To the editor:
After reading so many recent articles on housing, the homeless, traffic problems, etc., I am amazed that these issues are being dealt with in such a piecemeal fashion. Don’t you (the editors, the media, the government entities, the public) realize that all of these problems are interrelated as a result of inconsistent growth management?
How many of you are aware that the Statewide Planning Goals call for comprehensive and integrated growth management? Granted, 30 some years ago virtually everyone knew of the Goals when cities and counties all over Oregon were still developing comprehensive land use plans. The thing is, the Statewide Planning Goals are still applicable when the plans need to be updated or go through a periodic review. Unfortunately, the implementation of the plans are happening piecemeal, especially in the Metro area. The result is multiple disjointed efforts to deal with growth issues and problems rather than coordinated and comprehensive growth management as the Statewide Planning Goals intended.
Let’s look at examples of many of the problem areas. The City of Portland pushed gentrification in recent years causing displacement of many lower income residents. Since the City did not implement for housing choice (as required by State Goal 10; Housing), a shortage of affordable housing ensued. And with Portland being such a popular destination, housing prices soared beyond control. The City’s efforts to provide for additional housing are too limited and include only a few hundred affordable units, apartments and ADU’s, and unpopular density increases in established Single Family Residential (SFR) areas. The City should step back and provide more housing choice including moderate density housing, duplexes, courtyard apartments, tiny home locations, innovative housing complexes, and reduce the focus on apartments, ADU’s, and changes to well established SFR neighborhoods. Likewise, reduce commercial use of SFR’s in favor of residential. You can’t accommodate more needed housing in SFR neighborhoods if many houses are no longer in residential use (i.e. commercial day cares, offices, airbnb, etc.).
Housing costs have skyrocketed and are only recently starting to stabilize. Trouble is, costs/rents are 10-50% higher than they were two years ago. And if demand continues to increase, so will the costs. As the “well to dos” move into the City the “lower incomes” are being forced out. The City and State need to proactively prevent price gouging and do better at encouraging reasonable rents. Rent control is only one of many ways to create affordability. Encouraging less greed and reasonable, but not excessive, profit margins is another. And providing for real housing choice is even another. Similarly, the City’s increases in fees due to an inability to effectively manage moneys, contributes to high housing costs.
Traffic problems are multifaceted and, again, are being dealt with piecemeal. Street and infrastructure upgrades were supposed to be occurring consistent with development. But instead we’re seeing substandard and poorly maintained streets at the same time apartment construction is booming. What’s just as bad is the City is reacting to safety issues instead of having anticipated and accommodated such as related to growth. So, a pedestrian death occurs on upper SE Hawthorne and due to bad publicity the City installs a crosswalk facility. And a self-proclaimed anarchist group fills in potholes because the City can’t keep up with street repairs itself. Likewise, safety issues abound on many other streets, most of them major arterials, and the City’s response is Vision Zero, which reduces travel lanes and speed limits. Again, these are reactionary measures which do absolutely nothing to deal with the traffic increases and congestion which have placed Portland in the nation’s top 10 for worse commutes for many years running. The mindset that everyone will ride transit or a bicycle needs to be re-evaluated and reality-based transportation planning implemented. Pointing fingers at ODOT for more lanes on the freeways is not the answer. Congestion is happening on City streets as well.
Responses to the homeless plight have been inconsistent when in fact they need to follow a comprehensive approach. Not only are more shelters needed, but these need to be wholistic and provide services (including health care, counseling, training, etc.). The homeless should not be scattering willy nilly on side streets, under bridges, in public parks, or in business doorways as now occurs. Specific areas also need to be designated for temporary and safe tent grounds and RV parking locations with essential services and supervision provided. Public and private partnerships can address much of this until such time as the problems can be reduced and the homeless better served. The City and County have the resources now to locate such sites and identify partners. This isn’t rocket science, folks!
And the list could go on. And what about new neighborhood parks? What about parking for apartments? What about apartment designs including landscaping? Etc., etc., etc. Metro and LCDC need to do better in requiring implementation of plans in accordance with the Statewide Planning Goals. Likewise, the City of Portland with its antiquated commission form of government needs to overcome bureau fiefdom issues and promote better interbureau coordination and public involvement in dealing with growth issues.
