allow the above described area to be zoned in identical manner to that of proposed airport expansion for industrial uses, but for one exception, that of allowance of a runway.

The folks who desire land could find it and bargain for it within each of the respective areas and the current residents who would be subjected to higher noise could elect to sell, voluntarily at a market determined rate, without any public gifts going to the buyers. By having a common zoning between the areas we could then compare apples to apples, so to speak. By not having a common zoning the residents would be told to simply get used to the noise, as it is in the public good, and by the way, shut up, as it is the City Council that is speaking.

Shall I measure the lost opportunity from not being granted a common zoning to that of the proposed expansion area? The Columbia Blvd exit off of I-205 is already a well traveled route for industrial traffic, thus transportation objections or costs are virtually non-existent. Should I take my efforts at writing about Urban Reserves more than a decade ago as to the Urban Growth Boundary and apply precisely the same reasoning and conclusion to the above described area? The current residents lose by reason of delay in rezoning to a higher and better use, in favor of particular developers with clout in government.

Jack - "why the neighborhoods are not putting 2 and 2 together and screaming bloody murder about the expansion of the problem is puzzling"

The Cully area has lots of poor folks that are just scraping by, and few of them have the educational tools or financial heft to raise much of a stink. I could point you to census data sites for further study of aggregate demographic and income comparisons. This is not Alameda.

PLM -- "I have no sympathy for residents who move next to an airport and then complain about the noise."

I have no sympathy for someone who desires selective benefit of rezoning so as to avoid uniform establishment or adjustment of zoning boundaries based on objectively measurable criteria.

As to the noise, I still get a kick out of the military aircraft that like to point their nose straight up and hit the go button. The desire for thrill by the military pilot might have a public purpose behind it, in terms of recruitment, that exceeds the claimed public purpose to make commercial air traffic scream over me. I have only flown on commercial aircraft once, but that was when someone else paid. I won't be riding these airplanes anywhere. I live in the little economic dead zone, and the airport runway expansion would reduce any meager incentive of big-time property aggregators to take full advantage of the area described above for higher-end residential redevelopment (at least not yet, and not until the airport expansion possibility dies forever, which is never). The noise harms the area's use for residential purposes (it manifests that which is only a latent risk today), and that alone could be grounds to insist upon accommodation by rezoning, NOW, for industrial and commercial use, even if it is only by reason of the increase in noise.

(Sorry for the length.)

The Port of Portland is another one of those politburo-style government agencies, like the PDC, that make big decisions affecting our lives although the decision makers are not answerable to the citizens. Didn't the Port move into a fancy new building a few years ago, never having to justify the expense to the voters?

Count me in favor of the bullet train to Seattle. It would be more cost effective than expanding the airport. And a significant percentage of flights in and out of PDX are either to or from Seattle.

Gil Johnson at February 6, 2006 11:32 PM Count me in favor of the bullet train to Seattle. It would be more cost effective than expanding the airport.
JK: Don't count on it being cost effective. The current rail service from Eugene to Portland costs around $100 per boarding, mostly paid by taxpayers (like MAX light rail). Air service is mostly paid for by users NOT TAXPAYERS (like cars & roads).


Well, JK, I'm sure you can construe a cost/benefit analysis of high speed rail any way you want, depending on the factors you look at. I don't have any of those facts and I don't know where yours come from. But some things to consider:

1) High speed rail may reach a better economy of scale simply by using the same train more times a day than we do now with slow speed rail.

2) High speed rail will draw primarily from people who drive cars from Oregon to Seattle, not just air traffic. Since the traffic jam in the Puget Sound starts a bit north of Olympia, a frequent high speed train may put off the need for expanding I-5 or building alternate routes in that area.

3) If I can get from downtown Portland to downtown Seattle in 90 minutes, I would be willing to pay a higher price for the ticket. This is about the same time it takes to drive or MAX to PDX, fly Horizon and then cab to downtown Seattle. And a lot less hassle.

4) Finally, there are those factors that conservative bean counters hate to consider, which are environmental and social costs, such as the pollution and resource depletion of using hundreds of small engines (cars) or several large engines battling gravity (planes) to carry the same number of people as one relatively efficient engine (a train).

"""" Didn't the Port move into a fancy new building a few years ago, never having to justify the expense to the voters?""""

Yes, and now they are planning a move and construction of a new building out at the Airport.
Again without public approval.

My guess, having watched the Port's activities for a number years, is they may me siphoning off as "management" costs, large dollars amounts of their projects to use to pay their monthly operating costs.
This in addition to the liquidation of large assets, such as the shipyards and dry-docks, over the last few years.

If they stop dreaming up projects and things to sell they won't be able to maintain their excessive bureaucracy with all it's high compensating positions operating without any scrutiny or accountability.

BTW, not sure about the Port, but I was told the other day that the average compensation at PDOT is over $90,000/per employee
I find that amazing.

As far as high speed rail is concerned.
Right now Amtrak shares the tracks with Freight trains who have priority. Resulting in chronic lateness of trains.

If HS rail were to be achieved an entire new set of tracks would be needed.
Given there is no established need or demand for such a system the cost would be another whopping boondoggle.

Those are those factors which liberals and conservatives alike should never avoid considering.

The more I read the more it appears Mr. Lister understands this.

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