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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Colwood neighbors, meet Goliath

The folks who want to keep the Colwood Golf Course a greenspace are about to find out what really talks at Portland City Hall. It's green, all right, but not as in "sustainable." It's green, as in money.

Today Nick Budnick of the Trib breaks some serious bad news for the park advocates: The owners of the property, who want it rezoned so that they can sell a bunch of it off to the Port of Portland for an airport expansion, and most of the rest to unnamed "industrial" interests, have hired Steve Janik to represent them. Janik, a one-time colleague of mine, is a highly skilled attorney, and the ultimate Portland City Hall fixer. He has been pulling strings and mowing down neighborhood opposition to development projects since the late 1970s. He is to advocacy for real estate types what I try to be to blogging: smart, hard-driving, and relentless.

The "Hollywood West" Fred Meyer store? Wouldn't have gone in without Janik. The huge parking garage across from the Schnitz? Ditto, Janik. There are many, many more. Janik manipulates local politicians like a master puppeteer with a collection of colorful marionettes. A few years back, he used to let Jim Francesconi use office space in his law firm to dial for campaign dollars. Lightweight Sarah Palin types like Sam Adams will see things Janik's way, have no doubt.

Janik joins a growing raft of lobbyists who have been enlisted to get that land over to the Port, and to the other paradise-pavers who think a blue heron is a drug to stay away from. As noted here last week, Mike Lindberg is on board, and we now see that "developer Roland Haertl and consultant Trina Whitman, a former aide to Congressman Earl Blumenauer," are also in on the action.

Who's paying for all that arm-twisting? It's got to be costing a fortune. Janik alone has got to run $500 an hour, or more. Are the golf course owners really willing to throw that much dough around? Something tells me that there are some other West Hills dudes with a stake in this -- a big construction company, maybe, and of course some developers -- and a master plan for the whole place has already been sketched out on the QT. The deal has doubtlessly already been quietly wired at the Port -- it usually is -- and so Portland City Hall is the last piece left on the board for the money boys to capture. The whole thing has serious Arlington Club musk wafting off it. And of course, the Port has a bottomless pit of money to play with. Are Port tax dollars going into the fight with the neighbors? One way or another, I'll bet they are.

In any event, already the big bucks are paying off. Now the City Council has suddenly decided that it won't be ruling on the zoning change until November. Will that be the day before Thanksgiving, so that the news can be conveniently lost by the local media? Or how about the day after Election Day, amidst either a massive Obama party hangover or alternatively, the talk of Oregon seceding from the United States?

And of course, delay greatly helps the developer and Port interests, whose minions get paid by the hour while the hapless unpaid neighborhood activists watch months, and then years, of their lives get burned up trying to hang in there. Eventually in such cases, the neighbors tend to give up. Some move away. The rest stick around and resent the city government for the rest of their lives. It happens all the time. Go ask the folks in Buckman, as just one example.

Meanwhile, it looks as though Fireman Randy's already been convinced to give the Port what it wants. Suddenly today a city bureau under his command is touting the rezoning as a jobs-creation vehicle. Budnick reports: "Meanwhile, proponents of the change argue that rezoning would help fill a regional shortage of industrial land. The Portland Bureau of Development Services said it could lead to the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs."

Oh, boy. Say goodbye to the grass, people. Nobody at BDS says boo without Fireman Randy giving it the o.k. He's obviously ready to play ball with Janik and Lindberg.

Lindberg, who was a big seller of the OHSU aerial tram [rim shot], is still talking "win-win" at Colwood. That's a special code in Portland. It means "my way."

UPDATE, 7:42 p.m.: The city says the Trib got it wrong. More here.

Comments (23)

So you really think the neighbors won't get a fair hearing at City Hall? Aren't these the people we elect to represent us?

When do we get a politician in this town who has something other than a wet noodle for a backbone? Sam is going to be even more manipulable than Vera and that is no mean feat.

Business as usual. Think one way to put a slowdown on these types, would be the day after Sam is sworn in as the head dude,( no pun intended) would be for someone who knows the ins and outs file a recall petition. That should keep them busy at city hall.

Saltzman should be against this. Remember he said that trees should have rights. Oh yes, I get it, that goes only for the trees on my property not those at Colwood.

They could get Vera out there and tout them as "family wage" jobs.

As someone who's golfed at Colwood, I favor converting it to economic and job creation. It really isn't a good green space. It's sandwhiched between heavily freight-truck-used Columbia Boulevard and the roar of jet engines at the existing runways. Roads bearing rush hour traffic cut through the golf course.

Maybe a compromise would be to tax the property, and use such additional revenues to buy other greenspace.

Let's see, if Colwood is so desirable as open space, then isn't the right thing to do to have the city buy it? Of course, if the city proposed spending $25 million for park land next to the airport and a major truck road, the BoJackers would immediately howl about such a stupid use of their money. (Howling against anything the city council does or considers doing is pretty much the point, isn't it?)

