For sale: Mount Tabor Park
A reader forwards this e-mail message, which if accurate, indicates that the city is planning to sell off a chunk of Mount Tabor Park in southeast Portland:
Thanks to all of you who came to the Mt Tabor Neighborhood Association (MTNA) meeting last night to hear Warner Pacific College's proposal to buy 7-9 acres of south Mt. Tabor Park for expansion of their campus that would include a regulation-sized soccer/softball field to be used for competitions, an indoor gym facility and a parking lot. Although Portland Parks and Recreation (PPR) at first said that they would not have a representative at the meeting, due to the insistence of the MTNA, Janet Bebb and Darlene Carlson did attend.
Some of the questions that were directed toward PPR included: whether or not the City is planning on disposing of more than just the Mt. Tabor Park maintenance yard (such as the nursery area between SE Harrison and Lincoln as well as the acreage above the maintenance yard); whether the City is planning on replacing the maintenance yard at another location; whether the City is planning on contracting out maintenance and the growing of nursery stock for parks and other City-owned sites and other pertinent questions.
The answer to most of the inquiries was that everything is in the discussion phase at this point, however, the City did indicate that feasibility studies have been done on some of the topics we broached such as contracting out maintenance and propagation.
Please note that Warner Pacific is planning on presenting at the South Tabor Neighborhood Association soon, so if you weren't able to attend last night's meeting, you can still have a chance to hear the proposal.
Please contact the South Tabor Neighborhood Association for more information. Their contact info is available from Southeast Uplift: 503.232.0010 Steve Hoyt: steve@...
The general discussion of the meeting, that was very well attended, seemed to indicate that the citizens do not want the City to sell the land and that they are expecting to have a full public process before any plans move forward. There was also general agreement that Warner Pacific College is a good fit for the neighborhood, but that even though the college president opened his remarks by saying that they may consider moving out of the neighborhood if they cannot expand, people were not inclined to accept their proposal. They were not interested in a long-term lease of the land.
Although nothing definitive was agreed upon, the City officials seemed to indicate that a number of types of land use processes would be triggered if the public land was to be disposed of. If the college was able to purchase the land, the zoning would change from "open space" to some other designation but no one seemed to be able to say exactly what that would be. The entire Mt. Tabor Park, including the maintenance yard and nursery, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. (The reservoirs, that are also listed in the National Register of Historic Places, have their own boundary within the park.) The historic designation should trigger a Type III, the most rigorous land use process, should the City persist in moving ahead.
The college, as a non-profit organization, is a property-tax exempt organization that operates on their adjoining property with a conditional use permit. Their plans were to build 4 new buildings, but before they can do any expansion, they would need to complete a new master plan that would include some sort of public process.
Warner Pacific had invited a small group of neighbors, and members of the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association and apparently representatives from the parks department, to meet over the past year to discuss their proposal. Most members of the MTNA board were not aware of these meetings. The members of the board who attended the meetings said that they were representing themselves. This topic spawned an agenda item specifically to discuss the parameters of representation of the neighborhood by board members. This discussion will continue and may lead to a bylaw change.
I would like to thank all of you for your interest in our parks and their amenities, of course including the reservoirs. You are following in a tradition of civic involvement that has been essential in fostering Portland's reputation as a city of parks. The actual history of Portland's relationship with parks is surprising. City officials were hesitant to establish them due to a variety of issues, not the least being the reluctance to spend money on maintenance and to tie up taxable land. Political climates also had strong influences on voters' opinions about park levies.
After Portland's world fair, the Lewis and Clark Exposition of 1905, Portland boomed and the east side changed from rural homesteads to intensive development. The building of Mt. Tabor Reservoir 1 in 1894 established the land as a park, but the City was very slow to complete the land acquisitions. Most all of the parks at that time were on the more affluent west side. East side (helped by some west side) civic "push clubs" pressured the City to piece together what we call the park today. Mt. Tabor Park is nearly 200 acres and its real estate value is astronomical in these times. The "push clubs" of 100 years ago helped to establish our parks and our neighborhood associations today will have to safeguard their boundaries and maintenance as well as push for more parkland acquisitions. Parks become even more valuable for quality of life amenities as density development squeezes neighborhoods.
So, stay tuned to this another chapter in Mt. Tabor Park's ongoing story. I hope that you will drop our Mayor Potter, and the entire City Council a note (especially Commissioner Dan Saltzman who is in charge of parks, but the Water Bureau owns some of the land in the Maintenance Yard so Randy Leonard is involved. So is Sam Adams who will be involved with transportation issues that will materialize with a land use change and it wouldn't be fair to leave out Erik Sten, who started the reservoir replacement project).
The City is moving, like the national trend, toward more privatization of public resources, including park amenities, so the fact that they are interested in Warner Pacific College's proposal is not surprising.
Of major importance also, is to remind the City that we expect to be included in decisions from the beginning and once again the proposal to buy a part of Mt. Tabor Park got well underway, and would not still be public, if it were not for citizen activism.
Please feel free to forward this email and help spread the word about Mt. Tabor Park's potential changes. This fall, with two levies supporting open space on the November ballot, is a good time to voice your opinion about the importance of our parks, their acquisition and their maintenance.
Cascade Anderson Geller
Mt. Tabor Neighborhood, Southeast Portland