Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Washington County commissioner says adjacent landowners should help pay for sidewalks, bikeways

Posted by on April 23rd, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski.

In a ringing reminder that the ballots arriving May 2 in Washington County will offer residents a choice between two very different futures, a county commissioner is calling for what sounds like a big change in the way street infill projects are paid for.

District 2 incumbent Greg Malinowski, who represents northwest Beaverton and the nearby unincorporated areas, suggested in an Oregonian op-ed Monday that the county should be able to bill property owners for at least some of the cost of “sidewalks and bikeways” along their property.

Here’s the heart of Malinowski’s essay:

If a single new house is built on a lot, the owner is exempt from installing sidewalks regardless of how busy the street is. Once that new house is complete, the owner isn’t prompted again for a sidewalk unless the new house is torn down. Or they’re built only after the county decides that taxpayers have the money to purchase the right of way and build the sidewalk at taxpayer expense. In fact, one of the biggest obstructions to fixing sidewalk gaps in Washington County is the need to purchase rights of way, which can make projects too cost prohibitive to consider.

This is unsustainable. It’s time for the county to change the code and require sidewalks and bikeways. Costs to complete these projects should be shared by landowners/developers and taxpayers. At the very least, we must work with landowners to obtain rights of way more reasonably so we can at least build safety infrastructure at county expense.

It’s an interesting and somewhat vague idea that would have its ups and downs, but there’s no question that it’d help the county connect its fractured active transportation network.

Malinowski writes that his position is motivated by the simple fact that when these facilities are built, people are eager to use them. He tells the story of a sidewalk that was built along 119th Avenue near Cornell Road, where a boy had been killed by a car while walking along the fog line with his sister.

“Even as we were putting it in, planners told us that it wouldn’t be used,” Malinowski writes. “They were wrong. If you make your way over to that part of Washington County, you’ll see large groups of children using that sidewalk daily to get to school.”

Malinowski is opposed in the May 20 election by business consultant Bob Zahrowski, who doesn’t disagree greatly with him on these issues. But the other two races on the ballot, which pit auto-focused incumbents Andy Duyck and Bob Terry against anti-sprawl challengers Allen Amabisca and Elizabeth Furse, will decide whether ideas like Malinowski’s will have a chance of consideration in Oregon’s second most populous county.

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  • 9watts April 23, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    How are the roads, which these sidewalks and bikeways presumably would run along, currently funded?

    Because this looks suspicious to me. Make individuals pay for the derivative sidewalks and bike paths, necessitated by the tax-payer funded roads which make getting around by anything other than a car less than pleasant or dangerous.

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    • scott April 23, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      I agree. This sounds odd.

      Also, what if you moved, in county, to a place with an existing sidewalk/bikeway after having already footed your share at your last home that didn’t have these amenities. Can you apply for a tax credit?

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    • davemess April 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm

      Isn’t this sidewalk part how it works in Portland? I know my neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks (or complete sidewalks) on a vast majority of our streets). The city has always claimed it’s the property owners job to pay for the sidewalk, not the city/county/anyone else.

      Big difference between the two is that we were annexed into Portland with almost all of our houses already existing. This is mainly talking about new construction, correct?

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      • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 9:15 am

        Yes. The City of Portland (citizens of Portland) do not pay for local service streets that only serve the adjacent homes, nor the sidewalk or necessary storm and sewer services there, the local residents, via original development, infill, or local improvement districts, construct such items. The City does construct sidewalk occasionally on higher level streets, but in most cases those upgrades are also paid by devlopment. Also, any time a property is redeveloped, it must meet the current standards, which could mean wider sidewalks, or adding planting strips or storm water facilties.

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  • Chris I April 23, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Seems like the new developers should pay for ALL of the new construction on the road. These projects typically involve road widening, which is much more costly than sidewalks and bike lanes.

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  • Bjorn April 23, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    In corvallis it was routine to assess adjacent property owners when constructing sidewalks. Their property values are positively impacted by the addition of the sidewalk so why shouldn’t they pay at least part of the cost. Personally I think that portland should simply build out all the missing sidewalks in the city and assess adjacent property owners. They could have the option to pay now or when they next sell or refinance their property with a low interest rate in the meantime. The city could bond against the liens and we could have sidewalks now.

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    • 9watts April 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      I guess I’m missing something. The road for cars is (typically) paid for by everyone (,taxes) but the narrow strip for people who might want to walk is to be paid for by the adjacent homeowner? Why?
      The only reason we need special accommodations for people who walk (or bike) is that the car makes the road (where we all used to perambulate) inhospitable for the rest of us.
      = Carhead.