I am sure Sam Adams loves the comparison to Sarah Palin. Once again, PLEASE don't fill his head with ideas that he should run for higher office. Yes, it would be great if he left Portland on the Eric Sten Express Train, but I cringe at what the rest of the country would have to deal with. I guess we take one for the team.

How much $$ does Portland receive from Salem?

Maybe a few non-Portland legislators could haul Adams and co before a committee and make them justify all the $$ they get from Salem in light of all their hare brained schemes (Tram, So what etc).

No non-Portland legislators are going to be in a position to haul anyone before any Legislative committees. The people running the show in Salem are of the same mind-set as Sam. They love every crazy, hair-brained, money-wasting idea he has and will back him to the hilt.

There is big money at play here.

The Port's willingness to buy a 1/3 or more of the property at $200,000 an acre is the primary impetus for the Hawaiian-based owner's rezoning application (this is five to ten times the present land value, and this purpose was approved by the Port of Portland Commission on April 9 - but it is contingent on the property being rezoned). Given the size of that potential windfall, it is understandable that they want to go for the "Big Kahuna".

But the effect of rezoning any inch of this Open Space to industrial would be far-reaching and go beyond the fact that rezoning undermines the goals, policy and vision of the Comp Plan, Metro's Plans, and local neighborhood plans.

First of all, if Council amends the Comprehensive Plan and allows any part of Colwood to be rezoned industrial, the City will lose its primary leverage for shaping how the Port develops. Let there be no doubt, if it is zoned industrial, the Port will do whatever it wants with the property.

Secondly, this rezoning action will set a precedent that will definitely be used by the Port and others to force the rezoning of other significant Open Space such as Broadmoor.

I don't know what will happen tomorrow but it would be great if the political winds steer the land-owner away from the Port and into the truly safe harbor of working with the Trust for Public Land to broker a purchase by the City. But having Colwood continue as a golf course is a-ok as well.

Perhaps the greatest irony I have heard in all of this is that when the Columbia Slough was being opened to industrial use in the 1950's, Colwood's owner was one of the biggest proponents AGAINST rezoning.

Of course, that was when ownership was still a local concern and not managed out of state.

I was once on a project team with R.H. as developer , man what a 'd,cheney' style jerk.
He was on OUR side , and he stripped the budget and ruined any quality we tried to give it.

Every inch of remaining greenspace along and near the Columbia Slough is precious, and every additional square inch of impervious surface in the floodplain there is insanity. This thing stinks to high heaven.

Time for a no-net-loss of greenspaces pledge from everybody running for office. This is a question that shouldn't have to be asked, but here we are.

Will bet dollars to donuts that these jokers have Walmart and a list of big box mega-stores all lined up and ready to jump into this "industrial" area.

Tony, some rhetorical (and not so rhetorical) questions for you. Do you honestly think that is the best location for a neighborhood park and would you honestly support the City in spending taxpayer dollars to acquire it? And if you do, then do you really think the City would fund landscaping and maintenance at anywhere near the level the owners do now?

It's understandable that you'd want it to stay the way it is now, for you and your neighbors to continue to enjoy, and at the expense of the owner instead of you or other taxpayers. But is that the same policy and vision you want the City to apply to everyone? If you have a really nice garden, should the city zone it as open space and then prevent you from building a house on it?

This has been zoned Open Space for a LONG time, and has remained so through multiple long and difficult public plan processes. Keeping this Open Space has been a long term commitment of local decision makers to the community for decades.

Shame especially on Mike Lindberg, who carried the flag for many of the green spaces initiatives in the past.

And, no, it should not be a neighborhood park, it should be a regional park, like Forest Park, Powell Butte, Washington Park, Waterfront Park, Mt Tabor, Delta Park, Gabriel Park, Laurelhurst Park, etc. The Park Bureau has been managing Heron Lakes for a mixed mission of golf, water quality and habitat, respecting its proximity to the Slough for years. Management of Colwood along the same lines would be a huge plus for Portland.


Would a Colwood park be ideally centralized for Cully residents? No, but that location doesn't presently exist.

However, although there are no residents right on the boundary of Colwood at present, Cully residents on NE Killingsworth are only about 1/2 mile from Colwood and the most distant Cully resident is only two miles away. Primary access for Cully residents would be via NE Cully Blvd. Cully Blvd is currently being improved in sections with bikeways and sidewalks.

With regard to acquisition of the area for a park, there is funding available for acquisition of Colwood as a park including Metro’s Natural Areas Bond, the City's parks system development charges, and state grants. It is important to note that these funding sources may only be used for park and open space acquisition. Use of these funds would not affect the funding of other pressing needs in Portland or the region.

