Portland neighbors vs. apartment bunkers, Round 938
Another hot little land use controversy is brewing up on North Williams Avenue. The Portland City Council is about to pass an emergency ordinance approving a 10-year tax abatement for a 72-unit apartment bunker on the southeast corner of Williams and Beech (just north of Fremont, until recently the site of an abandoned record store). The developer is reportedly an entity controlled by long-time Portland builders Ruben and Jack Menashe. Neighbors of the project are concerned about its height and bulk, and they're sounding off.
A couple of them sent us copies of their protests yesterday. One wrote:
Dear Mayor Adams and Portland City Commissioners,Another neighbor chimes in with this:
Please accept this letter into the record as opposition to Emergency Ordinance No. 866, the proposed approval of the 10-year tax exemption requested by RuJax 1 LLC for The Albert Mixed-Use Apartments. I respectfully request that the City Council continue your decision on the tax exemption until after the Bureau of Development Services has considered the multiple appeals to Land Use Decision 09-101831 and until a final decision has been made on this Land Use Decision.
My husband and I live less than a block north of the proposed development. I understand that the Planning Commission held a hearing on the TOD tax exemption request on May 26, 2009 at which time they voted unanimously to recommend conditional approval of the request to the City Council. Because we live slightly over 150 feet from the proposed development, we were not notified of the initial public hearings for the land use decision or the TOD tax exemption.
Given the enormity of the impact of your decisions on our community, I urge you to continue your decision until the concerns of the community have been heard. The tax abatement decision should not be considered an emergency under Section 2 Ordinance No. 866 on the basis that "there be no delay in the construction of the transit supportive housing in this project," because the developer will need to wait for the final land use decision prior to construction. There is no reason to process the tax abatement request ahead of the land use decision.
There are several flaws in the findings to support approval by the City Council. The Emergency Ordinance recommends that the commentary in Exhibit A: Planning Commission’s Report and Recommendation on the TOD Tax Exemption Request for The Albert Mixed-Use Apartments be accepted as legislative intent and as findings. However, the PC Report is dated June 12 prior to the City receiving multiple land use appeals, and recommends approval of the land use decision with modifications to a rear setback, to the interior parking lot landscaping requirements, and to loading space size requirements -- without regard to the appeals. In addition, the Planning Commission's approval of the tax exemption was contingent on the condition that 18 units be reserved for low income households and that the development provide ground floor commercial space, a dedicated car share space and LEED Silver certification. However, it appears that RUJAX is not certain it will apply for LEED certification, due to its high cost (http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/ne/boise/news/2009/05/the_albert_apartments_proposed_for_williams_corridor_in_boise/).
There are many other proposed developments (even along N Williams) that are more worthly of tax exemption benefits in this tight economic climate than the Albert Apartments.
I am a strong supporter of dense urban development as a way to avoid urban sprawl -- and even tax exemptions. For example, I support the proposed development for United Bikeworks at the corner of N Shaver and N Williams, as well as Adaptive Development Company's previous "Hub Team" projects along Williams that now house Lompoc, Pix, Lincoln, Yoga Shalla and other small businesses. I also support Oregon Energy Trust incentives and Business Energy Tax Credits for renewable energy projects and urban developments like the Hub developments. The Albert Apartments development, however, is not consistent with the neighborhood and relies on unjustified variances. Unlike the Hub Team development, the apartment complex does not incorporate elements of nearby, quality buildings such as building details, massing, proportions, and materials. Also unlike previous developments along N Williams, the Albert Apartments setback variance and height will result in negative impacts to the privacy and viewsheds of adjacent residences.
Please consider our community appeals prior to acting in this exemption hearing. Thank you for taking the time.
Sara McMahon Parsons
Hello,One obvious question that jumps out is, Why the rush? Where's the legitimate emergency here? Perhaps Commissioner Fritz will ask -- she usually has her antennas out for that sort of process abuse.
I am writing in opposition of the TOD Tax Exemption on the 65,000 sq. ft. new development called the Albert Apartments at 3638 N. Williams. The Neighborhood Association has filed an appeal of this project. And a second appeal was filed by a group of neighbors and community members.
The executive director of the Architectural Heritage Center registered their opposition to this project. Noting, "It does not appear that there was any notice for the demolition permit for the buildings at the above address, despite the much-celebrated prior long-time business uses by Brooks Grocery & Meats, the House of Sound, the NAACP’s offices, and the late Willie Harris’s Sportsman Barber Shop and Williams Street Market. This complex was identified on our Cornerstones African American Buildings History project, given its long and continuing African American associations over time. We acknowledge that the buildings were not designated by the city for Portland for their history, despite our efforts to provide some recognition and related reviews."
It is unethical and wrong on many levels, to go forward with a council financial review and planning for a project that is in still in early processes of appeal. The fundamental project descriptions, building plans, public benefits are all theoretical at this point and under administrative appeal. The strength and validity of the information you are using to base your decisions are still in dispute and so any decision you reach will lack strength and credibility.
The community must be given an actual voice in this matter and the value of their input must not be made meaningless by council actions nullifying their continued and rightful attempts at participation.
This is a slight on the cultural value of the community and its inhabitants who have a right to be heard and considered fairly before more irrevocable and precedent setting actions are taken by any parties.
This project is in a Design Review Overlay Zone, which means their are many considerations given this project that projects in EX zones are not awarded. It is not a free ticket to develop anything you like and it does not trump at every turn the needs of the abutting residential and small commercial uses. The Design Overlay is in place to prevent this sort of big developer from steamrolling community residents. This seems to be the way of the PDC, the City and big developers taking for instance the Paulson, Lents debacle recently.
Before the outcome of these appeals are determined it is irresponsible to to authorize and commit the City to tax abatements. There is no way to know what at this point you are committing to and what ultimate form the development will take. The area is replete w/ for sale, for lease, for rent signs. Adding a monster development on top of this will further diminish property values and the value of the community as a whole. In light of massive layoffs of city workers, teachers, emergency responders and the like this type of pork is outrageous and can not be justified. It is business as usual and the rich get richer.
Given that the facts upon which a Ten Year Tax Abatement would be granted are still being disputed by the neighborhood association and community members in two seperated adminstrative appeals, it is negligent to move forward with this approval.
The effect of a the Council's ruling in favor of this abatment would be to effectively squash and silence the importance of the public voice in this matter and matters like this by essentially negating the meaning of their participation in the process.
You have your carts before your horses. Giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to huge developers through public subsidies like this in a time when teachers are being given pink slips is dishonorable and just plain wrong. Not to mention that the project you are basing this decision on is still under appeal. What are you basing your decisions on? And what's the rush to demolish and build. Aren't their empty condos and building galore in the Pearl District that are the result of Development for the sake of Tax Abatement?
Thanks for your time,
The other irony is that the bus service from that block to downtown is about to be cut back substantially with the upcoming truncation of the 33 Fremont line, which will now terminate at Emanuel Hospital. And I believe the plan is that eventually, the 6 MLK line will also be chopped off somewhere near the infernal eastside streetcar. But there's no cutting the tax giveaways for building bunkers anywhere near a bus. Oh, no. We must have Fake New York, and not just in the Pearl.