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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 12, 2007 11:48 AM. The previous post in this blog was Enjoying the passage of time. The next post in this blog is Ah, college days. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

For Randy Gragg, a new hero and a new putdown for you

At age 69, Weston is becoming a city shaper, a new role for him. But the role of city maker he's long played. In the 1970s and '80s he built more than 130 eastside apartment buildings, nearly all simple affairs with 20 or fewer units fronted by parking lots.

Dubbed "Weston Specials," they were (and still are) much loathed by Craftsman-hugger residents. But wholly owned and well-maintained by Weston, they have played a manifold role in Portland.

Hear that, "Craftsman-huggers"? Forget about history, forget about character, forget about workmanship, forget about personal space, forget everything you moved to Portland for and bow down before the junk condo tower.

Forget this being the Rose City. Roses are a waste of water. You don't need a yard.

Besides, those Joe Weston specials aren't so bad. So now let's let him build any building as tall as he wants, anywhere, so long as there's only 8,000 square feet per floor. Sounds like a great idea to Randy Gragg.

And of course, the density debauchees at the city can't fall over themselves fast enough for more monkeyshines with old Joe:

"It's an intriguing idea," says Gil Kelley, Portland planning director. "Point towers could have substantial utility in adding more density on quarter-block sites but preserving the city's historic, lower-rise, finer-grain character on the other three-quarters."
Yeah, nothing like a quaint Victorian next door to a 40-story high-rise. Real character.

Oh, and there won't be any garbage chutes in the new Weston vertical slums. Doorside pickup so you can recycle! Think of the heavy breathing that will prompt in the City Council chambers.

Anyway, the real "point tower" I see in all this looks an awful lot like the Graggmeister's middle finger. Same to you, pal.

Comments (28)

dang, Jack, i was going to blog about this.

the part that struck me was the impetus for Weston wanting to build so much, so high, so many places:

Former business partner Homer Williams says it's all just about Weston keeping busy. Despite being one of the city's richest men and largest property owners, Weston "is bored 90 percent of the time," Williams says.

"It's the challenge," he adds. "Joe doesn't like anyone telling him he can't do something."

that's right, folks--the shape and vision of our fair city is entrusted to elderly fellows who are "bored", and "don't like anyone telling them they can't do something."

and there's Gil Kelley, Planner of Planners--having nothing at all to say, really.

argh. there's too much to say about this in a comment. thanks for blogging about it, Jack.

Unbelievable.

Is Randy going for laughs? Or does he really feel threatened by all the craftsman-hugging,cranky, contrarian conspriracist crakpots that are reluctant to worship at developers' footstools?

Such name-calling to avoid the issues is strictly middle-school.

As a craftsman owner (though I haven't hugged it since cleaning my gutters), I would like to point out that the bungalow belt neighborhoods are cited by many urban planners as an ideal level of density. If we had more two-story craftsman homes, with their adequate but not huge yards, all over the Metro area, we wouldn't need hardly any high rises.

I'm actually pretty interested in those new pointybuildings. If they look like the ones in Vancouver, they'll be great (assuming they're downtown or in the pearl, where that kind of skyline makes sense.)

But the horrible Weston Specials are a blight upon the landscape. Absolutely awful eyesores dotted all over the city.

Does somebody have it in them to round up pictures of the craftsman houses on big lots these jokers all live in? And it is always that. Condos are good for somebody else. Like the single mom that is our modal dwelling occupant?

Of course, no story along these lines is ever going to match John Fregonese, the Godfather of all this lunacy, admitting that he lives in a Lake Oswego McMansion, and explaining that it is because HIS WIFE MAKES HIM.

You can't make this kind of stuff up. It is so beyond parody.

I sure hope Karlock has something to say about this; maybe one of his patented "Post Breakdowns' where he takes the comments from another postand interjects his own comments with a 'JK' notation...simply classic.

"Soon [Weston] will launch an effort to sell a simple change to Portland's zoning code that he believes will make building point towers easier: Remove any height limit for buildings with floors of 8,000 square feet or less."

Goodbye, view of Mt Hood.


"When you get older," he says, "your priorities change."
Yup, More money, less costs. Another Randy, full of...er.. a.. hot air.

Much more "density infill" and this whole burg is gonna come to a screaming halt.

Gragg says that $700-$800 rents are "affordable" on "barista wages"?
Say someone is making $8/hr. Thats about $1300/mo. (before taxes, and IF they work 40 hours/week)
Who's paying $700/mo for rent on that?
Now I understand where the "living wage" arguments come from. The same people who think $800/mo is "affordable housing."

