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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Why can't Alameda be more like the Pearl District?"

Here's an alarming editorial on the very front page of the new issue of the Alameda neighborhood newspaper:

It appears that the neighborhood association has been infiltrated by one of the developer weasels or one of said weasels' cheerleading contingent in the city planning bureaucracy. The tranquility of the neighborhood is a liability, and the quality of the homes is discriminatory. There's only one answer: More ugly infill!

Alameda neighbors, if you would like to preserve the neighborhood character that you paid so much for and that you and your families enjoy, you had better not sleep through this. You should probably write a letter to the editor and sound off. I believe you can e-mail it here.

Interestingly, in the masthead of that newspaper, there is no one on the contact list next to "Land Use." Scary stuff, people.

Comments (30)

According the scripture found at portlandonline.com in the Book of ONI:

Alameda is a gorgeous neighborhood with quiet, tree-lined streets and lovely older homes. Alameda Ridge provides a stunning view of Portland and the West hills. Alameda is a popular and prestigious community with a strong sense of neighborhood pride. Nearby you will find coffee shops, a brewpub, and some nice residential and commercial areas to take a stroll. Alameda overlaps on one side with Irvington, also an older historical neighborhood with grand homes.

It is very scary to think that some of these neighborhoods might acquire, say, a grocery store within walking distance of residences.

If it comes with a block full of crap condos, you're right, it is scary. Irvington was supposed to get a Zupan's in the condo bunker at 16th & Broadway. False promise.

There were grocery stores not too long ago at 15th and Brazee, and 24th and Fremont, but they're both gone. Beaumont Market at Fremont and 42nd hangs on.

This editorial blames it on zoning. B.S. -- the real estate is already built, but the economics just aren't there.

I do not live in Alameda, but the real estate prices are clear economic evidence that the quality of the neighborhood is highly valued and fills a need in the market. Do not ruin it by building businesses and scrunching nice houses into bunkers. That would be insane.

Also, the assumption that high housing prices discourage families with children is pure BS. Homes in Lake Oswego, for example, are more expensive and the share of households there with children is 31% higher than in Alameda. It is a negative opinion of Portland public schools that accounts for the lack of families with kids in Alameda. Has nothing at all to do with being able to walk to a store.

While the price of homes may hinder young families from moving to the neighborhood, I think the quality of Portland's schools is likely what scares away those can afford residential tranquility.

I like that the high value of property in the neighborhood becomes a sign that something is wrong.

Yes, by all means Alameda, adopt a bunch of crazy new planning ideas that lower your property values. Brilliant.

Follow along liberal artists, cuz this deals with numbers and stuff: the higher value means the neighborhood is MORE desireable, not less.

This city isn't making any more single-family neighborhoods. Honestly, we're landlocked. There will be no more of these neighborhoods developed within our city limits. And if we don't wake up and start telling the planners to stick it, we will gradually whittle away the ones we have.

"This city isn't making any more single-family neighborhoods. Honestly, we're landlocked. There will be no more of these neighborhoods developed within our city limits. And if we don't wake up and start telling the planners to stick it, we will gradually whittle away the ones we have.

Wow. If that doesn't hit the nail on the head, nothing does.

Now, Snards, I'm afraid those same planners are going to get ahold of the term "walk-score" and run with it in some way. Yikes.

Glad we agree, PD. I think that many Portland residents, including in the well-to-do inner neighborhoods have little understanding of how the "progressive" government ideas they love so much are eating away at their own neighborhoods.

Any single-family homeowner who thinks that being located next to a new fourplex is going to up their property value is in for an unpleasant surprise.

By the way, I believe that there is a nearly 100% chance that planners INVENTED the word "walk-score."

My 'walkscore' was great, until the likes of Nature's, along with the trendinating of both Freddy's and Safeway, drove Kienow's out of the neighborhood. Now I've got a crap Rite-Aid instead of a grocery....in fact, in the time I've lived here, three nearby groceries have become drug stores. And Nature's bugged out. What's that say?

