By Lee Perlman
Urban renewal advisory groups abolished
Portland Development Commission announced plans for the abolition of the Urban Renewal Advisory Committees (URACs) that have provided local input to PDC regarding the operation and objectives of the city’s seven urban renewal districts.
The members of the three “neighborhood” districts were given a group farewell at PDC by board chair Scott Andrews and Executive Director Patrick Quinton. They were told that some of their members may be pointed to a newer citizen body, the Neighborhood Economic Development Leadership Group.
A week later, leaders of four inner city district URACs, including Central East Side, were summoned to PDC. However, since the agency hasn’t yet devised a comparable body to the NEDLG, these URACs may continue for awhile before officially disbanding.
PDC’s Justin Douglas says the reason for the change is partly logistical and economic, partly due to a change in PDC’s purpose and orientation. There has been a drastic reduction in the agency’s size, he told The Southeast Examiner, and the current budget contains only a single outreach position.
“URACs were created in an era when PDC had a much larger budget and a different agenda,” Douglas says. They are now more narrowly focused on economic development and job creation rather than a broader agenda for community revitalization.
People concerned with issues such as transportation should work with “partner agencies” like Portland Bureau of Transportation, he says.
“We remain wholeheartedly committed to public participation,” Douglas says. “That doesn’t necessarily need to be through the URACs. We will create project-specific advisory committees for major projects.”
PDC is prepared to work with groups such as neighborhood associations.
“Just coming together for cookies and coffee once a month is not the only way,” Douglas says.
Susan Lindsay and Peter Stark, longtime leaders of the Central East Side URAC, say they are disappointed in PDC’s actions, but that it makes little practical difference.
“The district is nearing the end of its life, and there isn’t much left to do,” Stark said. During recent meetings, Stark had complained that PDC so often pursued new projects without consulting the URACs, and so seldom took their advice, that he wasn’t sure what the point of the meetings were.
With regard to the budget cut for public involvement, Stark argues that the agency has spent considerable funds on high-priced professional consultants, and that this is a mistake upon their part.
“At this point we know more about PDC’s history in this neighborhood than they do, and we sure know more about the community,” he said.
Stark says in general, PDC has had better results when they’ve heeded URAC and the community’s advice than when they ignored it.
For instance, with regard to the Burnside Bridgehead project, PDC’s decision to ignore community recommendations to utilize Brad Malzin and his Beam Development, and instead turn the mega-development site over to Opus Northwest, resulted in it being left in limbo for years.
URAC members urged PDC not to demolish the Convention Plaza office building, and this became the anchor for subsequent development.
Asked if he would be interested in serving on some sort of Economic Development committee once one is formed, Stark said, “I don’t think so”.
20s Bikeway planned
Portland Bureau of Transportation has received $2.1 million to create a 20s Bikeway, a continuous route nine miles long from N. Lombard St. to the Springwater Corridor, project manager Rich Newlands told the Kerns Neighborhood Association last month. The project will utilize existing routes wherever practical, but could create new improvements, including traffic signals, where warranted.
“The straighter the route, the better,” Newlands said. He added, “There are a lot of issues, and we need a robust discussion about what we can do, and what are acceptable tradeoffs.”
Some of the biggest challenges are in the Kerns neighborhood. There are only two possible overpasses to use to cross the Banfield Freeway – NE 21st and 28th avenues – and there is a strong preference for 28th, Newlands says.
28th also has signalized intersections at NE Sandy Blvd. and Glisan St. and E. Burnside St. However, traffic volumes are sufficiently high that it would be necessary to install bike lanes if this street was used, and this would involve parking removal.
“We understand parking removal would be a very significant impact to this community,” he said.
Kerns chair Angela Kirkman asked if Newlands would consider SE 24th Ave. as an alternative route through this area. “Absolutely,” he said.
Newlands said a project advisory committee to consider such issues will be formed in September.
Sunday Parkways heads to the top
There are a few significant changes to this year’s version of SE Sunday Parkways from last year.
Probably most significant is that this year, it will not coincide with Hawthorne Street Fair, held on August 18, and Parkways from 11 am to 4 pm, August 25. This may lead to a lesser crowd along the route.
The route has changed slightly from last year. Once again, car traffic will be barred from a roughly circular route between SE Ankeny and Clinton streets, 18th Ave. and Mount Tabor Park.
One part between Salmon and Clinton streets will be on 34th avenue instead of 32nd this year. A bigger change is that the route to Mount Tabor this year will go all the way to the summit, instead of to the caldera half way up. Those who want to skip the climb altogether can use an alternate spur on SE 52nd Ave.
In addition to Mount Tabor, the route will stop at Laurelhurst, Colonel Summers and Ivon parks, with plenty to do and see along the way. For more information, or to help with the many volunteer functions, visit www.portlandsundayparkways.com.