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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Developers getting into position to steal school land for condos

The developers who have looted the City of Portland for everything she's worth are now setting their sights on the city's school district. They're pushing hard for that half-billion-dollar property tax increase for schools, slated to go on the ballot in the spring, because it no doubt means a lot of money that will wind up back in their pockets. Hoffman Construction, Mark Edlen, and the boys are all lining up to put the school buildings in play. They probably figure they can get their hands on some juicy real estate once Super Carole gives the wrecking ball the go-ahead. Lincoln High School, School District headquarters, and no doubt other parcels are their condo bunker sites of tomorrow. And no doubt they'll be able to buy them for $1, get sweet property tax abatements, and take a load of dough to the bank.

Some of the jockeying is overt -- like giving money to the bond election campaign. But then there's underhanded garbage like this. "Homer Williams, he's all about solving society's persistent problems." Yeah, right.

Comments (39)

But, it's for the children. When they scrunch into 40 student classrooms, they can delight in the knowledge that they are sitting in a LEED certified building with toilets that don't flush, heaters that don't heat, and mercury filled CFLs lighting every corner.

Hopefully the bond measure will be dead on arrival considering power rates and water and sewer bills are going up astronomically in 2011. Add an increase in the gas tax and folks will feel the nickel and diming by the time the May primary comes up. I hope, I hope so much that Portland voters will get wise. I am a small business owner so not only my property taxes on my home will go up but I pay property taxes on the commercial property under the triple net clause in my lease. That will add another couple hundred dollars a month in expenses of which I get no additional revenue or sales. I can’t raise prices as I am in a competitive business. For me to make up that extra $200 will mean I have to increase my gross sales by $1500. I wish I could just pull those sales out of a hat like the government can increase fees. I am a real small business and this extra cost will insure that I don’t hire anyone part time next year. I can’t afford it.

Depending on whether or not the nature of your business is 'favored' by the social designers downtown, you may be eligible for assistance for the PDC.

They probably figure they can get their hands on some juicy real estate once Super Carole gives the wrecking ball the go-ahead. Lincoln High School, School District headquarters, and no doubt other parcels are their condo bunker sites of tomorrow. And no doubt they'll be able to buy them for $1

And since there are no other close-in, downtown sites for a school combined with "projected" increases in population especially in those downtown condo bunkers, eventually there will be progressive families who want to raise their children in an area free from automobile dependence...

Except...there are no schools nearby. Since PPS doesn't provide school busing, and I can't think of a single PPS Middle or High School that is reasonably close to a MAX station or Streetcar stop...and - gasp! - how dare we use our bus system...won't that mean that our high school students will be driving to school???

I can't think of a single PPS Middle or High School that is reasonably close to a MAX station or Streetcar stop

Well, Lincoln has a MAX stop. But I am guessing that's why the developers want the land for condos.

First off, I overheard a conversation last weekend while I was grocery shopping in my very blue neighborhood that was to the tune of they had had it with paying taxes for projects like this and they were going to be voting no in the near future.

60 Minutes ran a piece on governmental debt being on the verge of collapse this past weekend. I only "taped" it to watch the segment on memory but my point is that that subject is creeping into the public's consciousness.

The only question is when to sell and move out of PDX.

Erik H. And where will the rich, Lincoln condo living high schoolers park their cars? Are you familiar with parking in the Goose Hollow and surrounding area at all? I don't think transportation design will fit that nicely into this land grab.

I think there will also be the question of whether or not PPS can manage some 70-80 construction projects at once, even 30-40 if they're spread out a bit. Either PPS will be hiring a lot of construction managers, or the contracts will be loaded with construction management, or sadly the most likely, both will happen. If PPS were to scale back the measure to $100-150 million, I think it would be far more likely to pass. Half a billion is far beyond nickel and diming, and perhaps PPS should run some sound polling before wasting money on a bond measure that goes down in flames.

Not sure I understand the objection to this.

The current Lincoln HS site is hemmed in on all sides making any additional growth very problematic. There is insufficient parking. The traffic around there is pretty bad.

From PPS's (and the taxpayers') perspective, what difference does it make who buys the land, as long as PPS gets a good price?

