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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 6, 2012 10:12 AM. The previous post in this blog was County bridge borrowing is larger than advertised. The next post in this blog is Nick Fish goes rogue on parking meters. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Broadway bunkers becoming bigger

That monstrous cr-apartment complex slated to go in at the already fusterclucked corner of NE 33rd and Broadway goes before the Portland Design Commission again this afternoon. And it looks as though the project isn't getting any prettier as the "planning" rolls on. Our neighborhood spies tell us that the owners of the long-abandoned site are asking for permission to bend some rules to make the bunkers "pencil out," as they say:

1. Projecting Sign Size – To allow signs projecting into the right-of-way to be larger than 30 SF each. Two projecting signs at 100 SF each are proposed.

2. Ground Floor Windows – To reduce the amount of ground floor windows to below the required standards for non-residential development walls facing public and private rights-of-way around the site.

3. Building Height – To increase portions of the building height in the CS zone from 45 feet to as tall as 60'-8" above grade.

4. Loading – To allow trucks to enter the loading area off of NE Weidler with rearward motion rather than forward motion.

Rules are rules, Portlanders -- just ask the bureaucrats. Except when somebody's wrecking a neighborhood by packing in too many people and too many cars. Then we're very "flexible." Giant buildings, giant signs, truck backup beepers day and night -- it's all fine. Go by streetcar!

Comments (13)

Rules are rules, but when the CoP earns $16,000 per dwelling unit in fees...the rules will be broken. On this project, the CoP will see a windfall of $3.4million for these 211 units - do you think they'll let pesky zoning regulations stand in the way of that? Not a chance. $3.4million will pay for quite a few PBOT planners to solve the traffic nightmare on 33rd and Broadway.

What many overlook is that the CoP has a financial incentive to wreck our livability. When permit fees were $3k to $4k per unit (it wasn't but a few years ago), the city had little incentive to create these vertical slums, but now these fees are a major source of revenue and the sky is the limit (literally).

The reality is that Portland is rapidly becoming overbuilt with thse bunkers - over the coming two years there are no less than 5,000 units planned for the close-in neighborhoods -- it's a gold rush for developers as the CoP alike -- all at the expense of livability.

...the last real estate gold rush didn't end well and neither will this one.

So what's the problem? It's not like residents there are going to stay for more than a year or two before growing up and moving back home. I mean, when the planet floods and Portland is one of the last inhabitable places on Earth, the refugees are going to be GLAD they have something this nice, aren't they?

Is "enter the loading area with a rearward motion" code for "put in a strip club?"

Dang it Dave you beat me to it!

What many overlook is that the CoP has a financial incentive to wreck our livability. When permit fees were $3k to $4k per unit (it wasn't but a few years ago), the city had little incentive to create these vertical slums, but now these fees are a major source of revenue and the sky is the limit (literally).

This is no doubt the primary reason why, and I've said this several times before... CoP behaves like a privately owned corporation complete with its own board of directors that masquerades as a municipality. Ignore for a moment everything you thought you knew, close your eyes, and imagine listenting to someone describe the behaviors of City Hall... it's a privately run business that partners with big banks and real estate development corporations.

CoP behaves like a privately owned corporation complete with its own board of directors that masquerades as a municipality.

You mean, there's more transparency to be found in the Reedy Creek Improvement District than in the City of Portland?

From a bikeportland post quoting from the Lancaster engineering folks doing the traffic study for the new light:

"They've identified the need for a new traffic signal at Broadway and 32nd.[...]However, in order to get approval of the signal, Lancaster would have to show the City that it meets performance standards for the next 20 years. "So for us to do that," Todd explained, "We're better off showing that there aren't any pedestrians or bikes because to the extent they are there, they impede auto traffic and that's the sole metric the performance standard is based on.""

So if they need a special application does that mean traffic doesn't meet the city's current standards even with the inevitable pedestrians and cyclists removed from the picture? Seems somewhat suspicious to me.

(http://bikeportland.org/2012/12/06/what-you-missed-at-wonk-night-80968)

Fill'em up is what you used to tell the gas station attendant, now the developers
and CoP are telling that to the neighborhoods!

Note item #3 concerning height at 60'-8" measured from GRADE.

"Grade" is anything you want to make it in Portland. Grade is NOT from existing grade like all other cities and counties require. The measured grade point can be any height of a retaining wall with fill around the base of a building. Then you measure from that point. So any developer can make a 10 ft (or higher) high planter box around a building, put in mechanical/storage/so called underground parking on the ground/street level then measure the 60'-8", really making for a 70'-8" tall building.

Neighborhoods Beware! Many neighborhoods are slowly finding out this mischievous zone change that CoP Planning instituted a few years back. Developers, builders can build to any height they want with enough money, retaining walls and fill.

"To reduce the amount of ground floor windows to below the required standards for non-residential development...."
Sounds as if someone has Dotty's (tm) casinos signed up as the anchor tennant already.

Don't forget the bonus points created as ways of going around the code,
and then there are adjustments.
I don't have the examples handy now, others on here may.

And have you seen the huge bunker at NW 23rd and Raleigh?
It takes up nearly the entire block! 4 or 5 stories of soulless squareness with little bay type windows hanging forlornly over the streets.
It just occupies that space in a way that seems to dwarf everything else around it.

Both Capstone Partners (Grant Park Village apartments on Broadway, D Street Village at 31st and Division, and The Residences at Cannery Row in Old Town Sherwood 101 units)) and Mill Creek Residential Trust (Savier St. Flats 179 units in NW PDX and Bridgport Village, 368 units in Tualatin) are off-shoots of Trammel Crow; Execs. Who left TC and formed their own development firms to get in on the retrofitting of our cities and subburbs into a series of compact Transit Oriented Developments. They are masters of design (not the aesthetic kind) and make every last inch count in order to get projects to be profitable. It was only a matter of time that these national (and sometimes with international development partners) would set their eyes on the NW. In fact, Vera and others most likely lured them here, and now we can't get rid of them.

In one very big way, it is not the developers' fault that this stuff is going on all over the US and the developed world, with Portland just one strand of the tightening noose. The affliction known as Smart Growth is embedded into our planning depts., schools of urban planning, and government culture that cares little for its citizens or livability or individual freedoms but cares more for the sense of power and righteousness that they feel when creating their plans for the rest of us.

Before you convince yourself that income is the main reason that CoP likes the bunkers, it is also likely that the building fees are to backfill for the money light rail and other Smart Growth planning has robbed from city coffers. Urban planners care little for the economics of what they promote, believing that whatever the cost to the public, the result is for "the greater good". No price is too high to save humanity from itself.

It's all hogwash of course, but it makes it hard for smarter and wiser folks to support earth-friendly practices when we see how the concept of sustainability and sustainable development are being abused. That developers and their consultant, architect, contractor cohort's are responding to a demand for product is understandable. What is so wrong is that the product is demanded by the government, not by the public. Even if the apartments "sell", that is no proof that they are desirable living units, only that they are the best or only option available. At this time developers have to load the complexes with lots of amenities in order to get people to want to stay in the tiny, stacked units. And though some customers may really like this lifestyle, how much better would it be if 2/3 of the systems development charges were cut from the cost of constructing each unit?

Government is not on our side and hasn't been for a long time. The problem then is how to fix it. My personal solution is to cut planning staffs in half - everywhere. Next, get our towns out of the multitude of organizations that promote Smart Growth. (Don't worry, we can still be environmentally conscious without them. ). Then get rid of Metro. As long as Ecotopia reigns as the utopian goal of Cascadia, we're doomed.


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