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      • davemess April 23, 2014 at 5:36 pm

        I don’t think that’s right. Apparently, City of Portland will claim that homeowners at one point paid to have the streets paved. Thus the big stink about the many miles of unpaid streets we have in Portland. The property owners don’t have the money to pave them, and the city refuses to citing this “law”.

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      • Bjorn April 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm

        sidewalks are generally on your property (on an easement) the road is not technically on your property. However sometimes but now always when roads are paved the city does use a local improvement district to recoup costs from adjacent homeowners much as I discribed above with the sidewalks. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/82682

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        • davemess April 24, 2014 at 8:42 am

          It is my understanding that this is pretty much the ONLY way your unpaved street will be paved. Improvement Districts sound great on paper, but are really tough on the property owners, and again this are almost exclusively in lower income areas. Basically even if you didn’t vote for the improvement you’re stuck paying the cost (and we’re talking tens of thousands) and if you don’t a lien is put on your property. I’m really interested in paving more of Portland streets, but I really don’t think this is the way to do it.

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      • shirtsoff April 23, 2014 at 8:40 pm

        Sidewalks (and bikeways) improve the usability of a neighborhood and its value. It is not unreasonable that properties that benefit pay for a portion of those improvements. What concerns me is adding extras costs onto the lowest income households.

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      • constance kosuda April 24, 2014 at 6:57 am

        part of the problem with the lack of foresight and responsibility of the “planners” is a failure to adequately provide for public transportation / we shouldn’t all have to drive in cars / remember pollution concerns? you think the air doesn’t affect the water , the soil, our health, our children’s health, etc.,? we can’t all ride bikes / we can’t all walk long distances / we can take public transportation in many instances when it is provided, as it should be , as it is in Portland!

        the planners are a bit myopic, and the developers are getting away with murder.

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        • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 9:19 am

          You can plan all you want, but if the electeds don’t require change, nothing changes. Planners only plan. Engineers only engineer. Singling out one group involved in the process as the group responsible for inaction is unjust.

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    • Terry D April 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      I have yet to track down the source, but I have heard that this is how Bakersfield california does it. When the need arrises for a connected sidewalk, a lein is put on the property if the owner can not afford to pay their share.

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      • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 9:20 am

        Portland has several options to pay for local improvement districts. Financing is the most common method, with the payment added to the annual taxes. Any time an improvement is connected to a property the contractor will place a lien on the property.

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        • Terry D April 24, 2014 at 10:17 am

          Not so bad if it is only 50′ of sidewalk, NOT affordable for the typical homeowner on fixed income on a corner or one who lives on a gravel road. 50′ of improved right of way I read on a city site would cost about $300 a month for 20 years for “their share” of bringing the street up to city standard.

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          • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 2:15 pm

            The street by street process is one new option that is in its infancy in Portland. It permits shared streets, or separated sidewalks and narrow streets, or even just the pedestrian connection. One way the City could help out is to front the engineering costs. this would permit a detailed estimate for each unimproved block. Then what some other jurisdictions do is phase in the work. pay for what you can, as you can. The current paradigm in most of the US is ‘all or nothing’ which is virtually guaranteed to achieve the latter. Something is almost always better than nothing.

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  • Peter W April 23, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    They definitely need to change something about how transportation projects are funded and finished … Washington County is a patchwork quilt of half-built infrastructure for every mode but the automobile at this point.

    Glad to see Greg’s continuing to push forward on these issues. From what I’ve seen while working on the WashCo transportation plan update, he’s up there with Dick Schouten as one of the strongest supporters of active transportation policies on the commission.

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  • J_R April 23, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    The way that it typically works is that when a developer creates a new subdivision, he puts in the entire infrastructure – the storm sewers, water mains, fire hydrants, streets, and sidewalks. He passes the cost of these on to the builders/home buyers as a part of the price of the house.

    The special issue being discussed here is when there is already a lot that was created some time ago. In most cases, the parcel was just a single lot carved off a larger parcel along some old rural road. Now, as development (i.e. subdivisions) have occurred around and beyond it, it’s really an urban street except in front of that parcel. There may even be an old, small house on it.

    In any case, it’s now ripe for development. The problem is that the property owner just wants to build a house. He’s not building a subdivision that would trigger the full infrastructure. Maybe it’s a property that has been in the family for years and he doesn’t think it’s fair for him to have to build all that “stuff.” (Which he’ll claim he doesn’t need.)

