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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 18, 2011 8:46 AM. The previous post in this blog was WaPo: Wal-Mart's better than nothing. The next post in this blog is Fish on immigation jail: "a small processing center". Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Sustainable Susan's "calamity"

The City of Portland's army of planners -- the smug know-it-alls who parlay vague memories of Tom McCall into one ugly, out-of-place condo bunker after another -- have a stunning defeat on their hands with a state board's rejection of their "River Plan." The bureaucrats are downplaying the latest development, but as one knowledgeable observer pointed out, "It's such an overwhelming rejection of both the city's methodology and its outcomes."

More than a decade of planner busy work has essentially been flushed down the loo. And the business interests who oppose the plan are taking the latest ruling to an appeals court to make sure that the city doesn't get away with papering over its major flaws.

Environmentalists are understandably bummed, but their ire shouldn't be directed at the business folks, who were just protecting their money. It should be directed at the bunglers in city government. With friends like the mayor and the planning cabal, Portland's wildlife, like its beautiful neighborhoods, don't need enemies.

Comments (16)

With hindsight, it's shocking that Amanda "All About Process" Fritz didn't make a peep and joined the 5-0 decision to ram through ℠ the Scam's bogus plan.

I have a hard time seeing how the Willamette from downtown to Kelly Point can be an industrial area and a very healthy ecosystem. Seems to me like you've got to make a choice between the two. And at the same time the City is adopting the River Plan, it's proposing to mow down West Hayden Island to ship coal to China. Seems like conflicting efforts.

Perhaps in hindsight, Sam should not have fired all the real planners and engineers who know more than he does. I say let him try to write the next plan all by himself and see how well he does.

This would make a great question at City Club today when he delivers his state of the city address.

So true. Remember Gil Kelley?

The River Plan isn't much about "environment"--it's a camel by committee that tries to appease everybody and thereby does little for anybody--or the ecology itself.

I also wouldn't necessarily call all supporters on the environment side "environmentalists", either. Many groups have either given up and supported the superrficial, or do environmental work that amounts to little more than issuing press releases.

The cutesy press release you linked to is an interesting aside. Crafted by Roy Kaufman, the opening line "Led by Mayor Sam Adams, the Portland City Council voted 5-0 to adopt the River Plan/North Reach yesterday" is priceless. Trust that this careful wording will be used later to claim ownership and credit, despite there was no "leading" going on at all.

Forgive my profound cynicism, but lately it seems that developers want to invoke the McCall Legacy, such as it is, to mean "anything we want to do."

I can't help thinking if they wanted to store plutonium in Mt. Tabor Reservoir, you would hear something about how Tom McCall is smiling down upon them.

While we're on the subject, don't forget that McCall got smoked in the 1978 gubernatorial primary because he failed to see the GOP's lurch to the right and that he would have had a much better chance running as an independent. So much for infallible vision.

CoP's "army of planners" have other recent "defeats"-like the SoWhat Jail.

CoP tried to squeeze the project through review under only Design Review. But to be fair, there were several planners that felt the review should be under the Conditional Review process with full public notice and being able to review the detention center portion of the project and not just the window sizes. The defeat was really for Leonard and chief of staff Kovatch. Sam just sat on his hands. Well, there went 10 months of futile planning morass-let's start over like the River Plan.

The City Council is now trying to have the Jail Conditional Review only apply to the portion of the building that has detention facilities, not all the supporting offices, parking, other facilities that support the detention facility. It would be like reviewing only 23% of the vacant Wapato Jail having holding cells and the rest of its office's, kitchens, counseling rooms, etc. supporting the holding cells is non-reviewable. There's nothing in Title 33 that assigns proportionality to a land use hearing.

Sounds like the "going to LUBA and beyond door" is being left open by the city for the Jail, just like the River Plan. The River Plan went through the door, then the city's feint to just "clean up a few loose ends" isn't being bought by the industry community. They are now going through the screen door.

If you really want to see make work / busy work "planning" take a look at the Portland Plan exercise.


The "Portland Plan" wont itself produce the state statutorily required update to the "comprehensive plan" but it will somehow "inform" the "creation" of the comp plan.

The Portland Plan has been burning through money in salaries to staff and consultants and is busily looking into schools; health care; nutrition and a whole raft of other things having nothing to do with the City's charter or its obligations under tye State Land Use laws.

But, hey, it keeps the planners employed who were tossed out of BDS when building and land use application fees dried up.

The dirty little secret about the Portland Plan is that like other stuff, it is flowing out of, and downhill from, the Mayor's office.

The City is way behind the state statutory time lines for doing its comp plan, but the Portland Plan silliness goes on and on and on.....

Try asking Eric Engrstrom or Sustainable Sue for the actual dollar numbers expended on this game.

