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Urban renewal committee reviews budget


Editor’s note: For your reading pleasure, we present Perlman’s Potpourri for April 2007 — a roundup of news items from the Gateway and Parkrose neighborhoods of Mid-Multnomah County from veteran Beat Reporter Lee Perlman.

Perlman begins with an item about the less-than-ideal Gateway Urban Renewal budget for next year, an annual disappointment among other things disappointing around the Gateway Urban Renewal project.

Next, some good news as the city is adding three Mid-county sites to its master planning process for future park development; following is some sad news about Rossi Farms no longer farming or selling produce from their barn.

Looks like a potpourri theme is emerging this month: alternating bad and good news items — as evidenced by the next story about folks in Parkrose happy to be planning events at the newest park in Parkrose — Senn’s Dairy Park — followed by some unsettling news coming from the Wilkes neighborhood regarding its newest business, a bar and grill, due to open this month.

Perlman’s Potpourri goes on with the April theme — the traffic calming project for 105th Avenue near Prescott Elementary School has been fully funded — the good — but the traffic island at Northeast 102nd and Wygant Street, part of the same traffic project, keeps getting crashed into — the bad.

Only a few more to introduce, the next PP item is bad news about the eastside infill development (too much, too ugly, too long a process).

And last but never least, some good news about a type of new pilot program from the Portland Police Bureau placing daily police foot patrols (ala Bumper Morgan in “The Blue Knight”) along Sandy Boulevard.

Gateway Urban Renewal Area PAC reviews budget
The Gateway Urban Renewal District Program Advisory Committee reviewed the district’s proposed budget at an informal meeting last month. As has been the case from the beginning, the group found the budget somewhat less than ideal.

An informal meeting of the Gateway Urban Renewal District Program Advisory Committee was held last month to go over its proposed budget for fiscal year 2007-'08. From left to right, Portland Development Commission budget analyst Tony Barnes, PDC staff member Angela Cadena, at-large member and PAC Vice Chairman Bob Earnest, Gateway resident Jackie Putnam, and PAC Chairwoman Dorene Warner of Human Solutions.
As Portland Development Commission Budget Analyst Tony Barnes told the PAC last month, the budget allows for $7,041,537, including overhead costs. Of this, by order of City Council, 30 percent is dedicated to the development and/or maintenance of affordable housing. Asked if the PAC would have the ability to shift funds from one line item to another as needs developed, PDC staffer Byron Estes said he thought so, but it would be necessary to get a letter from someone in authority to “memorialize” it.

Resident Alesia Reese of Woodland Park complained, “We’re not meeting the goals of this regional center. We don’t have to plan for housing development; it will take care of itself. It is economic development we should concentrate on, and that can only be done through land acquisition.”

In this area, aside from the partial transformation of the Gateway Transit Center and the creation of a new Oregon Clinic headquarters there, PDC so far has accomplished little. Likewise, in the area of park development, the only activity has been several abortive attempts to acquire the old bingo parlor site on Northeast Halsey Street. PAC Chair Dorene Warner suggested the land be called the ping-pong site due to the number of times PDC has been in and out of negotiations to acquire it.

Reese and developer Ted Gilbert said an impediment is a Parks Bureau policy that its holdings be at least two acres. Gilbert suggested they look at facilities “consistent with a regional center, not a suburban model. (Downtown’s) O’Bryant Square is less than one acre.”

Frieda Christopher, a member of the David Douglas School District, suggested a more proactive approach to property acquisition. When the school district needed a new school site, “we didn’t wait for an offer,” she said. “We contacted a realtor, mapped out all the nearby potential sites, and started making offers. If you wait for an offer, the land is likely to be gone by the time you get there.”

Warner complained, “In being more responsive to City Council, PDC is being far less responsive to neighborhoods. I hope this budget process is an aberration that won’t be repeated.”

In a related matter, Estes announced that Justin Douglas has been hired to take charge of PDC activities in Gateway. Douglas has been working for the consulting firm Parametrix, which has been helping develop the Central Gateway Redevelopment Strategy. He succeeds Megan Dobbs, who resigned from PDC after two months, and Sara King, who was re-assigned to the Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal District.

Neighborhoods seek park-planning funds
For the first time in years, the Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation is faced with the prospect of having more money, rather than less, in its budget than it had the year before. Community activists are seizing the opportunity to get some long-overdue projects under way.

At a budget workshop last month, the Portland City Council agreed to forgo a planned new $5 million budget levy. Instead, based on increased tax revenues and forecasts for more of the same, council decided to pay for the improvements the levy would have paid for through an increased general fund appropriation to the bureau. Commissioner Erik Sten agreed to the change, although he cautioned those present that council could not promise to maintain 100 percent of the new appropriations levels under any circumstances.

A member of the Portland Parks Foundation gave three arguments against seeking a new levy: passage is not assured, especially in view of alternative ways to pay for improvements; a successful campaign for a levy would cost from $400,000 to $800,000, funds best put to other uses; such a levy would take energy away from, and decrease the chances of, other civic initiatives.

Even the higher appropriations levels do not take care of all community desires for the bureau. Three add packages favored by community activists would pay for master plans for three undeveloped park properties in east Portland: Parklane, Clatsop Butte, and Beech. The master plans would cost about $100,000 each. The Parks Bureau had recommended funding the requests, but the Portland Office of Finance and Administration did not; the latter reasoned that there was no justification to create improvement plans when there are as yet no funds to pay for such improvements.

To this, Mid-county volunteers Paul Grosjeans of Pleasant Valley and Linda Robinson of Hazelwood argued that other sources of funding — grants, Local Improvement Districts, Systems Development Charges and fundraising, as well as the general fund — might be used for park improvements. However, they said, master plans must be in place before any improvements, however paid for, can be made.

“We can’t even talk about seeking funds until we get a master plan,” Robinson said. She added that the community has been seeking such a plan for Parklane, a 20-acre former gravel pit, for two years.

Grosjeans said of the OFA recommendation, “What kind of message does that send to the community and potential donors? ‘We want improvements, but we won’t even pay for planning.’”

Linda Laviollette of the Parks Foundation gave a similar message. “I’m grateful that we can talk about different subjects than in past years,” she said. “At the foundation, we are tapping the private sector. However, this is a public-private partnership, and donors say that for them to commit, they need to see the city’s commitment.”

In a related development, parks planner Rod Wojtanik told the Memo that the new 10,000-square-foot skate park at Glenhaven Park, north of Madison High School on Northeast 82nd Avenue at Siskiyou Street, should be complete by mid to late April. As the Memo went to press, the city had added master plans for all three undeveloped east Portland parks to its draft budget.

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