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Sunday, December 6, 2009


Here's public corruption of the lowest order, in plain view:

Despite the delays, the Portland Development Commission has spent $6 million to nudge the garage along. That money came from property tax revenues.

It included $3 million the commission paid OHSU in 2005 to reserve parking spaces for the future apartment renters. At the time, the League of Women Voters of Portland, a watchdog group, criticized the payment as payback to OHSU for covering most of the budget overruns on the aerial tram.

Before the commission could build apartments above the garage, it had to buy control of the air rights -- that is, the right to build into the airspace over the site -- that [Homer] Williams' group, North Macadam Investors, had purchased previously. In 2006, the commission paid Williams' group $3 million for those rights.

The city made the deal despite an appraisal that valued the air rights at half that amount, $1.5 million. A more recent appraisal done for the PDC pegged the value of the rights at $1 million.

And will anything be done about it? Of course not. This is Oregon.

Comments (24)

Good post, Jack. You're inspiring me to grow a pair.

Portland or Williams-berg?

I have long thought that some enterprising lawyer should file a RICO lawsuit against PDC for this kind of crap. Better yet, how about John Kroger? (LOL)

Tell me that this isn't a criminal enterprise!

While we're on the topic of parking and OHSU...I seem to remember a promise from OHSU to the city, announced in the process of all the whooptidoo about the tram, that OSHU would NOT use the South Waterfront properties as overflow parking for the OHSU campus up the hill.

Just try to drive up to the campus parking office at Terwilliger and Sam Jackson after noon (and before 4 pm) to get a parking permit. Of late, I've been informed that they have no parking on the hill....and offered parking at South Waterfront.

I've even cruised the parking lots and noted how many empty spots there are, but when I convey this information to the Parking Office, they repeat some mindless chant about how they have to 'save spots for regular permit purchasers' to what regular permit purchasers are doing at that time of day without their cars parked in the parking spot for which they paid...I have no idea. But they will cheerily offer me parking at the South Waterfront and tell me, all excited like, how I can ride The Tram...*rimshot*. They think it's just wonderful until I remind them that the damn tram stops running before I leave campus....leaving me with no means to get back to my vehicle.

The bottom line is that the promise which OHSU made the city has already been breached. They don't care what they promise the city...they don't have to....they're OHSU.

Some idea of the mental giants in parking at OHSU can be seen in the posted parking spaces in one lot that save the spaces for vehicles 'greater than 80 inches high'. That sounds like its a thoughtful preparation for oversized vehicles until you proceed to the entrance of the lot, where a huge steel pole dangling from chains across the entrance clearly announces "No Vehicles Over 6 feet 8 inches". Yup...You do the math...They'll cite you for parking in a spot they are saving for a vehicle which is not supposed to even be IN the lot.

So...Don't expect mental giants. But then, don't expect moral behavior, either.

why the hell is the city paying anything for FAR development rights? the city makes the FAR rules. the city can "make" as much FAR as it wants, whenever it wants. the city shouldn't pay anything for FAR transfers, ever. if more intensive development is desirable, the city should change the applicable FAR for the parcel. this is nothing more than stealing money from taxpayers, and the complexity of the deal shows that the people involved knew what they were doing was wrong and were trying to hide it.

One nugget in that article is that OHSU estimates that it will cost $75 million to build the 1,100 parking spaces. That's about $68,000/space.

That's far above the reported costs of other parking structures. Here's one in Newark, estimated at $20,000/space two years ago.
One in Juneau was estimated at $60,000/space, but Alaska has high labor and materials costs and it's well above what it should cost in the lower 48. Other reports (Google "cost to build structured parking," without quotation marks) are $20,000 to $40,000 per space.

For OHSU's project to cost $75 million just for the parking means either that it's being taken for a ride on the price, or the cost to stabilize the ground underneath and build the foundations is in the tens of millions. It doesn't make sense.

Isaac, your last sentence pretty much sums up the SoWhat District -- a worthless burden on the taxpayers of Portland for several decades to come.

Jack, I couldn't agree more. To adapt an old line about a very minor English writer: The SoWhat district will be a mixed-use showplace . . . when 23rd Avenue and the Hawthorne District are forgotten.

Underground parking is even more expensive than structured above-ground parking, and the word on the street is that Tom Moyer's underground garage, opened a year ago, cost in the range of $20,000/space. $75,000/space for an above-ground structure is unreal.

