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Friday, August 7, 2009

Linchpin lost

The O is finally getting around to admitting that Portland's SoWhat "district" is an unmitigated financial disaster. And of course, they're sure to run the story on Saturday, when their paid circulation is around 812.

Even buried that way, it's at best a half-fast admission that things are not so rosy: "incredibly unlucky timing and the riverfront view into the nation's economic malaise... The John Ross and Atwater Place have not gone into default or foreclosure.... South Waterfront's troubles aren't unusual in a recession where credit is as hard to come by as a brunch table on a sunny Portland Sunday." Leaving the psychedelic simile aside, whitewashes like this one make me want to hurl an epithet.

Vibrant neighborhood, generous view corridors, biotech mecca, economic engine, "smart" living, international tourist attraction, housing for people from all walks of life -- it was all lies. Lies told by the developers, the OHSU money-mongers, the Goldschmidt people, the editorial board of the O, and the local politician puppets. They all should be run out of town over this -- but funny thing, they're pretty much all still hanging around. That, unfortunately, is classic Portland power.

Comments (19)

...and before the first shovel of dirt was dug up the developer said, "the froth is off the market".

Don't worry Sam's working on a PowerPOint as we speak telling us the exact opposite about SoWa.

After all that thing he put together about Portland's job plan seemed to convince most of the mouth-breathers here in Portland that he actually knows something.

Oh, I see. The city council and the developers who screwed Portland over with this, are now the victims. It took incredibly bad luck for this not to work.
Sorry, but it'll take more than a few folksy comparisons with Sunday brunch, to make that load float.

Ryan Frank just pulled a Sarah Palin. He went cutesy-wootsey to avoid telling the truth. Where's the description of what the city is still on the hook for with this?

He can try and portray Portland's politicians and developers as nothing more than some ernest brunch eaters ordering up an omelet, but the unfortunate thing for him is that Jack was there in real time, calling this for what it has become: A city-threatening boondoggle.

But this is no time to look backwards. We must look forwards to the future. Put on your scarves, everyone. It's time - once again - to renovate PGE Park.

South Waterfront? Sam and company will scrape that off their shoes quicker than a dog turd and walk on.

The difference is if you hated South Waterfront, you hated bio-tech jobs. This time if you hate the PGE Park deal you hate soccer.

Set your phasers to spin. Ready? 3-2-1-go!

These condos were built for people like me. Young, single people making somewhere north of $50k who want to live downtown. But at $350k for a freaking studio, there's absolutely no way I can afford the mortgage, let alone want to live there. Especially when I can live in a Lake Oswego condo that's 50% larger for 50% less.

I would LOVE to live in SoWa. Still. But those prices have got to come down.

Jezus you guys, didn’t you hear that a 23-year-old horse died downtown? Why do you keep harping about 125 million dollars of public money given away to clueless developers? Sam’s not Twittering about this, why are you?

The SoWa project was all planed to happen this way. Once it goes into foreclosure the city will buy it all for 10 cents on the dollar and turn the entire area into a homeless shelter. A major win-win for all tax payers. No panhandlers down town, and no need to purchase more outdoor Randy potties.

But, what about the construction jobs? Did they last just long enough for the workers to show stable income and get huge loans on overpriced homes?

I commend Jack on his analysis of the facts this entire time.

Bad Brad - very very funny

Gotta love the soft peda and doublespeak. "Lenders take charge of condos," actually means (in at least one case), "Lenders foreclose on condos." And it might as well mean that in other cases of language at play:

"Lawyers and real estate investors say it's become routine for lenders to employ a 'soft receivership.' The lender doesn't records a foreclosure in the publicly accessible property records. But the bank sometimes takes over the company that owns the building. That's what happened on the last two South Waterfront projects still in sales mode."

The fourth tower isn't even condo; it switched to rental apartments in May of last year.

But not to worry: "Nothing has changed."

The best part is that this whole article confirms what everyone had been saying for years: the Oregonian was sucking up to everyone involved in order to preserve access to Portland politicians and to keep the real estate advertising revenue going. Now that Sam's probably going to be tarred and feathered, and now that the condo developers aren't buying full-page ads every day, now it's safe to downplay the editors' involvement with hyping this fiasco and find the real killers, erm, I mean, bring everyone to justice.

Here in Dallas, we're going through the same fiasco. The Dallas Morning News spent years hyping the merits of adjustable-rate mortgages, including pushing the idea of women freshly graduated from college becoming homeowners because "you don't need to wait to get married to own a house." (The irony, of course, is that the "Dullest Boring Snooze" otherwise is a firm advocate of women staying at home and keeping quiet unless their man tells them it's okay.) We've been hit by the real estate speculation bust, but just not quite as hard as Portland, and only now is the News bothering to note that property prices are starting to drop and that people aren't able to get what they paid for their houses.

