Kerns parkless apartments get in under the wire
New rules recently passed by the Portland City Council now require new apartment projects of 30 units or more to have at least some off-street parking.
However, before they could take effect, one of the city’s most notorious developers Dennis Sackhoff, got one more project in before the new regulations could take effect.
As company representative Dave Mullens told the Kerns Neighborhood Association last month, Sackhoff submitted an application for development before the new regulations could take effect. On Northeast 20th Avenue and Couch Street, on land currently occupied by the Spunky Monkey restaurant and a single-family home, he plans to build a structure containing 50 rental units. It will contain no off-street parking spaces and, although it is zoned for commercial use, no commercial space. Mullens said it would be similar in design to a structure the company has nearly finished building on Northeast 41st Avenue and Tillamook Street, in the Hollywood neighborhood.
Mullens said that for another Hollywood building next to the Hollywood Theatre, the company had secured parking spaces a block away and was offering them to tenants for $40 a month, but that so far only ten had responded. “Many of our tenants don’t have cars, although we know some of them do,” he said. He cited City studies that showed on-street parking is still available within two blocks of such buildings.
This did not go over well with those at the Kerns meeting. “I’m very familiar with this area, and there’s no parking here now,” Leeann Lakie said. “All of the parking on Burnside and 20th is taken up every evening.”
Another neighbor, Marti Heard, seconded Lakie’s concern about parking and was concerned as well about the 45-foot building’s size. “I understand that there will be development here, I work with families every day who need affordable housing, but this isn’t remotely in scale with this block,” she said. “This will block all of my light. I’ll look out my window and see your balconies. This is zoned for commercial storefronts, and where are they? We want to preserve the character of the community, and this doesn’t have that.”
Another, even angrier neighbor who said he doesn’t own a car told Mullens he had toured “that Stalinist monstrosity you built next to the Hollywood Theatre. There was some bizarre way this was grandfathered in by repulsive human beings like you and your partner. Get the hell out of our neighborhood!”
Board member Jay Harris complained, “You’ll be screwing up the karma of the neighborhood for years. How much freaking money does one person need?”
“That’s not a fair statement,” Mullens said. “Dennis Sackhoff is not doing this to put money in his pocket. This is an investment in his family’s future.” Mullens added that with historically low vacancy rates there is heavy demand for such housing, and that his buildings have amenities such as elevators and washer-dryers.
He indicated that major changes in the building’s design would not be considered, but said he “would listen” to arguments for retail space. He conceded that he had not pursued chances to lease parking spaces for tenants of a building now under construction on East Burnside at 30th Avenue.
Budgets: Some cuts, much relief
As the Examiner went to press, the City budget review process was under way. While there was some wailing and knashing of teeth, there were also reminders that it could have been worse.
Earlier this year, anticipating a $21 million budget shortfall, Mayor Charlie Hales ordered each City bureau to submit a draft budget reflecting a 10 percent reduction from its 2012-2013 fiscal year appropriation. Hales’ own draft budget called for a cut of just three percent in the budget of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which supplies most of the funding to the Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Program and the city’s six other neighborhood offices. This will spare ONI and SEUL from having to lay off staff, and retain ONI’s Graffiti Abatement program. It will mean the end of the popular Neighborhood Small Grant program, which supplied funds for special community-based projects. It will also mean major cuts to funds for neighborhood newsletters and other communications, long one of ONI’s core services.
Hales’ original budget called for the closure of three SUN School after-school activities programs, including one at Buckman School, as well as senior recreation programs at community centers and other social services. In recent years these have been funded jointly by the City and Multnomah County. Hales and County Commission Chair Jeff Cogen had reportedly had some heated exchanges over who should pay what for these services, and some of them appeared doomed to fall through the cracks. As late as May 16, when Buckman School counselor Kristin Lasher asked Hales about the fate of the SUN School program during a pedestrian action (see above), she was told, “Talk to Jeff Cogen.”
Later that day, however, Hales and Cogen announced an agreement to fund the threatened programs.
