March Land Use and Transportation update from committee chair, Stephenie Frederick. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Land Use in Brentwood-Darlington – Amongst several proposed new projects, three are especially interesting:
· SE Flavel St, half block east of 52nd : 2 narrow houses with shared garage behind. This is the east area of the strip-mall parking lot, where illegal car repair and trash dumping occurs (who knew that it was really two narrow lots owned by someone other than the strip-mall owner). Alas, the ugly sign with its dangling, rusted cables is solidly on the strip-mall property owned by Le Tuan, who lives in North Carolina.
· SE 52nd Avenue at Cooper Street: A new apartment building of 25 units is proposed for the recently sold vacant lot. No retail or commercial space is planned. Our TGM planners (Marty Stockton, Zef Wagner) have informed me that although the lot is zoned commercial-mixed use, residential-only uses are also allowed. I was hoping for commercial development in this stretch of 52nd Avenue, but Zef says that the local economics might not sustain a commercial corridor on this part of 52nd Avenue. The TGM study will tell us a good deal about our neighborhood’s ability to support stores and businesses.
· SE Duke & 70th: 3 narrow and 2 standard housing units are proposed for what was a single large lot.
These three projects alone will add 31 housing units to Brentwood-Darlington (not 32, because there used to be a house at Duke-70th). There are several lesser new-housing projects as well, continuing a trend in Brentwood-Darlington that eerily presages the Residential Infill Project. Demand for housing is clearly very strong.
Land Use – Residential Infill Project Amendment
In compliance with Oregon state law, the Residential Infill Project (RIP) does away with single-family zoning in Portland. Instead, it allows for up to four units on a parcel, depending on the parcel’s size. It is not an affordable-housing measure; instead it is intended to ameliorate Portland’s severe housing shortage. When the creator of RIP, the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, submitted the plan to city council, proposed amendments suddenly popped up. One would have gutted RIP by forbidding construction of three or four housing units on parcels fronting on streets without curbs. The BDNA board agreed to oppose the amendment; see below the letter submitted to city council on behalf of BDNA. Latest news: So much opposition arose to the amendment that city council dropped it from consideration. Also see links below to articles about the nation’s housing shortage.
Fixing Our Streets-2
The city council approved placing on the May ballot a measure renewing a 10-cent gas tax for four years. A consultant who attended our February 2020 LUTC meeting was very insistent that our board endorse the tax renewal and that the endorsement appear in the voter’s guide. I did not think it ethical to endorse a tax without the approval of our residents after ample outreach, which we did not have time to carry out. I myself support the tax and hope the board will agree to our reaching out to residents before the May election and urging them to vote for the tax (I’ll bring it up with the board soon) . . . but I hope that board and committee members will agree with my refusal to ask the board to endorse a fuel tax without resident consultation and approval.
SE 45th Avenue Repavement . . . and trench cuts
After the city repaved the road, contractors working on housing projects along 45th Avenue cut trenches into the asphalt in the bike lanes for water and sewer connections; the contractors “repaired” the cuts crudely, creating a bumpy trail for cyclists. In response to an email inquiry from Ryan Ernst, Scott Cohen of PBOT said that the contractors would eventually repair the street surface correctly.
Pedestrian and Cyclist Fatalities Rising Sharply
· Pedestrian fatalities across the U.S. have increased by more than 50% over the last ten years. Distracted driving, big vehicles, alcohol, roads designed only for cars, and night-time travel are all factors.
· Alcohol is a big factor in Portland traffic accidents that kill auto drivers and passengers as well as pedestrians and cyclists. In 2017, alcohol contributed to 21 of Portland’s 47 traffic fatalities.
· Traffic fatalities in 2020 as of 3-4-20: 11 including two run over as they slept on sidewalks; 51 fatalities in 2019; 34 fatalities in 2018; 47 fatalities in 2017. If 2020 continues at its present rate, we will have more than 61 traffic fatalities by year’s end.
PCC has been having financial difficulties because Boeing, a prominent PCC customer, shut down production of its mis-designed 737 MAX. PCC has laid off at least 150 employees. Is it possible that weakened financial status will help the cause of the class-action air-pollution lawsuit being carried out against PCC?
Report by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality shows some air toxics at worrisome levels in Portland. Air toxics are a less monitored form of air pollution. Here is text from the executive summary:
Six air toxics – arsenic, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, naphthalene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde – were found at levels above their ABCs [Ambient Benchmark Concentrations] at all monitoring locations [including Portland], demonstrating that these pollutants are present at levels of concern in both urban and rural areas. Ethylbenzene was found at levels above its ABC at three of the monitoring sites located in the Portland- metro area. The average levels of arsenic were higher in the Portland-metro area sites compared to sites located in The Dalles and La Grande, which are more rural.
You can read the entire report at https://www.oregon.gov/deq/aq/Documents/2018AirToxicsSum.pdf
National Housing Shortage
February 28, 2020
America’s housing market is undersupplied by 3.3 million units, and the shortage is getting worse every year, Freddie Mac said in a report on [February 28, 2020] . . . Oregon is the most under-supplied state . . . The strong economies of states like Oregon and California have worsened the shortage by attracting job-seekers.
January 30, 2020: There just isn’t enough housing to go around. Every year the number of U.S. households grows by more than 1 million, while simultaneously somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 existing housing units are demolished. . . Rising house prices also exacerbate Nimbyism. The more your house is worth, the harder you’re likely to fight against upzoning initiatives that increase the supply of housing in your neighborhood.
January 22, 2020: According to a new analysis from Realtor.com, the market needs a whopping 3.8 million additional new homes to fully meet consumer demand. Since 2012, nearly 10 million new households were formed in the U.S. Only 5.92 million single-family homes were built in that same period, leaving what Javier Vivas, Realtor.com’s director of economic research, calls “a nearly insatiable appetite from potential buyers, especially in the lower end of the market.” . . . Baby Boomers and Gen Xers will need to free up some of the existing housing supply. Even more important is that builders need to “make bolder moves and capitalize on a hungry waitlist of first-time homebuyers.”
June 2019: A 2019 “State of the Nation’s Housing” report (issued by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University) documents how the housing shortfall is keeping pressure on house prices and rents, eroding affordability for modest-income households in many markets . . . regulatory constraints on development, largely imposed at the local level, raise costs and limit the number of homes that can be built in places where demand is highest.
BDNA LETTER TO CITY COUNCIL RE PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO RESIDENTIAL INFILL PROJECT (Click here to view a PDF version of this letter)