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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Another way Portland sewer fees are diverted to toy projects

In case you were too busy with Christmas to be bothered with it, here's a suggestion, by the city auditor of all people, that the Portland sewer bureau stop overpaying the city's transportation bureau for sewer inspection services. Guess that's been another means whereby part of our outrageous sewer bills has been funneled to the streetcars, bike goodies, and other pet projects of the transportation gurus.

Think that situation will get fixed any time soon?

Meanwhile, here's a funny one, although it loads a mite slow -- apparently, it's an official PowerPoint presentation on the many unpaved streets in the Woodstock neighborhood in the southeast part of town. The city's not about to pave them, because the bureaucrats say the people down there don't want them paved. "Think of it as a a wonderful part of the neighborhood's culture." "Just add compost bins."

Put a bird on it and call it art, indeed.

Comments (39)


The file is a PDF and the reason it is probably loading so slow is due to the fact so many people use the city's site.

I uploaded it to our content distribution network which is much faster:


I will leave it up for a few days for anyone having trouble viewing the copy on PortlandOnline.

Those streets in the Woodstock neighborhood were mud ruts when I was a kid... fifty years ago.

Benjamin: Thanks for the assist. It loads slow from the city at all hours, even the middle of the night when there should be no traffic. It's a huge file.

They don't know how to act any other way. You don't think they weren't funneling every URD dollar outside the Pearl district into the Pearl district even back 10-15 years ago?

Abusing taxpayer trust is just a way of life for them. THe only way to stop it is to get rid of them and vote NO on every bond they put forward.

I did look and that is funny:

"A wonderful part of Woodstock's culture”

That's like saying slavery was a quaint episode in the antebellum South.

I'm sure dirt roads seem pretty charming to cement block condo dwellers, espcially if they don't have to ride their bikes there.

I guess NE Portland's Alberta Arts district has a lot more culture besides Last Thursday. What a crock. Pave the effing streets and don't give me the BS about "Local Improvement Districts" and expanded maintenance.

What's next? LIDs for schools where PPS decides to shut down a building or redraw the district lines? Opt-in fees for police and fire services? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??!!

I wonder how many miles of sidewalk could have been built with the money that went into the Tram. Or SoWhat. Or Vanport Square. Or any other economically marginal redevelopments the City Council and the PDC have subsidized over the last decade.

'“Since BES is primarily funded by utility ratepayers, lower costs could be passed along in the form of lower rates,” according to the audit.'

Or they could be just used to build some more demonstration mansions around town!

Hold it. That extra revenue in the Water Bureau is for bike boulevards and bioswales.

From the back of our latest water bill (which went up despite usage going down...over $400 now for our family of 7):

"Explanation of Billing Details: Customers of all utility services within the City of Portland pay a utility license fee that helps fund general City services including, but not limited to, fire fighting, parks and police. This fee is factored into each of the following charges."

So there. They openly say that they're going to spend our money on whatever they darn well please. And there's not much we can do about it.

"Think that situation will get fixed any time soon?"

Why do we even bother with an Auditor in this town? You know her report is sitting right next to the last 3 years of PURB comments that PWBs fees are too high and that they are wasting money.

I don't even think Randy thinks of them as worth loo reading material.

Sorry, I forgot to put the link to the latest PURB report:


Which is where the auditor got most of her inspiration from/

Of course in parts of SW, the city is letting streets crumble back to dirt roads. The edges of the pavement crumble off and the street gets narrower and narrower. I am personally waiting until the state's road width standards get violated of course they can just reduce the speed or say it's bike concourse. Oh joy.

And wilder still is having volunteers who are rank amateurs try to apply patches to potholes. There is a right way to patch potholes and I don't think it's ever done in PDX because it takes more effort up front though in the long run that technique lasts longer.

Up near the north side of the Market Choice parking lot, just north of the corner of SW Taylors Ferry and SW Terwilliger, is my favorite example of neighborhood character in the city of Portland.

The stretch of SW Carson Street between SW 4th and SW Terwilliger can swallow entire cars if they dare travel this road. When water filled, the potholes lure you in with their tranquility.

You can actually see the potholes with Google Map Satellite View

You know what this sounds like? Cost savings!!!

You can actually see the potholes

Hey! There's a bioswale!

"until the state's road width standards get violated of course they can just reduce the speed or say it's bike concourse."

You know that's the long-term plan for the Sellwood bridge?

Potholes, your father's bioswales.

