This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 29, 2007 10:41 PM. The previous post in this blog was The rigors of spring break. The next post in this blog is A dream shattered. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Breaking news from the O

The million-dollar condo dwellers in the SoWhat district are "average Joes and Janes."

What drivel. The "linchpin" seals it. Get a job, Ryan.

Comments (35)

Ugh. I don't blame the Hayses.

Me neither. But as for the condo whiners, these are realtors from the Pearl who moved into SoWhat knowing what the deal was, and now want to weasel out, leaving the rest of the city's taxpayers to pay the bill. This is the crowd on whose behalf our city leaders are ruining our city, aesthetically and financially.

I suggest they move back to California, and take a dozen of their Pearlie clients with them.

I'm curious if the developer that in the end paid the assessment on behalf of the resident had any obligation to do this, or perhaps was just concerned about having too large an inventory of unsold units sitting with the assessment unpaid?

And does something like this show up in a title search, assuming some people elect the 20-year payment plan?

"A majority of South Waterfront property owners agreed in 2004 to bill themselves to help cover the tram's construction costs"

Uh, you mean both of them? Homer and Dame? Who was living there in 2004?

The Rich ARE DIFFERENT from the rest of us.

They have more money.

And Mister Tee, they ain't gonna part with it.

Hey, how much is the medical building paying out of curiousity?

I thought the owners of the building (a doctor's group) structured themselves as a not-for-profit org. Of course, if the org owns the building prop taxes = $0.

This is why I believe in good tax lawyers (yes, I use one also.)

I was wondering about that too Steve, the article said they sent ODOT a bill for $50,000 as thier share of the lid which ODOT protested because the land accessed was under the freeway, and they did not feel it positively impacted the value. The same arguement should not hold for the LID, also I remember Anne Dufey saying in one of the postings, they assessed a women's shelter for the streetcar. I was wondering if the City was assessed for the greenway and parks in the new district as thier portion of the LID. That would be interesting. Probably it would be paying more to the LID than most neighborhood parks get in maintenance.

I would like to know if they are part of the tax abatement program.Someone that owns a half million dollar condo should be paying close 10,000 a year in property taxes

I'm curious if the developer that in the end paid the assessment on behalf of the resident...

The developer --Homer Williams-- has not paid ANYTHING. The lien will SHOW as paid and satisfied...paid with an IOU, a "Substitution of Satisfaction." NO MONEY HAS CHANGED HANDS. A lien will be created on some OTHER property for this IOU. This is what Council voted to do, it has never been done before, it should raise a million red flags --well, two and a half million red flags for the OTHER $2.5 million Homer is borrowing from the city to pay for the rest of his Tram obligation-- but...whatever.

Can I see a show of hands of those who get this? (Just kidding, but, jeez...)

The immediate advantage to Homer is the liens no longer cloud property titles. The OTHER big advantage is that if the 249 condo liens were financed the way they would ordinarily be:

1. They couldn't be financed for twenty years, only ten. (The dollar amounts individually are too small for twenty year financing.)

2. Each of those 249 liens would have a finance charge of $40 plus .49% of the principal financed.

3. Each of those 249 liens would have a added billing charge of $3.00 per billing statement.

This "Substitution of Satisfaction" is yet another scheme hatched out of PDC, as it stumbled along its way to pay the increasingly step fare for the tram. Maybe it saved the day --I'm not a policy maker (anymore)-- but when we start telling developers they can show their liens as paid and satisfied by shifting their obligations around to other properties...that is a recipe for future problems. My opinion, mine alone, I own it, I don't speak for the City, my wife, or my dog.

I remember Anne Dufay saying in one of the postings, they assessed a women's shelter for the streetcar. I was wondering if the City was assessed for the greenway and parks in the new district as thier portion of the LID.

Everyone in the district was assessed, including city property, and OHSU (tax exempt status doesn't buy you a bye on city assessments).

