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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 8, 2011 9:40 AM. The previous post in this blog was "Kimberly's role will evolve over time". The next post in this blog is Comedy gold. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Infill first, ask questions later?

Here's an interesting one from the annals of Portland land use: They're taking testimony on a studio apartment that's already been installed in a garage building back behind this four-plex. Given how much the City of Portland loves cramming people into the old neighborhoods, it seems a shoo-in for approval. But didn't the owner, who hails from Lake Oswego, break the land use rules? Don't tell us it's o.k. so long as you break them the way City Hall likes them broken.

Comments (17)

"Don't tell us it's o.k. so long as you break them the way City Hall likes them broken."

You're joking right?

Has anyone else noticed that since the big push for 'infill', there seems to have been a drastic increase in the number of homes sliding down hillsides in locations where homes were built where there weren't any before?

There's a sensible way to deal with such a situation:

(1) Collect the comments and conduct the Type II review regardless of the state of completion. And the quasi-judicial procedure must be blind here - there's no justification for approval based on "it's already done and denail is inconvenient for the developer".
(2) Charge all of the fees that would have been applied, plus interest.
(3) Assess a flat percentage based penalty on the fees - 25% extra is common - to assure that the rules are better observed next time.

seems to have been a drastic increase in the number of homes sliding down hillsides in locations where homes were built

Most sensible towns were built where the land was flat, high and dry.

Most of Portland is on hills, and downtown Portland is on reclaimed marshland, wetlands, and even a couple of lakes. Downtown Portland used to flood annually until the seawall was built and much of downtown was raised. (Ironically, in the city that prides itself on being "green" and environmentally conscious.)

Because Portland has used up all of the flat land it has, it has to build in the West Hills - what other city would put a major hospital (four hospitals, actually) right on top of an geologically active hill with just a two-lane road to get to it, yet the hospital be one of the city's largest employers?

While Portlanders like to poke fun at "Vantucky", keep in mind that Vancouver predated Portland by many years because it was flat, high and dry. Fort Vancouver was at an ideal location - close to the river for transport and trade, but far enough away so that it was safe from natural disaster (flood). Downtown Portland was hardly a desirable place when Lewis & Clark came through the area. What are now called bedroom communities, suburbs are exurbs are there for a reason - they were agricultural or forestry hubs; while Portland's location is rather questionable and required massive environmental impact unlike Beaverton or Hillsboro did for much of its early formative years. And the industry that could benefit from being at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers...Kelly Point is still a park, Rivergate is a relatively new development, and most of the old Portland Harbor area is well to the south of the Columbia River (and Terminal 1 is now condos, Terminal 2 is seldom used.)

Good stuff there, Erik.

Speaking of hospitals on unstable hillsides, I thought there was some federal mandate some years ago to discourage exactly that, yet OHSU keeps growing, and growing, and growing, and growing.... despite the crisscross fault lines all over the area and a frightening prediction of a big one from the Cascadia Subduction Zone?

EH , great point , and I can amplify it , the two lane roads to our hospitals are all un-siesmic , so they will all fall down the hill , and during an earthquake we won't be able to get to the hospital [except by TRAM of course....]

Tram, ha ha. That's like using an elevator in a burning building.

I always like your informed commentary, Erik, but a few minor quibbles on this one. I think it's a stretch to say "most of Portland is on hills"; downtown proper and East Portland is relatively flat, save for a few extinct volcanoes and Missoula Floods gravel bars here and there. In fact, an early advertisement for the Rose City Park addition touted it as being as "tall as Portland Heights and flat as a board" (discounting a certain amount of realtor hyperbole, naturally).

Also, IIRC, Marquam Hill was owned by the railroad but then donated or sold cheaply to a doctor or some other founding father seeking to build a hospital. It's not the only place to build or expand a hospital within the city limits: Providence is quietly and methodically increasing the footprint of its Providence Portland Medical Center and administration buildings in the Hollywood District.

And Portland was an ideal spot for at least one industry: exporting agricultural goods grown in the Willamette Valley that were carried over the plank road that became Canyon Road. Of course, it (and Vancouver) lack easy access to the open ocean, which kept the region from becoming an economic powerhouse along the lines of San Francisco and Seattle.

