Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 20th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has further explained her concerns with the existing carfree SW Ankeny proposal. Last week we shared how Fritz threw a wrench in PBOT’s plans to convert one block of Ankeny between 2nd and 3rd Avenues downtown into a sidewalk cafe — making it a carfree street.
The ordinance came up last week but failed to pass unanimously (which was required due it having an “emergency” clause) with Fritz being the only no vote. At the meeting, she heard testimony from a representative of Sisters of the Road, a non-profit that helps Portland’s homeless. We reported that Fritz’s concerns were based on how the proposal would impact access to the street by citizens who were not paying customers of the businesses.
“The Ankeny Street proposal is to dedicate the entire 18 feet of pavement for private uses, with no bike throughway (other than walking bikes on the 6 foot sidewalks above the curbs) and no place for people to sit other than those buying from the restaurants. That doesn’t seem like a reasonable allocation of resources and benefits.”
— Commissioner Fritz
The way the ordinance now stands, several cafes would be given the rights to have chairs and tables in the street (which would become a de facto sidewalk that extends curb-to-curb) and they would not be required to make any space available for use of the public. People on bikes and all other pass-through traffic would use the existing sidewalks.
In defense of the proposal, PBOT says it, “Would be a net gain for the public and not have an adverse impact on the movement of people and goods.” PBOT sees the project as a way to spur business with the cafes while creating a more human-centered street free of cars.
In response to questions I emailed her about the proposal, Commissioner Fritz wrote, “Giving up public right-of-way is always a huge responsibility for me” and that she just wants to make sure the project can “provide more benefits for more citizens.”
“The Ankeny Street proposal is to dedicate the entire 18 feet of pavement for private uses, with no bike throughway (other than walking bikes on the 6 foot sidewalks above the curbs) and no place for people to sit other than those buying from the restaurants. That doesn’t seem like a reasonable allocation of resources and benefits. It doesn’t match what we allow in the rest of downtown. It doesn’t share the public space of the street, it gives it entirely to private uses.”
Fritz says she likes the proposal overall and that she wants to see it move forward. In order for it to get her vote, she like to see:
1) A bench, table, or planter with an attached seat, at the 3rd Avenue end of the street, where there is a triangle of right-of-way in Ankeny Street by Voodoo Donuts not allocated to the restaurant areas. This would allow parents with small children, or elderly pedestrians, or anyone else to rest and enjoy the atmosphere of the closed street without having to pay to sit in the alcohol-serving area.
2) A bike lane on one side of the street or the other, next to the curb, to allow bike thoroughfare in the newly-carless street. I didn’t receive any testimony about this, however, so if the cycling community is OK with the proposal as outlined, this isn’t a deal-breaker for me.
3) A report required at the end of the pilot, detailing the pros and cons experienced and giving advice on potential other conversions of streets to joint public and private non-car use. We should look at other cities where streets have been converted to non-auto uses, some all public, some all private, some a mixture.
As for number 2, I don’t think Fritz will hear much rallying from the “bike community” for a bike lane. I talked with BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky about it and he says losing bike through-access on this one block wouldn’t be that big of a deal — especially if the goal is to create a relaxing street atmosphere where people on foot could enjoy the space without worrying about bikes rolling through. This block of Ankeny also isn’t an important connection in the bike network.
Fritz says if she can reach agreement on those changes outlined above, she’d be willing to vote in favor of the ordinance when it comes back to Council this week. In interest of time, Fritz says she’d be happy to put the emergency clause back on so it can be implemented immediately (PBOT’s initial plans were to have a grand opening on the street tomorrow).
We’ll keep you posted.