I only pay $695 for a 3-bedroom townhouse in the 'burbs.

Jon, Jon,
Think how many Baristi you can fit into one of those studio condo's!

When is the insanity going to stop in this city?

Not only is Joe Weston, Homer Williams, Tom Potter, CoP Council, Gil Kelly and company continuing to take away the views that made Portland attractive, now you can't even look up at the sky without a tram flying over your head if you live near OHSU.

Gil Kelly is the same uber-planner that took away the four standards to help mitigate the exessive heights of 250 ft to 325 ft in SoWhat. He said it was okay to eliminate the standards that slightly attempted to achieve the Vancouver BC model of slender towers.

He (and other CoP Planners) removed the maximum 10,000 sq.ft floor plate and increased it 25 PERCENT to 12,500 sq.ft. That is almost TWICE the floor plate of Vancouver towers.

He eliminated the required separation between buildings of 200 ft.

and the list continues. All to help the building of the first 325 ft tower-the John Ross-all for Homer, Edelen, and Joe.

Screw the four standards that were adopted by City Council less than a year before.

When you drive north on I-5 as you come out of the Terwilliger curves, can you see the "permeability" of SoWhat? What happened to your view of St. Helens?

I ask Gil and Randy to respond to the question; if a quarter block owner gets to build the first 50 story building like Joe is advocating, does the adjacent quarter block owner (or diagonally across the 200 ft grid block) have the same rights? That means on one city block there could be four so-called pin towers. That would certainly block all views. If not, then who decides who gets to build what, first.

There are many reasons for height regulations in zoning, especially for Portland. This is a bad idea, but I am glad Gil and Randy have an "open mind". I hope their "openess" recognizes views, sunlight, sense of space, and other livability factors.

Dave Lister: Much more "density infill" and this whole burg is gonna come to a screaming halt.

Gil Johnson: ... the bungalow belt neighborhoods are cited by many urban planners as an ideal level of density. If we had more two-story craftsman homes, with their adequate but not huge yards, all over the Metro area, we wouldn't need hardly any high rises.

Folks, we have a fundamental issue facing us here: City-wide average population density is about 6.5 persons/acre (2000 census). Irvington is 16/acre. More commercial inner NW is 13. I'm guessing that these both represent some of Portland's most dense areas, and they are both dominated by R5 zoned lots (single family residential, 5000 sq. ft). Infilling (or worse, adding to the perimeter) more and more R5 single family houses arguably won't add density higher than this 13-16 range, as R5 can only get you about 7 units per acre, and at an average occupancy of 2.0 per household, that's 14. Whether or not we like it, people will indeed get jobs, move here, and decide to stay. Maybe it will happen more slowly than, say, the 2040 model, but it will happen. And when it does, we will be constantly facing a choice: We can grow denser, or grow outward - that's it, there are no other choices. I offer that denser is the only choice that offers preservation of liveability.

No, the answer isn't the "Weston front parking lot special". Nor is it the pointy tower. Nor, probably anything that Randy Gregg is shrilling. But an ugly, higher density Weston special, or a cheap plastic crap condo tower, or whatever, at least is an eyesore only to that particular streetscape, and it will eventually be torn down or fall down, and hopefully the next building will be a wiser choice - because the underlying zoning will have remained intact, and we'll have learned more over time how to blend architectural styles with surrounding areas, and not pile everything into a few 40-story monstrosities. On the other hand, the systemic effect of having large areas of low density, auto-culture dominated cities, creates an ugliness everywhere that goes through to the bone, and is much less easily undone.

It's about the zoning, folks. Not the buildings themselves.

I've been inside enough "Weston specials" to have come to the opinion that his properties are either slums, or slums in development. He is a slumlord and he ain't gonna change his spots.

"It's about the zoning, folks.."

True enough. Now if we can get public officials who respect this, as well as meaningful notice and open hearings before that grant zoning exceptions....

Before they grant zoning exceptions.

zoning exceptions

We pretend to have rules, laws, code provisions...then toss them when they're inconvenient. The best example I've seen is the requirement (sic) for loading docks for buildings, so that there's actually places to park trucks unloading product to retail establishments and restaurants. In every recent case our neighborhoods have come across, the developers ask for "exceptions" and the city tosses the "code" out the window and says: "nevermind." And then we wonder why trucks park on our sidewalks when they are making deliveries...

"He is a slumlord and he ain't gonna change his spots."

BINGO!