The principle behind Local Improvement Districts, codified in state law, is that each parcel of property is assessed based on the unique and peculiar benefit that property receives. How you CALCULATE benefit is left to the local jurisdictions and the City Auditor's Office used to propose "assessment methodology" for projects (until Auditor Blackmer turned that function over to Matt Brown and Vic Rhodes).

Everybody pays, based on some "formula." I didn't watch the Council debate on this, but if the state property was truly undevelopable they may have had a case. Likewise, a parcel developable as a park will benefit differently than a parcel developable as a 350 foot condo tower...but I don't know that these subtle nuances came into play in the assessment methodology.

In the Pearl District owner-occupied condos didn't have to pay the streetcar assessment, which was a political decision, not one justifiable, really, from the standpoint of assessment law. Unsold condos benefit from the streetcar, but sold ones don't? (And Homer's condos didn't have to pay anything at all...'cause all those assessments were disappeared to a vacant lot, but that's another story altogether.)

Anyway...those are my very personal opinions and observations, I'm not speaking for anyone besides myself, blah, blah, blah. I'm on "vacation", in fact...I've a 15 year old on restriction --during Spring Break-- I've got to rouse and torture. Yesterday we dug up and disposed of the remaining 1560 pounds of lawn I had left. My wife's the Master Gardener and I'm her garden slave.

This is only the first shoe to drop. The SoWa property owners, SoWa residents, and all other Portland residents will really be upset when the big transportation improvement assessments come in. The discussion of those massive expenses - hundreds of millions of dollars - is being minimized until the wave of anger over the first assessment passes, and until the City can spend its pretend budget surplus this year.

Yeah, and this on the day the O carried an ad boasting that it is a truth-seeking watchdog. I recently heard it dubbed The Ignoregonian, a title I consider more accurate.

"A majority of South Waterfront property owners agreed in 2004 to bill themselves to help cover the tram's construction costs"

that's because most all the property owners were flippers who had no intention of ever living there. everybody

this is why we're screwing the land, the people, the community--because it's all impersonal, right? just business. make a profit.

what a tremendous sham and shell game real estate development is.

and what a fluffy piece of nonsense that article was.

"But with the tram, the cost to promote alternative transportation appears to be too high for the state."

I almost choked on my Cheerios when I read this line.

The cost to promote, build, run and maintain "alternative transportation" has been too high for anyone since its conception.

I actually think Ryan Frank is one of the better reporters at the O (he uncovered and really dug in on the whole Don Mazziotti crap at PDC) and is under such contraints with his editors that he tries to sneak snarky comments such as the "average Jane's and Joe's" one in to make a point..I read it as complete sarcasm. When I read this article I found Zero sympathy from the reporter for either the City or the fee payers.

Anyway, help me out here. Before people bought their condos was it documented and/or disclosed that they would be responsible for the amounts they are now being charged either as dollar values or percentage of property assessment values?

If so then listen closely...what you are hearing is the world's smallest violin playing just for them. If they can afford a condo down there then they can afford this fee too. Sorry if it cuts down on their foie gras and cabernet budget for the month.

If it was undocumented and the City is just now surpising them with it, then I can understand them being miffed.

Regardless, SoWa has and contiues to be a fiasco as far as planning and financing.

In essence Portland has developed the most expensive, publically subsidized semi-gated high income community on record in our city. It's a sad commentary on our city really. Build and subsidize sexy expensive housing while our neighborhood infastructure crumbles and our schools go to pot.

But I really have no sympathy for the greedy gambling idiots who bought there. You want to play you sometimes have to pay - that's the real estate game. Condos have always traditionally been a high risk in real estate due to market fluctations, construction problems,and issues with tax assesment and fees. SoWa is no exception.

Anyway, help me out here. Before people bought their condos was it documented and/or disclosed that they would be responsible for the amounts they are now being charged either as dollar values or percentage of property assessment values?

When this district was created, there were estimated assessments for the tax lots then in existence. Each condo unit is a NEW tax lot, but the project cost is assessed to all tax lots in existance at the time of assessment, based on some formula or other.

One would think purchasers of the condos would be informed, in their title reports, that a potential lien existed. But the cost, and who pays what, isn't determined until final assessment, which is what's happening now.