    He’ll also complain about the cost. The cost of storm drains, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, etc. can easily run $200 per foot of frontage. Multiplied by 100′ of frontage, and you’re asking the would be homeowner to shell out $20,000 added to the price of the house, permit fees, systems development charges, etc.

    An additional complication is that, in many cases, the right of way on some of these old rural roads is only 25 or 30 feet from the centerline. A modern two-lane road with bike lanes, a planting strip, 5 or 6-foot sidewalk, easement for utilities and maybe a slope easement can run to 40 feet from centerline. Now you’re making the property owner give up another 10 feet of what he considers to be “his front yard.” If it’s a sloped site, that can add further complications as he seeks to get his driveway flat enough and pick a good building site that accounts for required setbacks, etc.

    Many agencies have really struggled with how much they can legally and politically ask of people who “just want to build a new house on their old lot.” That’s the issue that Malinowski seems to be trying to bring to the attention of the public. We should be supporting his effort.

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    • 9watts April 23, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks for the explanation, J_R. I retract most of my misgivings.

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    • q`Tzal April 24, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Another Thank You for your concise translation of legalese to English.

      My knee jerk reaction was that this was some sort of anti-government slight of hand to take responsibility for building safe transportation infrastructure off a municipality and make it an optional choice for owners of formerly rural land who see gumbment imperialism everywhere.

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  • wsbob April 23, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    “…In fact, one of the biggest obstructions to fixing sidewalk gaps in Washington County is the need to purchase rights of way, which can make projects too cost prohibitive to consider. …” Greg Malinowski

    So that the county or city wouldn’t have to purchase rights of way, it would be fine to obligate property owners to grant no charge easements to the city or county for sidewalk, bike lane or cycle track construction. Requiring that property owners pay directly for the construction of the same, in front of their house or business, if that’s what Malinowski is proposing, is probably asking too much.

    Many rights of way for roads and streets were arranged for long ago, before their eventual need for expansion to greater dimensions could be known. It’s understandable that at later dates, it can happen that arrangements with adjoining property owners for public use their land must be made to allow improvements to travel infrastructure to be made. If the infrastructure to be constructed is public, it should be paid for by the public.

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    • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 9:22 am

      The usual term is ‘dedications’.

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  • GlowBoy April 23, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    This is a huge problem in Washington county, where I work – and spend a lot of time on my bike. There are gaps in the sidewalks all over the place — one house will have one, then it will end at the property line only to start up again a couple houses down. What a mess.

    I agree that in new development, the developers should pay for everything, and the county should require that it all be up to code so they can’t cheez out and make the county pay to upgrade it later.

    I think that, at a minimum, the county ought to be able to come in and put in sidewalks where they are deemed needed, whether the property owners like it or not and potentially loses landscaping on what they thought was “their” land.

    I don’t think the property owners should have to pay for the initial construction, however. That would be onerous and unfair. But I do think they should have to pay for sidewalk upkeep, as is the case everywhere.

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    • davemess April 24, 2014 at 8:44 am

      This is a big problem in Portland as well.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu April 23, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Why should a property owner have to pay for a “bikeway” to be constructed in the street that runs by his house? He may never use it. It doesn’t increase his property value. It is a benefit to others, not to him. There is no more reason to expect him to pay for it, than there is to make you pay for the street that runs by your house.

    Sidewalks I can see. Those do increase property values, hardly anyone actually doesn’t walk in front of their house, and anyway sidewalks have been the responsibility of the property owner for so long that everyone bought their house knowing that the sidewalk was their responsibility. But the majority of people do not bicycle in front of their house; indeed, the majority of people don’t bicycle at all.

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    • J_R April 23, 2014 at 11:10 pm

      And the majority of people never have occasion to call the fire department, but they all pay for it with their property taxes, year after year after year.

      Having a place for bicyclists simply means they are not motorists when they go by your house. Besides that, they’ve freed up parking spaces for you downtown and at the mall. Then there’s the gas they’re not buying that would drive up the price for you and the air you breath that’s just a little less polluted. And the list goes on….

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      • John Liu
        John Liu April 24, 2014 at 7:14 am

        The general societal benefits of bikes (less pollution, less traffic, etc) doesn’t benefit that homeowner any more than it benefits everyone else. So there is no reason why that individual should pay for the bikeway while others pay nothing. Bikeways are a broad benefit and the cost should be spread broadly. If we concentrate the cost just on the adjoining homeowners, we’ll just fuel opposition to bike infrastructure.

