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Thursday, November 16, 2006

More SoWhat madness

Here's an interesting little property tax story relating to Portland's South Waterfront (SoWhat) district. A couple of parcels of land owned by Z R Z Realty, which I believe belongs to local tycoon Jay Zidell and his relatives, appear to have had their tax assessments drastically reduced recently.

A reader who is knowledgeable about such matters reports that a 15.69-acre tax lot designated as "3121 WI/ SW Moody (Property ID R327850)," owned by Z R Z Realty and with a real market value in 2006 -- according to Multnomah County Assessment & Taxation -- of $8,498,170, has been re-assessed at a new value of $8,300. There's no typo there, people -- Eighty-three hundred dollars. Property taxes for this 15.69 acres in SoWhat in 2006? $167.18, our correspondent says.

If this story is true, it's pretty startling, in that the same property was apparently assessed in 2004 at $5,228,910, triggering property taxes of $88,571.99. Given all the booming development down there, you have to wonder how that land lost 99.84 percent of its assessed value over the last two years.

The reader also reports that a 13.98-acre parcel designated as "3121 SW Moody (Property ID R327878)," also owned by Z R Z Realty, has a real market value of $9,147,280, but an assessed value of only $86,520, in 2006. Property taxes for this 13.98 acres in SoWhat, he reports, are only $1,742.25.

Again, quite the contrast from 2004, when the assessed value was $4,828,890 and the taxes were $81,796.08.

What a deal. Thirty acres in SoWhat, assessed at under $100,000. There may be a perfectly good explanation for this, and my informant may be missing something, but, call me a crazy nut, I think something funny may be going on.

UPDATE, 11/17, 4:40 p.m.: Willamette Week explains what happened here.

Comments (40)

Welcome to Portland, as corrupt as old Chicago, but with fewer dead bodies.

Meanwhile I added a small bathroom to my attic and my house's assessed value increased by $90,000.

Just be glad it didn't get one of those negative property values. Then we would have owed them money.

Is this related to the story in today's paper about the 2002 OR court case that gave a big break for two years to developers who apply?

Welcome to Portland, as corrupt as old Chicago, but with fewer dead bodies.

Brilliant! Lets print some bumper stickers...t-shirts maybe!

Im sure Cafepress.com can take care of it...

One explanation might be that the property is environmentally contaminated.

Environmental contamination wouldn't explain the massive discrepancy between real market value and assessed value, would it?

I'll buy it for the assesed value and open a trailer park. It will be late 50's early 60's retro, lots of pink flamingos, knotty pin paneling, air streams. It should fit right in as well as provide affordable housing. I'd finally be living my dream.

fewer dead bodies

Somebody needs to alert the police to this feature.

I mean Knotty 'Pine' Paneling. I sure do miss that stuff.

Wasn't there something way back when SoWhat started about Zidell and other property owners down there getting hit with with some kind of giant "redevelopment fees" for the "benefit" that the SoWhat development would bring to their properties? Maybe that was all just a bad dream I had, but it might explain the tax give away. The only other conclusion I could come to is that this just proves what Bojack has been saying all along - SoWhat is a terrible idea that does nothing for the neighborhood or the City (look at what it is doing to its neighbors' property values - those are "crackhouse nextdoor" kinds of reductions in assessed value).

The police are doing their part to get the body count up to standard.

Im not sure if this is funny or scary, perhaps its a tragic comedy in the making.

This is worth a trip over to the Multnomah Building to check out. I'll go, as soon as I can get away during their office hours (which are, of course, the same as my office hours).

Trolled through the assessors maps on Portlandmaps.com, the property pictured South of the Ross has the barge barn. The assessor shows a 672 sq ft "showroom". All of the parcels from there to the Marquam have dropped in assessment from 2004 to 2006, but not market value. Smells like a development tax abatement. Need someone to 'fess up.

So which of our mob bosses, controls the assessor's office?

I'm shocked at all the putdowns of Chicago. Shocked!

For the record, the official motto of Chicago, printed on all city seals, is:

Ubi est mea.

In English: "Where's mine?"

I agree with Dave J.'s sentiments...

It's BS that the Zidells get a $150K tax holiday for urban renewal or whatever, but the assessor dings homeowners who remodel their basements.

I don't think the lowered appraisal is due to the toxic site, it has been recognized as toxic for a long time with full EPA analysis. In fact, Zidells sued the federal government a few years ago for causing the contamination when Zidell dismantled military ships. They claimed the feds didn't properly notify them that there might be contaminates as they dismantled the ships. Zidell was awarded $68 MILLION of taxpayer dollars to clean up the site, which hasn't been done.

When the City of Portland bought the nearby Public Storage property for the Homer Williams Poodle Poop Park, they paid $7 million -- around $3.3 million an acre. And I believe it had some contamination on it.

Now 30 acres a few blocks away is appraised at $100,000? Hmmmm, 30 times $3.3 million was around $100 million the last time I did the math...

"Homer Williams Poodle Poop Park"

That's a great name.

My guess is that soon you will hear that the City and Zidell have settled the court case regarding the LID charges for the Tram [rimshot]. I bet they played Deal or No Deal: Zidell gets to pay lower property taxes in exchange for subsidizing the Tram via higher LID payments.

BTW, whispers at the City are suggesting that the Tram is over budget again--and Sam the Tram knows it.

Just to add insult to injury, Zidell and Schnitzer are the reasons why the gawd-awful Marquam bridge is 60-feet above the waterline (ship-breaking and all).

Even more insulting that ship-breaking stopped soon after the bridge was built.

Wait, you're complaining that the University Club set is insulting you? What a negative attitude on your part. Here, let's have Officer Humphreys talk this over with you.

