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Saturday, September 23, 2006

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

(Photo courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.)

Comments (20)


Multiple meetings with Warner Pacific? Multiple secret meetings? Sell off a portion of Mt. Tabor Park?

This is unconscionable.

I live in a neighborhood which abutts Mt. Tabor Neighborhood and we are a historically park-deficient neighborhood. Every square foot of officially designated park land is valuable beyond any possible private use of the land.

If Warner Pacific is too constrained by their current site, then they need to move and gift their land to the city for an expansion of Mt. Tabor Park, NOT vice versa.

This will be taking public property and handing it over to a private agency. That private agency can then act to exclude any and all that it wishes. It will no longer be private land. I would love to see land that the Portland Parks Bureau feels it no longer needs for nursery and/or maintenance needs be turned into active usage play space like a couple of soccor fields. But we don't need to sell off the land so that the already constrained children's soccer leagues of the city have to compete with the owner of the property, and only with their good graces gain access to that property. It's public property....keep it as public property.

Cheezes...The next thing we'll be looking at is a proposal to place a manse at the top of Mt. Tabor as the home for the Warner Pacific president, complete with a tram [rimshot] that runs from the top down to the campus on Division.

Don't say that too loudly.

It happened in the 1980's. The City sold off the reservoir at 60th and Division and the surrounding property without notice to anyone. It was a done deal before anyone realized what was going on and it was a terrible loss too. I think that was during Frank Ivancie's administration. Any public official who even suggests selling off more of Mt. Tabor Park ought to be run out of town on a rail. IMHO.

I see the Warner Pacific Board of trustees and the appointed City Parks Board share at least one member, so the powers that be at the City must be talking.

The city can't maintain the parks it already has - why not trim the inventory a little?

As a Warner Pacific Student, WP is at a disdvantage here and a clear one. Every citizen in Portland is overly dog and greenspaces friendly, except when it comes to your own homes.

Let me look at it from my angle to the first poster. You are telling me I should give away my opportunity to live in your great city because you want my school to give you the land rather than try to grow?

How willing are you to gift your own home away for a park's expansion? Maybe you should move to Gresham where there are some ample parks?

Can you explain to me in this city anymore where there is decent acrage for a college campus? Do you fault Warner Pacific and its alumni and staff for wanting space a little bigger than the size of a high school campus?

I agree with you space on the eastside of Portland for a park is few and far between, but look at yourselves first before anyone else. Many of you purchased homes only for the view of the city, not for the damage you cause to the environment with pollutant runoff and scenic garbage. Why don't you sell before you ask a tiny Christian college who promotes higher learning to gift their land? They've been there since the early 50's in permanent form in the Tabor community.

If the city is looking to divest this land, why not do it to someone who will be responsible in the community and leave much of it for open spaces? The college is willing to combine sporting venues which is something unheard of by those of the University of Portland, UO, and OSU. As well other parts of the college are being redesigned to help fit more students so they aren't taking a bigger chunk out of your beloved housing community.

I agree with you, if you want the land kept public, build a decent sized multi use field for Warner Pacific and the kids and let Warner rent the space. You and I both know with the amount of beauracracy in politics that this would completely get screwed up. One day your precious 7 year old who you project your own broken goals through will share a date at Warner and then student and parent pandamonium will ensue.

Think about the community first, but don't sh*t on a college who did only wrong by asking the parks department if land was for sale and them saying yes.

One more little thing. Warner, you are welcome out here on the far Eastside. I suggest looking at the former LSI logic plant as they have a ton of space to spare for a budding university. As well, it could be a good time for you to explore some technical degrees in consultation with ON Semi, the new kid on the block.

The city should not even be thinking of "divesting" park land. It wouldn't have to if it weren't doing stupid things like paying $7 million for a single contaminated block in the SoWhat district for the Homer Williams Poodle Poop Park.

All you Taborites who voted for Saltzman last May -- this is what you get. Now prove what complete chumps you are by voting for his henchman, Cogen.

It's pretty funny that Metro wants a huge tax levy to acquire more parkland. Maybe it ought to just call Saltzman and pick some up in whatever neighborhood he wants to shaft next.

You've got to be kidding, right? You're encouraging people to move to Gresham for parks???

Apparently you've not paid any attention to the fact that Gresham has very little money to spend on parks. This is why many of its "parks" are little more than big open spaces (some are like pastures or are wetlands areas that are to one day be parks).

Parks in Gresham are an absolute joke. Many people I know drive into Portland so their kids can play at the park.

For the nearly 100,000 residents of Gresham, there are very few "parks" and several "open spaces" that are named as parks.

Mt. Tabor isn't just a park-- it's a nature area, it's an open space, and it's a bit of green in a very dense residential area. As much as I care for higher learning, it isn't the responsibility of the public to give up some of its lands in order for a school to grow. I'd imagine that the school gave them an offer they couldn't refuse, which is why the city is interested. With as many financial problems they're having, extra funds without raising taxes must've seemed like a miracle. But they need to remember how important parks areas are to the residents of the area.

Sometimes a school has to look at adding on space at another location. Some completely pick up and move like the PCC at 82nd/Division did. Others add on by buying property nearby and shuttling students. There are other options besides buying up parks.

It's the worst idea I've heard in quite a while. Was Erik Sten involved?


I don't think anyone is saying Warner Pacific should not expand. I rode on the #4 a couple of weeks ago with a really nice bunch of young people with matching T-shirts and very personable and pleasant to talk to, who were Warner Pacific incoming Freshman, here for summer orientation. Warner Pacific is expanding, I saw the houses being torn down along Division when we dropped them off at their stop and I presume this was for expansion of the campus. There are a lot more marginal housing units, pretty old and run down housing along Division, the question would be why not expand there, as you are currently doing. The only reason I can think of is that WP is getting the Parks land at fire sale prices, and that is not in the public interest.

