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Monday, July 10, 2006

Old Town, old story

Is Portland going to knock down its downtown fire station and kick the Saturday Market out of its home to make way for a condo tower and wine and cheese purveyors? These proposals have been on the table for years now, and I've long since concluded that they are done deals. The fact that members of the public are actually paying attention to the various processes currently in play is slowing things down a bit, but the PDC continues to work behind the scenes making move after move while holding countless diversionary community meetings that disclose nothing.

There's apparently going to be yet another one with the Saturday Market vendors and fans this Friday. Don't hold your breath expecting any kind of serious announcement to come out of that, but do expect to come away with an incrementally stronger feeling that their current location is toast.

It looks as though there will never be a magic moment when the PDC or the City Council actually meets and "decides" these issues. But be shocked if they don't come to pass. Perhaps they'll use the old aerial tram [rim shot] ploy -- get it way down the road and then scream "It's too late to turn back now!"

For the record, the two moves are now being discussed as done deals over at the Parks Bureau (see page 2).

Comments (1)

Part of the problem is Park Bureau priorities are driven by the availability of PDC tax-increment-financing funding. Existing neighborhoods, however park-deficient they may be, can't compete with the "free" money PDC is able to we have multiple new parks in the Pearl (and in the works for South Waterfront) while other areas languish. It's the same story with roads and sidewalks and trams (oh my) for the new "neighborhood" of South Waterfront, while many long-established neighborhoods still lack basic infrastructure like drivable streets and sidewalks. And there's nothing in the works to fix this, or even give recognition to the problem.

The proposed East Side Streetcar is a perfect example...let's spend a quarter of a billion dollars not to provide better transportation for the residents of the east side, but let's use this as a "development tool" to create a new Pearl...and let those loyal riders of the #14 Hawthorne bus keep standing on their overcrowded bus commutes.

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 10, 2006 03:47 AM

It's even worse for city wide parks because SoWa ran short of TIF money and the Parks Bureau handed over another $2 million, on top of a previous 2, from their general fund to help pay for SoWa park improvements.
This is chaos planning, cover ups, shifting monies, scheming and the concealment of accounts, budgets, payments and revenue.
It's the worst possible mix of, mismanagement, a total absence of transparency and public agencies working in concert to cook deals without any consequences for the results.

Posted by: Steve Schopp at July 10, 2006 08:03 AM

Oddly enough in "Subsitute" City Council Resolution #36112 Adopted by Council on November 13, 2002

Approve Design/Development Phase Work for the OHSU/North Macadam Aerial Tram.

Written by Matt Brown, now in Homer Williams Employ formerly part-time for the City and as a "Consultant" on November 4, 2002.

And who shows up on (Portland's Lucky Number) page 13 of that Resolution as one of six members of the City Advisory Group named in the resolution, on the Team with Matt Brown,

was none other than Zari Santer of Parks.

One of the eight members of the so called Project TEAM who laid out the TRAM project, is it a wonder Parks ponied up another couple million.

It is all such a joke on the public I wonder when the people are going to stop being snookered by the same small circle of well connected characters that make all the decisions and then skillfully "manage" the public process.

Posted by: ParksQuestions at July 10, 2006 08:29 AM

You know what I wish our city government was doing? Preparing us for catastrophe. That would be such a noble effort. Imagine buying buildings - not to turn over to developers after claiming the land is worth minus dollars. But buying buildings here and there around the city and equipping them with stand-alone energy, communications, and shelter equipment in case we get clobbered with a gigantic earthquake. That would be such a cool statement from Portland to the world. Wouldn't it be a tremendous example of leadership? There could be a news story every three days - the latest progress in our efforts to prepare for a civic emergency. Maybe we could get the city council addicted to the concept. Think of these private partnerships as a heroin addiction, and preparing for an emergency as the methadone program that helps them deal with their problem.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 10, 2006 09:02 AM

But buying buildings here and there around the city and equipping them with stand-alone energy, communications, and shelter equipment in case we get clobbered with a gigantic earthquake.

Indeed, the list of projects like this could go on. How about earthquake proofing several of the bridges in downtown, whose presence following an earthquake will be absolutely vital for ferrying the injured to OHSU, getting services out to neighborhoods, etc. Or how about ugrading 911 services--do you know that 40 simultaneous calls to 911 will completely overwhelm the system? 40! Want to take bets on whether more than 40 people will call if there's a big earthquake??