And the Pierre's Bakery? Gone...replaced by sucko strip mall with businesses I don't use: chain barbers, lottery outlets, and discount auto supplies. Probably serving the crap 'multi-family' housing along highway....wait...those are what remains of the last spin on the condo bunker table that crapped out.

One advantage of lowering house values in Alameda is that the old folks who live there, when they do sell their houses, will have less money to live on, and not remain part of the idle rich that Portland deplores.

It's easy to make Portland housing more affordable: put undesirable uses in more neighborhoods to drive down house prices. One well-placed tannery can create more affordable housing than a tramful of planners.

I'd bet the average Alameda home is a lot older then the average LO home. That means higher upkeep/rehab costs. It also means more lead paint and asbestos and who knows what. A lower sales price doesn't mean Alameda is less expensive then LO.

Old houses serve the average family about as well as old cars- suitable for some, not for others, with the former group dwindling as time marches on.

I think the editorial's point is valid.

There's good and bad zoning, good and bad planning, and good and bad infill, and good and bad density.

Simply stating you do not want rentals in your neighborhood is actually discrimination against the "undesirables". Meanwhile, I am told that people want to do things about reducing housing costs -- but they only want to do so if it means these people don't move anywhere near your neighborhood (someone else's of course, except those people are saying the same things, too). It's some sort of status-quo gentrification.

NW Portland is actually Portland's most expensive real-estate market and it has 1900s era 2,500 sf lots amongst 5,000 sf lots, amongst 1920s 4/5 story brick apartment buildings, amongst charming 1890s Victorian era homes (that are about 3 feet apart from one another), amongst shops and business. All in one neighborhood, no segregation.

And, I do agree completely that a lot of the infill zoning I have seen is absolutely atrocious because it often goes inside an already single-family zoned block. However, a few mixed use condos along Portland's main east/west arterial streets is not going to hurt the character of any neighborhood.

Ultimately, residential infill planning needs to be made on a block-to-block basis in my opinion. Larger scale regional planning, such as transportation, needs to occur at a higher level.

I'm just curious how NW Portland can have so many mixed zoning and still maintain a nice neighborhood where real estate is stable? If anyone has an answer to that, that would be great!

I grew up on 28th and Ridgewood. As a kid I thought the "walk score" was just fine. One block to school, five to the store and about ten to Wilshire Park. If the "walk-score" is the new measure of real estate value, I'll stick to the old measure. Location, location,location.

RE: "It appears that the neighborhood association has been infiltrated by one of the developer weasels or one of said weasels' cheerleading contingent in the city planning bureaucracy."

The Alameda NA has never been more than a few people who vote for one another to fill offices which usually match in number those voting for them. It has always been an instrument of the CoP and, often, of any developer who happened to live in the neighborhood. Sarah ffitch, for example, who has also occupied a position on the Planning Commission, pushed through the complex on the SW corner of NE 24th & Fremont, with its seriatim eateries.

Can't white condo dwellers and white single family dwellers just get along?

They need a streetcar.

And once upon a time, they had a street car...north on 24th, up the hill....south on 22nd, down the hill.

We used to put wooden matches on the tracks to see and hear them pop like caps in a cap gun. Also nickels and stones, to cause a bump....and the driver/conductor to stop the trolley to look about...to find the perps.

Good old days...just sayin'

They didn't have a walkscore a few years ago when I was house hunting but it does explain why we couldn't find anything we liked in Alameda. To each his own.

Jack, there is a risk that our hood is about to take the biggest hit to it's walkability in a hundred years. Some genius at Portland Public Schools seems to think that Grant, its most successful neighborhood school, cannot make it as a neighborhood school and needs to become a magnet school. I would say it's beyond belief but after three years of dealing with PPS that would be a lie.