Here, let's have Officer Humphreys talk this over with you.

heh....reading that I got a flashback of the old Batman TV show...


Perhaps they plan to donate the property to OMSI so grade school kids can collect more pennies (again) to pay for the toxic (PCB) clean-up.

It worked for PGE.

Somehow I doubt the Zidells are University Club members.

More likely there than the Arlington Club. MAC, perhaps?

They do this all the time to make sure their targeted projects go.

Go to Portlandmaps.com (Official CoP WEBsite) and type in 625 NW 11th.

Value = $1.325M
Prop Taxes =$136.07

Garagewine, the Zidell legal case against the city for charging too much for their tax to the LID isn't going away. The $2.5M charged to Zidell based on proximity to the tram seems unfair to Zidell because their in-progress plans for their site won't be executed for a few years. They do not like paying taxes before their time (sounds like wine). Your analysis of property tax devaluation being traded for the tram's LID seems feasible, but not legal. But what is legal in this city. I've heard the same rumors on cost overruns on the tram. Surprise.

Tom--You build that trailer park down there and I'll haul my old Royal Spartan Manor to be your first tenant. Thye powers that be would be aghast, but the idea sounds cool to me.

Lets not forget that under M50, spawn of Sizemore, your actual market value could be sky high but if your Maximum Assessed Value (based on 1995 value less 10% and only allowed to increase at 3% a year) is way low, that's what your taxes are based on. I'm betting Zidell's 1995 values were really low due to the site's contamination. Of course, it would be a lot more fun if there was a really big conspiracy . . .

Just be glad it didn't get one of those negative property values. Then we would have owed them money.

I've a call into the County Assessment & Taxation folks, Bill. They'll be getting back to me. I think this "re-assessment" goes back through several years, and, in fact, the County is refunding money.

Sounds like they may have won an appeal of the assessment -- that could explain the sudden drop in assessed value, and the reported retroactive refunds.

Which would leave the ultimate question, why the value is so low. Did the contamination really wipe out the value of the land so dramatically? It seems as though it's worked fine as an industrial site for more than a decade since M50 kicked in. And the city paid $3.3 million an acre for somewhat contaminated land, not even waterfront, close nearby in 2005 or 2006. $100K seems awfully low.

Jack, I think you overstate the contamination. In fact, the PS site was some of the cleanest land in the area. Believe it or not, brownfields experts usually think that once-contaminated land is better for parks than for housing, mainly because people spend less time in parks than they do in their residences, thus limiting any exposure.

The real scandal regarding the park was that PS was the only Central District property owner that wasn't at the table when the carving knives came out. Homer and the City needed a park. And, just like a faculty meeting where the guy who doesn't show up gets the crap job, the PS property got fingered for parkland.

The City certainly overpaid for a park, but they didn't overpay for a piece of clean land that could have been put to more valuable uses.

Anyway, the grass looks nice ...

Steve: They do this all the time to make sure their targeted projects go.

Go to Portlandmaps.com (Official CoP WEBsite) and type in 625 NW 11th.

Value = $1.325M
Prop Taxes =$136.07
JK:Here is my understanding of those condos (there are 10 in that building.)
It was an old rail station and is taking advantage of the historic property abatement which works like this:
You get the property taxable value frozen at today’s value in exchange for improving the property and keeping its historic character. You then make improvements while the tax value frozen for 10 (15?) Years. I assume it was designed to make it more attractive to restore historic buildings, which can be more costly than tearing it down and building new..

Yoour example was probably frozen as a rundown piece of crap, then turned into high end condos.

NW Portland has a number of those exemptions, such as the old warehouses being made into condos. In the 2002-03 tax year I found a total of $603 million in exempt property which would be around $12 million in lost revenue to the UR district. (Since that is in an urban renewal district, when they do start their share of paying tax, it will stay in the district to pay off the UR bonds.) See www.SavePortland.com

Interestingly, there is a very similar building across the street that is not exempt and one lady I talked to is paying around $10,000 in property tax and trying to get the exemption. Something about the remodeler not doing it right to get the exemption.


Maybe we could all pitch in and buy it, then donate it to the Dignity Village folks...

Garage Wine The City certainly overpaid for a park, but they didn't overpay for a piece of clean land that could have been put to more valuable uses.

Anyway, the grass looks nice ...
JKL Want to take bets on when the city will sell it to homer for 10 cents on the dollar for a new condo tower? He can always keep the lower floor “indoor open space” (my original concept?) for the Pooping Poodle Park.


"I'll haul my old Royal Spartan Manor to be your first tenant."
Thanks Gil for sharing the dream. I'd love for the tenants of SoWhat to gaze out their windows and see a sea of Aluminum trailers done up in pastel colors of pink, aqua, turquoise, yellow. Clothes lines with bed sheets and cotton briefs flapping in the wind, kids running around screaming their heads off wearing Davy Crockett hats and blasting their cap gun winchesters. Add a couple of shade tree mechanics working on the carbeurators of their lovely old fords and chevys and you'd have a real settlement of 'Urban Pioneers'.

GarageWine: to clarify your comment on how the Public Storage site became the park, you are somewhat right. First, the SoWhat Park was designated to be a block to the southeast next to the greenway. But Homer bought the property a couple years ago, then without the attorney for Public Storage knowing, Homer sat down with PDC (Larry Brown and others) and did your "carving". Homer wanted to put housing on his new-bought block, so he had PDC move the Park. Even the neighborhood assn. wasn't informed nor the City Council, even though it didn't follow the MasterPlan as passed by the City Council.

So much for open government. That is why Homer's contributions ([personally, different LLC's, partnerships, attorneys, architects, engineers, consultants) to City Council members tops $100T plus.

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