Squeeky Wheels on 50th

By Midge Pierce

Construction is solidly underway at 50th and Division where a four-story apartment building is rising.  With 134 units, it will have 119 studios, 13 one bedrooms and two, two bedrooms along with 40 parking spaces.

Another four-story apartment project proposed at 5030 SE Stephens St. has yet to break ground.

Such projects are jolting neighbors into action. As development turns the corner from Division St.to 50th, residents are raising concerns about rapid densification. Among problems specific to the area is a sometimes confusing, designated bikeway potentially in the crosshairs of added traffic.

This month, residents throughout growth intensive SE will be able to weigh in on Portland’s Discussion Draft of Mixed Use Zones, part of a multi-step process for the City’s update of its 20-year Comprehensive Plan. The six-week comment period on mixed use began Sept. 28.

The earliest new zoning could take effect would be 2017. For projects already underway or permitted, the comment period will have no effect. It’s virtually impossible to stop projects if they conform to current zoning, but to help shape the future, city staff says the time to provide input is now.

Marty Stockton, SE District Liaison, Bureau of Development Services, confirms that public comment can make a difference.

She said testimonials received by staff from a large number of neighbors near 50th and Stephens St. have influenced proposals to change a strictly commercial node that might have allowed shopping strips and drive-throughs to Commercial Mixed Use.

The node, she says, has been zoned General Commercial for more than 50 years.

While a commercial-residential mix is ostensibly, a “down” designation, Stockton admits the variety of uses –household, retail, office and manufacturing – will still have significant impact, generating what she terms “the full spectrum of traffic and parking impacts”.

What’s happening on 50th is consistent with current codes and the City’s urban growth goals. Development of mixed zones are designed to steer growth toward greater transit use on busier streets without what the City terms a strip commercial appearance.

To learn more about the process for public comment see: www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/543016.

Squeeky Wheels on 50th

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