|Planners still working on Gateway zoning
Homeowners near large buildings may see soon relief
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
The draft Gateway Planning Regulations Project is going through extensive revisions, beginning with its original review schedule. Hearings before the Design and Planning commissions, originally set for this month, have been delayed until September.
The content of the proposed regulations may change as well, based on input received. The rules would, among other things, change zones, alter allowed height, provide for new design review regulations and encourage master planning processes in the Gateway Regional Center, bounded roughly by 102nd Avenue, Northeast Broadway, Southeast Market Street, and the I-205 Freeway. A second district, with different regulations, has been set for the East Corridor, bounded by Southeast Stark and Northeast Glisan streets, 103rd and 162nd avenues.
Joe, or a cup of joe?
The original draft did not address the needs of Joe Rinella, a homeowner on the West Side of Southeast 103rd Avenue, although it did address his issue. Rinella and his neighbors were concerned that the zoning for adjacent properties on Southeast 102nd Avenue would have buildings 100 feet tall or more towering over them. Planner Ellen Ryker proposed that when single family residential zones abutted higher density land in this way, the height of new development on the nearest 50 feet of property be restricted. However, this wouldnt help Rinella; although his half of the street contains single family homes and always has, the land carries a commercial zoning designation. Ryker resisted Rinellas request for a zone change.
However, in June he received declarations of sympathy and support from the Opportunity Gateway Program Advisory Committee, particularly chair Dick Cooley and new member Renee Jensen of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO). Jensen later told the Memo, If I lived here, I wouldnt want to live with 100 foot buildings in my backyard. This is a well-established neighborhood. I thought it was important that the planners hear from a member of the committee, not just from Joe all the time.
Ryker warned that there are similar zoning patterns in other border areas of the district. Changing them all would not only reduce the districts development potential directly, but interfere with development of the higher-zoned adjacent parcels. This would interfere with the committees ability to meet some development goals, she said. However, she later told the Memo, Its important that theyre having this conversation.
Ironically, at the July committee meeting a resident living on a residentially zoned part of Northeast Pacific Avenue said that he wanted commercial activity to be allowed on his street so that there would be a place to buy a cup of coffee.
Master plans for Master Plans
Currently Gateway regulations require large parcels of land of 200,000 square feet or larger must have a certain amount of housing and open space as part of any redevelopment. As senior planner Joe Zender told the Gateway PAC, We created problems that we didnt anticipate that has held up development. A lot of energy has been spent in trying to get out of these requirements. Instead, the bureau now recommends that new development of parcels larger than 80,000 square feet be required to go through a master plan process. Were proposing flexibility in exchange for a planning process, Zender said. You can describe it all in the code, or you can describe what youre trying to accomplish.
Several committee members were concerned that the planners hadnt really solved the problem; that developers would look for ways to avoid a master planning process. Committee member Frieda Christopher complained, Theres not enough open space in the district now. Do we really want to let (developers) out of this?
Zender said that the process would not allow developers to evade responsibility for open space entirely, but might allow them to meet it by contributing to a fund to create parkland in the district. We want to be sure that at the end of the day we have a useable park, he said.
The new regulations call for some sort of design review for every development project. If the total cost of the improvements is over $1 million, the developer would need to go through a Type III review, with a mandatory public hearing and a chance to appeal to the Portland City Council. (The master plan process described above would also be a Type III.) Developer Ted Gilbert said the trigger for this process should be the physical size, not the cost, of the project. Beth Baltz said she feared time consuming and expensive reviews might discourage worthwhile development projects.
Up in the air
In several places there are minor changes in the proposed zone changes. On the west end of the Portland Adventist Hospital Campus, for instance, a new underlying designation would allow the land to be used for high-density housing if it was ever sold.
Another issue that surfaced was the sheer complexity of the regulations. Committee member Doreen Warner said she couldnt understand part of the proposals. When Ryker said that city staff knew what the language meant, Warner interjected, But the customer needs to know too. I need to know what chapter I have to read to even shape my plans. Cooley added, The other customer is the community, and its important that the community be able to speak to the criteria in a direct way. Later, asked the status of a part of the proposed regulations, Ryker said, A lot of things are up in the air.
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