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Commissioner Fritz wants changes to SW Ankeny proposal

Posted by on June 20th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz

Commissioner Fritz.
(Photo © J. Maus)

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.”

Streetview of SW Ankeny looking west toward 3rd.

She continued,

“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.

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Paul Manson
Guest

Amanda asks some good questions. What I like is that these are the basis for having a standing policy on how to remove motorized access from right of ways. That is a huge step and as it is thought out it pays to be deliberate. If this is a model that works, I hope it can thoughtfully be expanded in use.

I do have some worries that low stress or non-motorized streets will be allowed where the adjacent land uses and owners can pay for it, but that is another bridge to cross at this point.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

I thought this was just going to be a carfree road segment, I didn’t think it was going to be private property which is what Fritz’s spin sounds like.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

If the ordinance is as stated above, Fritz was right to derail it. I was upset when I heard it, but now agree.

A car-free street should not be car-free for the purpose of financial gain of a couple cafes.

It should be for the safe conveyance of people down a street that is too narrow for other traffic anyway.

And let’s not be fooled.
No sidewalk riding is allowed in this region, which truly means no bicycles would be legally allowed to ride down the piece of street we call SW Ankeny anymore.(that one block piece anyway)

Art Fuldodger
Guest
Art Fuldodger

Amanda does have some good questions. But, as the photo illustrates, this is a conversion from motor vehicle storage/movement to commercial use by pedestrians. The physical pedestrian access is essentially the same, and the ped environment will (presumably) be a lot better. Unless this presents a problem for other cyclists (i don’t use it), I’m for it. But the commercial use does give me pause.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“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.” Amanda Fritz

Amanda Fritz seems to have a grasp of what’s being given away: “…the entire 18 feet of pavement for private uses…”.

Doesn’t sound though as though she’s trying very hard to maintain a throughway for any kind of bike travel whatsoever. Pedestrians wanting to travel the street will be confined to the 6′ sidewalks next to the buildings…having to dodge wait staff and patrons running in and out of the businesses to use the bathroom…or to serve extra business resulting from the sidewalk cafe concept, will the street also be acquiring porta-potties…if so, will Ankeny St porta-potties be ‘for customers only’?

By the figures cited in the story, the street is 18′ wide, and the sidewalks are each 6′ wide: a total width of 30′ from building to building. 10′ right down the center of the street could easily allow pedestrian and bike throughway, allowing the street to continue to function on a reduced level, as a street.

Businesses on both sides of the street could have 10′ out from the buildings, including use of the sidewalks, to place their tables.

Steve B
Guest

I support Amanda (and Sisters of the Road) in their position to bring public seating to our first carfree street. I’d like to stop by and hang here without always having to buy something, and I’m sure others will bring their lunches perhaps from around the block and might come by to sit down and eat.

This is how many of NYC’s car-space-to-people-space projects work, and I’d love to see public seating become a component to what will undoubtably be more and more carfree street closures in the future. Thanks, Amanda, for your leadership

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

I agree, there should be more public seating/lounging. What’s the point of having it carfree if you have to pay to use it? Ridiculous. Who cares if they can’t serve alcohol.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

wsbob
Doesn’t sound though as though she’s trying very hard to maintain a throughway for any kind of bike travel whatsoever

Well, considering that it is being designated as a sidewalk, and that it is inside the “No cycling on sidewalks” area it is not surprising that there is no support for bicycle traffic.

fw
Guest
fw

Go Amanda for standing up for social justice/equity issues!

As for the bike access issue, I think it’s irrelevant. That block on SW Ankeny isn’t necessary for getting around downtown.

Bill Stites
Guest

Kudos to Amanda Fritz for vetting the policy on this.
Public access must not only be maintained, but inviting.

Full conversion of the street to business use is OUTRAGEOUS [if this is, in fact, the proposal]. With a street this small, you can bet there will appear some subtle marks down the middle of the street, with tables abutting L and R. Leaving only the existing sidewalks for access is chuck full o’ interference. Access needs to be right down the middle [6 ft.?], and I would hope for at least a 15 – 20′ table-free zone at each end. Some public seating? Of course.

Love this idea, but it needs to be done right. What were the other 4 thinking? This is really important – I would consider such Public/Private balancing as fundamental to public policy as “Church and State” distinctions.

D.R. Miller
Guest
D.R. Miller

For this the bike community organized and held Car Free City Day (more than once if I’m not mistaken) on Ankeny? So it can be an oversized restaurant seating area? What about in winter when no one wants to sit outside anyway? Will it still be illegal then to ride down the “18 foot wide sidewalk”?
I’m strongly in favor of streets given over to ped/bike. But there needs to be the balance that includes bikes somehow. No bike-riding access at all seems simply not right. Principle of the thing. And are there any plans for a bike corral?

kenny heggem
Guest

A bike corral could make a nice addition. No reason folks could not be informed via sign-age to “walk your bike”. I am happy Amanda had the vision to really think this out. More pedestrian friendly areas would create a better downtown experience, if this works, it might spread. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Granted, a middle lane split for bikes and peds sounds like something worth investigating. I recall a pretty impressive network like this in outdoor seating areas, bars, etc around Amsterdam.

banjo
Guest
banjo

How about focusing on a serious road diet to SW 3rd between Burnside and Ash? That stretch of SW 3rd is wide enough to land a 747 on it.