As to where Lincoln would relocate, there is a lot of space between Overton and Raleigh, from 16th to about 20th. Its has good highway and local access, avoids the downtown gridlock, and has good public transit.

As to the bond issue, I hope it passes. The schools in this city are long overdue for renovation. If we don't pass it, the death spiral will only increase. A crappy public education system is not a good way to foster economic development.

It's the blue sheep that have sent this city down the loo.

What families?

The message from our fearless planners is pretty clear...
... 'breeders' belong in the suburbs, not where older livable neighborhoods can be profitably put to better use being replaced with unaffordable condos, seedy strip clubs, and more trendy bars and cafés per mile than you can keep track of.

Remember that scene in 'It's a Wonderful Life' where George walks down the street horrified to see how Bedford Falls turned into Potterville? Except in this case mean old Mr. Potter gets his way and there is no Clarence to put things aright.

"As to the bond issue, I hope it passes. The schools in this city are long overdue for renovation. If we don't pass it, the death spiral will only increase. A crappy public education system is not a good way to foster economic development."

paul g. -

This is exactly how the manipulators at City Hall want you to think: tax increases to fund schools is the only way to halt the "death spiral". What a friggin laugh.

The schools are in sorry shape because of mismanaged priorities at the City level: think PDC, streetcar, toys for Randy Leonard, MLR, kickbacks to developers, failed projects like the Bridgehead and such...Portland literally pisses away money on the "Portland loo" and other nonsense and then wants the taxpayer to feel guilty and responsible to the point of raising taxes to pay for the basics. Our elected officials have long ignored basics and funded useless tram cars instead...no they want to raise taxes in order to fund what we should have had to begin with. They can go screw themselves as far as I'm concerned.

Death spiral? You want death spiral...keep raising taxes and water rates until the citizens and businesses have no choice but to leave Portland because it has simply become too expensive.

'If we don't pass it, the death spiral will only increase. A crappy public education system is not a good way to foster economic development.'

That's a big, bold crock of $#!+. The majority of the state budget + its fed dollars dumped in have given this district their 49% dropout rate and you want more of the same.

Why not try doing the opposite for Portland's failure factories?

I've said it before - but I'm not the only productive until-very-recently-lover of Portland desperately trying to get out of here because of these very issues.

I'm not voting for it! They tell me it's only a $300 increase on my property tax bill, but that's close to 10%. My pay didn't go up 10%. BUT, my health care went up 33%; my food bill is up over 10%; my gasoline bill is up over 10%; and I just filled my oil tank and I paid more than 10% above last year! I'm getting squeezed!

Ah, yes, to leave in scorn, to turn one's back on the mess. But unless you're a renter, you're a property owner and there's a very good chance you have negative equity right now. Furthermore, unless you've lost all your cash flow and are pushed to the wall you're not likely to go anywhere, which means you're over a barrel so to speak, which is a perfect opportunity for getting one's pocket picked. And if you do wind being pushed off the edge, your property just winds up on the market for a song, which is another win for developers if they can get the financing... but just in time there's our local gov't (PDC) that sometimes acts like a bank with very low rates...

Given their pathetic track record, I wouldn't trust PPS leadership to properly manage paper towel procurement for school restrooms, let alone 40 simultaneous construction projects. I will vote 'no' without hesitation.

The only problem Homer wants to solve is how to pad his off shore bank accounts with taxpayer money.

Blue sheep.


All you have to do is compare the list of 40? schools with too-large classes and multiple "portables" (many of which have been in place for 30 years or more) with the list of 30? closed schools to begin to understand how deficient their management is. Oh, and don't forget to ask about the color and income impact of those decisions.

Tell PDC that Homer and Mark have enough of our money already and get the $300 a year back from them.

The condo-builder thieves have had their knives sharpened for Lincoln HS for years. Our grandparents brought that property into the commons already. If it comes out of the commons, then an equal area of equally choice real estate should come back in. No net loss of commons! This looting of our public property has got to end.

Looting? But I thought it was called smart urban planning for the smart urban resident seeking the smart urban experience?