Most of the major east-west routes on the eastside have commercial or higher density residential zones that have evolved over a long period of time - some of it predating the automobile - to serve just the neighborhood. And since they are spaced every half mile or so, they tend to not have evolved into the character of NW 23rd - yet. The reason, I'm guessing, is that there has to be a critical mass of Pearl-type conversion before more investment takes place in a given location.

NE Fremont is one of these routes. Unlike the others, though, most of it up to 60th is still residential. I fear for how it could evolve if it is upzoned to Pearl-like or 23rd-like intensities, and it is planned and executed badly.

Yes, I have to agree with Sherwood, to each his own, because the 'walkscore' thing is a huge JOKE to me. When I go to the grocery store I'd be unable to 'carry' the groceries home if the store was 50 feet away. I typically have 3 to 8 bags of groceries, so 'walkscore' is nonsense to me. On the other hand, when I look at/compare the Pearl district to Alameda ... it's not even close. The beauty of Alameda, the beauty of the older (well kept) neighborhood with old trees, stately homes and mature landscape versus ... downtown. In my world Alameda wins hands down, it's not even a contest.

Infill in Alameda or the other older neighborhoods? Bad, bad, BAD idea - just the kind of bad idea that city hall loves.

Y'all voted for these clowns, hope you like what you got.

Indeed, native oregonian, it is 'to each his own.' The secret to not needing 3 to 8 bags of groceries is to shop more frequently, which is pretty easy to do when you live comfortably within walking distance of grocery stores. The only time I ever have even 3 bags is when I'm preparing for a dinner party or some kind of special event.

But I'm not advocating you, or anyone else, change the way you do things. I just find it kind of silly that so much e-ink is spilled around these parts about how some progressive cabal is trying to reshape Portland anytime any dwelling that isn't a single-family house gets built.

But then, I also find it silly that anyone in Portland actually thinks the way most people live here is remotely "green" or even more than barely "urban." For all the years I lived in NYC, no one I knew grocery shopped with a car. If you need more than you could carry, grocery stores deliver. By bike. We didn't run around patting ourselves on the back about how "green" or "bike-friendly" we were -- it's just how things got done -- cheap, easy, convenient, sensible. It's not how most people do things here, but it is how some people do things here, and there's no reason why they shouldn't. I just wish they'd stop being so self-congratulatory about it, and I wish others would stop being so critical of people who prefer not to drive (yet still have to pay for all the local roads everyone shreds with their studded tires, and all the freeways & highways) and want to be able to get around as much as possible on foot, on a bike, on a bus or train or a skateboard, etc.

I guess because we've successfully avoided racial tensions by successfully remaining White City, USA, we can attack each other over more arcane issues like how we get around. It just makes Portlanders look so profoundly silly.

Sounds like you should move back to New York, Michael.

The issue is, if you have a grocery store within a 5 minute walking distance of your home, most sane people will walk for a good portion of their trips. They'll simply make more trips to the grocery instead of the once a week marathon that people do.

If one needs to carry more grocery bags, you simply drive your car. It's called options. Just because a grocery store is close by does not mean you have to walk. Though, you'd have to be severely obese/lazy/stupid (or possibly disabled) to not want to walk 5 minutes to driving.

Though, maybe people might at least realize that Americans get their heads blown off in the Middle East just so *you* (oh righteous one) can drive your car to every destination because of your suburban-low density-pave-it-or-else mentality. That's not to say any car driving is evil, I drive plenty, but if a destination is well served via foot, I will always choose walking.

PS: Pretty much every neighborhood in Portland is already "mixed-use" in regards to the east/west commercial strips in Portland. If Portland actually had modern day zoning of suburbia -- those nice shops and restaurants that serve those neighborhoods so well would not be there.

ws: "Though, you'd have to be severely obese/lazy/stupid (or possibly disabled) to not want to walk 5 minutes to driving."

I have two kids under three and not a lot of time on my hands. Turns out not everyone's life situation is just like yours.

