|Councils Midland trip postponed
Publishers note: Welcome to Perlmans Potpourri for January, a roundup of news items from the Gateway and Parkrose neighborhoods of mid-Multnomah County from veteran Beat Reporter Lee Perlman.
Coming up, due to inclement weather, City Council cancels a rare session outside council chambers and an even rarer night meeting at the Midland Library.
Emphasizing his priority to lower Portlands high school dropout rates, Sam Adams will hold his swearing-in ceremony as Portlands new mayor at Parkrose High School Community Center in January.
Remember the old bingo hall and J. J. Norths restaurant in Gateway? The Portland Development Commission acquired both for parkland, among other things, despite the need for environmental cleanups at the site.
Also in Perlmans Potpourri, completion of the new East Portland Aquatic Center has been delayed, but a skateboard facility at Ed Benedict Park has not.
Human Solutions opens a 30-bed warming center for the homeless good timing with last months arrival of arctic weather.
Next, the City Council changed development regulations in the Gateway Urban Renewal District, allowing developers to dedicate less land to public open space.
Remember last summers round of community meetings held in an effort to curb prostitution on 82nd Avenue? In response, the city created a committee to attempt a broader-based approach to the problem; yeah, that ought to do it.
And finally, Perlman has more 82nd Avenue news, this time about the construction of pedestrian islands and a fence near the 82nd Avenue MAX Light Rail station to stop mid-block crossings on this busy street.
But first, to City Councils missed Mid-county trip...
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
EPAP hearing postponed
A rare evening Portland City Council hearing to act on the East Portland Action Plan scheduled for the Midland Library last month was, like so many other things, a victim of the weather. Project manager Barry Manning told the Memo at press that a new date had yet to be selected. Manning said he hopes the council can hold the meeting at night and in east Portland, but isnt sure this is possible. Information updates are available at www.portlandonline.com/planning/epap.
The delay means that the council will deny Mayor Tom Potter, who presided over the first session of the EPAP Steering Committee, the chance to be part of its adoption.
The plan recommends specific actions to address a variety of issues in east Portland. Council had previously appropriated $500,000 for short-term actions.
Adams to be sworn in at Parkrose High
Mayor-Elect Sam Adams will be officially sworn in to his new office at noon on Jan.5 at Parkrose High School. Asked why this venue was chosen, a spokesperson said that it would help to emphasize one of the new mayors highest priorities: lowering the dropout rate in Portland high schools. Parkrose isnt part of the Portland School District, but it is a Portland public high school, she said.
Park purchase moves forward
The Portland City Council and the Portland Development Commission both unanimously approved the purchase of a potential park site in Gateway for $4.3 million last month. The four-acre property on Northeast Halsey Street at 106th Avenue consists of a long-vacant bingo parlor and the former J. J. Norths Restaurant. Justin Douglas of the PDC told the Memo at press time that his agency hoped to complete the sales transaction on Dec. 22.
New aquatics center delayed
According to Portland Bureau of Parks & Recreation spokesperson Beth Sorenson, the completion of the new East Portland Community Aquatics Center adjacent to the East Portland Community Center has been delayed by slow shipment of materials and weather conditions, and will probably occur sometime in February. Another new addition, a new skateboard facility in Ed Benedict Park, will probably be completed this month. A date was unavailable at press time.
New emergency shelter opens
The nonprofit Human Solutions opened a new warming shelter at Northeast 81st Avenue and Halsey Street on Dec. 8. According to Agency Director of Development Lauren Rimestad, the 30-bed facility provides a cot, blanket and pillow to any minor 17 years old or younger and any adult accompanying them, regardless of their official relationship.
Were not setting any barriers, Rimestad said. We cant have children sleeping outside in the cold.
The shelter was mentioned last month in a City Council discussion of the citys response to severe winter weather. Referring to the warming shelter, Commissioner Nick Fish said, Boy, did it save lives!
Commissioner Fish is right; this literally saved lives, Commissioner Randy Leonard said. However, he added, Its important to note that while were providing shelter at night, people have to leave during the day while temperatures are still in the 20s.
Currently the warming shelter provides no services other than basic sleeping facilities, nor does it have a budget to provide other services. However, it could provide things like coats and basic hot meals if people were willing to donate these items; the shelter could also use volunteer helpers. Those wishing to respond can call 503-719-0555.
Gateway development regulations amended
Last month, the city amended development regulations governing new development in the Gateway Urban Renewal District. Developers in Gateway are required to dedicate half a foot of land to public open space for every foot of development, up to a maximum of 15 percent of the total area of the site. The provision is still in effect, but it now applies only to lots of five acres or more rather than the previous two acres, or 80,000 square feet; the triggering mechanism is a development of at least 5,000 square feet instead of 2,000.
The provision is intended to preserve some public open space as the area develops. Both business interests and community activists complained that the regulations were a hardship to developers: they might discourage landowners from either developing their land or developing it in large lots.
At the same session, council approved several regulations to the citywide zoning code governing alleys. One of these gave city staff the right to require that access alleys be dedicated for public use. The intent is to promote multiple uses of alleys and avoid wasting land by creating more facilities than are needed. While this does not specifically apply to east Portland, it was inspired by an incident there. On a bus tour of the area, the Portland Planning Commission saw two new multi-unit developments each serviced by its own alley, with a wire fence separating the two alleys. PPC member Tim Smith called this a postcard for bad planning.
Both amendments were part of a package of code amendments on a variety of subjects called the Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Package, or RICAP 4.
Prostitution oversight gets public support
The Portland City Council last month authorized formation of an 82nd Avenue Prostitution Advisory Committee, warranting council a stronger and broader-based public endorsement for its efforts than it had in recent memory.