A real estate agent would, it seems to me, know better than most the costs for the streetcar and tram that were on the horizon.

(Speaking for myself, on a break after a very filling lunch with Parker at McTarnahan's Taproom, where we both gorged outselves with (no doubt) trans-fat laden fries, after taking our pick-up load of Spring Cleaning to the dump.)

Frank's comment "who pays what" isn't determined until final payment" has many more "final payments" to come-as Jim's post states.

The tram is just the first that ALL the property owners (new and old) will have to pay. There is still the trolley extension LID costs; the future transportation improvements (South Portal, North Portal, freeway off-ramp, etc.) LID; the Parks LID; the Greenway LID; the Street Light/Street Furniture LID; etc. Homer and Co. will be out of SoWhat before the real big costs come due.

We sometimes think, as Sam the Tram tells you, that developers pay there way. But Homer and Co. has manipulated the 8 amendments of the SoWhat Agreement all to his advantage with the help of PDC and Council. I hope Ryan Frank, Nigel Jacquis, and the Tribune will write a comprehensive article that examines the numerous financial aspects of SoWhat, and how the public is being screwed.

I don't like saying it, but there has been several citizens and neighborhood groups that have been shouting the inequities of SoWhat for many years, including Jack. It is now coming to roost.

In fact, at the last SoWhat URAC meeting, even the major property owners on the committee are questioning, demanding answers to budget shortfalls, and who pays what. You are going to see/hear even larger fireworks than even that from individual new condo owners. Sadly most of the financial failings of SoWhat will come out of the pocketbooks of everyone.

and the sad part is, this will happen again. and again. this kind of project/scam/shell game has been exposed before, but the players go right ahead and do it again, justifying themselves every step of the way.

it benefits a select few--always at the expense of the many. always.

again, i ask--where's the vision and the higher standards? who has the power and how are they exercising it?


Like all institutions, we can use someone to watch over our shoulder sometimes. Obviously, we're not always perfect. I do appreciate you trying to hold us accountable. That's fair.

I'd like to say that I always respect your thoughtful analysis. That's not always the case, but I do appreciate the intent.

Since I wrote the item you referenced here, I thought I'd write to clarify. You wrote:

The million-dollar condo dwellers in the SoWhat district are "average Joes and Janes."

What drivel. The "linchpin" seals it. Get a job, Ryan.

The "average Joes and Janes" wasn't directed at the "million-dollar condo dwellers."

The "average Joes and Janes" was meant to cover the people who aren't OHSU, NMI, Zidells or condo owners. They are the engineering firm mentioned in the story and other smaller property owners down there. I'll admit, they may not all be Average Joes compared to Portland as a whole. But they would land more toward the middle when compared to OHSU, NMI, the Zidells and the condo owners. That was the intent of that reference.

Ryan Frank

Eco almost has it right, " but the players go right ahead and do it again" but remember the players are RE-ELECTED over and over and over. Never a re-call, just glorification of those that rule. Without term-limits, citizens are doomed.

Ryan, how about a quote from somebody who thinks the Pearle realtors in their SoWhat condo ought to be paying $800 toward the tram, because that's the deal they made when they moved down there? You seem to have left that out, just as Anna seemed to leave out all the deferred maintenance in the city's crumbling infrastructure with her pollyanna "surplus" article.

Why don't you guys start asking some hard questions and leave the snow jobs for Randy Gragg?

It is interesting that when you are interviewed by the Oregonian (and others), they ask a question or two, let you expound some, and when they have the quote they want to further their tack on the story, they quickly end the interview even though you have a point or two in regards to the question. The "stories" are framed.


Is it the editors that create the distortions that make it appear reporters have an elitist bias? Over the years, I have gotten that impression.

Have you or anyone else at the O made any public records requests for any accounting for SoWa?
It's hard to understand how yet another wildly expensive publicaly funded undertaking gets such little scrutiny and coverage.
When the Urban Renewal Citizen Advisory Comittee is continually refused information they request don't you think there is a problem?
Or is the problem that you have no idea this is happening because you have no connection and don't pursue and investigate?
Or, will it be business as usual with no answer or explaination of the going lameness of the press around here?


