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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mmmmm... pork

I see from Amanda Fritz's blog that the Portland City Council's about to grant a new 10-year property tax abatement to another condo project tomorrow. This one's called Ash Court Condominiums, and according to a commenter on Amanda's site --

The defined public benefit? Structured parking, parking spots sold individually...and a bit higher density. Three "public benefits" are required, and that's the three.

So...no property taxes for schools, Multnomah County, or the City for ten years for the value of these 50+ units. There's still 23 new parking spaces added, despite this being a Transit Oriented Development (two blocks from MAX).

And, I guess, it's "affordable housing" made more affordable by the owners getting a break on their property taxes.

Maybe it's a great deal for all around. But there's something disquieting to me about adding density --and subsidizing it-- without those new residents paying their fair share of property taxes for the city, school and county functions that help make this a better city.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Now the $1 million question: Who's the developer getting this sweet deal?

Comments (25)


The Englers. I guess they got tired of saying YES to Homer all the time. I am surprised the banks are still financing these things.

I am thinking anytime you can say high-density, CoP breaks out in a rash and wants it in the worst way. Even Mr Sam's office is touting high-density (or at least sprawl is what causes G/W) as the solution to global warming.

So, fill us in. Who are the Englers? And where/what is Ash Court Condominiums?

Ash Court Condominiums, Inc. is a Nevada corporation whose president is indicated on public records as being Gerald R. Engler, with an address near SW 1st and Harrison. Someone of the same name shows as a real estate agent with Oregon First Realty in Beaverton.

Apparently there's some connection to this outfit.

AS far as I know the Englers started in Seattle and then pick n' choose projects.

More interesting is who is Martha Bueche and Mary Zinkin (besides being beneficiaries of public largesse.) From the agenda for the City Council:

Commissioner Randy Leonard
Bureau of Development Services
*693 Amend contract with Mary H. Zinkin to complete managerial coaching, team-building and organizational development consultation (Ordinance; amend Contract No. 36198)
*694 Amend contract with Martha Bueche to complete managerial coaching, team-building and organizational development consultation (Ordinance; amend Contract No. 36237)

Commissioner Dan Saltzman
Office of Sustainable Development
695 Authorize the Office of Sustainable Development to enter into agreements to receive and utilize goods, money and services to support activities to encourage economic development consistent with City sustainability goals (Second Reading Agenda 658

Oh boy, more training on how to be managers. I kind of thought they would know how to be managers before they got the job.

We blogged about the new management coaches here. I believe they are for this guy.

Oh well, BDS is raising it fees 7%, so I guess they can afford it.

In addition, I re-looked at the Water Bureau report and I guess they are planning on 5% increases each of the next 4 years:

"The proposed FY 2007-08 through FY 2011-12 average effective water rate increase is 5.1 percent for each year."

Page 4 of 27 here:

No wonder they have $30M to spend on doulas and other frippery instead of potholes.

There's a separate post now going on the coaches.

So now, back to the Englers and Ash Court...

What's crazy is that the city discourages infill by charging system development charges to small developers, and then turns around and subsidizes larger developers who build crap.

Here is some more info that Amanda dug up:

"In reading the report for the tax abatement, the proposed sale prices for the units range from $95,000 for a studio, affordable to someone making 45% of median family income (MFI), to $180,000 for a two-bedroom townhouse at 78% MFI affordability. And there is a requirement for income limits on resale of the units, too. While those aren't identified as public benefits, it's good to see that this project and its abatements won't be providing penthouses for people able to pay market rates or above."

this might have had an impact on the tax abatement. 180k for a 2br townhome 2 blocks from the MAX is below market. the developer could definitely charge more if they wanted to.

so is this project pork? doesn't seem like it given that info above... of course, you never know all the details till its too late.

There's a lot more information on the city website here.

I still get a kick-pain when I read Chris Smith touting how mass transit is the instigator of high density-low income housing when it really is all the TODs and tax breaks like the Ash Court Condos. I hope Leonard critically reviews this project like he did the Trammell Alexan project in SoWhat and reject it. Please include Sten in the rejection like he advocated for the Alexan.

the proposed sale prices for the units range from $95,000 for a studio, affordable to someone making 45% of median family income (MFI)

MFI in Oregon for 1-earner is about $40k, so 45% is $18k.

They are saying you can afford a $95k studio making $1,500/mo gross? Thats about $8.50/hr.

That doesnt seem possible. Unless my math is wrong...could be, its late.

My quick reading of Jack Bog's above linked document says they range from:
387 sqft for $95,000
1124 sqft for $180,000

I calculate:
$245.48/sqf for the small units
$160.14/sqft for the "large" units

Is this a good deal for the buyer?

