SE Updates March 2013

By Lee Perlman

Green Castle to become apartments

Joe Westerman waged a long legal battle to allow his parking lot on NE 20th Ave. at Everett St. to be used as the Green Castle Food Court.

During proceedings, he mentioned that he might “someday” build apartments there. A City hearings Officer even suggested that the conversion within five years be a condition of approval for the initial use.

“Someday” has arrived.

Last month, Westerman revealed plans for a five-story apartment building on the site, containing 45 to 48 units served by a 40-space surface parking lot to the west. The units will be mostly studios or one-bedrooms, although there may be a few two-bedroom units, and each will have a deck or patio, he said.

There will be planters at ground level and “green roof elements”. He hopes to begin construction this summer.

“We gave it a try and you know what? We haven’t had the volumes to make it profitable,” Westerman said, referring to the food court.

One resident said the lot is already used for parking by Oregon Children’s Theatre and other uses, and asked if Westerman would consider installing underground parking. He replied, “That costs $25,000 a space, probably more, and with City fees, you’re spending $40,000 per unit before you even start”.


26th & Burnside project planned


A development team plans to build a four-story apartment building on E. Burnside St. and 26th Ave.

Mark Desbrow of Green Light Development and architect Kurt Schultz told Kerns Neighborhood Association last month there will be 135 units, about 1200 square feet of retail space along Burnside, and 52 underground parking spaces.

The project is seeking three code modifications, Schultz said.

The building would otherwise meet the site’s 45-foot height limit, but a modification is needed for an elevator tower to serve a proposed roof terrace.

They also want to provide one loading space instead of the required two, and less than the required ground floor window space along NE Couch St. where the garage will be.

Desbrow said there will be 40 studios of 450 square feet each, 12 two-bedroom units of “just under 1,000 feet”, and the rest one-bedroom at 650 square feet. Rents will range from $900 a month for the studios to $1700 for the two-bedrooms.

Asked about rent for the parking, he said, “We don’t want the garage to be empty, so we’ll put the price where it will sell”.

Some neighbors worry about the overflow parking. They noted the DaVinci Middle School, Laurelhurst Theater and the Coca Cola bottling plant provide zero parking and all attract parkers to Couch St.

One woman said Coke trucks not only park on the street but idle there. Desbrow responded that this is illegal. “We’ll enforce that,” he said. “We met with them and told them we didn’t want to interfere, that they can park their trucks on the street, but there’s to be no idling, and they said yes.”

Kerns chair Angela Kirkman noted the development team does not need to provide any parking at all under current City codes, and land use chair Steve Russell said that they could build the project without any modifications if need be.

Another partner in the venture is Capstone Partners, which is working on a 200-unit project at NE Broadway and 33rd Ave., and renovation of an existing building for commercial use on SE Division at 40th Ave.

Desbrow originally tried to develop the Burnside site as part of Opus Northwest in 2007, but the company shut down all projects with the onset of the recession in 2008.


Sunshine Dairy seeks GNA


Representatives of Sunshine Dairy and Kerns Neighborhood Association are nearing completion of a Good Neighbor Agreement but, in the words of songwriter Richard Fariña, there are “one or two bad feelings left behind”.

To facilitate its loading operations, the dairy wants to vacate NE Pacific St. between 20th and 21st avenues (it owns property on both sides), and the west side of 21st north of Pacific.

According to Kerns land use chair Steve Russell, agreement has been reached on most points, but there are still two issues. Kerns wants the dairy’s assurance that they will not have loading operations between 10 pm and 6 am, while Sunshine wants to be able to start loading at 4 am.

Also, neighbors don’t want the dairy’s employees parking on adjacent streets. Consultant Peter Finley Fry responded to this by saying, “I have a real problem with outsiders trying to control business practices”.

At one point Fry said that the dairy no longer carries out loading operations after 10 pm. To that Sean Brandon, a neighbor, said, “That’s a complete lie.”

“Don’t call me a liar, sir,” Fry responded. “I may be misinformed.”

Other neighbors supported Brandon with regard to the noise. One showed pictures of milk spilled on the sidewalk, a truck parked on the sidewalk, and a truck parked the wrong way on the street. All had been taken in the last 30 days, he said, and added, “I would assume that someone would be on their best behavior during an application process”.

Board member Emily Simon said, “This is the one time we have leverage over (Sunshine), because they want something from us. We want accountability, and it doesn’t ‘go without saying.’”

Russell said, “Given that we’re in agreement on 80 percent of these points, the likelihood is that we can get there.”


Historic changes move forward


As The Southeast Examiner goes to press, Portland City Council was scheduled to take up the proposed Historic Resources Code Improvement Project; an attempt to make exterior work in National Historic Districts more streamlined and affordable.