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        • davemess April 24, 2014 at 8:53 am

          You can make pretty much the exact same arguments for roads and sidewalks.

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          • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 9:24 am

            Or schools for people without children. the list is long of social goods with general but not specific benefit to every participant.

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            • Brian E April 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm

              Most people went to school themselves when they were kids. No? So, they owe society for the rest of there productive life. That’s my line of thinking.

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              • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 2:17 pm

                No disagreement here. Many of the accepted social institutions provide benefits to society at large that for many individuals cannot be easily quantified.

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        • wsbob April 24, 2014 at 10:11 am

          “The general societal benefits of bikes (less pollution, less traffic, etc) doesn’t benefit that homeowner any more than it benefits everyone else. So there is no reason why that individual should pay for the bikeway while others pay nothing. …” John Liu

          The homeowner, property owner, should pay something, as in ‘their fair share’, rather than the whole shebang, if that’s what’s happening in situations like Rosie describes in her comment:


          I’m as oblivious as some other people are, about who pays to have sidewalks retrofitted to older neighborhood streets that don’t have them. Last year, in a neighborhood near mine, a couple of whose streets make a well used walking route to the mall, the county constructed sidewalks (being economical, on just one side of the street.).

          I can’t say I know whether the adjoining property owners had to pay a big assessed sum specifically for that construction, or whether the money for the project was drawn from a county budget, funded by a levy or some such thing.

          This is probably a low-middle income neighborhood. The sidewalks definitely were needed, although indications are, the need for them was greatest on the part of people other than the residents or owners of the adjoining properties.

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  • wsbob April 24, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Malinowski’s essay also includes a story about access to a school without a decent crossing to it from housing across the street.

    He mentions along with telling of this story, that kids have to be transported distances as little as 1200′ to schools where they don’t have sidewalks to get there. His implied suggestion, is that developers be required to build connecting sidewalks to meet their permit requirements.

    That’s interesting. In his view, should developers also be required to build connecting sidewalks that may be used mainly by adults, to nearby town centers, or churches?

    It can be a strong argument that a sizable development will create demand for greater vehicle carrying capability from connecting roads. Connecting sidewalks, or (even better) centrally located connecting pedestrian-bike esplanades within some developments (meaning this pedestrian-bike infrastructure would not be directly next to busy thoroughfares.), should be built towards helping mitigate vehicle traffic congestion that development produces.

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  • Rosie April 24, 2014 at 7:38 am

    As a resident on an unpaved street in Portland, in a pretty poor area of town, I think Malinowski’s idea is well-intended but not very well thought out. The City of Portland has suggested doing something similar here to build streets/sidewalks: do the work, then bill the adjacent homeowners. The cost for a full build? $95,000+ for our home, and more for those with wider lots. Considering that the average homeowner on our street spent $120,000 to purchase a home, that is jaw-droppingly expensive. Ideas like this will make poor neighborhoods poorer and steeply drive up rents for those who don’t own.

    I thought the benefit of having a government was spreading the financial responsibility for big-ticket, open-to-the-public items like roads, schools, parks, and other improvements. I just don’t get this idea of asking individual existing homeowners to cough up tens of thousands of dollars in nonexistent money.

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    • davemess April 24, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Yes, our Neighborhood Association has pretty much given up on working on this issue because the city has been very staunch in their position.

      The thing that irks me most is the city’s refusal to maintain the “dirt/gravel” roads. So essentially we are paying the same amount of taxes and getting way less benefit/services. (Granted there is a big backlog of maintenance already)

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      • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

        The citizens of portland do not maintain roads that have not been improved. Residents on those streets can maintain their roads under other programs. Since your neighborhood has not constructed even minimal roads under current city guidelines, there are no maintenance costs to the city that you are contributing to. General revenue does not go toward road maintenance. If your road was in the inventory, the maintenance of it would be added to the backlog, then you might have an arguement.

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      • davemess April 24, 2014 at 12:18 pm

        That is just circular logic. I’m saying I think it’s wrong that the city has a policy of not maintaining “unimproved” roads. They’re still city property.

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        • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 2:23 pm

          You’re proposing to change the rules so that people, who currently and have in the past paid for their local streets as part of their home purchase cost (or avoided that cost by choosing an unpaved road) don’t have to pay in the future. It seems you’re proposing that all of Portland’s currrent residents share in the cost to improve those sub-standard streets. From what source of existing or new revenue?