From the document:
• Three public benefits have been provided:
o Net density of at least 80 percent of the maximum
o Structured parking
o All parking spaces are to be sold separately from the units.
These are not benefits to the public. Each one is a detriment to our livability:

o Net density of at least 80 percent of the maximum
No benefit - Density causes traffic congestion. See portlandfacts.com/Smart/DensityCongestion.htm

o Structured parking
No benefit - This is the most expensive type of parking. One local source shows that parking spaces at that land value (1985 sqft for $14,280 per portlandmaps, ID R573816) should cost around $2500 per space while structured would cost over $15,000 per space. This extra cost would be a severe bourdon on the low income.

o All parking spaces are to be sold separately from the units.
No benefit - this will guarantee that many people fill all available neighborhood street parking. It will be far worse than around most condo farms that at least include some parking. Anyone tricked into giving up their car will find fewer job choices available to them because transit cannot go to as many places as a car can in a reasonable commute time. Of course it will help provide minimum wage workers for all those trendy coffee shops in the Pearl and Sowhat. And, many of those without a car will find themselves locked into that cycle of crappy jobs along the toy train line. Some public benefit.


"Only buyers meeting the household income qualifications described in Section
3.103.040 C of City Code Chapter 3.103 will be able to receive the 10-year tax
exemption for their units."

so the developers get a subsidy in the sense that they can market these units to people making lower income then would normally be able to afford the units. its really not MUCH of a subsidy.

the people getting the bulk of the tax abatement are those looking for affordable housing that make less then median wage.

The dirty little secret that the "railfans" don't like to admit: most of this rail-oriented TOD development is tax-abated. Now, I have nothing against tax abatements used properly, but when they are used to justify constructing projects that just seem to satisfy "hobbyist" yearnings like oversized trolley lines, that's when things get out of hand.

Somewhere, sometime, somehow, a decision was made by persons unknown that Portland needed high-rise condo towers more than it needed a better school system. When was that? Who was in on it? Can we see a roll call on that?

It is so obvious that this defies the will of the people that I don't think we even need a referendum or poll on it. Yet, how is it that these projects keep coming out of the pipe with no finger prints on them?

It was all decided by Neil Goldschmidt, who pocketed his sellout money and then moved his finger so that his puppet, Vera Katz, would set everything in motion. Sam Adams is in charge now. The schools will tank, and the condo jerks will get rich. It will be just like San Francisco, which would suit some folks just fine.

Jack It will be just like San Francisco, which would suit some folks just fine.
JK: Or LA:
We could not depart Figures 12 through 14 without pointing out some apparent disparities between perception and measurement, namely, Los Angeles. When we measure the LA region, we find high densities and low per capita road and freeway mileage and travel times only slightly higher than average. By way of contrast, common perceptions of Los Angeles suggest low density, high per capita road mileage and intolerable congestion. In public discussions we gather the general impression that Los Angeles represents a future to be avoided. By the same token, with respect to density and road per capita mileage it displays an investment pattern we desire to replicate.

From page 7 of “Metro Measured”, a Metro Publication. You can get a copy from:
(Although, I think Metro finally got around to putting it on their site, this is a scan from an original paper copy)


Windows, windows, everywhere - almost every room has a great view! Located on Bull Mountain the Bench View house has some of the most spectacular views to be found in the Willamette Valley. The house affords a high level of privacy with the lot backing up to green space. Built on a steep slope with a natural landscaped back yard that runs into a bird lover’s paradise this house offers a home owner the convenience of city living with a country feeling.

That's the descrition of Engler's own house for sale on the GLC website..."backing up to green space?" Y'mean no snout houses shoe-horned in next door? (Like the GLC webpage shows "changing neighborhoods".)

Kinda ironic...

but to be clear, with THIS PROJECT, the vast majority of the subsidies are going to middle income and lower families. not developers.

unless i missed something... by all means, someone correct me.

Yeah, you missed the part about how the subsidies make these closets easier to sell, thus increasing their price, thus benefiting the developer.

actually, i was the one that pointed that out. from what i understand, its not that the developers raise the prices of the units, but increase their customer base.

therefore they can sell the units faster and easier. indeed its a little push that helps greatly in a tight market. if they also raised their prices, they would price themselves out of actually benefiting from the subsidy.

but the bulk of the subsidy seems to be helping median and lower income people into home ownership. as in- the majority of the actual subsidy is going directly to those people, with the developer getting a side benefit of the subsidy.

also a 1200 square foot 2br is hardly a closet. i live in a 900 square foot 2br and its room enough for a small family for sure. of course, my family is just about smack dab at median income, so that kind of space is what i expect.

its a heck of a lot bigger then the apartment i moved from. and of course, i own my home, and thus for the first time actually have a positive net worth.

perhaps its difficult for more wealthy people to understand the sort of financial impact owning a small home can have on median earners?

That's your last ad hominem remark here, friend. One more and you're gone.

Shouldn't we start calling him Commish-in-Waiting Chris Smith? Once the open seat is identified (Sammy Boy?), it's going to be a sustainable bike density smackdown between Smith and Fritz.

Where's Nick Fish when you need him?

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