Letters to the Editor January 2016

Dear Editor,

I am writing to give my complete support to the Policy Recommendations for Portland put forward by the Division Design Initiative.

I own and occupy my home adjacent to a property that will be developed by Green Light Development. Green Light’s actions to date have made them the “poster child” for why these very necessary policy recommendations need to be approved.

Green Light Development has planned in secrecy for months to put a 45’ high apartment building wall facing my little home. This will remove all south facing light from my home and that of my neighbors.

The design they have been planning on building for months does not have adequate parking (33 spaces) for the number of units (65 units), and is punitive to existing neighboring properties by removing sunlight  and diverting it to a private courtyard for the development’s new residents.

Their only gifts to the neighborhood under the current design are equity drain and parking/traffic congestion. It’s selfish, greedy and thoughtless design and behavior on their part.

Green Light Development left a note on my door 28 hours before they revealed what their plans were. The letter is so disingenuous, it doesn’t address demolition of 3 houses at all, and does not state the date of the meeting they “wanted” me to attend 28 hours later. It [didn’t] indicate that the meeting was to be held the next day.

They had already planned for months to keep me permanently in the dark and then proceeded to tell me they want “collaboration”, communication” “transparency”
(Green Light Development’s words) yet their actions are the exact opposite of their words.

Green Light will most likely drain a considerable amount of the equity on my home and the sole property I own.

It doesn’t have to be that way, They could be intelligent, innovative and caring enough to generate thoughtful and dynamic design that benefits all neighbors.

When they are through, my prediction is that they will complete the cycle by selling the development off to a multi-national real estate investment firm. I will be able to follow the equity trail that started in my little home that I worked for and paid taxes on for the last 12 years.

There are big, uncomfortable questions to be addressed here. Who gains from this cycle? Who are the people who lose so much? Why is there no accountability or regulation? How does it help the livability of our city? Why are developers allowed to crush single homeowners and sell off Portland to the global real estate investment market?

The consequences of not approving the Division Design Initiative proposals will be devastating to Portland. I believe this is a watershed moment in this city’s history. It will be talked about by urban planners and international business experts for years.

The choices made here will resonate through the United States. We are setting a precedence for other, small-and-growing-fast cities. The current and future citizens of Portland deserve better than choked neighborhoods full of badly-designed international commodity investments, and we want better for our neighbors in other cities too.

The result of letting developers operate unchecked and fully on financial motivation is in front of us. We are and will be living in it. Hello, Belmont and Hawthorne, Division Street is your fate too. Hey, North Tabor, you’re next!

Approve and implement all of the suggestions outlined in the Division Design Initiative. Stop the assault on Portland neighborhoods and citizens. Hold developers accountable to a standard of transparency, collaboration and community appropriate design.

Give citizens a right to some daylight and some say in the way their neighborhoods are developed. Support and enact the Division Design Initiative’s policy recommendations.

Amy Brewer

Dear Editor,

Sunnyside has been my home for fifteen years.  I feel blessed to live here among its mix of single family homes, duplexes, and 2-3 story apartments weaved harmoniously together.

I’ve always described Sunnyside as a bit scruffy and organic: while one piece is built anew the parts around it gently age.  We move forward inclusive of our past that reflects over a century of settlement.

Each adjoining neighborhood has its own unique essence yet on the whole we share a common bliss: walkable, bike-able, human scale.  A wide range of services is close at hand. Most of all, we thrive here.

We know we can welcome more folks into our fold; we know the importance of “compact” cities. Yet we also know and moreover feel when redevelopment threatens the hard earned sense of place, livability, and stability of where we live.

At breakneck speeds we’ve seen the proliferation of Big Box Apartments along our historic streetcar era corridors. Many are cheaply-built configurations crammed with expensive, yet tiny units.

When we question the wisdom and scale of these Big Box Apartments, we are told:

1) Big Box Apartments create affordable housing (tho we haven’t seen this yet).

2) It’s always been zoned this way and landowners have the “right” to develop Big Box Apartments (tho prior to 1991 Division/Belmont/Hawthorne were limited to three stories with lower densities).

3) Big Box Apartments are needed to combat climate change (tho a duplex near me is “net zero” and actually feeds electricity back into the system).

An example of this type of rhetorical hammer is evidenced in a recent campaign letter sent out by Commissioner Steve Novick which urges Portlanders to testify in favor of more density. He argues fighting climate change “is simply to tolerate the new apartment building down the street.”  He compares the urgency of battling climate change as equal to World War II.

Here I am waving a flag of caution. We know in times of war we as a country have risen to the challenge while making some mistakes – such as setting up internment camps or opening the doors to widespread snooping. We must be skeptical of so-called moral imperatives.

We can address climate change and still remain Portlanders who question and collaborate on what is the best path forward.

We as neighborhoods have a right to be partners in this process and we will not simply stand down when we are standing up for where we live. That might mean a three story apartment instead of a four story one.  That might include other gentler means of increasing density – such as the “missing middle” that includes nicely scaled quadplexes, etc.

The thing is: We have areas within the City of Portland with huge vacant or under used lots. The Gateway District is zoned to handle 75,000 new residents and sits at the confluence of three MAX lines and a transit center. Land costs less in Gateway. Gateway is a prime opportunity to master plan a workable new higher density district.

Meanwhile, we in Sunnyside have 19 residents per acre and walkable access to three supermarkets. That compares to 24 residents per acre in Downtown and the Pearl. Yet for close-in SE Portland, planners are proposing zoning that can typically accommodate 7,000 households within a half-mile walking radius. That calculates to approximately 32 residents per acre or a zoned density increase of anywhere from 50% to 300% for a neighborhood.

So why the huge push to build Big Box Apartments in our close-in neighborhoods when areas like Gateway are available?

Is this really about affordable housing and climate change? Or something else?

The drumbeat of “more” is drowning out thoughtful pursuit of “how” and “why” that not so long ago represented Portland’s standard modus operandi. Let’s take a breath and recall a “Portland Way” which embraces an urban vision that balances our past achievements, our current assets, and our future needs.

Jeff Cole

Dear Editor,

Opposition to Right 2 Dream Too’s (R2D2) proposed relocation to SE Portland (in the industrial district) appears to stem from concerns that the temporary housing solution model R2D2 employs is inadequate, that the location causes neighborhood livability issues, and the pervasive sentiment that the homeless community is not worth helping. Yet, underlying these three categories a collection of misinformation coupled with an unconscionable proclivity to deny homeless individuals basic treatment as fellow human beings.

Success stories abound of individuals who used the temporary relief offered by R2D2 to regain their feet. By eliminating some of the daily unknowns of homelessness, the community allows members more time to find stable jobs and avail themselves of community services. R2D2 offers covered sleeping areas, a safe place to store items, and a venue for self-improvement to 62 individuals every night. The community itself is orderly, clean and respectful of its surroundings. Their strict entrance policy prohibits drugs and alcohol, and portable toilets and dumpsters ensure a clean environment.

The individuals associated with R2D2 are themselves activists interested in pursuing long-term solutions to the homelessness crisis facing Portland. As decent humans, it’s just unacceptable to erect blockages to safe spaces and to prevent the homeless community from helping their fellow homeless because of selfish reasons founded in fears rather than reality.

Rather than allow R2D2 to fold through opposition to relocation, Portland should embrace the efforts of the community and recognize that it represents a first step forward in addressing our homelessness crisis.

A group of Reed College students

Letters to the Editor January 2016

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