This is all pointless anyway. The people who make decisions of where grocerty stores go are business people sitting in the store's HQ. Planners have no more ability to locate a grocery store every half mile than they have control over the weather.

I guess because we've successfully avoided racial tensions by successfully remaining White City, USA, we can attack each other over more arcane issues like how we get around. It just makes Portlanders look so profoundly silly.

Or Canadian. But either way, petty and irrelevant.


1) I never said it should or would situate or accommodate everyone's lifestyle.

2) I said a walkable grocery store provides options. You can drive if you want to. Go ahead. You know, not everyone's lifestyle fits *your* lifestyle, too (so don't go that route).

It's a two-way street, and sorry for not mentioning people with kids in my reasons as to why someone would not want to walk to a grocery store over driving. I mentioned disabled people, so I thought reasonable people could follow along.

I'm going to presume that most people who would drive instead of walking 5 minutes to a destination (for a majority of their trips/depending on what they're doing) are extremely lazy. I wonder how our country got so fat? Not to mention private insurance companies jack their premiums up for everyone's health care costs due to societies' individual health choices...but I digress?

3) You don't have 10 minutes a day to walk to/from a grocery store, yet you have time to comment on a blog?

4) Take your kids with you (safety can't be the issue considering you probably take them in 2 ton cage of steel traveling in excess of 55 mph amongst drunks, crazy people, and drug addicts driving around).

5) PDC/planners actually do a lot in creating potential areas for grocery stores to take root, especially in getting the one downtown. Yes, the individual grocery stores are the final arbiters, but planners do aid in getting the stores in the first place.

The issue is creating the ability for a grocery store to take route through intelligent zoning, planning and infill.

6) This right here proves that the US is entirely automobile dependent. You mention putting in walkable market/grocery store where someone just *might* be able to walk to and you'd think that I was advocating that I take away your car.

I never said such and I even mentioned I drive plenty too! Chill out, people. Really.

What some of the later comments utterly miss is that infill in Portland is atrocious, butt-ugly, out-of-neighborhood character, etc. It really does look like some city bureaucrat plunked down a house designed by consensus totally opposite the neighborhood designs. Even in my Roseway neighborhood, with a lot of smaller lots and houses, there are quite a number of bad infill houses. If the City can't develop some design standards for infill houses that retain neighborhood characteristics, residents will be even more resistent to it.


I don't think the issue is that so many infill buildings are out-of-character -- it's that they're architecturally just... downright...ugly.

I've seen nice modern homes amongst 1920s era older homes. Just that the modern homes played by the "rules" of good architectural design standards.

ws, I think that Snards makes a very good point in that grocery store locations are much more "determined by people sitting in the store's HQ's" than Planners.

A good example of this is in SoWhat. A few years back Safeway was approached by both PDC and some SoWhat property owners to build a store to help develop "synergy" (sorry Bill McD.). Of course there were millions of tax dollars already expended to begin this "synergy" and money enticements to invite Safeway.

But Safeway HQ's said "No Way", we can't even hardly find it, how can people coming by vehicles find our store, and how do we get our deliver trucks, vans and vendors to negotiate these newly design streets that don't even provide turning radius for trucks, or provide any service parking. Where can people park?"(this info from inside sources)

SoWhat is one of the most planned "neighborhoods" in the entire US, even the light poles and signage is uniquely designed for SoWhat. But the real, important decisions are made at the HQs. Planners dream, and with our tax dollars. Then using our money again they seldom influence the real decisions.


If conducive zoning is not there (i.e. only single-family lots), a grocery store will not take root. That was my point. I'm not really talking about planning for a grocery store, and I am only using a grocery store as an exemplar of a walkable amenity that is beneficial to single-family predominant neighborhoods.

There's plenty of commercial businesses that can actually do business in single-family detached homes. NW 23rd is a great example of businesses in these types of homes (spas, estate companies, etc.).

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