To be clear, the request to Council from the land-owner is to rezone FROM Open Space TO industrial, not the other way around.

As I have noted in the past, Colwood is zoned Open Space now and has always been zoned Open Space.

Retaining the Open Space zoning is consistent with what this property has always been. Further, as reflected in the Hearings Officer’s recommendation, Open Space zoning better serves the goals, policies and objectives of the City's Comprehensive Plan than industrial zoning.

So with all due respect, I feel like your example of rezoning a residential area to open space because of the quality of a garden, isn't quite the same thing.

We aren't looking to rezone Colwood, we want it zoned as is - Open Space.

All the best,


I agree with dyspeptic, have the city purchase it and manage it like Heron Lakes. Having public golf courses serves everyone not just golfers. All types of other activities can co-exist including hiking, wildlife viewing and the environmental benefits of green space.

Maybe I'm just confused by this whole thing. I thought a golf course is a private commercial enterprise, not a public park or open space.
And I thought the whole point of putting industry near the airport and the highways, and near all the other industry was so that you don't have to build it on the outskirts, on a farm, where there are no highways or airport, and you don't then have to build new roads and truck stops, and houses for the people who work there, and schools, and wal-marts, etc, etc.

I agree with Sue, this space seems to make more sense as industrial than anything else. It is surrounded by industrial space already and it seems to be a poor place for a park.

If the local residents want it as a park so bad then why don't they just buy it and maintain it as a park? Oh, they don't have the money to do that so they want the rest of us to buy it for them and maintain it for them? Well while we're asking Sugar Daddy for free stuff how about someone getting me a Ferrari? The new 430 looks likes like a sweet car. Make it red please with tan leather interior.

Sue and Andy,

Thanks for your comments. The idea of proximity to infrastructure as a reason to support rezoning seems like given but, actually it isn't that simple. (is anything?)

For instance, there are no sewer connections for Colwood at present - only a septic system. This is infrastructure that would need to be built and storm-water management that does not result in discharge into the Columbia Slough would have to be developed.

More importantly, ODOT and PDOT have stated that any development allowed on the site has to be severely constrained because of limitations of existing transportation system - especially the I-205/Killingsworth Interchange.

Among other things, this means jobs projections presented by the applicant are way out of line. Also, the "shovel ready" moniker used by proponents of rezoning is a misnomer.

Even putting neighborhood and environmental issues aside, this is far from an ideal site for industrial development and there is plenty of land already zoned industrial that is vacant in the Slough that is appropriate for industrial development.

Sorry to be a broken-record on this but the real issue here is the Port.

The Port's willingness to buy a 1/3 or more of the property at $200,000 an acre is the primary impetus for request for a Comprehensive Plan amendment by the owner. This is five to ten times the present land value - depending on who you ask.

To restate a core concern, beyond the many environmental and neighborhood issues, the effect of rezoning any inch of this Open Space (and that is its present zoning and always has been, it is not merely a descriptive term) would mean that the City concedes its primary leverage for shaping how the Port develops in this area and it opens the door to similar action in other areas.

This is definitely not a precedent Council should set.

Anyhoo, I would love to chat more about this - truly - but I have a hearing to prepare for. We will see what happens tonight!

No matter what, it should be interesting: high-powered, paid lobbyists versus a rag tag group of exhausted volunteers - yep, all the makings of a TV movie....

All the best,


Apropos of demand for industrial space: a flat nine-acre site owned by The Oregonian, next to a freeway on-ramp in the Northwest Industrial Sanctuary and with all utilities in place, has sat vacant for ten years awaiting a user. Other industrial land with services in place sits vacant, including land from the airport east to Troutdale. It's hard to make the case that there's a compelling need to rezone more industrial land in or near wetlands (the Port likes to fill in wetlands) and the slough while better-suited land sits vacant and unwanted.

So let me get this straight (because I'm not that familiar with this whole deal and I thought the neighbors were against the port expansion). The port can buy the property regardless of whether the owner wants to sell it. So opposing this zone change only ensures that the port gets its property cheap and the owner gets half of a golf course that he can't sell. And the city loses out on that park donation.

And the neighbors get what? An expanded airport. A shuttered golf course which will probably have to be fenced off for liability/to prevent vandalism. No park.

On another note, has anyone on here ever played Colwood? Want to play with me on Saturday?

The whole premise of Portland's and Metro's greenspaces planning is that greenspaces provide a value so great that it needs to be allowed to trump commercial values for some areas. Open space designations in plans like the Columbia South Shore plan and the City's Comp Plan are how these get held over time.

The idea that any of this is new discussion is the most subversive on the table. Only by trashing a century's worth of commitments to the past, current and future citizens of Portland can the City Council even entertain this discussion. The idea that the Hearings Officer might somehow have been mistaken is a self-serving fabrication on the part of the applicants and their cronies.


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