By Midge Pierce

Record Funding Found to Tackle Homelessness

Low income housing relief is coming to SE. The Mayor bills the just-announced Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative as a “first of its kind” effort to combat homelessness by leveraging state, county and city resources. More than $12 million has been awarded to two area projects that will combine new housing and mental health services. The innovation is earmarked for veterans and unstable individuals. Addressing mental health will reduce chronic homelessness, say officials.

Findley Commons, in the 5400 block of SE Powell Blvd., will redevelop an underutilized parking lot at St. Marks Lutheran Church to provide thirty-eight units for under-served and extremely low-income Veterans.

Farther East at 11332 Division St., will have forty SRO units of Permanent Supportive Housing plus twenty studios to serve low-income individuals experiencing mental illness.

The projects are backed by Portland Housing Bureau (PHB), the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Multnomah County Mental Health & Addiction Services, and Oregon Housing and Community Services, are billed as an innovative solution to chronic homelessness.

HBBA tackles the Future

Like it or not, Portland is growing “up” and the SE area is ground zero for development, according to speakers at a seminar called Vision for the Future of Hawthorne.

A broad-ranging agenda addressed how area businesses and residents can steer their future by identifying sites likely ripe for development and advocating for protections of “special” buildings and locations.

Announcing the rebranding of their Division Design Initiative as PDX Design Initiative, seminar organizers outlined guidelines for commercial districts that don’t qualify for review under the city’s 55-foot height threshold.

Fielding “freezing Portland in amber” criticisms and charges that design reviews were expensive impediments to needed development, moderator Heather Flint Chatto, a self-described QUIMBY (quality in my backyard) said good design need not be costly.

Guidelines can smooth building processes by spelling out community goals and priorities. Lamenting the canyon effect of disproportionate new builds along Division, she called for a “building and balance” approach to density with sensitivity.

Architect Laurence Qamar provided solutions for design affordability, context and compatibility that included following patterns and proportions sensitive to street widths.

With everything rising, finding commonalities between low, one-story buildings and taller multistories is essential, he said.

Preservation Update Gains Toehold

Preservation is not easy as New Portland explodes with growth, construction and fast-clip demolition.

Now, better late than never, Portland’s thirty-five year old Historic Resources Inventory (HRI) is moving closer to an update with the draft release of a project to smooth identification processes.

Key points of the Historic Resources Code Project include revising demolition and design protections for designated resources, expanding incentives for adaptive re-use of significant buildings, liberalizing owner consent regulations and better differentiating between conservation landmarks and districts.

Portland lags behind cities like Denver and Seattle that routinely update their historic inventories. Last year’s attempt to secure funding for a citywide HRI update failed. Monies were found, however, for a small-scale pilot currently underway in the Montavilla neighborhood.

Beyond recognizing historic architecture, Project Manager Brandon Spencer-Hartle frames the proposal as a way to protect severely under-recognized contributions of minorities. “We need to identify intangibles like our cultural heritage,” he contends.

Spencer-Hartle, a department of one within the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, says historic neighborhoods are prized for walkability and human scale that encourages interaction and provides affordability.

Encouraging rehabilitation and incentivizing seismic retrofits of older buildings aids economic prosperity, he says.

He cites environmental benefits of preserving the “embodied energy” of materials within existing buildings. While new construction is burdened by the cost and transport of new materials, rehabilitation projects generally use more existing resources and earmark a greater share of budgets to on-site skilled labor.

The resource code update has limitations. It is not authorized to add buildings to the outdated HRI. Its current objective is to bring Portland in line with state goals and shed light on what Spencer-Hartle calls, “Portland’s rich, complex and sometimes difficult history.”

Draft comments are due in April. For more information: www.portlandoregon.gov.bps/hrcp

BY DAVID KROGH

Enhanced Service District for Central Eastside

Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC) is proposing to create an Enhanced Service District (ESD) for the area roughly bounded by I-84 on the north, SE Division on the south, the Willamette River on the west and SE 12th on the east.

ESDs are specific areas where property and business owners can be assessed to help pay for enhanced services not currently provided by the City.

At present, ESDs are located in the Lloyd District and in Portland’s Downtown. CEIC acknowledges changes occurring for the area that current service levels are not accommodating.

A plan has been developed to provide sidewalk beautification, parking, maintenance, security, transportation upgrades, homeless services, and overall safety and district promotion activities.