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          • davemess April 24, 2014 at 3:19 pm

            So an unpaved road was never paid for? I’m saying that Portland should maintain ALL of it’s assets, whether they have pavement or not. A grading attachment would not cost very much, and would be significantly cheaper than the costs of filling pot holes and repaving other streets. They should be equal with all other streets. So we should use existing revenue to maintain them as well. People living on these roads pay the same taxes as everyone else (however you want to say the maintenance is funded- car registration, gas tax, property tax, etc.

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    • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Curious about your lot size. Owners are only responsible for their half of the street. Most streets pencil out around $1,000 to $1500 per foot for a standard street, including curb and walks. Your half might approach $750 per foot, so your lot would have to have 126 ft of frontage. that’s pretty big by Portland standards, where most lots are 75 ft wide or less.

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  • gutterbunny April 24, 2014 at 8:17 am

    I cannot in anyway support the the city or any other government agency threatening to place liens on property owners who can’t pay for these improvements.

    The lien can dramatically affect the ability of the owner to borrow against the property for any number of reasons – business start up, medical emergency, college educations for kids.

    Or worse yet, the lien could end up in the city basically taking the properties when liens can’t be payed. Is this a potentially a land grab move?

    New subdivisions, yes the developer needs to put them in.

    But in the existing pockets the city needs to buck up and get it done. Really it’s the cities fault they aren’t there to begin with since the code allowed the properties to be built without. And those properties that were before code also deserve a payout for the use of land.

    Though if there is a beaten path through properties between sidewalks, you could probably legally claim it is already a public right of way, regardless of legal easements, and thus not have to pay for the right of way.

    Though perhaps the best way, would be to make sidewalks legally necessary for the transfer of the property title. This way the price can be rolled into and negotiated during sale and the costs either taken from the asking price of the seller or rolled into the mortgage.

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    • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 9:35 am

      free improvements to private property? How are you going to pay for that?
      Liens are not a threat, they are the legally permissible guarantee that a contractor will be paid. The property is the collateral.
      Why would you expect the citizens of portland to not to be paid back after financing the private property improvements?
      we’re the government, btw, all of us.

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      • gutterbunny April 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

        Liens from the government aren’t quite the same as construction liens. But either way a lien takes away the only real advantage of property ownership, which incidentally isn’t profit, but leverage.

        Liens make it possible for someone to take your property with very little money on the line. In theory, a $1.00 lien can grant the lien holder the ability to take ownership of a $1 million property. Which is why banks don’t lend on property with existing liens.

        The city and state has often sells these liens as investments. If the payments aren’t made, the property is seized and given to the investor. (In fact it’s about that time of the year for Portland the lien sales, they take place in June if I remember right). You should check them out sometimes if you really want see the ugliest side of real estate investing – there are some that my above example isn’t too far out of line.

        And mind you most single family unit property owners aren’t developers, or real estate holding companies. It’s people and families- mostly middle class – most of which invest in their property not just as a place to live, but as part of lifelong investment, for many it’s the only plan. It’s what makes college possible for their kids, it’s what makes retirement possible, it’s the financial security cushion in case of emergencies.

        And for many the people this proposal would effect, it could be financially devastating.

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      • davemess April 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm

        So a public road is now private property?

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  • Dan April 24, 2014 at 8:49 am

    The Waterhouse Trail in Beaverton is a THPRD project that has long ‘finished’ sections, but it can’t really be completed without curb cuts on every street that it crosses, and that is Washington County’s responsibility. Some parts of this trail have been around for years without curb cuts in place, forcing people to ride down the sidewalk looking for a way on & off the path. It’s not clear to me that these are even on the county’s radar (in other words, they are not responding to my emails).

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  • Spiffy April 24, 2014 at 9:17 am

    one of my old landlords on SE 105th Ave complained that he couldn’t build a house next to the one I was renting because the city required that he install curbs, sidewalks, and the sewer pipe to manage the runoff… it would have taken his profit away…

    I had no sympathy… housing isn’t supposed to be about profit… and the people that live there will need a place to walk…

    I’m happy that Portland is making builders put in sidewalks…

    now if we can just get people to stop planting trees in the future right-of-way (I’m looking at you, Friends of Trees), seize the easement as the home-owner’s contribution, and the city (e.g. taxpayers) pays to install the sidewalks…

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    • John Liu
      John Liu April 24, 2014 at 9:38 am

      “housing isn’t supposed to be about profit” – then why will anyone bother to build housing? People aren’t going to spend $500K and companies aren’t going to spend $500MM out of the goodness of their hearts. All the housing we live in today was built in the pursuit of profit. That is how housing gets built.