Retired planner in SE Portland
My comment, thoughts, about Nancy Tannler’s article front page of SE Examiner, May, 2017 : “Citizens Plead case to Keep 1.31 Acres As Open Space.”
Although it is truly necessary to be able to ‘ground’ oneself by being able to walk on Mother Earth, a sort of compromise can be attained, if in the event that space is sold for more building space, and that is an agreement by the purchaser to turn the roof top (s) into open green space, with public allowed free access. Perhaps organized for specific uses for: dogs, sport, events. If this was mandatory in the sale contract, the owner would have to maintain the building part for the roof top garden, the city would pay do the actual gardening/maintenance. The owner of the building would maintain the public elevator, in exchange would be realizing cost/tradeoff for the fact that rooftop gardens benefit by adding insulation, and the fact that there would be more foot traffic in the area from the garden to benefit sales of retail shops there. We would lose one big beautiful space, but perhaps it could become 2, with a sky bridge between them. The top to the actual planned community center also would have greenspace.
Very good artificial turf is offered now, and lightweight soil mixes. There are lightweight options for hardscaping, and volunteer community efforts to build faux rocks, planting boxes and the like would be good projects, as well as public art projects.
Of course, when dealing with the pubic, safety would have to be a priority, with fencing applied around the top, it may already be on the property and perhaps can be reused, therefore not increasing costs. A more appealing view would be achieved by using plexi-glass panels, of course.
I would not allow any vending up there, but reserve that for retail space on floors below.
I would also encourage the water filtered from the (organic, of course!) rooftop garden to be stored and reused to water landscaping below during Summer months, at the very least, and better still, for flushing toilets. Also, nice water-feature(s): perhaps ground-level woodland stream and fountain for kids to play in, or just as landscape décor.
These are better options than just Solar Paneling; new buildings would be better built from scratch for Rooftop Garden Space rather than retrofitting old buildings, leave the Solar Paneling for those.
Ok, those are my thoughts, just tossing them out there!
To the editor:
No matter how diligently it is packaged in terms of public relations and legal rationalization and regardless of the very emotional arguments that are put forward on its behalf by victims rights groups, it must be affirmed that the ongoing practice of capital punishment in America speaks to a spirit of grim primitivism at large in the country that places it in the same dubious league as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Iran and Iraq. Extensive employment of the death penalty has the effect of surrounding America’s proud rhetoric about humane values with a thick aura of hypocrisy. The U.S. is absolutely alone in the North Atlantic community in its stubborn unwillingness to dispense with the death penalty. We Americans are, in effect, stuck in a past century in terms of our appetite for applying the Supreme Penalty.
Capital punishment is a miserable and horrifying blemish on the reputation of any nation that continues to practice it, and that somber assessment of things has to include the U.S. The overwhelming preponderance of executions carried out in America today occur in the states that constituted the 1861 to 1865 Confederacy. Widely applied capital punishment in our Southern states carries into modern time the fierce and draconian spirit that once animated the Confederate States of America. This situation, quite simply, is sordid and monumentally sad.
The United States of America, and in particular this nation’s southern tier of states, would do very well to abolish, absolutely and with finality, the ugly practice of inflicting the death penalty.
Frank W. Goheen
To the editor:
The Portland Parks and Recreation is at it again–trying to find a way to take public land away from the public. Not long ago they tried to sell it out right. Today they’re turning a field where kids and families play baseball, football, and soccer into a gravel parking lot with only vague promises that it would be temporary. It’s a slippery slope, another attempt at a land grab away from the public.
Metro has reported that more than 100 people a day are moving to Portland. With more and more people, more and more families moving to Portland, shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to protect what park land we have left?
Portland Parks and Recreation says they have no money to enact the Master Plan. Fine. Then leave the Long Block as it is–a flat, accessible park for families to enjoy. For some reason, it seems like they keep trying to find a use for it other than what was originally intended.
How can we trust Portland Parks and Recreation? They have a long history of backroom deals, bait-and-switch tactics, and simply ignoring or outright lying to the public. It’s park land, not parking land, not storage land. If they want to grow trees there, fine. Turn it back into a nursery with growing trees that would also be accessible to the public.