Even so, it wasn’t all sunshine for Buckman. The Bureau of Parks budget called for the closure of Buckman Pool and major cutbacks to the budget for Sellwood Community Center. At a budget hearing at City Hall, retired Parks employee Nancy Walsh said that there was no public pool beween Buckman and the Clackamas County line, and that the nearest east side facilities were at Mount Scott Community Center on Southeast 72nd Avenue and Matt Dishman Community Center on Northeast Knott Street. Another testifier, a single parent, said that she cannot drive due to epilepsy, and the Buckman closure would probably mean that her children would have no opportunity to swim.
Several speakers also testified on behalf of the Sellwood Center, and the excellence of its programs. One, who said he was a third-generation Sellwood resident, said that when he was growing up, “My sister studied ballet at the Center and I shot pool. I ask you what the youth of our community will do without a safe, reliable community center.”
These and several other programs were saved late in the month by a sudden windfall. Land line telephone services that had been protesting a new City surtax agreed to pay it, beginning with a $500,000 payment this year.
There were other proposed cuts. Some of these were to the Portland Development Commission, including one of more than $30,000 in its appropriations to Venture Portland. This agency acts as a support system for neighborhood business associations in much the same way that ONI and SEUL do for neighborhood associations. Executive Director Heather Hoell told Council that the cuts could force Venture Portland to cut its grants to business groups by half. In response to pleas for this program, Hales directed speakers to find other ways to cut the PDC budget.
Park movies and concerts
Despite the budget cuts mentioned above, the Bureau of Parks and Recreation, together with private sponsors will be offering free concerts and movies in parks this summer, including many in southeast. Below is the schedule for parks concerts:
Sellwood Riverfront Park: Nikki Hill July 8, The James Low Western Front July 15, Brownish Black July 22, The Machete Men July 29 and Lloyd Jones August 5. Mt. Tabor Park: LoCura July 9, Sassparilla July 16, Nancy King July 23, and Dr. Theopolis July 30. All concerts begin at 6:30 p.m.
Following are movies in southeast parks: July 11: The Hobbit at Oregon Park. August 1: The Amazing Spider Man at Brooklyn Park. August 2: Mary Poppins at Laurelhurst Park. August 16: Les Miserables at Laurelhurst Park, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at Woodstock Park. August 17: Planet of the Dinosaurs at Sewallcrest Park. August 21: The Princess Bride at Essex Park. August 25: The Goonies at Kenilworth Park. All programs begin at 6:30 p.m. with some sort of live entertainment, with the film following when it becomes sufficiently dark.
At all of the above events there will be vendors on hand to sell food and drink, but feel free to bring your own, along with a blanket or chair to sit on. Be considerate of your neighbors, and otherwise enjoy the show.
82nd forum examines street
More than 100 people showed up for a forum on Northeast and Southeast 82nd Avenue, a joint project of the Central Northeast Neighbors and Southeast Uplift coalitions. The event attracted city commissioner Amanda Fritz, Multnomah County commissioner Loretta Smith, Metro councilor Bob Stacey and state representative Michael Dembrow, as well as several public officials concerned with issues on this street.
The group discussions showed that residents and businesspeople find a lot to like about the street as it is. They cited “iconic” buildings such as Safeway, the Milepost Five art community and its activities, the First Friday Montavilla Art Walk, the diverse and family-friendly businesses, Montavilla Community Center, the transit options that Line 72 and MAX offer, and their own pleasant and affordable neighborhoods. Indeed, some said that in some areas the poor perception of the street is worse than any reality. The biggest source of discontent was the streetscape design – which makes walking and biking problematic and separates neighborhoods – and the continued presence of prostitution and sex-related businesses. Several people said that the key to the streetscape issue is transferring jurisdiction of the street to the city and away from the Oregon Department of Transportation, whose regulations do not allow some of the changes people would like to see, and the planting of more street trees. Regarding the sex crime issue, those who came called for more police activity, attracting positive businesses to the area, enforcing building codes, and reporting crimes. Other suggestions were to promote mixed-use development on the street, and seek more public art.
Those who came were treated to food donated by Bipartisan Café, Crema Bakery, Mekong Bistro, Space Monkey Coffee, Starbucks and Tabor Bread.