The ESD will be considered by the Portland City Council on January 30. A FAQ webpage has been created by CEIC to explain the ESD at  tinyurl.com/yas4xxnw.

In conjunction with administration of the district, the CEIC Security Committee received a report in mid December addressing homeless issues.

Ideas to better address homeless issues in the district include addition of portable washroom facilities in strategic locations, a peer run stable sleep area (may include car parking), and waste control to complement the current Central City Concern program. Further discussion will be forthcoming.

Commissioner Fish Weighs In

Commissioner Nick Fish recently spoke to The Southeast Examiner about his health situation and his commission efforts to improve Portland’s environment.

He started by addressing his 2018 goals: “I set three big goals for 2018: beat cancer, win my primary election, and pass a regional housing bond. I’m pleased to report that my cancer treatment is going well, I was re-elected with over 60% of the vote, and voters overwhelmingly passed the $652 million Metro housing bond.”

Commissioner Fish went on to discuss his goals for this year.   “In 2019, my goals include: continue to provide leadership to my bureaus (including hiring a permanent director for Portland Parks & Recreation), fund supportive housing, develop a robust plan for converting brownfields to a community use, implement the arts affordability plan, and start to plan for our third salmon sanctuary project in Tryon Creek (after the success of Crystal Springs Creek and Oaks Bottom in recent years).”

Asked about the current housing and homeless situation here, Fish said, “Our community is full of talented, dedicated people working across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to find new solutions to the housing crisis. One of the biggest unmet needs is supportive housing.

“Supportive housing combines deeply affordable and safe homes with intensive services for people struggling with chronic health conditions, addiction, and/or mental health challenges. It’s a cost-effective and proven way to end chronic homelessness.

“Investments in shelter and other transitional options are necessary, but make no mistake – shelter is an expensive stopgap, and a shelter bed is not a home.”

Commissioner Fish indicated disappointment in federal cuts for housing and services and encouraged continued City/County partnerships in order to provide solutions for the current housing crisis.

He supports keeping Portland as member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force as a means of information sharing and feels there is no evidence that such participation conflicts with Portland’s sanctuary status.

Likewise, he supports Mayor Wheeler’s indication to run for re-election. After three single term mayors, Fish believes leadership continuity is necessary to address all the problems now facing Portland as a city.

When asked about problems with the current commission form of government in Portland, Fish says the City Council would appoint a charter review commission in 2021.

“We’re required to have a charter review every ten years. I expect them to take up our form of government.”

He acknowledges problems with the commission form, but doesn’t advocate changing it, suggesting the commission can work out the problems.

“I’m reluctant to put too much power behind a single person – whether a mayor or a city manager.”  Fish also doesn’t support district representation for commission members.

In closing he said, “The benefit of electing officials citywide is that they are forced to think citywide, and not view their representation through the lens of parochial interests.”

Harbor of Hope Status

Portland’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis was decades in the making, and government or market forces alone cannot solve this massive problem.

That’s one of the conclusions of a recent report, at the request of the nonprofit, Oregon Harbor of Hope called An Analysis of Homelessness & Affordable Housing in Multnomah County, 2018, by Portland State University’s School of Business MBA Capstone team.

“We wanted a fresh look at the homeless problem, and the Capstone report offers some real insight,” said Don Mazziotti, executive director of Oregon Harbor of Hope.

“We realize that the problem is bigger than we thought. We don’t have a handle on the true number of homeless, or just how much this is costing the city and its taxpayers.”

The report indicated that from 2011-2015, the following trends were prevalent:

• A rapidly growing population

• Income changes among renters

• Inadequate housing stock

• High rents & low vacancy rates

To help alleviate the above, Harbor of Hope is working on a Navigation Center (a safe harbor supportive transitional housing development) to be located at the base of the Broadway Bridge.  The facility will contain 120 beds and supportive services.

Because it is a former industrial site there is a certain amount of hazardous material clean up involved which increases the price of the project. However, the development already has DEQ approval to proceed.

Funding has been obtained from the Boyle family and other sources to continue work on the project. Legal action is still pending for the site and construction timing is not available at this point.

Mayor Wheeler has spoken highly of this proposal and announced in a January press conference that the City/County Joint Office of Homeless Services will be providing Oregon Harbor of Hope with $1 million as funding for daily operations of the Navigation Center once it is operational.