Think about the actual City mandated services like fixed existing roads which those dollars could have bought.

Amazing.


Nonny, it all makes sense once you realize that the planning is the goal in and of itself. Not some result that comes out of the planning: implementation, or action, or arriving at some hard decision. The planning process itself is the point.

We have reached a point where we've praised "Portland planning" so much, that we mistake it for actual accomplishment.

Look at all the happy back-slapping and self-congratulation that came after they adopted the Bike Plan. The achievement is just the act of creating and adopting a plan, not actually doing anything laid out in the plan.

Snards -

Agree taht the planning itself is often the goal. Its an ongoing welfare system for graduates of UO Architecture and PSU Toulan Schools. Useless in so many ways.

However, the planning process is not benign. The "Bike Plan" you point to is a perfect example. Now, in almost every CoP funded capitaal project, costs for bike exclusive improvements, whether bike boulevards, parking racks, striping, and a host of other physical items which are all bike exclusive add significantly to the cost of the project.

And it is only the bike community which gains bike exclusive amenities.

Were you aware that according to state law, peds are trespassing if they use a "bike lane" to walk in where there are no sidewalks? A ped hit by a biker, or a car, while walking in such a lane, is already behind the 8 ball in terms of any claim for injuries because under Oregon's "comparative fault" rules, the act of trespassing makes the ped at fault.

Try walking almost anywhere in either SW or outer SE without walking in a bike lane.

THE bike plan, as just one instance, is both costly in terms of cap[ital expenditure, and discriminates against all pother modes ( see, I can do planner speak) such as ped and car by obtaining bike exclusive physical amenities.

And let me ask again, just how much has Sustainable Sue and her merry minions spent so far on the Portland Plan.

Speaking of LUBA, there is a proposal floating around in Salem to create a loser pays system of appeals.

How does this serve the public and neighborhoods if they cannot appeal faulty or political land use decisions paid for by our general fund taxes?

The example noted fits. We lose either way. We pay for the creation of the Comp Plan and zoning code, then pay BDS to enforce it.


The City expended funds to create the faulty plan such as the Waterfront Plan on our nickle. They will now have to do it over correctly.

If this new proposal goes through, we'd also have to pay anyone challenging them who prevails, so twice, and without any limit.

This would also prevent neighborhoods or legitimate organizations from risking any LUBA appeal so development will prevail without challenge.

Please let your representative know this should not be brought to a vote.

Mark, good points. Adding to Nonny points about Planning meaning more than the act itself, while I agree with Snards point, Portland Planning is like a key to bring many additional, physical consequences.

For example is SoWhat. In the late 80s, early 90s Katz and Co.(Sam) wanted to bring the whole area all the way down to Johns Landing into the ubiquitous "Central City Plan". The neighborhood association was very concerned about what that met. Katz and Co. promised that if brought into the district, it would not mean the density, heights, FAR, etc. of the Central City District. The Greenway Zone that it occupied would be honored and that it's encompassing in CC would respect the neighborhood, the river, the enormous transportation problems of the area.

The president of CTLH, Betsy Lindsey, daughter of Mr. Lindsey of Lindsey/Hart Attorneys (a respected Portland firm)was against it. She saw the writing on the wall like many others. CTLH opposed it, but......

Two years later the Planning Bureau began the long planning process that became SoWhat. FAR went from 2:l to 12:1. Heights went from 35-45 ft.. Heights to 250-325 ft, all these just like Downtown. No step-down of building mass to the river as Greenway requires. And not one vehicle transportation improvement has been made in SoWhat, in disregard to over 220,000 daily trips passing through on I-5, Macadam and other arterial streets and no convenient access to get there, still an island.

Katz and Co. lied. And Planning documents, like this, are used by the Pols and others to make the physical reality like SoWhat happen.

That's true lw, I shouldn't be so cavalier about claiming that plans aren't implemented. Maybe I should just say that the city also considers "planning" to be "doing something".

I consider planning to be "planning to do something later".

The SoWa district also had the power of an urban renewal district behind it. That's the big difference between which plans are implemented and those that just have a lot of pretty planning diagrams drawn and then nothing happens.

mark -

Do you have a bill number - eg. HB 2001 or SB 789 - for the LUBA loser pays attorneys fees provision.

You are correct that such a system needs to be resisted.

HB 2181, I believe.

I'm fine with the River Plan being axed, but wait a minute. You write:

"[B]ut their ire shouldn't be directed at the business folks, who were just protecting their money. It should be directed at the bunglers in city government."

That's an odd comment. I thought that "protecting their money" was otherwise grounds for relentless criticism here. Have standards been relaxed so that the higher goal of bashing city planners can proceed?


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