Jack is right on target, with his comments in response to Hinkley. There is such tremedous inequity in the neighborhoods. A fellow bus rider was telling me about the glory days of Mt. Tabor when he was a kid, and how it pains him to see the park now. While this park continues to decline, we are building parks for the condo towers that have water features and as the tribune reported are basicly landscaping used by few folks, and they go to the head of the line, ahead of neighborhoods that have been waiting years to have a place for thier kids to play.

Does anyone know for sure that this is owned by Portland Parks and not the water bureau?

If Parks owns it, maybe they need the cash to feed to the SoWhat millionaire’s park.



There probably isn't space in Portland proper left to expand a college. If WP wants to grow, they'll probably have to move to the suburbs.

The point is that the city shouldn't be selling off parkland to anyone. The parks are for everyone in the city to use and enjoy, not simply used to keep large plots of land undeveloped until someone comes around with a backroom cash offer.

Why should the city be on the hook for building a multi-use facility? Nothing's stopping WP from buying out surrounding landowners and doing it themselves... oh wait, that'd cost too much. Better to soak the city taxpayers then deal with dozens of private owners.

Another point is that if Warner Pacific wants to buy the land for uses other than Open Space, the city should do the rezoning process BEFORE selling. The value of land zoned open space is much less than the value of land zoned for residential, commercial, employment, or institutional uses. So if the city is going to sell land owned by the public, at the very least it should be sold for top dollar.

And doing the rezoning process before selling would allow a true discussion of the public values of various zones for the property. If the college asks for rezoning after purchasing, their claim of private property rights will trump the long term public good.

Maybe Warner Pacific should consider a tram over to SoWhat where there is some vacant 35 acres that Schnitzer/OHSU owns. Maybe they could join with PSU who wants to move into SoWhat too. A synergy project. And non-taxpaying entities.

All Warner Pacific needs to do is to "threaten to move" and the gates will open.


Didn't you catch that in the
"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."

In the above.

Doesn't the 10th Commandment say
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods."

Hmmm, maybe thy neighborhood's goods?

Selling a chunk of Mt. Tabor Park for a few million bucks is tantamount to desecrating a sacred object. Any elected official who toes the line in support of this insanity will have hell to pay in terms of political outfall. If the college needs more room it can move. The citizens of Portland have no moral obligation sacrifice their park land to promote the needs of a private religious institution.

Two comments: the first concerns additional information about Warner Pacific lands; the second addresses Warner Pacific students wishing to take a position on the land sale or other issues of their interest.

First, last night, October 18, at the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association meeting a neighbor gave comments concerning their research of City documents. Apparently, the current site of Warner Pacific College was at one time City land which was leased to the College. If my memory is correct, I believe that in approximately 1987, the current 15 acre site was sold to Warner Pacific College for $100 by the City. Three days later, the College resold that site to Japanese Corporation for $3,000,000. If the research is correct, Warner Pacific does not own the land upon which it sits, but leases it back from the Japanese Corporation to whom it sold the land. That lease runs out in 2017. At that time, the site could become condos or some other dense residential or commercial development.
Would this also be the fate of the maintenance yard if it too were sold to the College?

Secondly, Warner Pacific College sits in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. Under current ONI Standards and Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association bylaws, the College has the right to name a representative to the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association. That representative has the right run for election to any open position on the neighborhood association's board. Also, any Warner Pacific student living within the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association boundaries has that same right to participate as an individual and a resident of Mt. Tabor. Currently, there are several open board positions.

Students living within the boundaries of Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association have the same rights to participate in the association as do other residents of the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. They can attend neighborhood association meetings and vote, and they can run for election to the board. Students living within the boundaries of the South Tabor Neighborhood Association can participate in that associations business in the same fashion.

Division St. is the common boundary between Mt. Tabor and South Tabor associations. Residents living North of Division are members of Mt. Tabor, while those living South of Division are members of South Tabor. For example, Warner Pacific students living on campus would be members of the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association while those living in the Dolphin Apartments, on the South side of Division Street, would be members of South Tabor Neighborhood Association.

The Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association is currently interested in diversifying their board membership. At last nights meeting, their wish to include younger membership was restated by board members. ONI and the City have requested that neighborhood associations attempt to include renters, immigrants (regardless of status), minorities, and other non-traditional participants. I would imagine that students living in dorms or other types of campus housing would be considered as renters. And, I’m certain that many students would fall into the categories of young, minority, or immigrant. I would encourage students to participate in their neighborhood associations.

The research I did into tax records shows that the County of Multnomah sold the land to Warner Pacific on July 18, 1989 for $100. At the time, Gladys McCoy signed off for the city. On July 20, 1989, Warner Pacific sold the land for $4,000,000 to Geos Corporation of Japan. That same day, Geos leased the property to Warner Pacific for an undisclosed amount. The document stipulates Warner Pacfic be responsible for tax payments, although as a non-profit, non-secular, private college, they have always been exempt and pay no taxes. It also stipulates when the 30 year lease is up in 2019, that Warner Pacific has an option to purchse back the land.

I continue to research, and just found documentation that Warner Pacific paid off GEOS Corporation in 2005, before the terms of the lease were up, and bought back the land.


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A reader sends along this e-mail message, which he says he received from Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman's office regarding the city's proposed "divestiture" of valuable real estate in Mount Tabor Park: Thank you for the message ***. We received you... [Read More]

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