So what does Sisters of the Road and the homeless have to do with Ankeny?

BicycleDave
Guest
BicycleDave

This little stretch of Ankeny does not need a bike lane. It is unnecessary for moving around this part of town. I’ve stopped at Voodoo Doughnuts several times and still never used it. If you’re eating lunch at an outdoor table do you really want bikes zipping by?

I like the idea of some public seating, but it was not necessary to derail this proposal to get it.

OnTheRoad
Guest
OnTheRoad

Even the sidewalk cafe regulations require a pass-thru zone for pedestrians. But being able to walk thru the seating area may not feel the same as using a public sidewalk.

For example, try walking thru the Pambiche outside table area at NE 28th & Glisan. It feels like you have wandered into a private restaurant. To really savor the experience, try wandering thru the rows of tables with a laundry basket to get to the laundromat next door.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Seems like there should be a 10-12 foot pedestrian/walk-your-bike throughway down the middle where no tables or cafe business can be set up. I don’t like the idea of the whole ROW being given free reign by businesses.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

To be fair the city isn’t offering to “give” anything away. They were requiring the businesses to pay the full amount that parking on that street would generate over the period of the trial. If they are going to reduce the benefit to the businesses then they should charge them less. Also I am not sure that I agree with the sisters of the road that we need more places for spangers to sit on that block, the last time I tried to walk down that street there were so many of them blocking the sidewalk I had to walk in the street.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

It sounds like there’s general consensus among comments. I also was upset when I first heard about it. But then the proposal was advertized simply as ‘conversion to carfree street’ without making clear the implication that it would be an outdoor restaurant seating area. Fritz is definately right in forcing the conversation on how much PUBLIC access there is. I wouldn’t feel worried about lack of bike access, but I the proposal definately needs more than one public table/seating, a bike corral, and plenty of space for the public.

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

@wsbob I mean 10 obnoxious high school aged kids who could afford the cigarettes they were smoking sitting on the sidewalk in such a way to make it impossible to use aggressively panhandling for money. In short Spangers.

Tim Davis
Guest
Tim Davis

Here’s the biggest irony, and it sounds like many of you agree:

I love Amanda’s three-point plan, except for her second point: adding a bike lane. I’m a HUGE cycling advocate, as are you amazing folks, but I agree with Rob Sadowsky on both of his counterpoints in that: a) it’s only one tiny block, so cyclists are not losing a thing here, and 2) we’re trying to create a relaxing environment in which (for once) pedestrians don’t have to worry about a single cyclist rolling through at 20 mph. I would really love seeing that be the case, and I bike all over the place!

I don’t see any rallying cry for a bike lane there. In fact, Commissioner Fritz might be finding the opposite to be true for both (and especially) the “other 99%” of the popuation and even the 1% representing the biggest cycling advocates.

We have huge, HUGE amounts of work to do to make Portland the least bit cycling-friendly in most parts of the city, but this one block not only means nothing to us, but I’d love to see a nice, calm atmosphere in which everyone is walking. Like someone else said, let’s just have a nice sidewalk cafe with no cyclists zipping by.

I’d probably love to bike through the new SW Ankeny on a bike, but if I were a pedestrian (which is clearly the best way to enjoy this new configuration), I’d find it annoying to be dodging cyclists in an urban area that’s already distracting enough. Let’s just have ONE peaceful block to enjoy, whether we’re walking through, meeting someone, taking in the great atmosphere, or supporting one of those great businesses on the block!

I’ve walked through the three best (and the only car-free) streets in San Francisco many times: Belden Place, Maiden Lane and Macondray Lane. I don’t recall EVER buying a single thing on any of those streets. But I ALWAYS went out of my way to walk through those beautiful, peaceful stretches, without being concerned about cars, cyclists or anyone else rushing through. Let’s bring the emergency clause back, keep the bike lane out (again, it’s ONE block, which does nothing for us), and have fun!

Cheers,
Tim

Jim F
Guest
Jim F

This is why it takes forever to get anything done in Portland. We can’t do something unless it pleases EVERYONE. So, yes, let’s have ONE BLOCK with a bike lane, sidewalks, a nice little sitting area for homeless people. Why not add a bike corral? Maybe some food carts? Why not a really expensive self-cleaning toilet too? Oh, and an extension of the trolley line (but make sure you put foam of whatever in the tracks for those folks who have reached adulthood without learning how to cross train tracks on a bike). Then maybe we can complete the otherwise simple task of turning a crappy block into something useful and nice.

Fritz should run for the school board. She’d be perfect.

007
Guest
007

Go Amanda!

Unit
Guest
Unit

It turns out Amanda was right on. The issues she raised in this article are almost exactly the problems that have occurred.