It's been a long time, like, one or two years since I have crossed the Ross Island bridge. Generally, I am a Fremont fan, after all these years I still get into a good mood under those soaring triangle-framed tracks of sky. (Even though I hear it has some sort of structural issues and might be a real disaster one day). But I did cross the Ross island yesterday, and was dumbstruck at how hideous the sowhat district looks, now that it has been mostly fleshed out. A massive, glinty, heartless, monolithic clump of glass and cement flanking the south side of the westbound view, sadly dwarfing the shimmeringly beautiful skyline north of the bridge.

A totally incongruous aesthetic disgrace. Luckily its horrorshow/Commie era/Dubai style can only be appreciated from one bridge. It does make me want to ask Homer if he cant put some very tall birms with trees on them around the whole compound to shield our eyes from it all.

You might have trouble finding Homer these days. He's keeping his head down.

Portland/PDC/Metro continue to engaged in activities that run counter to economic interests of its citizens, the State and its regional partners.

Vast taxpayer resources have been diverted under the guise of environmental sustainability and growth management but have failed to produce economic stability let alone economic prosperity.

It is well documented that even before the recent economic crisis of 2007 and despite lavish expenditures, the region underperformed the national averages in several key performance metrics.

It's time to demand local agencies place economic sustainability on par with environmental sustainability while engaging in sound economic stewardship with finite taxpayer resources.

Don't forget - OHSU should be the model for all state universities! That quasi-public thing is really working out well for them.

When you get these groups that segregate money (like Earl/Sam's favorite trick of the streetcar money can only be used for streetcars and not schools), what do you expect.

PDC gets a callout on the prop tax statement and is awash in money, so they look for stuff to blow it on, like a kid who got cash for Christmas.

2 suggestions:
1) Zero-based budgets for all
2) Term limits Fed- to city-level.

This story has holes.

Ryan Frank, you know you left holes in this why?

1. The $3 million PDC paid to "reserve parking" was for 100 parking spaces.

2. The money used was not property taxes. It was TIF-borrowed money which the city has been debt servicing/w/interest ever since. That debt servicing will continue after the repayment.

3.At the time the $3 million was earmarked for Moody Street improvements in the SoWa budget.

4. At the time, the $3 million was paid to OHSU in a lump sum as "negotations" for greater shares of the soaring Tram costs were embarassing the city. With cash payments such as this the city, Comissioner Creepy, was able to create a false impression the public share of rising Trams costs remained low. Deceit.

4. The city then backfilled the $3 million to the SoWa/Moody Street budget with general fund PDOT resources.
General fund! Another deceitful manuever to avoid the blowback if they had simply handed over general fund money directly to OHSU. Also Creepy et al has long pitched that general fund money was never used for UR while at the same time always claiming UR/TIF could only be used for specific UR projects. And not road maintennce and other low priority needs.
Here we had the premiere example of laundering/shifting money around for purposes entirely deceitful and scheme driven.

5. Even now the city is decieving with the repayment of the $3 coming with no interest and $1 million in credits toward fees they likely would have waived anyway in some future scheme.
How's that rhetoric work? Oh yeah, "We need to support the number one employer in the city".

6. AT THE SAME TIME OHSU was being paid off for cooperating in the Tram costs scam so was Homer Willaims.
Homwer was also paid a lump sum borrowed UR/TIF funds. The laundry/cover was a cooked up $6.3 millionj PDC loan to a third party nonprofit to buy and own the the 100 spaces. A non-profit Homer himself set up and a loan written with terms requiring no repayment or guarantee by anyone. At the time the $6.3 million/loan/100spaces "resolution" was passed PDC staff told comissioners at the PDC and City Hall that the URAC, UR Citizen's Advisory Committee, had "apoproved the plan". No such approval ever happened.
The resolution also called for the $6.3 million payoff to Homer to be finalized within two weeks of the fast tracked approval. The resolution/loan also included a specified payment to Homer and Walsh construction labeled "redevlopment fee" handing them $275,000.00 each.

Is this corruption? Not according to city hall and the narrow and tradional definition of corruption. But in the context of using public funds to buy cooperation and deceive the public it is the worst kind of corruption.

And now with the "reporting" of another chapter it continues.

And Mayor Creepy fans tell us the city needs his leadership?

As I recall, Lew Bowers was the mouth piece from the PDC, who 5 years ago, told us all what a great deal it would be to have a Home Depot at the east end of the Burnside Bridge (topped with condos of course). AND the city was going to give Depot the 5 city blocks on which to build this!
As long as the voters in Portland put up with this it will continue.

