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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fireman Randy and the Colwood deal

This morning's Trib informed us that the Portland Bureau of Development Services was telling the public that the proposed paving-over of the vast majority of acreage in the Colwood Golf Course in Northeast Portland would create jobs. According to the Trib story, "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."

I read this as an indication that Commissioner Randy Leonard, who runs a tight ship at that city bureau, must be at least leaning toward supporting the Colwood rezoning proposal. He informs me, however, that the story is inaccurate, or at least misleading.

Indeed, in a string of e-mails on which I have been copied, Leonard has asked BDS staffers who might have said such a thing to the Trib reporter, Nick Budnick. These e-mails concluded with no one at the bureau owning up to making any such statement. In an e-mail message to Leonard this afternoon, with a copy sent to me, Rebecca Esau of the bureau wrote:

I checked here with Susan McKinney and Sheila Frugoli, and we have not spoken to the Tribune about this. The 2,000 job estimate did not come from us.

The article says, "The Portland Bureau of Development Services said it could lead to the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs." I can only assume the press got this information by reading the BDS staff report which cited the applicant's statements. The application included an economic impact analysis by Leland Consulting Group (LCG). The LCG report states that on average, Portland industrial sites provide 17 jobs per acre. The LCG report then estimated the number of industrial employees one could expect on a site this size. They assumed there would be 115 gross developable acres which would achieve 1,955 jobs. This info is all part of the applicant's proposal and application, and this type of info is included in the staff report.

We haven't, and would not, enter into a public debate about a case that is going to be decided by City Council. Our role is just reviewing the proposal and doing the initial staff report and recommendation to the Hearings Officer, based on the facts of the case, and then once the Hearings Officer report comes out, presenting the facts of the case, the Hearings Officer's report, and the issues to the City Council, for them to make their decision.

If no one at the BDS advanced the jobs-creation theory to the Trib, then any tea-leaf prophecies about Leonard's likely vote on the matter were premature.

Comments (4)

I have heard rumors here and there on this and that but I really can't say that I know where each Council member stands. And I have come to realize that I don't have the right constitution for political "tea-leaf reading". I am glad to leave that to folks like Jack.

I will say that the opponents to the rezone - including myself - have met with staffers for each Commissioner and the Mayor on this issue (but not the elected representatives themselves).

None of the staff have provided any "reveal" on how their boss may be leaning and all have made clear that no questions or responses they make should be taken as evidence of where the elected they work for stands.

To their credit, all the staff members have shown an interest in the depth of the issues. So call me naive if you want, but I doubt any Council staffer - and I hope by extension any Council member - will accept a superficial sound-bite like "it will create 2,000 jobs" at face-value.

"help fill a regional shortage of industrial land."

This has to be some kind of misunderstanding, since Metro is required by law to maintain a 20-year supply of buildable industrial land.

It's the same kind of misunderstanding in which Sam Adams and Erik Sten think the City should fund schools and Randy Leonard thinks the City should help eastern Oregon ethanol dreamers.

Rebecca Esau is correct, that sentence in my article alluded to the staff report and recommendation the bureau issued in March. Thanks to a hasty read, I misinterpreted this sentence on page 16:

'The applicant's economic analysis shows an immediate need in the City as well as the region for additional industrially-zoned, development-ready sites. The report estimates that 115 gross acres could result in providing a place for 1,955 new jobs.'

Compounding the confusion was some imprecise writing on my part. We've corrected it, and I apologize for the error.

On page 44 of its report, BDS did discuss the job potential of rezoning 101 acres as it tentatively recommended in March. It said this recommendation "will result in the addition of hundreds of employees" to the airport industrial district.
That said, I have heard nothing to suggest that Commissioner Leonard is anything but on the fence. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

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