About the quote from others, I could have done that. But NMI is actually paying the guy's bill for the tram. I wrote about him and his wife to show the feeling of at least one townhouse buyer about the tram. Obviously, you can read into their comments what you want.

But I think it would be a little unfair to also allow someone to challenge them when they aren't the ones actually paying the bill.

I'd also remind you that we've been asking hard questions about South Waterfront for the last couple of years. I'd be happy to email you and Howard those stories. And if there's stories you think we're missing, I'd love to hear that. Send me an email: ryanfrank@news.oregonian.com.

Ryan Frank


I can only speak for myself. I pick most of the stories I write and consult with my editors on how to approach them. But I can't recall ever being pushed on an elitist angle. What stories do think have had an elitist bias?


Ryan, give me a break.

I'll ask just a few simple questions that no one can or will answer and which you obvioulsy never asked.

What is the total amount of taxpayer money spent to date in SoWa?

What is today's estimated public cost of completion for SoWa?

How much is the total cost of debt service now projected to be in SoWa?

What was the interest rate used to forcast SoWa TIF debt service in 1999?

What is today's TIF interest rate?

What is today's estimated cost of the entire greenway and riverbank in SoWa?

What is the total amount paid to or promised OHSU with all things related to the Tram and SoWa?

How many payments, for how much, and for what purpose have already been made to OHSU?
Where is a list of all public payments to all persons or businesses relating to SoWa?

I could go on and on but try this one.

Which elected officials know the answer to any of these questions?
I'll answer this one. It's none.

You get the point yet?
No one or and no agency provides any oversight.
None. Get it?
So if you and our newspapers don't do their job the system is hopeless.
When you or someone else gets the nerve or motivation to go ask for a SoWa ledger or accounting and you are told there isn't one for you to see maybe we'll have some real reporting.

Until then it's the City Hall Press all of the time.

But NMI is actually paying the guy's bill for the tram...if there's stories you think we're missing, I'd love to hear that. Send me an email: ryanfrank@news.oregonian.com.

The story you are missing, Ryan, is that NMI is NOT paying the bill for the tram with money, but with an IOU.

The story that was missed, Ryan, was that the liens on Homer William's condos in the Pearl "disappeared"...removed by what I would consider a bogus and fraudulent "correction of assessment," moving them onto an empty lot.

Ryan Frank, many of the above questions are being asked by SoWhat's own URAC. The public as well as reporters are welcome at these meetings and you or any of the public are welcome to ask these questions towards the end of the meetings held each first thursday of each month.

I believe there is an important story in
just the fact that SoWhat's URAC is asking these kinds of questions with no accurate response from PDC or that the City Council is even following up on the questions since the URAC sent a letter to Council and the PDC Commissioners lamenting these similar points. None of this has been reported.

The Oregonian needs to hire a qualified accountant (if none on staff) to throw darts at the so-called 5 year budget, past expenditures, and 20 year project list and their budgets. It doesn't add up. Good luck, and remember to ask even the obvious, stupid person questions who only knows how to balance their checkbook- and knows that when you borrow money there is such a thing as debt cost that most people consider an expense to do business.

When all URA project costs have exceeded budgets and TIF dollars are below projections, who is filling in the hole?

The taxpayers of Portland have already added $48M in Amendment 8 to the existing $280M projected taxpayers hard costs for SoWhat. In fact, there are URAC members who are very familar with spreadsheets (construction industry members) who can't even figure out the budgets.

It may be a dry subject, but when SoWhat could bankrupt the city and it symbolizes so much about the misuse of urban renewal, it is a major story because it affects so many other city/county/school budgets. Ryan, you know the individual parts of the whole story; consolidate the parts and the facts are monumental.

Ryan, when the "correction of assessment" was literally brushed over by PDC staff in a URAC meeting (I believe in Amendment 8 review)the committee didn't even know what was happening. It was called something like Homer having "transferring rights".

