East/West Reservoirs – Tale of Two Cities

By Midge Pierce

SE residents sometimes feel as if there are two Portlands. When it comes to concerns about decommissioning the City’s open air reservoirs, citizens feel that the West Side’s Washington Park reservoirs received preferential treatment.

On the West Side, a substantial amount of funding will be earmarked to protect and restore the gatehouse, dams and other historic park features as well as develop water features that “will look as much as possible like the original reservoirs”, according to West Side insiders. “The process was smooth and reasonable enough,” said a source.

For the Mt. Tabor project, significant application revisions and four hearings were required before the Historic Landmarks Commission approved the construction permit it was charged with reviewing. During HLC hearings, landmarks commissioners acknowledged the West Side application was more fair and complete.

HLC Commissioner Harris Matarazzo, aghast at the lack of public process and proper preparation of the Mt. Tabor permit, said the City failed to reach out and cooperate with the neighborhood. The only reason he approved the project was that conditions were added for maintenance that would leave the historic structures in better shape.

Now, PWB has filed an appeal to overturn the conditions. Having spent more than $117 on building underground storage at Powell Butte, the Bureau is seemingly hard-pressed to find another $1.5 million dollars to fully care for the historic Mt. Tabor basins.

“We’re looking for the same kind of treatment as Washington Park,” says Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association Board member John Laursen. “A multi-year citizen advisory discussion determined what the aesthetic outcome would be in Washington Park.”

If PWB wins its appeal, the historic Mt. Tabor structures may be left empty for long periods of time, risking further deterioration and vandalism. None of this would be an issue if the City had followed its own rules, according to Laursen.

He says the City failed to follow the Public Involvement Principles it adopted in 2010 to respond to the “needs and priorities” of the communities impacted by City decisions. The Principles call for early public involvement in concepts, development, design and implementation of city policies, programs and projects.

PWB has not respected its commitment to Eastside citizens for early involvement, transparency and accountability, Laursen continues.

“PWB has not honored the principles in any shape and form. Mt. Tabor’s public process has simply been ignored.

“More time was spent on the West Side. The biggest (political donors) and plenty of attorneys live over there.”

East/West Reservoirs – Tale of Two Cities

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