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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is Portland throwing SoWhat under the train?

Portland's South Waterfront District (SoWhat for short) has been an unmitigated disaster for everyone who dealt with the people who pushed it -- the pushers being the developer weasels, Vera Katz (via her economic development "expert" Sam the Tram), and OHSU. The investors who bought into the condo towers, the banks who financed them, the suckers who bought condo units, the taxpayers of the city and state -- all have wound up with the opposite of what they were promised. Vibrant neighborhood? Economic engine? Biotech center? Property tax generator? Dream on. Just a bunch of ugly, oversized, half-empty buildings wrecking the nearby Lair Hill neighborhood and pouring tons of once-good money down a rat hole.

Now it looks as though the city has lost all hope of the district ever succeeding. They're raiding property taxes and developer charges from SoWhat and handing them over for the light rail bridge that will extend the MAX trains from downtown to suburban Milwaukie. The citizens' advisory group for SoWhat is pretty worked up about it, and they've written this letter in protest.

They're right, of course. A couple of light rail stations aren't going to do a darn thing for SoWhat. But this patient is terminal. Maybe the folks at City Hall have decided to pull the plug.

Comments (13)

Considering how little the city invests in the majority of neighborhoods in this city, they sound like a bunch of big whiners to me.

Yet another disasterous outcome from the local "planning". Like many before.

Here again property taxes from over 400 acres of the greater SoWa district will be divreted away from general fund budgets in order to debt service the schemes once called a Feasible Plan by the PDC. It could easily be another 30 years before the debt is retired and that assumes the district is not extended or expanded as is the norm for public officials addicted to the scam.

Strike a blow to the entire planning cabal once and for all, elect Karlock as Metro President. I'm not joking.

EVERYTHING is subservient to the MAX plans (and to a lesser extent, the streetcar).

The MAX is the single symbol that Portland is a "leader in planning." Ask any visitor or recent arrival why they are convinced that Portland has "great planning". They will say the MAX. Some will say the UGB, and then the MAX.

You have to understand that the planners believe their own bullcrap. They actually believe that the MAX and streetcar will spur development.

They've been preaching this to each other for years. They have well-girded intuitive, anecdotal and tautological arguments to defend them against common sense and the lack of any actual data.

The MAX bridge is the vanity transportation project, and (as always) an urban renewal playground... I mean district... is the cash cow.

This isn't news. It's the latest chapter in an old fight over which hole to throw the money down. Do we throw it down the I5 Ramp / Moody-Bond Couplet (the "other couplet") hole, or do we throw it down the Eastside Light Rail hole? Who cares? Also, that group is hardly a "citizen's" advisory group. It's a stakeholder advisory group. There isn't a single citizen rep in the whole group. And fi SteveGrey write thta lettur hisself Im and stuffd gose. Who really wrote that?

Lucsadvo, let's look at the facts and comparisons before calling anyone a "whiner".

Only 1/10th of the total proposed Milwaukie Light Rail line length travels through SoWhat.

Of the $30 Million committed by Portland to the $1.4 Billion dollar Line 2/3rds-$20 Million has been proposed by Sam Adams to come from SoWhat. And even more if you add in SoWhat's share of the PBOT Parking Revenue and the Citywide TSDC (Transportation Overlay Taxes).

Only one transit stop of the proposed line is in SoWhat while all the rest are outside of the District.

There are two additional Urban Renewal areas that the line passes through but PDC, PDOT hasn't required them to cough up dollars.

And here's the additional facts that haven't been reported by the media that is more disturbing. The first $10 Million of PDC TIF dollars (tax dollars that are taken from Portland's general tax dollars and given to a Urban Renewal District) was taken from SoWhat by Sam Adams by just telling the SoWhat Urban Renewal Advisory Committee; "I'm initially funding the Milwaukie Line by taking $10 Million from your TIF dollars". There was no discussion, voting, or any other consideration. That happened over 1 1/2 years ago. Then about 8 months ago, again without discussion or voting, Sam decides to take another $10 Million out of the SoWhat TSDC-a self imposed tax on property owners in the district to pay for several transportation projects in the district.

Sam, PDC and PDOT have calculatingly taken money from this district without open discussion, common sense and honesty.

Sure, it can be argued that SoWhat will benefit from Light Rail through the district, but is it fair that they contribute more than two-thirds to Portland's contribution with 1/10th of the line's length?

For me the unscrupulous ways the $20 Million from SoWhat was designated is just as incredulous. That is why the SoWhat URAC wrote the letter.

Sure, it can be argued that SoWhat will benefit from Light Rail through the district, but is it fair that they contribute more than two-thirds to Portland's contribution with 1/10th of the line's length?

There's more to it than that. the main "benefit" is the eventual extension and connection of all these light rail projects, thereby bringing consumers to and from South Whatever.

The *primary* reason for light rail is not virtuous movement of people, it's connecting points of high consumption and ensuring that there is dense residential neaby to provide a ready base of consumers. You won't explicitly find this in any "plan", but it's how it works.

