An interesting little story got lost in the media void that is the Saturday paper. The O reported that the developer interests down in the SoWhat district of Portland are twisting the city's arm pretty hard to not spend too much of their precious urban renewal dollars on affordable housing:
An advisory committee mainly of property owners with some residents of the emerging South Waterfront area has come out against a citywide policy that would require such redevelopment projects to spend about one-third of their public money on affordable housing. While the committee said it favors funding for such projects in South Waterfront and across the city, it did not favor having a "predetermined set aside" that might leave less money for other priorities....What arrogance. Here the city is shelling out nine figures for their little la-la land already, and these folks want to make sure that more city money goes for their landscaping instead of a few places where normal people can live. Screw the affordable housing, let's build more park for the condo dwellers.
Committee members said they felt the City Council's proposal would restrict their decision-making too much year-to-year and shortchange budgets for parks, a riverfront greenway and streets in the mostly vacant industrial area. Like many urban renewal areas, the one that covers the South Waterfront is short of cash for a wide range of projects.
Committee members, at a meeting Thursday, were concerned about how to fund road projects costing tens of millions of dollars and a lush riverfront greenway that could cost $30 million or more. Costs for many of the parks and other amenities foreseen in the area are still unknown.
"Those are the kinds of things the council needs to understand," said Rick Saito, who along with some partners owns 3.6 acres in the district.
When they sold SoWhat to former Mayor Katz and the rest of the then-City Hall crew (two of whom just got themselves so easily re-elected), Homer Williams, Peter Kohler, and Neil Goldschmidt made all sorts of promises. Nanotechnology jobs. Biotechnology jobs. Affordable housing. Towers so thin they'd be like the teeth of a comb. A $15 million aerial tram [rim shot].
And if they get their way, every one of them will turn out to be a bald-faced lie.
What's really galling is Sam Adams, the developers' new b*tch on the City Council. Formerly Vera's "economic development" expert (a laughable credential), now he's ready to play ball with the condo crew, just like his old boss always did:
Part of the disagreement appears to stem from whether the council wants all urban renewal areas to allocate the same percentage of budgets to affordable housing.There you go. You can smell it, can't you? Homer wins again.
"A one size fits all approach is not good," said Mark Williams, Oregon Health & Science University's manager overseeing the university expansion in South Waterfront.
For his part, Adams said he doesn't want to see a single requirement for all the areas. Some of the areas are focused on industrial development and don't even have residential zoned land, he noted.
Extending debt levels of some districts could help them all reach an average of 30 percent funding across all the districts, he said.
Commissioner Sten wasn't available for the O story. But now that he's re-elected, you wonder whether he'll give in to these guys, too. My opinion of him and the rest of his colleagues would improve a great deal if they imposed the 30 percent requirement, and told OHSU and Homer what they should have told them five years ago: No.