Currently, all exterior work on buildings in such districts, including Irvington, beyond normal maintenance and repair, is subject to a review process with a minimum fee of $900. The proposal suggests that some work be exempt from such review, and some subject to a cheaper and quicker Type I process.

Under this procedure, city staff people make decisions on what is permitted and what is required for a proposed project, and the only avenue of appeal of their decisions is the state Land Use Board of Appeals. Some say the changes are an improvement. Critics lament the chance to appeal to a local body such as the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission.

A common complaint is that process fees are still too high. Susan Anderson, executive director of Planning and Sustainability, says that the fee schedule is set by the Bureau of Development Services, and that they are required to recover the costs of the process through fees.


So does the Buckman District


Last month the proposed North Buckman district moved closer to becoming a reality. The Historic Buckman Committee held a public meeting, attended by about 75 people, on the proposal to create a district in the area bounded roughly by SE Ankeny and Morrison streets, 12th and 20th avenues.

Both proponents and opponents of the district made presentations, and both Christine Yun, chair of Historic Buckman, and Greg Moulliet, chair of the opposition Keep Buckman Free, pronounced the gathering fair and well-run.

The following week, the State Historic Preservation Committee reviewed the proposal and, while expressing doubt about some of the details of the proposed boundaries (questioning the inclusion of the St. Francis parish property), they unanimously approved the nomination as a whole.

According to Ian Johnson of the State Historic Preservation Office, the State will hold the nomination until May 16 to give maximum time for public input. At that point, he said, it will be forwarded to the National Park Service, which should render a decision by July.

Meanwhile, Moulliet and Keep Buckman Free continue to work to derail the proposal. The review process does not include a public vote, but if a majority of affected property owners file notarized objections they can kill the nomination.

As of last month, Moulliet claimed to have 150 such objections (about 200 is needed), but some of these were collected prior to official public notification of the proposal, and there is some question as to their validity.

Johnson says he has notified those who filed objections before the notice period, advising them to file again to ensure that they will be counted. Yun said that at the end of the public meeting, one property owner, having heard a full presentation from both sides for the first time, asked if she could rescind her objection.


Budget cuts proposed


Last month, all city bureaus submitted fiscal year 2013-14 budgets 10 percent lower than their current ones, as ordered by Mayor Charlie Hales. They all reflected major cuts in operations and services.

The cuts are necessary to meet an expected shortfall in revenue of $25 million. Some of this is due to the imposition of a new Library District for Multnomah County. It provides more stable funding for this program.

However, since it involves an appropriation from the General Fund, and the law does not allow property taxes to increase beyond the rate of inflation, it means that funding elsewhere must be cut.

The Office of Neighborhood Involvement’s cuts include elimination of the bureau’s yearly stipends for neighborhood associations to cover printing, mailing and other communications costs; a staple of the budget since the office was created in 1974.

Also cut are the bureau’s popular Neighborhood Small Grants program, most of its support for volunteer graffiti cleanup activities, some of its insurance coverage for recreational activities, and two of its 11 Neighborhood Crime Prevention positions.

Other bureaus have similar cuts. Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission’s budget calls for reductions in public outreach for such processes as the Portland Comprehensive Plan update and possibly the elimination of district planners who have worked with citizen groups on local planning issues.

The Bureau of Parks could see the elimination of some recreation programs, including up to three SUN School after school programs, and reduced maintenance at parks and facilities;

Buckman Pool faces closure and Sellwood Community Center, a loss of funding. All bureaus have submitted Ad Packages arguing for the re-addition to their budget of services they deem essential if funds can be found


OLCC may strengthen agreements


For years it has been standard practice for both Oregon Liquor Control Commission and city crime prevention staff to advise neighbors who have problems with or concerns about a liquor outlet to negotiate a Good Neighbor Agreement with the proprietors. This is a way to address issues such as noise, litter and parking problems. Unfortunately, such agreements are only as good as the ongoing goodwill of the parties involved. They are legally unenforceable.

This could change under a bill being drafted by state representative Lew Frederick and senator Chip Shields. Under the bill, once such an agreement is signed by both parties, if there is “substantial or persistent non-compliance” with its terms by the liquor licensee, it would be “grounds for sanctions” by the OLCC.

Neighborhood associations that are parties to such agreements would have the right to be heard at any OLCC proceedings to “cancel or suspend the license or impose a civil penalty.” Finally, associations or local governments can ask OLCC to compel licensees to participate in either mediation or binding arbitration.


Grant applicants celebrate


Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Program threw a party last month for the winners of this year’s Neighborhood Grants Program at Newplace Center for Photography. Each of the 15 grant recipients made a presentation about their project.

Those who came were treated to treats by the Pacific Pieco, Sweet Pea, New Cascadia, Gem and Missionary Chocolate. The affair, like the treats, was bittersweet, for this may be the last year for this program.


SE Updates March 2013

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