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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 12, 2012 7:40 AM. The previous post in this blog was Vestas lays off 2,300 in Denmark; U.S. next?. The next post in this blog is Portland auditor says DNA testing is too slow. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Photo op at the train wreck

The head federal transit honcho is scheduled to walk around the SoWhat District in Portland this morning. The mayor's going to be "showcasing the economic development made possible by the stimulus-funded work." Does the future bankruptcy lawyer work count?

Comments (23)

I wonder which "private landowners" will be attending? Is this Homer?

Someone should explain to Mr Rogoff what a Potemkin-village is and then show him the MAX fight video, crappy schools and potholes.

This stimulus money is such a farce - Especially when we have all the gangstas and schools can only gradute 2/3rds of the students..

I'll just bet Portland's own kool-aid drinking Director Of Transportation will show up on his special, for celebration only, skateboard.

Jack, almost every day you provide a laugh.

So Sam and Co. is going to tell the federal trans honcho that rebuilding SW Moody twice in the past 10 years, the second time with a big help from the honcho, that this created SoWhat. Another laughable, unbelievable moment.

Most of SoWhat changes were created because the zoning was changed from industrial, low rise to commercial, institutional, housing highrises at 12 times the height and density as before. That was the impetus, and not raising SW Moody 14 ft. in the air with two-way split bike/pedestrian lanes taking up to 2/3rds of the street width.

What a snow job.

Watching these loser politicians around here is like being subjected to the Ludovico Technique, forced to watch a mentally violent version of "Jacka$$." Too bad it doesn't have the proper effect because the voters keep voting these kinds of candy-colored clowns into office.

I have a better idea. Let's line up those 200 or so 1990 vintage TriMet buses and fill up all the streets in and around SoWhat with them.

Then, on a big screen TV, show looping news coverage of all of the recent TriMet events.

We BLEW $36 million dollars to relocate a perfectly good Streetcar line and build a new street in SoWhat - that's money that DOESN'T improve transit, DOESN'T increase transit, DOESN'T impact ridership. We blew $165 million on WES that has directly resulted in the loss of bus service due to its outrageous operating expenses, and has in the overall scheme of thing been a net subtraction of service (not to mention that after three years old, hasn't even met its first year projection of ridership.) We blew how many hundreds of millions on the Green Line, only to have some Metro honcho basically say it was a mistake (while buses on the 72 line remain crowded and busy, running every six minutes - and is TriMet's most successful service in terms of cost per boarding ride, it beats every MAX line hands down.)

TriMet had no problem using its stimulus money to fix a trestle on the trolley line from Portland to Lake Oswego - a trestle that not only has the work not been satisfactorily completed, but the trolleys have not run over it in almost two years. Money for I-205 bike path lighting. Fixing a broken storm drain pipe at Tigard TC. Repainting the Tigard TC (and the paint is already worn and flaking.) Installing a new roof on the practically brand new Elmonica Shop. We have a bloated I.T., Marketing and Capital Projects staff - not one of those employees PROVIDES TRANSIT SERVICE.

I bet that this FTA honcho probably flew in using one of America's gas-guzzling aircraft, instead of using Amtrak. And I bet for his trips around town - he isn't using a bus either, but a GSA fleet vehicle. And all the TriMet handlers will be in their E-plated staff SUVs (Chevy Equinoxes and Ford Escapes) rather than the bus.

The south waterfront development has allowed Portland to retain its largest employer, which has 12,000 jobs within the City I believe. OHSU is now building in conjunction with several other universities a 400,000 square foot teaching and research center. That's real jobs, folks. Real high paying health and science jobs that would have gone to the burbs were it not for all the kooky transit investments that you routinely deride here. There are 2 thousand or so residential units down there which admittedly have not done all that well, but I would bet the area will fill out over the coming decade or so. And the tax base down there was close to zero before all the SoWa development. So how can you argue that it's been a tax drain? The new development has generated tax revenue for all the infrastructure through tif. That's what tif is supposed to do.

Actually Jim, what the money going towards TIF could do is continue to flow to schools and the county, while developers build their buildings with their own money.

OHSU was never going to leave its facilities on the hill. They have hundreds of millions in infrastructure up there, and they answer to hundreds of high-paid doctors who don't want to work in Beaverton. Besides the new facility could be built down there even if there was no transit at all. You use this new-fangled thing called a parking lot.

