|Planning Commission passes 122nd Avenue Study
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
On Feb. 14, the Portland Planning Commission sent the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association a unique valentine, enlarging the nodes on Northeast and Southeast 122nd Avenue.
The nodes - at East Burnside, Northeast Glisan and Southeast Stark streets - are a key part of the 122nd Avenue Plan, an attempt to reconcile the city codes regarding transit station-area development with the needs of car dealerships on the street. Currently the code calls for transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly development near transit stations such as the one at 122nd Avenue and East Burnside Street. In such areas, the code calls for minimal setbacks between buildings and streets, and no exterior storage or display of vehicles or other merchandise.
Project manager Barry Mannings solution has been to maintain most of the rules for new development in the nodes, while providing grandfather rights for existing facilities, but to relax the rules for the areas in between. An issue that has emerged is how large the nodes should be. Manning originally proposed that they extend 200 feet to the east, north and south of the Glisan and Stark intersections, and 300 feet from Burnside. (The study does not propose to relax the rules on the west side of 122nd.) Later, he proposed to accommodate pedestrians by adding a corridor 100 feet wide in both directions between the nodes and the adjacent residential zones to the east.
This did not entirely satisfy the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association. Its biggest concern was that Mannings formula would fail to cover all of Multnomah Countys Hanson property, currently the sheriffs office, at 12240 N.E. Glisan St. The county has made clear that its long-term plans call for disposing of the property, and Hazelwood is afraid that it may become yet another dealership. They do not want to force such businesses out of the area, association members said, but they do not want them to dominate it.
Commission members did agree with the rationale that it did not make good planning sense to have two different sets of rules for the same property. They also felt the lines should respect city plans for future new roads, although Manning pointed out that these may be subject to adjustment. At their urging, Manning crafted some changes to the node boundaries mentioned above. Specifically:
At the southeast corner of 122nd Avenue and Glisan Street, the node boundary extends south to the edge of the county property, then east 475 feet to the nearest adjacent residential property.
At the northeast corner of 122nd Avenue and Burnside Street, the boundary extends north to coincide with the edge of an existing car dealership.
At the southeast corner of 122nd Avenue and Burnside Street, the boundary extends south to Southeast Ash Street, then east to 124th Avenue, taking in the Tri-Met Park and Ride and a private property housing an office building.
At the northeast corner of 122nd Avenue and Stark Street, the boundary extends north about 290 feet, then east to the nearest residential property about 620 feet away.
Looking uneasily at the finished result, commission member Tim Smith told Manning, Hurry up before we change our minds.
The commission also adopted another change. Currently the code says that new development near transit stations must include buildings with a floor area ratio of 1:1. This means there must be one square foot of floor space for every foot of lot space. Critics argued that this would force dealerships to build impractically large buildings serving no useful purpose. A proposed amendment would allow existing dealerships to rebuild at lower density provided the density was higher than what had been there before and amounted to a floor to area ratio of at least .4:1.
The commission had earlier stipulated that autos could occupy no more than 50 percent of a dealers street-facing front. As a clarification, Manning noted that this would include driveways as well as display and storage areas, inducing commission member Larry Hilderbrand to declare his unhappiness with the direction of the project.
The amendment would take a huge chunk out of the (allowed) display area, he said. This isnt downtown, this is an auto sales area. You keep nibbling away until you have nothing.
Commission member Ingrid Stevens replied, Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything with what already exists. Were looking toward the future where were trying to have more pedestrian uses, and that directive is coming from elsewhere. In a lot of lots, all you see are cars, and thats not a pedestrian environment. Anywhere else, wed be requiring much more of them.
Hilderbrand replied, In looking to the future, we dont want to handcuff businesses that certainly will want to redevelop. I would hope theyd do it in a pedestrian-friendly manner. But Ive walked along there, and its hard to see it as one big pedestrian mall. This is an auto sales area. Businesses will want to expand, and I dont want to choke them off.
Smith pointed out that the proposed amendments are all less severe than the existing regulations. Larry, we are offering them a lot, and in exchange we want to make it a little more pedestrian-friendly, a little less like a mass lot.
At a hearing the previous week before the Portland Design Commission, some commission members, especially Lloyd Lindley, had questioned whether Manning was being too easy on dealers and giving away too much of the citys intent to make transit stations urban.
The planning commission approved the draft document - Hilderbrand with some reluctance - and kidded Manning that sparing him another hearing before the commission was his Valentine from it.
The next stop for the project will be a hearing before the Portland City Council. Manning told the Memo that this would occur in April at the earliest.