I totally laughed out loud to myself when Gragg's article made it sound like Weston was some sort of concerned tree hugging environmentalist because he was worried about the low recycling level with garbage chutes. What a joke! Weston was worried about the low recycling levels because landlords pay to have garbage hauled off, but don't pay to have recyclables hauled off.

It's always about the money for guys like Weston. If you want to figure out his motivation for doing anything look for the money angle of the situation.

Ah yes the ubiquitous "American Property Mediocrity Inc." buying up every multi-dwelling property in Portland, slapping on a couple coats of whole sale paint, lots of bark chips and jacking the rent up a few extra hundred a month. Bland apartments for the little people, bland condos for the important people and everything connected by streetcars and trams. It's like Disney Land.

"it's about the zoning, folks."

spoken like a true Planner.

if thoughtful zoning is all it takes, we should be there by now, right?

right.

in my neighborhood, there's a developer planning to build a 5-6 story building on 20th & Alberta, where the average height is 1-2 stories. ugly design. even the developer told the designer "looks like a casino."

coincidentally, the zoning allows it--on that lot and only one other on the entire stretch of Alberta from MLK to 33rd.

Planners zoned it that way to "encourage development" a few decades or more ago. Now, they're looking on in dull surprise as the developer plans to build condos with a bit of retail space fronting Alberta.

Folks--Zoning is always a crapshoot, based on little more than a quick analysis and fuzzy "desired outcomes." Whom they're desired by is another discussion.

If a quarter block (10,000 sq ft) lot owner builds a 75 story tower with say, 4 units per floor, that is 300 condo units. Below grade parking on a 10,000 lot will lay out to about 25 parking spaces per floor and about 15 above grade parking spots per floor. That would mean that the building would require 12-20 floors of parking! Unless you build parking on the remainder of the block...where do these residents park?

They won't have cars, will they? Haven't you heard? Peak oil.

will be constantly facing a choice: We can grow denser, or grow outward - that's it, there are no other choices. I offer that denser is the only choice that offers preservation of liveability.

What's wrong with "outward"? We live on 4% of the land in this state. Doubling it to 8% is gonna destroy livablity?

If all those people keep moving here, then its going to happen eventually. Whats worse? Looking like LA, or looking like NY City?

nwjg- As for the parking..they have already thought of that. No parking. Dont you get it? They dont like cars. They have already started this with the Civic. Something like 25% of the units in the Civic dont have parking available.


Jon,

this is what NYC looks like:
http://www.ecohuman.com/transit-time-and-condoms-11

it's a false choice between "density" and "sprawl". LA and NYC are extreme examples of both--and both are on the verge of collapsing upon themselves.

Density serves efficiency, not ecology or humanity or health. Jane Jacobs was wrong, and that's the last thing a Portland planner wants to hear.

ecohuman: .... if thoughtful zoning is all it takes, we should be there by now, right? ..... Folks--Zoning is always a crapshoot, based on little more than a quick analysis and fuzzy "desired outcomes." Whom they're desired by is another discussion.

If you think zoning is the problem, then imagine what it would be like with no zoning. No, wait, just look at Houston. Or Atlanta. Or Clackamas County's M37 claims pending list.

John,

you said it was all about the zoning, not me. I said zoning code's not the answer to much of anything.

NYC is dense and has an army of planners and an enormous book of code--yet faces every single problem that Atlanta and Houston do--critical levels of traffic, critical shortages of affordable housing, overburdened utility systems, population explosion, and so forth. read here:

http://www.ecohuman.com/transit-time-and-condoms-11


then again, that describes Portland too, doesn't it?

and speaking of infill, here's an announcement you all might be interested in. should be a rollicking good time:

============
Filling In The City:

Some Perspectives on Infill Development

A conversation with neighborhoods, small business, developers, policymakers, builders,

architects, the green community, and preservationists.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

9 AM to Noon

1900 SW 4th Ave., 2nd floor

Portland, Oregon

Please join us for a conversation among a variety of stakeholder group members to see how we can make a difference.

Working on Portland's Future—TOGETHER

Metered and pay parking is available in the area. Many buses and the Portland Streetcar serve this building; call Tri-Met at 503-238-7433 or go to their web site at

www.trimet.org/schedule/index.htm for routes and times.

For more information, call Ella Holder at 503-823-5839 or email her at

ella.holder@ci.portland.or.us.

Sponsored by the Citywide Land Use Group and the Portland Planning Bureau


Sponsors


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
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Road Work

Miles run year to date: 96
At this date last year: 144
Total run in 2016: 155
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In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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