The rail projects serve relatively few people, cost a ton of money, and the operating costs become a permenant drain on the rest of the transit system. If you want to see the impact of transit, look at the current PBOT budget negotiations. They have to cut across the board due to the money committed to streetcar, light rail, and the Sellwood Bridge (half of which will be dedicated to "alternative modes", of course.)

"We BLEW $36 million dollars to relocate a perfectly good Streetcar line and build a new street in SoWhat"

I thought before they took it down, that PortlandOnline said it was a $65M project to raise SW Moody 15 feet for the length of 3700 feet.

I strongly believe that OHSU's threat to relocate major facilities to Hillsboro was real. They owned about 100 acres out there and have since sold about 50. That 400,000 sf Life Sciences building would have gone somewhere and the chances of it going out to the burbs would have been much much higher. I'd bet they will build more there.
There are 2000 housing units (with more to come) plus some other buildings, which is probably $700 million in investment. Those units would not have happened without public improvements. The site would have been a zero value landfill. The tax revenue from those buildings would never have gone to schools, gov services, etc if they never got built.
I'm sure there was money wasted and some poor investments. But cities have to make big bets sometimes to keep 10,000+ jobs and attract more for the future.

Like the Convention Center, how many more years or decades does the public have to keep paying and waiting for these big gambles to "pencil out"?

Timber Jim, are you trying to pull a fast one?

The TIF dollars being generated by SoWhat in 2007 was $9 Million plus. Today it is $12 Million. That is not much of an increase to pay for all the taxpayer funded projects, and many haven't even been started like all the transportation projects, greenway, two additional parks, etc. But what is worse the $9 to $12 Million doesn't even pay off the debt service on the bonds sold for the projects so far completed. As PDC's Patrick Quinton (URAC past lead administrator) said, "our URA is broke"..."we can't do the projects we are committed to"..."we need to priorities".

Steve, the lower numbers like $36 Million is the federal stimulus dollars given to the SW Moody project and not all the other state/city/TriMet/TIF dollars used to rebuild it again, reaching over $67 Million.

Timber Jim, are you forgetting the $5 Million of TIF dollars given to the OHSU Doctor Health Club building(owned by the OHSU doctors)? The $5 Million was suppose to be for creating bio-tech jobs in the building. Not one was created. Not a good bet was it?

Text from OHSU/OSU Life Sciences building web page is below. These sound like biotech jobs to me. So the jobs came, but in a different (and new and larger) building. The text below covers just one piece of the employment/programs that will take place there. So, not so bad, right?

'OHSU's Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine (OCSSB) led by the pioneering scientist Joe Gray, PhD and a dream team of collaborators that are working to create the “Google-Earth Map of Human Cells”.'

Does anyone have the link for the SoWa district budgets? I am interested in understanding the TIF numbers that Lee cites.

TimberJim - OHSU is a state owned facility. So what if it's in Portland, or Hillsboro, or Eugene, or Medford, or Bend, or Ontario, or The Dalles, or McMinnville? OHSU is not the property of the City of Portland - it belongs to the State of Oregon.

So what if OHSU moved to Hillsboro? Portland would quite arguably still gain significant benefits from its proximity. Look at Intel - that's a lot of freight that moves through the Port of Portland and specifically PDX - creating jobs IN Portland (however, a recent study found that the majority of PDX workers actually lived in Vancouver...so the good news was that Oregon got a lot of income tax revenue that it didn't have to pay back to the same people.)

The site would have been a zero value landfill

Ironically the site WASN'T a "zero value landfill" until the city condemned its former industrial occupants. What used to be the South Waterfront was a mixture of various businesses that all created hundreds of jobs. The City bulldozed all that away, created tax breaks and a LID that only taxes those developments on the value of the vacant land, meaning that the increased property values isn't helping anyone out at all except themselves. I wish I could just tell my government "you MUST spend my property taxes on me." That'd mean I wouldn't have to pay the TriMet property tax (for light rail bond interest, since I don't live near a light rail line), Port of Portland property tax (since that funds the maritime operations that I cannot use), Metro tax (since there are no Metro funded facilities near me)...

Regarding my "zero value landfill" comment -
I went to Portlandmaps and looked at a few records down there. One example is the Riva Apts. In 1997, that property (650 SW GAINES) had an assessed value near zero and paid about $5,900 in property taxes. In 2011, same property paid about $550,000 in taxes, or 8,300 percent more than fourteen years prior. Very similar story for the Mirabella (3550 SW Bond) - a nearly 6,000 percent increase in taxes. Meanwhile, most other properties in Portland are capped at a 50% increase over that time per measures 5 and 50. Bonding $500,000 will get around $5M in tif for capital improvements - from that building alone. It's difficult to do a simple calc for the condo buildings because they are split into 100+ tax lots.