As with both papers, though, nobody gives a damn when it's the poorer members of society who are getting whomped by the housing market scam. Thousands in St. Johns or Irving getting hit with foreclosures because their loan agents told them all about "the power of yes"? Who gives a damn. It's when you have some MBA scumball who can't sell his horribly overpriced McMansion for three times what he paid for it that suddenly this is a nationwide crisis. Forget the little people in shotgun houses havng to move out: the MBAs made a business decision that might lose money, and that just won't do.

Texas Triffid Ranch,
Way to bring the heat. Nolan Ryan would be proud.

Yep, the article talks about a guy who put a deposit on a condo in the Ross and took a beating when he couldn't flip it for a fat profit.

Oh, cry me a river.

I think we can call this for what it is and still feel sorry about the horse.

The sense of entiltement of some of these yupsters to make money-often at the expense of poorer people-nausetes me. Lots of reporters share it: As long as I've got mine, who cares what is really happening in the world? It's my job to investigate and report what is true? Nah, it is my job to be a family man and circle the wagon to defend my employer-right or wrong.

This is exactly what happens when government gets involved in what should be a private endeavor. My guess is without public assistance and incentives this turd would have never been built.

Yay government!

"Real estate broker Patrick Clark, whose company has sold all of South Waterfront's new condos, said the homeowners associations, maintenance and marketing budgets will continue to be funded by the owners until all units are sold."

You can imagine how the owners enjoy pouring their money into buildings they plan to sell.

It's going to be messy when liberated condo associations start surveying the deferred maintenance needs of these rapidly-aging towers.

Nobody benefits from telling potential buyers about this, so buyers need to be careful and look into this for themselves. If they don't, they might think they got a great deal on a condo, only to face financially-ruinous special assessments after closing.

Yes James, there are at least two, maybe three Local Improvement Districts that are and will be sucking money from the condo buyers there and to come: Trolley, Transportation, Greenway, maybe even for the street lighting and Poodle Park.

That is why Homer and Edlen usually like to sell their buildings out early so that they don't have to pay for these LIDs and for the 30% affordable housing buildings that are required. Nor for the schools, or additional parks, or for parking.

I lament for all the years, all the neighborhood groups and individuals that poignantly expressed concerns, objections for all the misleading, lying, obscuring of issues that arose during the planning and now the slow implementation of the SoWhat Plan.

Katz, Adams, Sten, Saltzman, Francesconi, Leonard, PDC and Planning Bureau staff many times ignored and ridiculed comments, testimony made by citizens that questioned the marching orders. Katz several times used the words; "that's misleading", "that's not going to happen", "these aren't true depictions of the scale or what will be built", "that's not what it says". And the media, especially the Oregonian seldom questioned the path the city and PDC lead themselves down.

In fact Ryan Frank had knowledge about the foreclosures in SoWhat last fall, that he now whitewashes as "soft receivership". I know, he has to deal with his editorial board.

Sometimes a little truth telling could help a city, and even developers from making bad decisions.

I remember once when Vera was Queen, I attended a city council meeting on some LID machinations. I got to the meeting early and a cop and I were the only people present for a while. Both of us were sitting quietly, reading. Vera motioned to the officer and whispered something to her. The officer then sat a seat away from me. I sometimes wonder what Vera told her; that I was a dangerous person? A crazy person?

Citizens, and expecially citizen legal representatives, have gone through hell at the hands of developers and their legal representatives and if the pain every completely subsides, I have yet to experience that.

Interestingly, the excuses being used now to justify South Waterfront's failure are exactly those criticisms offered early and often. back then, those critizing were ridiculed--by Adams and Katz in particular.

It's an old pattern, blaming external forces for arrogance and poor decision making. it's worked for Portland for decades.

When you head north of I5, coming into downtown PDX and see the VIEW CORRIDORS offered by the SoWhat development I think back to all the testimony offered in objection to this development. Documents photos, diagrams, and illustrations correctly identified that this development would be the albatross. This is a prime example, AGAIN, of the lies told by the developers, by the city planners, and by Katz, Adams and a host of others about this BILLION DOLLAR FIASCO, on the backs of Portland taxpayers.

Then I have to read about the lies in the Oregonian. What a useless news?paper. They don't have the guts, and maybe they don't have the investigative talent to report ALL the major facts about these very important issues for Portland.

And in the middle of all this are our Liars In Chief, Sam Adams, Randy Leonard, and the entire City Council.

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