By Karen Hery
SE Portland has a long history of fostering, preserving and protecting everything from bike lanes to open space and a vibrant local business scene.
That explains why the old Air Filter Sales and Service building at SE 10th and Taylor filled up on one of the last long days of summer with industrial business owners representing many of the 17,000 jobs in the Central Eastside Industrial District.
Local beer from Basecamp Brewery was a welcome incentive, but the real heat in the room was around preserving and protecting the viability of light industrial work space in the city core.
The space between Powell Blvd. and I-84, and the river and 12th known as an industrial sanctuary, sanctioned off by city zoning IG1 to be a work engine that brings wealth and jobs into the city.
The forty owner/operator industrial businesses invited into the warehouse at Creative Woodworking came together to listen to fellow business and property owners, a city planner and board members of the Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC).
With the 2035 Comprehensive Plan final recommendations for potential rezoning and special employment overlays just a few months away, there was plenty to talk about.
Right outside the open warehouse doors was a street everyone could see was plenty wide for the turning radius of large trucks and a beehive of busy warehouse forklifts.
A developer for the Goat Blocks recently sought and received special city approval to have SE Taylor St.’s (between 10th and 11th streets) width narrowed by two feet and 10th St. between Taylor and Belmont by three feet to meet newer code requirement for wider sidewalks.
Industrial businesses that depend on wider streets to bring in bulky supplies and drive out a large volume of product need the sidewalk requirement to be met, on any new development that comes into the district, the standard way, by pushing in the building design, not by a special variance to push out into the street.
There is no doubt that some redevelopment efforts get more publicity than others. The potential closing of a favorite food cart lot at SE 12th and Hawthorne Blvd. to make way for more apartments has been the talk of the town and has turned around into new two year leases for all those carts.
Foodies can celebrate a culinary victory while other redevelopment efforts have the potential to slide by almost unnoticed at least until the demolition begins or the first concrete gets poured.
By that time, it’s too late to preserve what is being lost. This potential street width loss and several others changes proposed for the 2035 Comprehensive Plan have industrial work space champions working overtime to figure out how to make sure all of Portland, and especially the decision makers for roads and zoning, really understand what will be lost if industrial work space in the Central Eastside Industrial District shrinks and fades.
Debbie Kitchin, co-owner of Interworks LLC and President of the Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC), has put a call out to industrial businesses and their supporters in hopes there will be both familiar faces and new blood at the City Council appeal hearing on the street narrowing for the Goat Blocks case (LU 14-125908 DZM AD).
The appeal hearing will be Wednesday, October 8 at 2 pm in City Council Chambers, 1220 SW 5th St., with time for public comment.
She knows the effort doesn’t stop there and Kitchin and many others will be at all the upcoming public Stake Holders Advisory Meetings for the SE Quadrant Plan.
She is proud of the CEIC commitment to take the lead on researching and developing a stronger covenant to be included in the city code. That covenant will better protect industrial businesses’ right to make noise, have night shifts, operate large vehicles and do what industry needs to do to be successful.
“There has always been a mix of industry and housing in this district even in, and especially in, the early years when everything grew up together around the river,” says Kitchin.
“We aren’t opposed to growth, but we see plenty of growth opportunity already in the existing residential and EX commercial zones with only minor adjustments for the kind of mixed development the Comprehensive Plan is calling for.”
Troy Doss, SE Quadrant Project Manager for the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, knows all too well how important it is to stay vigilant and keep following the process.
He spoke confidently to the industrial businesses gathered across the street from the Goat Blocks about how important each step of the Comprehensive Plan process will be.
“We are focused on making zone change proposals in ways that are compatible with light industry. Once we have made our recommendations to the city, they will be just that: recommendations,” says Doss.
“I’ve seen changes made at the very last minute that came down to who showed up at the final city council meeting, sometimes people or groups we had never seen before.”
A stable, viable industrial core on the east side of the river will make or break how long fresh produce distributors like Apple Foods and Gato and Sons can operate just a short distance from restaurants they serve.
Jon Herron, owner of the hundred year old Winks Hardware, is one of many essential suppliers for furniture and cabinetry shops in and around the district.
Winks is also a favorite one-stop-shop for do-it-yourselfers with more types of screws, springs, specialty hinges and essential bits for this and that than one person could ever imagine.
Winks moved once already in 2001 from the Pearl, as it went upscale, into a large portion of the 200 block of SE Stark St..
He admits he would rather close down than move again and laughs as he contemplates where all the industry now in the central eastside would go if road and building use restrictions and rezoning effectively squeeze these types of businesses out.
“Where do you move all this? To one of the far four corners of the city?”
The long list of member businesses on the CEIC website includes architects, auto services, contractors, equipment sales and services, manufacturing, wholesale distributors, home improvement, non-profits, printers and more.
Herron and many other central city employers are surrounded by workers with 10 to 20 years of skills and service receiving healthcare benefits, long term employment benefits and a short, environmentally-friendly work commute.
“If you don’t protect the services you depend on, you won’t have them,” says Herron. “We have a gem here and you don’t want people to come along and chip away at it.”
To be a part of protecting our central eastside industrial sanctuary, follow the Comprehensive Plan public meeting dates and recommendations at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/57352
Public hearings on Portland’s Draft 2035 Comprehensive Plan are:
• Tuesday, October 14, 5 – 9 pm, Park Rose HS Student Center, 12003 NE Shaver St.
• Tuesday, October 28, 5 – 9 pm. Portland Community College, Community Hall, 2305 SE 82nd Ave.
• Tuesday, November 4, 4 – 8 pm, 1900 SW 4th Ave., Room 2500A.