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Monday, November 24, 2008

Trouble ahead, trouble behind

Through the grapevine we hear that there could be some fireworks soon among the poor souls who own property in the failing SoWhat District in Portland. Apparently the Mayor-Elect revealed recently that he plans to spend $10 million of the proposed $22 million of "transportation system development charges" in SoWhat for the light rail line that is supposed to run through the district on its way downtown from Milwaukie. These "charges" are one-time taxes on property owners in a given area to pay for transportation improvements in that area. We suspect that the owners were expecting their money to go for projects that would help people get cars in, out, and through the concrete jungle down there, but of course that would violate the 11th Commandment, Thou shalt not drive.

The Tramster is also reportedly considering additional local improvement district taxes to be levied on the district. If that isn't the last nail in the coffin of this ill-advised "urban renewal" fiasco, we'd be surprised.

Comments (22)

Uh, who the hell is supposed to be paying this LID? Owners are already pretty strapped and the developers (who own the unsold ones) are one rung lower in the bowels of hell.

Sammy is the 2nd coming of Vera, but more expensive. He's already made his mind up that the trolley's going to happen no matter what it costs or how much he has to steal from other projects like roads, police or infrastructure.

The legislature should pull back the $250 million lottery dollars from Milwaukie light rail and halt that project, permanently.
ALL things considered I can't think of a worse "investment".

SoWhat and the PDC should get a full blown outside performance audit before any new schemes are hatched.
At which point past schemes, raiding of public monies and the TIF mess will be revealed for the farce that it is.
The reckless mismanagement of both the PDC and OHSU have risked the city's financial stability and OHSU's core missions.
The city council must stop pretending to be providing oversight.

Would anyone happen to know if the system development charge on a unit holder would be tax deductable, just as property taxes are?

The transportation development charge would have been paid up front, by the developer, as one of the costs as the tower went up. Like all costs it is capitalized in the price of the units when their sold, so the developer recoups costs and make a profit (in theory). There shouldn't be an additional tax on unit owners.

The LID is different. The LID would be a new tax applied most often just to businesses, I believe. But possibly to residents too, I guess. Don't know the rules on that.

If SoWat has to play by the same development funding rules as everybody else, that is good news. But, if past behavior is any predictor of future behavior, there's a secret give-away associated with this that we just don't know about yet -- like the gift parking lot that was dressed up to look like a sale.

Amazing!! Someone finally said it in print: "...the 11th Commandment, Thou shalt not drive." This is what Tramster, Sue Keil and a few other Portland leaders have been saying for years but always implicitly. And this comes from Jack who says he rides a bike sometimes.

The LID would be a new tax applied most often just to businesses, I believe. But possibly to residents too, I guess. Don't know the rules on that.

There are no hard an fast rules on who must pay a LID. Residents pitched a fit over a LID assessment for the PSU-Greyhound MAX line. LID proponents blinked and businesses are carrying the weight.

One of the dirty little secrets of LIDs is that the charges to property owners cannot--by State law and city code--exceed the benefits those property owners receive.

I suspect that TriMet et al. blinked on the downtown MAX "Grey Line" because there was no way they could demonstrate any net benefits to downtown residents who were already receiving frequent and convenient bus service.

That MAX line shouldn't even cross the river. Have it run on MLK and Grand--there are plenty of routes and modes crossing the river once you get that far. You would save the cost of the bridge, and wouldn't have to create an awkward streetcar alignment to serve that area either.

That MAX line shouldn't even cross the river.

Damn straight!!

"That MAX line shouldn't even cross the river."

THat MAX line shouldn't be extended.

SoWhat owners already have the tram LID, the trolley LID, the street's LID, the greenway LID. Now lets add the light rail LID, then the three future, local parks' maintenance LID, the $8500 each light pole LID, and the soon-to-be leaf LID.

The final straw will be when the city finally executes a few of the transportation projects required to make SoWhat minimally function and there will then be the BIG dollar Transportation LID.

Throw in the $289 Million of taxpayer dollars and the debt cost of the bonds on top and PDC's administrative costs and you got a BIG pile of public money and private money for a cold, forbidding utopia.

I was at the talk given buy the Vancouver BC city council person last week and was struck by his enthusastic descriptions of the wonders of Vancouver's city planning.

How they created a perfectly planned high density with little car use, walkable, tree lined streets full of happy people shopping at the little neighborhood stores.
He never mentioned the cost of those condos until I asked:

$1000 - $1500 /SQFT

About ten times what a single family house costs in a free market.

Why does Portland hold up a city that is affordable only to millionaires as an example to replicate?

Now we are starting to see Portland's millionaires have to pay for their own toys. And the builders who promoted this crap.

Sorry guys, my sympathies are with the ordinary taxpayers who have to pay for their basic services like police and fire.


As spendy as the LID-TSDC combo will be, it's the uncertainty of that amount that snuffs out any possibility of private development in North Macadam. If I know a $10K/unit charge is coming, at least I can pencil out if I can build anything, but how the hell does anyone work with a $????? charge?

There is no doubt that the PDC will skim millions from this new LID-TSDC scheme to help pay their own bills.
Self preservation is what they do and with TIF revenue falling way short of debt servicing the PDC need money to pay themselves.

KEEP IN MIND that the PDC pays their own bills, (a building full of 200 bureaucrats) with borrowed TIF bond money.
The current SoWhat 5 year budget has $18 million going to the PDC itself for "administration and management".

That's just this 5 year cycle, $18 million, it's borrowed money and all of it will be paid, with interest, from property taxes diveted from basic service.

PDC Executive Bruce Warner should be shown the door and half the employees let go.
Their useless ponderings they call planning should be the first cut in these lean times.

The comment about the $/sf of those Vancouver, BC high rise condos is right on the mark. The population pool those high price Vancouver buyers are drawn from is international. Where did the brains behind SoWat think we'd get any big number of buyers like that from?

"Where did the brains behind SoWat think we'd get any big number of buyers like that from? "

They thought the Tram was a big attraction.
I think Vera thought it was like the Eiffel Tower.

Now lets add ..... the soon-to-be leaf LID

Concrete can't grow trees. They might get a bye on this one.

They will pay extra for the poodle poop park, though.

Where did the brains behind SoWat think we'd get any big number of buyers like that from?

I honestly dont think they ever thought it out that far.

Vancouver BC is like Portland except much more expensive. I'd rather have PDX, minus the 1K/sq ft condos plus sensible public transit (buses!?!). I wasn't that impressed with Vancouver BC anyway - seemed very,very yuppie. Tons of yuppie art, food, events and the like - not at all unlike a Sam Adams Utopian PDX.

Sensible transit, sensible business policy, sensible housing. We don't need more rich people living in Portland - we have enough plus a ton of young sharp kids who want to create their own footprint. What happened to the sense in PDX leadership?

Sense was driven out of City Hall because he was No Fun and being seen with him would get you uninvited from the good parties.

Rettig, haven't you noticed all the street trees planted in SoWhat? Nor the bio-swales that are over 45 ft long each side of each block eliminating eight revenue parking spaces each block? They all take maintenance and ripe for an LID. It's a green oasis in SoWhat-just ask the PDC PR gurus.

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