Back to the illegal apt. Besides the illegal setbacks, where are the parking spaces for the existing 4 plex and this added unit as required by code? The adjacent apt. building has only a few parking spaces. Schuler is a very narrow street with limited parking. Then adding in bioswales and bike lanes you have chaos. Probably what CoP wants. Where are the Planners?

Planners???There are planners in Portland???Who knew?
Oh...those people...the ones with their collective heads firmly planted in the bio-swales, where the sun never shines...

Eric, a side note. Many people think that Portland's location of being approximately 110 nautical miles from the open Pacific is a downside. The distance from Seattle to the open Pacific at the beginning of the San Juan de Fuca Strait is over 120 nautical miles. Tacoma is slightly over 145 nautical miles. I've sailed all three with all the tide variations.

downtown proper and East Portland is relatively flat, save for a few extinct volcanoes and Missoula Floods gravel bars here and there.

Good point Eric, except that the "flatlands of Portland" are, in Portland's own planning logic, poorly designed, automobile-centric suburban sprawl - while the development center of Portland is on the filled in wetlands of downtown.

Yes, Marquam Hill was donated by some railroad magnate, but it doesn't mean we have to keep building and building and repeat the same mistakes. Once it was discovered that the land was simply unsuitable, it shouldn't have kept growing there. Heck, even the South Waterfront is a miserable location for important medical facilities. (Providence Portland is probably the best location for a hospital, because it is on relatively flat land.)

exporting agricultural goods grown in the Willamette Valley that were carried over the plank road that became Canyon Road

Cornelius Pass Road predated Canyon Road as a trail of commerce; and the Willamette River provided ample opportunities for commerce via water transport. Did you know that riverboats actually once traveled up the Yamhill River to McMinnville, and even on the Tualatin River and on the Willamette all the way to Eugene? (In fact, there is a railroad bridge near Harrisburg that was built with a lift span - it was lifted exactly one time, and today the lift span sits across a sandbar as the river changed course. The railroad bridges in Salem and Albany were built as movable bridges for the same reason.) Of course today, at some points in the river it is completely unnavigable even by a kayak or inflatable raft. Oregon City was a major industrial center thanks to hydropower (both of the electrical, and non-electrical variety), and Portland really wasn't all that needed until the railroad showed up in the 1870s and rendered water transport obsolete.

Many people think that Portland's location of being approximately 110 nautical miles from the open Pacific is a downside. The distance from Seattle to the open Pacific at the beginning of the San Juan de Fuca Strait is over 120 nautical miles.

The Alaska Gold Rush was started in Seattle; it was simply easier to obtain provisions and depart from Seattle due to a natural deep-draft port, and it didn't hurt having three mainline railroads end right in Seattle (the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Union Pacific Railroads). Later, the Milwaukee Road would join them in Tacoma making it four.

Portland was an afterthought by the GN and NP - they both shared a secondary mainline from Seattle and Tacoma to Portland, and they jointly owned the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway from Spokane to Portland. UP's mainline went through Portland to Seattle, and the Southern Pacific's mainline ended in Portland - but it was a north-south mainline from Sacramento rather than an east-west mainline.

It also didn't help that a young guy started up a big huge company in Seattle, a guy by the name of Boeing. And in the 1970s, two other guys, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, moved their tiny software company from New Mexico to Redmond, Washington...at the time best known for writing a version of the BASIC programming language.

Why weren't the setbacks for this garage apt. not addressed at plan review when the owner/architect/contactor got the building permits? I do hope they got permits!

I do hope they got permits!

It would appear that there's a history of not doing things by the book at this location.

Rettig, interesting links. The property in 2005 was denied a permit for a exit stairway in the sideyard area. Then in late 2010 they build it anyway without any permit. Where are the Planners? Where are the fines? Where is the requirement to tear down the stairs? How would you like to be the next door neighbor having CoP protecting your public safety and your own property? And I'll still ask, where's the on-site parking for 4 living units?

Where's randy Randy?


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