The new body is part of a strategy devised by Mayor Tom Potter to combat prostitution in the area. It combines stepped-up police enforcement, use of probation and the threat of rearrest to control prostitutes, and increased funding for counseling, addiction treatment and employment training for former prostitutes seeking to leave the life. Prior to this, Potter had abandoned what had been the chief police weapon against the problem: the drug- and prostitution-free zone. This allowed police officers to order those arrested for prostitution excluded from designated areas like 82nd Avenue and to rearrest them if they returned without good reason. Potters move led to protests and parades by the ad hoc Montavilla Community in Action, calling for the zones to be reinstated. When Potter held a news conference at Montavilla Community Center, he was booed and taunted. MCA leaders called the mayors response inadequate.
However, other community groups embraced the new tactic. Last month East Precinct Commander Mike Crebs told council, Its amazing. Ive been a police officer for 17 years, and Ive never seen such support. This is a solution to prostitution not only on 82nd Avenue, but in other neighborhoods.
Mark White of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association said his group strongly endorsed the current strategy. Were very concerned about anything that affects our robust community development and quality of life, he said. We look forward to participating.
A significant endorsement came from Montavilla Community in Action leader Bruce Wong, who told the Memo that he intended to channel his energy into the Montavilla Neighborhood Association at this point; he felt that the citys response was now adequate without reintroduction of the zones. Prostitution has certainly decreased, he told council. I hope we can keep moving forward, targeting the johns and the pimps. It will take a great effort to keep this from spreading.
Potter told Wong, I appreciate the work of the neighborhoods. We havent always seen eye to eye, but we have the same objective.
I appreciate your coming out to address us. It was very contentious, but I appreciate your graciousness, Wong said.
The new advisory committee will include two representatives from the Portland Police Bureau; one each from the Lents, Madison South and Montavilla neighborhood associations; two from the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association; and one each from the Office of Neighborhood Involvements Neighborhood Crime Prevention Program and the Multnomah County District Attorneys Office.
The only dissent came from two members of the 82ndCARES Coalition. This group has argued that prostitution should be dealt with by addressing its root economic and social causes, opposing any efforts of interference by enforcement, even when directed against johns and pimps. Portland Community College student Chenis Remines has friends who are prostitutes; she said the current approach was stigmatizing prostitutes and showed a lack of social awareness. Im scared listening to the people who will be on this board; it doesnt make me feel safe. She called for broader representation and mandatory training for committee members to familiarize them with issues facing prostitutes.
Dawn Rasmussen of the Save 82nd Avenue Coalition responded that the composition of the committee contained in the council resolution was a minimum composition and did not preclude inclusion of others. (Council members later called for inclusion of social service representatives and reformed prostitutes.) The idea is to start a conversation, not vilify anyone, Rasmussen said. She noted that at a forum held last fall, ideas were presented and recorded that seemed to reflect Reminess concerns.
Commissioner Randy Leonard, a consistent critic of the drug- and prostitution-free zones, said he had opposed them because of civil liberties concerns and a strategic standpoint. They didnt make sense to me. The problem had been characterized as bad people doing harm to neighborhoods, he said. This only served to move the problem around. The current strategy is a human approach that doesnt just take prostitutes out of neighborhoods, but nudges them toward social services. As a result, some of them have completely dropped out of the criminal justice system.
Its so important to have the community engaged in the process. This has been controversial, and it did get out of hand, Potter said. The current approach is not just locking people up and throwing away the key, but solving the problem.
Pedestrian changes proposed for 82nd
The Portland Office of Transportation, in cooperation with other public agencies, is planning to install new pedestrian-related improvements on Northeast and Southeast 82nd avenues.
Under a federal Safe Community grant, the city plans to install six new pedestrian islands on the avenue, Portland Office of Transportations Sharon White told the Madison South Neighborhood Association last month. The six will be placed at Southeast Cooper, Francis and Main streets, and Northeast Pacific, Thompson and Wygant streets. The cost will be $50,000 for the Francis Street island and $20,000 each for the other five. The office of Transportation is also pursuing public education efforts, tactics like sting operations in which motorcycle police ticket motorists who fail to yield to a pedestrian decoy trying to cross the street. Outside of downtown Portland, 82nd Avenue has seen more pedestrian fatalities than any other street in Portland, White said.
In a related matter and as part of an effort to increase public safety near the Northeast 82nd Avenue MAX Light Rail station Portland Office of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation plan to install a fence in the center of 82nd between Northeast Jonesmore and Wasco streets. The intent is to prevent mid-block pedestrian crossings and channel pedestrians to a signalized intersection. East Precinct Commander Mike Crebs said that at present, pedestrians particularly teenagers are inclined to cross mid-block, endangering themselves, disrupting traffic and creating a lot of disorder. There will be a charrette, a collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem. While Depending on the design problem and the individuals in the group, the structure of a charrette varies. Charrettes often take place in multiple sessions in which the group divides into sub-groups. to discuss the design of the fence at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 13 at the Banfield Pet Hospital Glenhaven Center, 8000 N.E. Tillamook St.
The Madison South Neighborhood Association, along with several other groups, has endorsed the fence, Portland Office of Transportations Will Stevens told Madison South; the Montavilla Neighborhood Association is opposed to it. Board member Lisa Laurenceau said the group opposes restricting pedestrian movement and feels there are other ways to solve the problem. Stevens said Montavilla appeared to have its heart set on a mid-block crossing, an approach government agencies Portland Office of Transportation, ODOT and various others found problematic.
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