Sadly, upgrading bridges and 911 infrastructure doesn't get a mention in Sunset magazine, whereas brand new parks and restaurants do.

Posted by: Dave J. at July 10, 2006 09:23 AM

North Macadam is not getting its one park, the Moody St Park at this time. $7.2M dollars were recently spent to acquire the block with $2M from the Parks Bureau budget. An additional amount was spent to demolish the Storage Co. buildings and clean up the toxic site.

Now it has been graded with new top soil to plant ground cover. But there is no money in the Parks Bureau budget or in the NM URD budget to pay for the parks completion, not until 2012; if there's any money at all left since the transportation portion of the NM budget is unfunded by over $120M. It will just be an open field for several years with no amenities.

The Moody St. Park is the only park in NM to serve over 15,000 people when it is built out. Why is it when other developers in our urban area develop property even at a much smaller scale, they are required to pay/build park(s) as part of their projects but not in NM or the Pearl, and more timely?

Posted by: Jerry at July 10, 2006 09:31 AM

City planners are hoping an earthquake knocks down the Sellwood Bridge to reduce traffic on Macadam.

Posted by: Steve Schopp at July 10, 2006 09:33 AM

Have you seen those military bridges that unroll? If I were Mayor I'd skip the Eastside Proejct till we had an instant bridge in a warehouse on the Eastside in the event all our bridges are knocked out. Build the rampo to the water on both sides and have a way to anchor it to whatever is left of our current bridges. Just have a plan and spend city money on that instead of the amusement park stuff.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at July 10, 2006 09:45 AM

Funny enough, I think that a military bridge actually is in their emergency plans.... they would put right next to the St. Johns Bridge....

Posted by: Ken at July 10, 2006 09:50 AM

You said "holding countless diversionary community meetings that disclose nothing."

Golly, that takes me back to my days volunteering on the Comprehensive Plan.

That was when learned the true meaning of the words "countless" and "diversionary" and also the words "meaningless" and "dupe."

Posted by: Abe at July 10, 2006 11:02 AM

My biggest beef with the PDC isn't its mission, just execution. A condo tower doesn't make sense in old town, but I would fully support converting the existing Sat Market site and adjacent fire station to a Pike Street market-like expo center... a place to combine the popular downtown farmers market and Sat Market into one destination. I remember the old Yamhill market as a kid... Portland needs that old-school touch in old town.

Posted by: TKrueg at July 10, 2006 11:07 AM

I've been holding my breath, and it has finally happened. Commissioner Adam's blog ( has finally recognized that infrastructure has to match the developments proposed:

"After meeting with the Corbett/Terwilliger/Lair Hill Neighborhood Assn., ODOT, and federal officials over the past month and yesterday evening, it is clear that additional large scale development of North Macadam that is like an transportation island similar to Hayden Island, would exponentially increase traffic on the already strained traffic system, that portion of I-5 would be crippled by traffic coming to and going from North Macadam, which is why I propose a temporary time-out for large scale development of North Macadam in Council on July 13."

I am pleased that Commissioner Adams has fairly applied and is consistent in his application of what our City's own Comprehensive Plan and the State 's Comprehensive Plan requires-infrastructure must be in place or congruent with development proposed. My cheek is sore.

Posted by: Lee at July 10, 2006 10:31 PM

It's bad enough that SoWa will be sucking the life out of basic services budget for decades to come because of the $600 to $800 million in UR TIF debt spending.
But because the increment is falling short parks has coughed up an additional 4 million right out of their already short fallen budget and also PDOT has forked over $3.5 million out of their budget.
It's reckless endangerment of fiscal prudence.

Posted by: Steve Schopp at July 10, 2006 10:42 PM

Fiscal Prudence is running the school district now, Steve.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 10, 2006 10:50 PM

We don't get anything like the kind of public disclosure that would permit us to judge what is going on in the town. And our daily newspaper doesn't usually help. I recently got an email from Gail O'Connell Babcock, the animal activist who was excluded from the Multnomah County animal shelter for directly inspecting public record at a kiosk that had been installed there for the purposed of allowing citizens that right, a right afforded under state law. She says Giusto did a favor to MCAS director, Mike Oswald by ousting her and that she was not even contacted to give her side of the story. Yet, the big O parrots the spin Oswald and Giusto are giving the story and hasn't reported that O'Connell Babcock is suing. (If anyone wants to see her account, email me and I will forward it).