Since many of the horse posts are still in place in downtown, and Skidmore Fountain still has the horse troughs, maybe we should rip up the downtown streets and return them to dirt, let the raw sewage flow down the middle of the street straight into the Willamette River (untreated, of course), and call it retrospective art?

After all, the trolleys/trams/streetcars put a lot of horse related businesses out of business, so it's time that horse-drawn transportation be given its fair and equitable share of regional transportation funding.

The "planners" should move to Guatemala and let the grownups lay down some asphalt.

... let the grownups lay down some asphalt

The presentation Jack provided a link to showed a map of unpaved streets in Portland on page 7. And in NW Portland, most of the unpaved sections are roads or firelanes in Forest Park. So be careful of the database that you're relying on for statements like this.

After all, paving Leif Erikson drive worked out swell the first time around.

Just got back from doing a job in Vancouver. Way out Mill Plain Road and through some side roads. I didn't encounter a single pot hole. Smooth pavement with solid patches the whole way. Oh, get this! I saw a street sweeper in action at 11:30 PM, too. Aaahhh, reminded me of the good old days in Portland.

Erik H. has a great idea. The only problem is Shady Sam and his Government Gang made it illegal to ride a horse if its more than 90 degrees outside.

I'm sure Tom MIller, with his many years of administrative and transportation expertise, will fix PBOT. Perhaps this guy can write a powerpoint proposing streetcars in Woodstock. Looks like he's currently available for employment.

That slideshow is ... just ... amazing.

I love how they have one "ugly" unimproved street and pictures of charming parklike unimproved streets and community basketball get togethers.

Now how many streets look like picture one and how many like pictures 2 and 3?

And who is doing the maintenance in picture 3? Is the city OK with a resident taking over half of a right of way for their extended parking lot / driveway? I wish they'd let property owners know that they can add another 5-10 feet to their property.

Page 47 of the report warns residents against installing "traffic calming devices" and "furnishings' in the roadway because it "encroaches" on city property ... but the 4th picture shows a whole lot of encroachment!

Survey says... 39% don't pave, 20% pave. The pie chart implies 100% of the responses! Survey says "little garden areas", of course, no surprise, the city is giving over property free of charge to homeowners!

The most popular option among residents was for the City to pay $21,000 per unpaved block to create pathways and community gardens. The streets are unpaved in the first place because the city doesn't have any money! And does the $21,000 include the ongoing supervision and maintenance costs of those community gardens and walkways?

Anyone have a pricetag on the powerpoint?

Don't even get me started on all the unpaved streets east of 122nd Avenue. Not only did the City of Portland incorporate virtually all of Multnomah County up to 162nd Street back in the early 1990s; but they did nothing about all the unpaved roads.

I am posting to correct some misinformation spreading through this thread. This project was conducted by a group of Portland State graduate students (myself and 4 others) in order to explore creative community based alternatives to full paving of unimproved streets. The project was in no way sponsored by the City of Portland or an idea of the City's, though we did work with an advisor from the Bureau of Planning. The idea for the project came out of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association recognizing that paving these streets is prohibitively expensive for residents, even through a Local Improvement District, and the City does not have funding for this level of infrastructure project. We worked directly with the neighborhood in producing the final report and toolkit. The comments about neighborhood character were direct quotes from residents who took a survey we conducted in the early stages of the project.
After two extensive open meetings with the neighborhood, we gathered feedback used to create the nine alternatives for potential street improvements. These alternatives were reviewed by a technical advisory committee consisting of City employees, technical professionals and a resident of Woodstock. The purpose of the advisory committee was not to get approval by the City, but to see if our alternatives were feasible both legally and technically, hence some of the alternatives coming with "warning labels." Through the advisory process we dropped some designs which were not appropriate for the project.
After the completion of Roadway Not Improved, City bureaus took interest in the project as an example of how residents can help themselves improve streets that are currently impassable. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability paid for the printing cost of 12 copies of the Toolkit, which were given to each neighborhood coalition office in order to make this resource more available to the public. It is no secret that the City currently does not have the multi-billion dollar funding available to pave all the unimproved streets in the city. This project is offered as ONE temporary solution to this problem and has, for the most part, been welcomed by residents of Woodstock. Lastly, unimproved streets can in no way be compared to slavery. That is just offensive.

Here is a link to the project website for more information and copies of the full Toolkit and Report:


I get it, don't worry because this was put out by the next generation of urban planners. Looking forward to it!

