|Gateway rezoning gets first hearing
Developers call for looser regulations, residents call for lower heights
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
The Portland Planning Commission held its first hearing in September on the proposed Gateway Planning Regulations Project, a wholesale revision of planning and zoning rules for the area. As expected, the commission took no action that September evening. They are expected to review proposed revisions to the draft in a work session scheduled for December.
In the case of one major issue, it will take longer yet. The Ron Tonkin Dealerships hoped to use the process to remove or revise rules that require that open space be part of large sites when they are redeveloped. City planner Joe Zehnder told the Memo that this may in fact occur - but not as part of this process. Otherwise, most of those who spoke addressed themselves to one of a few distinct issues.
Consultant Peter Fry, representing Tonkin, complained that the company was being regulated out of existence. Much of the regulations governing the site are based on its proximity to the Northeast 122nd Avenue and E. Burnside Street, MAX light rail station and aspirations to create pedestrian-friendly development in the area. Fry argued that the act of walking around the site and looking at cars was itself a pedestrian activity. That the site is primarily surface parking doesnt make it an under-utilization of land, as the city argues; We bring in 70,000 people a year who make the area vital, Fry said. The image of Hawthorne and Northwest 23rd doesnt fit 122nd Avenue, which is more than 100 feet wide. The company has no problem with requiring connectivity through the site as long as it means bike and pedestrian paths rather than roads, Fry said. As to open space, he suggested it would be better for property owners to contribute money to development of open space elsewhere than make them provide it on their property.
Dick Cooley, chair of the Opportunity Gateway Program Advisory Committee (PAC), and Arlene Kimura, chair of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, had a different view. Cooley said he feels strongly about treating a station area as a parking lot.
As to connectivity, he said, Their (Tonkins) idea of it seems to be the ability to walk from the parking lot to the sales area. They seem to be saying We were here first, there shouldnt be any rules for us, and that really alarms me.
Kimura supported some changes that would benefit Tonkin such as allowing them to do vehicle repair work as a part of their dealership and not requiring them to build housing as part of a redevelopment; It never worked and Im glad its being removed, she said of this requirement. However, keeping the Station Area designation on 122nd Avenue is very important, she said. Right now there are no sidewalks, no reason for people to want to walk there, she said.
Too much regulation
At the same Planning Commission hearing in September, other major landholders weighed in on other interests. Steve Abel, representing PAC Trust, owner of 31 acres in Gateway that includes the Gateway Shopping Center, said that zoning code requirements were a disincentive to redevelop. The proposed code provides some flexibility, but doesnt dismiss the requirements, he said. Asked if the changes represented an improvement over the status quo he said it was a close call.
As to the codes current housing requirement for new development, Abel said, This hasnt worked anywhere in the city. If you really want housing, zone it residential. Ah, we have a solution! commission chair Ethan Seltzer said.
Beverly Bookin, representing Providence Health Systems and its Gateway Medical Office Building, located on the hill just west of the Gateway Shopping Center next to I-84 at 1321 N.E. 99th Ave., protested the open space requirement. Already, Bookin said, homeless people and drug dealers are congregating on the property and shooting up in the bathrooms. We dont want to create a magnet for that kind of behavior.
Seltzer gave Bookin a series of sarcastic questions. I know youre opposed in principle to providing open space, but youre apparently counting on there being continued homelessness and drug dealing in Gateway, he said. Is it that Providence doesnt want people coming?
Seven different speakers protested requirements that new development at Portland Adventist Academy, 1500 S.E. 96th Ave., have windows at ground floor level facing the street, which they protested would be a safety concern.
Lynn Borden, supported by several of her neighbors, thanked staff for rezoning her Northeast Wasco Street home from R2 to R7, the zone it had prior to the passage of the Outer Southeast Neighborhood Plan.
Too much height
That plan also zoned the West side of Northeast 103rd Avenue from residential to CM (a mixed-use commercial zone) on the theory that it would eventually be part of redevelopment on adjacent property along Northeast 102nd Avenue, between Glisan and East Burnside Street. Joe Rinella and his neighbors, as they have for the past year, protested a pattern that would leave them in the shadow of very high buildings overlooking their back yards. Property along Northeast 102nd Avenue currently can contain buildings up to 120 feet high. Staff has proposed lowering the height limit to 100 feet. The Opportunity Gateway PAC declared this too high; they deadlocked over whether 75 feet was a reasonable limit.
Conversely, 102nd Avenue property owner Gordon Jones said restricted height would make redevelopment of his narrow lots difficult. I purchased this property with the zoning and height limits in place, he said. You need to respect the fact that if youre going to have development you need to have consistency. We need confidence that zoning will stay in place, and not be a moving target.
Commission member and former chair Rick Michaelson noted that where to draw lines between zones, whether along streets or at mid-block, has long been an issue with city planners
At the conclusion of the hearing Planning Commission chair Seltzer told those left, Your testimony was very helpful, constructive, and to the point. It will make Gateway better.
MEMO Advertising | MEMO Archives | MEMO Web Neighbors | MEMO Staff | Home