Or perhaps more like a tangled web woven by too many self-perpetuating planning agencies that have multiplied like the broomhandle bits in the story of the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

LucsAdvo, I used to live one building over from Lincoln High back in the Nineties, where my apartment building had already leased all of its available parking to Lincoln students. I can only imagine the sheer glee of a big condo building going in on that space...and the joys of hunting for any parking space once the residents and visitors take up everything in a four-block radius.

A crappy public education system is not a good way to foster economic development.

Agreed! But I'd rather see the money spent on hiring more teachers and aides, reducing class sizes, restoring arts and PE classes, re-opening libraries, etc. Essentially, spend the money IN the classrooms, not ON the classrooms. PPS needs to focus on its "core competency", which is educating children and youth, not managing buildings, real estate, and construction projects. I would even go so far as to suggest that PPS should keep just a handful of essential or well-utilized facilities and sell and lease back the rest or rent some underutilized office space. Let someone else worry about the cracks in the ceiling, seismic upgrading, ADA-accessible bathrooms, broken pipes, etc. so they can focus their full attention and funding on teaching and learning.

I don't mind developers making a buck, but I do mind it if they do so with public funding. Not so long ago a developer had to make sure things penciled out before they built anything. There had to be demand for their product or they would go out of business. What crazy planet is this that local and state governments are using tax incentives, grants and who knows what to build? If it was a logical business decision, wouldn't they have built it already? Of course. I think it was Neil who got politicians thinking that they had to build something grand (with OPM) in order to have made a difference. It isn't enough for elected officials to just do a good job at keeping a city or state solvent and providing basic services. They all gotta be developers now - in partnerships with the big boys. Take away public money and the big boys start to deflate real fast.

But Jack, surely no amount is too much for the ____.

(Choose one depending on the election cycle):

old people
public toilet
street kids
urban chicken coops
american apple pie

Luckily, these are the only "must pass" levies. Everything else you may use your discretion on.

I just passed by Bojack's favorite hole , fox tower dntn , why don't we get PPS to build that tower out as a central high school , and then we can sell all those
beat up old hi schools we own.
Kennedy Schools Everywhere !!!


I went to these board meetings to put my $.02 in the hat and watched as this school board gave themselves a round of applause when the voted to put the bond measure on the ballot. I signed up to speak and was told I was seventh on the day of public comment. The board pushed 15 people to the front of the line and gave them more time than Joe Public was allowed. Only four board members were present during the public comment meeting to maintain quorum, Gonzales and Williams had more important things to do while Knowles showed up late and Sargent excused herself after Knowles arrived. As a taxpayer this school board has shown nothing but contempt for those footing the bill.

Don't even get me started on the blank check they wrote CJ Sylvester for rebuilding Marysville. They are doing everything but breaking ground on a new school at a cost of $22 million from the bond proceeds (yet to be passed) and spending it from the fire insurance monies. If the bond doesn't pass, well, oops, guess we wasted a million or two, sorry.

I thought this would all be dredged up again.

How does this jell with the mantra of a million new people coming into our area?

These schools and properties are publicly owned and great investments for the future.

Look behind the curtain here, "real estate"!
With this UGB problem we have here, not very large parcels of land available left in our city for developments - school properties are large though aren't they?
This is not as simple as some try to make it, just move over to Overton and Raleigh? Taxpayers will then have to get new land, if on a brownfield, also pay for the cleanup plus new buildings. Yes this sure does benefit those in the land and development arena around here!

A school is very much a part of the neighborhood, an anchor of the community. Why in this time of chaos all around, financially and otherwise, would we add more instability? Education is important, what is being taught is what is important. Unless unsafe conditions exist, then keep every piece of school real estate in the public hands, and I reiterate, beneficial to the public interest.

No to selling public land cheap and then having to buy new land for much more money!

By the way, is there a list of what the property was purchased for on these schools in the first place?
Have the lands have been paid for, if so, why buy have to buy land again?

I'm confused. It looks like this organization was started in 2009? When did the bond idea for facility improvements come into play publicly? Did Homer and his cronies know about the bond measure before the voters? Was there enough inside information to put this organization together before hand? The content seems a little slim to me. It looks like they have a mentor training module and a bunch of company spokespeople offering advice on facility development. I have to admit, it's innovative marketing on a lot of fronts though.