It would be interesting if you could even find this "item" in the minutes because the minutes have been very imprecise (as some members have made complaints about). The URAC meetings have essentially been a series of informational reports, updates from all the various PDC, PDOT, Parks, etc agencies with little time given for questions, debate, or even taking positions on any aspects of SoWhat (as you well know from your sometime attendance).

Even the purpose and continuance of the URAC has been questioned by some members of the URAC recently. What purpose are our urban renewal URACs when the decisions are already made by the PDC, Council?

Homer's transferring rights of tram payments also applies to the SoWhat affordable housing requirements-they have been transferred to other future property developments for who knows how far out in the future. Maybe Ryan you need some legal advice to read all the SoWhat Agreements besides having a team of accountants/auditors. Maybe you can ask why the City Auditor Blackmer hasn't reviewed SoWhat. Or review if SoWhat has complied with state statute urban renewal requirements of yearly audits, and not take the word of PDC's legal council.

Jerry and Lee are right, but we shouldn't expect that knowing the real numbers would change anything, because everyone in the mix thinks they're acting properly.

City Council, PDC,and some PDC staff may think that confusing the true SoWa costs is necessary to advance the greater goals of low income housing and urban development. They don't sweat the numbers, but have messianic faith that their plan will pay off in the end with a better city. (In fact, historically, some of these gambles in other cities have paid off, and some have been ruinous). They're also surrounded by flatterers since they're playing with billions of dollars, which helps reinforce their conviction that they're doing the right thing for the city.

I don't see the developers as the source of the problem here. They are simply taking advantage of the city's willingness to assume their ordinary risks of development. The fact that the public costs are so high is as consistent with graft as it is with the idea that developers think there's a lot of risk in building condo towers.

I think the greater point is that it is becoming common knowledge taht NO ONE is providing oversight, critiquing, or scrutiny to the spending of hundreds of millions in tax dollars.
The electeds and appointeds merely pretend to be doing so, but they haven't seen the ledgers or accounts to know what the heck is going on. Neither the council or PDC commissioners have seen ANY thorough and complete budgets for SoWa or other major projects. That's why it is impossible to get copies for public scrutiny. The information as never been prepared and given to any governing body.

Why? It's all a ruse with no one wanting to alienate themselves by asking for documentation or by asking prudent questions.
They all want to be liked and be like each other.
It's all quite,,,,, repulsive,,, is it not?
"Portland the city that's repulsive".

In the way that middle school can be repulsive..Portland sometimes seems to be comprised of a bunch of people stuck in adolescence who found each other somewhere on the Left Coast.


I think the best way I can answer your question is to say that the Oregonian routinely seems to disregard angles and perspectives on stories that could give metro residents some real choices and a chance meaningfully to participate in deciding who runs their public institutions, as well as the principles and standards that direct their performance.

An example that comes to mind has to do with the candidacies of Bill Atherton and Liz Callison for Metro Council in 1998. They ran on a 'growth neutral" platform, adressing the question of subsidized grwoth that have since been fleshed out on blogs like this one. Bill won a seat on the council and served for one term; Liz got about 42% of the vote. Clearly, the platform resonated with many in the region, but the Big O did not devote a column millimeter to the campaigns, except to editorialize that there is not difference between growth neutral and anti-growth policies(actually there IS a difference between accepting and planning for growth in line with market trends and using public funds to encourage it).

Not long ago, I heard a local reporter from another paper call Bill Atherton "crazy". I had to wonder where this came from and why it was so readily believed. I learned in high school that calling people crazy was a ploy Stalin used to discredit intellectuals who challenged his policies. When I hear that someone is being dismissed as "a nutcase", I am attentive to what they have to say and look for facts that such opinion might be masking. This seems pretty elementary to me and it is discouraging that the local news media seems so malleable. Of course,as Howard points out, Portland culture has yet to advance to the high school level.

Oops: that's addressing the questions of subsidized growth..

Clicky Web Analytics