Dave Lister -- you are correct. The abysmal state of the "streets" in Woodstock is exactly as it was 50 years ago. Want to go for another 50 years?

I'm really sorry for the way folks here have responded to an attempt by those who live in a particularly notable "roadway unimproved" district to take matters into their own hands to improve their own neighborhood.

I'm extra sorry for the way you all responded to the work of young people who thought to use their skills to benefit neighborhoods and the people who live in them.

I don't know if it is even worth responding - but if any of you arm-chair persnicketers care about reality -- bite on this -- every time we go out and talk to folks in these neighborhoods -- we find, despite our best attempts at evil-nannystate-I-know-what-you-all-need etc, that they don't want the friggin streets paved.

They so really want the bird on the compost bin

not to mention, the street calming.

Oh yeah Steve, sorry to interject a dose of reality, but it's not the condo folks calling for this. They bought with an auto ok for an LID. They have no personal say in any of this. It's the old guys, and we (who give a rip what they say or care about) who have all these opinions, now.

Anne Dufay
Speaking as myself, not in my professional role, but based on years of experience working with people in the neighborhoods of Portland without "streets"

I agree, they don't want to pay to have the street paved.

But ask them if they would want it if Earl Blumenauer came up with magic federal money to pay for it, as he does for streetcar junk. Or if the city paid for it, the way it does when Homer Williams wants a street. I think you'd find that the neighbors' answer would be yes.

Jack, like you I live on a street that "came" paved.

So I can be sympathetic, or judgmental. Either is easy.

But either way, I'm not dealing with the full story.

The streets you and I live on were built with huge city subsidies not now available to folks should they chose to upgrade to that level via a LID.

Go back and look at what the city paid for when streets were built in your or my neighborhood, vs now. It will open your eyes.

The city completely repaved the Pearl District and the SoWhat District for Homer Williams. Somehow the money was found.

Please, don't tell me the neighbors don't want the street paved. They just can't afford to pay for it. And they shouldn't have to.

oh, I forgot to respond to the whole "what if fairy dust was real" thing.

Sure, some of them would chose paving, if Earl paid for it.

I refer you back to Dave Lister's comment -- hasn't happened in 50 years.

How many more years should they wait?

I don't disagree -- the city paid for streets in the Pearl and SoWha

So, theoretically, it should do that everywhere.

Problem (one among a bizillion)--we lost too much money doing it in SoWha. We do not have the funds to do it all over the city, probably would not have had those funds, regardless of SoWha, but that is arguable.

Anyway, Woodstock's street condition predates SoWha by decades. So I don't know how tightly you can legitimately tie one to the other

Of course, those streets will never be paved by this city's government. But telling people "think of it as a wonderful part of your neighborhood culture" is pretty lame. Don't p*** on their shoes and tell them it's raining.

"They bought with an auto ok for an LID." Puh-leeze! There's a little more to it than that, IMHO...

If the papers you're talking about really were called that, it would be more fair, but they're called "Waivers of Remonstrance." Who remonstrates anymore? The title doesn't even refer to what one would even remonstrate to (a proposed LID). And WTF is an "LID" anyway?

In fact, most people need a lawyer to explain the meaning of that innocent-looking exception to title; since most people need every cent they have for their down payment and closing costs, very few people ever pay a lawyer to explain what they're agreeing to. Besides, it doesn't even sound like something to be concerned about. If I never remonstrate anyway, why would I care if I waive my right to do so?

The title of this wolf-in-sheep's-clothing piece of paper ought to be "Agreement to Pay More Money than You Paid for Your House if Any of Your Neighbors Ever Ask the City of Portland to Pave and Build Wheelchair-Accessible Sidewalks and Build the Latest and Greatest Storm Water Drainage Improvements on the Undeveloped Street that You Mistakenly Think is Your Driveway and/or Back Yard." Now THAT would put people on notice! The real estate brokers might not like it, though.

As it is, this is one of many deceptive little corners of how Portland does business.


Good points. It may even be that neighbors are not the ones who even initiate the Local Improvement Districts. (LID) In my opinion, many may want these improvements without realizing the enormous costs to themselves. In other words, sounds good and surveys taken would in essence say yes to this, but if the total cost picture were held up out front, would this improvement (LID) be wanted? Then, they may be told some grant money will be available to make it more palatable, but question is how much will individual homeowners still have to pay?

There is the issue of who might be benefiting from initiating this? Am thinking developers would like the idea of the current residents paying for the LID so that all improvements would be ready in place in future years for development.

pay for my bike lanes losers!

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