"If we don't pass it, the death spiral will only increase."

Give me a break. We can afford TriMet spending $750M on a new line, $50M to raise ONE street in SoWa, $10M to Gerding-Edlen to rehab their building for their tenant, $5M in prop tax subsisdies to Rentrak and $10M to Paulsen for a soccer team. We don't even need to mention Homer's boondoggles (e.g SoWa - He buys a lot for $2M, sells it to CoP for $5M, then CoP sells it to a non-profit for $1. Then we get told CoP was dumb enough to allow him to keep dev rights, so now we need to fork over another $1m for Homer doing nothing.)

Yet we have absolutely no money for schools, potholes, the Sellwood bridge or raking leaves - Pure BS

Even if the bond passes, remember 2007 when Teddy increased education spending 20%? Then six months later we find out if all went for benes.

The death spiral will continue until our elected leaders get their minds right and their head in a place where they see daylight.

Sorry, got so p!ssed off I mis-spoke. $27.8M for SW Moody street rebuild/raising:


Not to mention apparently Randy's bond isn'[t buying enough fire engines, so he has to divert even more from the general fund (see above link.)

As to where Lincoln would relocate, there is a lot of space between Overton and Raleigh, from 16th to about 20th. Its has good highway and local access, avoids the downtown gridlock, and has good public transit.

1. There's a lot of existing structures there...why should we buy up the land and force good businesses away just to build a school - when we have a perfectly functional school site?

2. I'm sure the site can't be acceptable - what if, an earthquake happens and I-405 falls right on top of the school?

3. I'm not sure it's compatible with the Con-Way development plan...you know, Little Venice, with the little canals and so on...

Oh, and WHAT good public transit? The 77 bus?

Steve, our current elected leaders are not going to end the death spiral. The death spiral will end only when people like you and the other readers of this blog get angry enough to use their votes, their voices, and their minds to force the changes that need to happen.

PPS has no interest in selling the Lincoln site. We plan to rebuild the high school there.

With how many stories of condos above?

"We have no plan" is a lot different from "We promise we won't do it."

"As to where Lincoln would relocate"

They can go to Jefferson. Heck, we've only been trying for 20+ years to get that schools stabilized. I mean heck we can make URDs look like any shape we want, why can't we do that with schools.

Steve, you're $50 Million to raise SW Moody and moving the recently built trolley line 100 ft to the west is close to accurate. It's $47 Million in fed grants and our tax dollars. If you add in the PDC, PDOT administrative costs you're at $50 Million.

"Administrative Costs" for WoWhat projects are running between 17% to 28%. Astronomical.

Erik, I was thinking of the large parking lots and the open land near the river that currently houses a three story pile of debris.

Transit in the area--the streetcar runs within a block or two of the area.

However, Ames's post above makes it sound like they are not talking about a new location.


Eric as to core competencies, I could not agree more but it's hard to teach well in a classroom that still uses overhead projectors, where you have 45 children in rooms designed for 30, where your Chemistry Biology and Physics labs haven'e been renovated for 25 years, where the computer classroom is a library alcove, etc. (This all describes Cleveland, one of the supposed richer schools in the district.)

If you don't think the physical plant is in bad shape, take a walk through one of these buildings sometime.

PD, you don't understand how schools are funded in this state.

Paul G, "a crappy public education system is not a good way to foster economic development."

Public tax dollars spent on privately owned businesses (Paulson's Timbers, Homer Williams' condos, etc) doesn't foster economic development either. Neither does the gross neglect of our roads, bridges, and municipal parks.

How can we have any oonfidence that PPS will even operate any new schools that are built? We built a $58 million jail for Wapato with a construction bond, but they didn't bother to put an operating levy on the ballot. Five years later, the jail remains empty, with over a million dollars in public art that no inmates have ever seen.

We know that PPS will face a huge operating deficit as their enrollments continue to decline: new buildings are unlikely to stem the flight of families to the lower cost suburban communities with large back yards.

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