Driving along MLK tonight, I saw a big billboard urging people to join the Oregon Humane Society. Before anyone inclined to join, thinking it would help animals,does so, I would recommend looking at what OHS and MCAS actually as opposed to what they are supposed to be doing. Like with most functions hereabouts, a cabal of "insiders": veterinarians, bureaucrats, animal users, and godknowswhatelse, try to manipulate public opinion away from the fact that these organizations have crept far from their missions.

Posted by: Cynthia at July 10, 2006 11:07 PM

That's what OHS and MCAS actually do, as opposed to what they are supposed to be doing.

Posted by: Cynthia at July 10, 2006 11:09 PM

The problem is that things are so layered that it has "disconnected" the public will with the public governance system as Adam Davis pointed out in the speech Ryan Frank posted on the Oregonian City Hall Weblog several months Ago.

In smaller entities, like a small town for example, you pays your taxes, and there is a fairly understandable outcome of the potholes getting fixed the sheriff getting paid, and a new fire engine being bought. The numbers and cost of services are something you can get your arms around. The bueaty of these smaller towns is that there is not enough money available for Developers etc to be able to play shell games with.

The bigger or more urbanized things become the more taxing authorities, fees, etc crop up. I think the best examples of this shell game are were the Bond Measures that failed in for the convention center expansion and lightrail a few years back. Theoretically when the bond measures failed, the projects would not be built. But somewhere the millions was pulled out of somewhere to pay for these.

The challenge Portland faces as it becomes more urbanized is to make sure their tax dollars, fees, etc go toward the services they need. As this post pointed out the "public involvement process" is a farce run by the same cast of characters over and over again. They may put some new faces out front, but the same folks are pulling the strings and making the profits.

I think Portland was on the right track in the 70's when they organized the neighborhood associations. I think if budgeting were brought down to that level people could connect again and if they could realize a benefit, ie more police service and parks ehancements if they accommodated a half-way house, a carrot, then the NIMBY problem could be minimized, though admittedly it will never go away.

There was a trend in business where the workers were envolved in budgeting and profit sharing and this saved a number of them, by eliminating waste and engaging the people in how they could save costs and their jobs.

The situation is not working right now as Frank pointed out in the first post of this string. Parks are only being developed to a large extent where there are TIF funds. This is cheating the rest of the neigborhoods like Frank's and yours Jack which have been asked to absorb increasing density without making the public improvements to accommodate maintaining the quality of life. Yet you are asked to pay for this, the worse situation are the Folks in East County, whose kids really need safe, supervised, places to play.

Posted by: John Capradoe at July 11, 2006 05:18 AM

Why not move the Saturday market up to OHSU? There will be guaranteed tram ridership figures and SoWhat parking garage usage assured for the weekends, the market gets some assurance of a permanent location, we have high rise, high income, poor-needn't-apply condos right where PDC wants them in Old Town, they can chase the street people and beggars out by imposing "private property" access restrictions to the market site, much like suburban malls, we'll move the market to a much more upscale clientele and remove all the the "untidy" elements from it, and finally, we'll get emergency medical services right there where they're needed, to boot. What's that you say? OK, if you have medical insurance, you're only a tram ride away from getting transport to a facility without the liability cap.

Posted by: John Rettig at July 12, 2006 07:19 PM


Couldn't you just see the fun we'd have climbing that hill in our heavily laden vans, cars, and pickups on icy mornings. (We're open until Christmas Eve, remember - and a lot of us start setting up around 6 am to be ready by 10 am.) We could put up bleachers for spectators and someone could handle the betting on who would make it and who would slide back down the hill. Espresso vendors could make a killing! ;>

I hate to say it, but parts of this plan are as bad as the PDC's. They seem to figure it doesn't really matter where they shove us, either we'll clean up the new neighborhood like we have the current site, or we'll be so indisposed we'll fall apart and fade away. Either way the PDC will be pleased.

We have customers from all across the country - actually the world. Visitors plan their vacations in Oregon with a trip to the Saturday Market in mind. Locals find it is a great place to take their company for a full day of fun, food, and shopping. My customers tell me these things.

We need a big open space with storage available. Part of it should be under cover and some of it should not. It must be on the MAX line. It needs plenty of parking for vendors and customers.

Any ideas? PDC is having another planning meeting on July 14th. Public input is from 1:15-3:30 or thereabout.

Come and show your support for a Portland landmark (400+ small businesses - over 30 years in operation) and let the PDC know they are being watched.

Posted by: Deb at July 13, 2006 02:02 AM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]


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