Simplified, all urban land use planning boils down to "how do we build dense areas of consumption, and move consumers between them? Hence the idea of "nodes", "hubs", "connectors", and so on.

An so, that's why developers and monied interests like Homer Williams get extremely privileged treatment; not because of the bogus promises of "jobs" that never *ever* really materialize, but because development like SoWhat is primarily for the powerful who have obligated slobbering amateurs like Adams and Katz to provide them opportunities.

The scraps ("jobs", retail, "transit") are just that--scraps inserted to appease. Even the planners themselves are often so naive that they believe they're working for the "people".

I think you people are being way too cynical. This is not about buildings and money. This is not about 30 years of debt and the fear of bankruptcy. It's not about reality and it never has been.
This is about the privilege of living in the same city with noble visionaries. Planners and politicians who are not afraid to scheme big even if it kills us.
Excuse me, I meant "dream."
Instead of criticizing these leaders we should be applauding them for their work.
So what if the Sowhat district is a disaster? Even Picasso spilt a little paint.
Isn't it time we say, "Bravo" for trying? Let's not dwell on the past. Let's salute these geniuses and look to the future. I, for one, cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

Eco, I agree with you-light rail, "its connecting points of high consumption...".

But do you know (or PDC, PDOT) how many people along the light rail to Milwaukie will use the desert of SoWhat? Isn't the matrix of Portland's Light Rail really a focus of connecting points to merely the Downtown? What percentage of Milwaukie Rail patrons will get off in SoWhat to work, shop, play? I think you know the answer, but unsubstantiated of course. Now ask PDOT if they know. Then if they will answer, it is only a conjecture based on a suspicious study.

One thing that PDOT has stated is that SoWhat will generate an additional 38,000 vehicle trips daily into SoWhat. But what have they done to mitigate, built to accommodate this? Almost nothing except to generate 8 transportation projects on paper with hardly any funding.

In fact, PDOT has eliminated a major transportation project-the northbound flyover off ramp from I-5 into SoWhat costing around $60 Million. They have taken a good share of the money and have proposed using it to move the recently built trolley line and adjacent SW Moody 100 ft to the west to benefit the construction of the Milwaukie Light Rail line through SoWhat. They need to raise the trolley/light rail line 14 ft to make grade over the Willamette. So a few years back taxpayers paid for the trolley line in SoWhat, now they pay again.

Then OHSU and other property owners benefit by adding land to their properties by this move. Sam has actually taken more than $20 Million from SoWhat when you add the 2/3 taken of the $60 Million for the elimination of the flyover ramp. It's a under-the-blanket chess game without much public scrutiny.

Isn't the matrix of Portland's Light Rail really a focus of connecting points to merely the Downtown?

Downtown's just part of it (a key part, though). It's no accident that light rail's going mainly to malls (Lloyd Center, Clackamas Town Center, Gateway Shopping Center, near Jantzen Beach, Downtown).

It's a under-the-blanket chess game without much public scrutiny.

I think it's even simpler than that. It's blatant, and if people actually stopped and made people like Mayor Facebook and former developer whore Katz accountable for the long-term failures they've facilitated, it'd change everything. But--the system is soft, and enables these kind of people. In fact, they often think they're *helping* people by giving away the treasures of land and privilege to people like SoWhat developers.

Even Picasso spilt a little paint.

Hahahaha! That's right, and the project beast must eat. Bill, you crack me up every time!

I can only guess what interests you are part of Lee. I live in heavily taxed neighborhood that I would say does not get its share of city services even discounting that no big developers have taken a shine to this area. The city routinely takes taxes from us and gives us substandard services and no prizes in return. So I can only snicker when SoWhat becomes passe and the powers that be start shuffling $$$ elsewhere. And I like the point that no citizen resident stakeholder signed the protest letter to the city.... I mean really... if you can afford to live in SoWhat you've likely got a nice ride to go with your home.

I don't know that any of the SoWa URAC members or posters here live in SoWa.
Probably in the greater neighborhood including Terwilliger, Lair Hill, Corbet etc.

I don't live in SoWhat, but I do live and work in the Corbett, Terwilliger, Lair Hill neighborhood that is greatly impacted by SoWhat. Like from the Tram overhead, the huge traffic increases, the loss of views, the city now wanting to rezone parts of our neighborhood with higher density and heights, higher taxes, the forseeable local improvement districts forced into our neighborhoods to pay for transportation upgrades caused by SoWhat.....ah, Progress!

Your assumption is wrong.

I live on an unimproved street too, without sidewalks, maybe like yours too. We can't even get potholes filled, maybe like you too. Leaf pickup? Ha. Our sewer line is 110 years old-breaks frequently and has flooded our neighbors basement.

It isn't a east vs. west issue, LucsAdvo. Its a whole-city issue what SoWhat epitomizes.

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