"When you get these groups that segregate money (like Earl/Sam's favorite trick of the streetcar money can only be used for streetcars and not schools), what do you expect."

The granddaddy of all segregated funds is the highway trust fund and the various state constitutional mandates that allowed the highway lobbies to grab all gas taxes for "highway purposes" only --- the "Good Roads" movement liked using funds from various sources to build roads for cars, but heaven forfend that gas taxes be allowed to fund anything else.

If we want to take on segregated funding schemes, let's get rid of them all.

Reply to Steve: Both zero based budgets and term limits are a good idea. However they must be enforceable. Here in The Dalles Wasco Electric Co-op has a term limits provision but the board just ignored it.

Nice facts, Ben! Keep it up. Though facts don't always get one far in this town.

To me, one of the greatest things about SoWhat is that it gives lie to our biggest planning myth: that people want to live in these "dense, urban bunkers" and therefore we have to upzone the whole city. We have years of inventory of these things just sitting there from SoWhat to the Pearl. See the recent story about Cyan being only 40% leased.

But according the city, every "corridor" street in the city has to allow six story buildings to accommodate the overwhelming demand. Nonsense.

I always wanted to live in Chicago. Who knew I wouldn't have to move!

These people should be in jail.

Jack in less than 24 hrs has reported on two major scams/crooks. Ben has elaborated even more. Here's another to add to the pile, thanks to PDC.

In the Oct SoWhat URAC meeting PDC's Steve Shane reported that concerning Block 3 (the bare block right south of The Strand at RiverPlace), the PDC was working EXCLUSIVELY with Homer Williams and Jack Onder to develop the site with mixed use of commercial, parking, affordable and student housing.

In the past four years PDC has asked for proposals (DDA) three times with different use configurations. The request for proposals were open bidding with several responses. But now with Homer and Jack it's become secretive-no requests-no open bidding.

When the URAC asked if any public funds, especially city tax dollars and TIF dollars were being used, it would be appropriate that the URAC be informed of these arrangements, and to approve/comment on projects within it's URA. Shane responded as per minutes of the meeting;

"Steven said it was not within the scope of an advisory committee to vet every project and proposal in such a preliminary state."

So there! Shut up, PDC will do whatever it wants. We'll use your TIF dollars and city tax dollars any way we want and without public bidding, proposal requests, or even informing you what the DEAL is.

"Steven said it was not within the scope of an advisory committee to vet every project and proposal in such a preliminary state."

This is bureaucracy run amoke. Who made that call to keep URAC out of a TIF funded project in their UR distrcit? Preliminary or otherwise?
Was it PDC Executive Bruce Warner?

It wasn't the PDC board or city council.
They don't enter the process until staff presents them with a plan to stamp and fund.

So the bureaucrats are deciding who vets them and when?

This is what fixes a rigged deal with Homer and the rest of the shady schemes.

If the PDC is not shut down and investigated then this corrupted operation will continue unabated.

There's no oversight, no audit, no accountability and no justification for the PDC to remain independent and covert.

As for SoWa , every step of the way critics of this scheme have presented red flags and fatal flaws while Katz, Creepy and the PDC used tax dollars to propogandize a perpetual campaign to conceal the schemes and deceive the public.
The examples are so many it is sickening.

From the failed attempt to hand Trammel Crow $10 milion in tax abatements to the shuffling of millions to buy silence and cooperation to the current batch of shennanigans the stench could not be worse.

So where's fireman Randy with his midlife crisis self? Looking for petty building code violations by people he hates.

How about Creepy?

How about the lofty elite sitting on the PDC board?
Here they are-

I always wanted to live in Chicago. Who knew I wouldn't have to move!

Anyone who knew the slightest thing about Portland's history of business and civic leaders washing each other's backs? Sure, it's not as big as Chicago, it doesn't have the same kind of machine politics as Chicago, it hasn't (historically) been as much of a one-party town as Chicago, but the idea that Portland's somehow been squeaky-clean until the past couple decades (or whatever span of time the observer may have lived here) is simply mistaken.

Kim MacColl's books on Portland's power establishment are a good place to start. Lots of old dirt there if you get tired of the newer variety.

Yeah...A lot of what is happening now could be fairly typified as a continuation of past practices.

It does seem to have moved from gambling and prostitution to real estate development....perhaps because the prior two were co-opted by elected officials.


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Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
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Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
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