If the city had taken no action, the city, Metro, etc would still be getting $5,900 in property taxes. Instead, they built roads, a streetcar, a park, and a tram, and now have a couple hundred million in private investment to cover the cost of those improvements.

Timber Jim, like I said, the extra property tax dollars coming in isn't covering even the debt costs of the bonds used to pay for the public projects in the District. Some of that is due to over 50% of the area off the tax roll due to non-profits, public agencies (like OHSU), TODs, Affordable Housing (pays no taxes), etc. That's why the TIF dollars coming in are little more than many years back. Then as Erik points out, there were many businesses back in the 80s and 90s that were paying property taxes that had to leave, plus loosing their many jobs.

I agree with you that OHSU and affordable are paying no property taxes.

However, there are seven condo or apt projects (Meriwether, Atwater Place, Mirabella, John Ross, Ardea, Riva, Matisse) totaling 1,900 housing units that I believe are all paying 100% of their tax bill, unless you have information that shows otherwise. More are expected (yes, I know, hard to believe in this economy, but seems so).

Also, OSHU will have created well over 1000 jobs upon completion of the next building.

Also, again, I would like to see the financial statements for the district to understand your statement about covering debt.

Jim, you understand the concept of property tax abatements, which are part of both the Pearl and W Waterfront, right?

Yeah, they're selling like hotcakes: $170,000 for a 1 Bedroom, 1.0 Bathroom, 636 Square Foot "condo" in the John Ross.

21 for sale in Atwater, from $279,900 to $.3 million (2 Bedrooms, 2.1 Bathrooms).

The Mirabella Retirement Center is in distress, and offering reduced prices.

The Ardea is apartments, featuring dozens of vacancies, with rents ranging from $7,250 to as little as $1,350 for a 765 sq. ft space with a Loft.

Get 'em while you can!

No worries; keep apologizing for them, Jim.

Why, sure! All that TIF money's just rolling back into the schools!

Hey, I've got a bridge to sell, if you're interested - you can't run any cars or trucks on it, but it has spectacular views!

I strongly believe that OHSU's threat to relocate major facilities to Hillsboro was real.

Timber Jim, who also posts here as Phil P., is a developer cheerleader who no doubt benefits financially from the foolishness that is bankrupting Portland. Claims to live in the Sunnyside neighborhood. His or her opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Such as the recent:

The P - LO Streetcar is a great idea.

Sorry, pal -- ain't buyin'.

Take my comments with all the salt you want.

That does not change the fact that many of the problems that have been cited by detractors of the SoWa district here on this page are not factually accurate. To wit:

Max, above, infers that the condo and apartment projects in SoWa have been tax abated. Based on my review of the taxes assessed on these projects in SoWa, this is not true. In fact, the taxes paid by these properties have jumped by about a factor of 100 (!), taking their former industrial use as a starting point versus their current use. Some apt projects assisted by the PDC have received tax abatement, but these are low-income housing projects, for example, 920 NW Kearney in the Pearl. Again, check Portland Maps. Max also infers that since some of the SoWa projects are struggling, they will not have to pay taxes. Not true.

Jack, as a tax expert, please fact check these statements and let us know your conclusion. I believe it's all there in Portlandmaps. I have read the assertion here many times that numerous residential projects in the Pearl and SoWa are tax abated and I don't see evidence that bears that out.

Jim, Phil, whoever you are --

SoWhat is a tremendous flop. The public is into SoWhat to the tune of about $300 million -- that may be conservative. The debt is staggering. Any increased taxes are not paying, and will not pay, the debt service.

10,000 new jobs were promised based on the investments that we have already made. Few, if any, have been delivered. Dozens of blue collar jobs were chased out of the neighborhood for ugly, b.s. condo towers. It's a lousy place to live, and it wrecked the neighborhood above it. The aerial tram is a screaming joke. The awful poodle poop park cost $20 million, minimum. They're putting in a maximum security immigration jail and a nursing home. One of the high-rise buildings is said to be leaning. Flop, flop, flop.

You are not worth arguing with.

If it's true that the property tax revenue increased by 10,000 percent - where's that money and why is Portland in such fiscal straits, if it has all this new money and revenue streams that didn't exist before?

Either:

1. The revenue really isn't there,

2. Expenses related to SoWhat are greater than the increased revenues,

3. Expenses elsehwere are up (and if so, where and how)?


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