      I’m aware of a couple of vacant properties on “unimproved” streets (no sidewalks, some are not even paved) that are impossible to build on. The property owner would have to pay to build sidewalks and street improvements for the whole block, which is economically impossible for someone trying to build a single house. The neighbors are content with no sidewalks/gravel road and unwilling (or unable) to contribute to the cost. Those properties will remain vacant lots, until/unless someone goes in and builds a 4 or 6 unit multi-family building. Or unless new housing models are developed. For example, those vacant lots would work fine as a pad for several “tiny house” trailers. Currently, there is no clear regulatory path to do that.

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    • gutterbunny April 24, 2014 at 10:28 am

      Think about some of the developments in Washington county. A farmer decides retire a few years ago and sold off most the property to a developer, makes some decent money and uses most the money of the sale to pay off the loans s/he accumulated while farming so most the profit from the sale is gone. S/He keeps the parcel where farmhouse house is to live in, and it’s about 1 acre of land with 500′ of road frontage. House is paid off, old debts gone, got a few dollars invested to carry them through retirement.

      But now the city/county come in and says they gotta pay for 500′ of sidewalk, at 10 k for 50′ you suddenly burdened them with at least 100k of debt.

      Could potentially cost the owner much more, add a culvert that runs under the road that you bridge over, soft agricultural land would likely need extra steps of groundwork before the sidewalk is poured, mabey the property has an old drainage ditch where the sidewalk has to be which they’d have to fill. Much of these changes would also require water run off studies and environmental impact studies. Suddenly that 100k might turn into 1 million. Much more than the house and remaining property is worth.

      Sure maybe they can sell it to a developer again. But if the house was only worth say 500k and the developers know that they’re going to have spend say 300k on sidewalk infrastructure, you think the developers are buy for more than 200k. So you’ve also just lowered the property value, Which the farmer might need in a few years (even if s/he doesn’t build and accepts the lien) when s/he gets dementia or cancer and the family needs every dollar it can get for hospice or treatments. But wait they can’t cause no bank is going to take on a loan on a property with 300k lien on it.

      Lets look at Portlands east side, where many of the houses that lack sidewalks are in neighborhoods where the median house price is still in the 150-200k average. You’re going to make these people, many long time residents, retired folks etc spend 10%-20%+ (more if it’s a corner lot) of their properties value for sidewalks that they legally didn’t need to have before.

      I admit that I don’t really have a dog in this race, I got a sidewalk on my property. But there are many in my neighborhood that don’t, and they also live on unimproved roads as well. So what’s the next step, you going to make them pay for paving the roads as well.

      Sidewalks are part of the commons, and if the city want’s them, it’s their job to pay for them from the taxes they collect.

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  • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Is your coalition of trail users lobbying the correct persons? electeds?
    single voices are easier to dismiss. coalitions protesting in front of TV cameras are not.

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  • Joe April 24, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Anyone ever notice the ” side walks to no where ” its like they stop. hmm do we need to fix it.. I say yes!

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    • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 10:01 am


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  • John Liu
    John Liu April 24, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Or schools for people without children. the list is long of social goods with general but not specific benefit to every participant.
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    Sure, but we don’t concentrate the cost of schools and roads on just those people who are unlucky enough to live next to them.

    I’m fine with spreading the cost of broad societal benefits very broadly, across all people in the community. What doesn’t make sense is concentrating those costs, forcing just a few people to pay for projects that will benefit the whole community.

    Suppose the city needs a new sewer plant and decides to build it next to you. Would it make sense to require you to pay for the plant, merely because you happen to live next to it?

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    • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Of course not, since the benefit is for a very larger cohort. The local service street in front of most homes is used primarily by the local residents of the neighborhood, it does not benefit everyone in the city.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu April 24, 2014 at 11:54 am

        Is that true if you live on a major aka arterial street? If you could stand on NE Sandy, E Burnside, SE Powell, NE Glisan, etc and with x-ray eyes determine the home address of all the drivers using the road, what percent would actually live near where you are standing?

        If we are talking about a small residential street that serves just local traffic and kids playing ball, I would agree – but that isn’t where the bikeways or other infrastructure improvements are going in.

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        • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm

          I was specific in my use of the word local service street. The streets you listed are not local service streets.

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          • John Liu
            John Liu April 25, 2014 at 11:28 am

            If we limit the “adjacent resident pays” concept to “local service streets” then it becomes mostly irrelevant. Expensive bike infrastructure is generally not being installed on small residential streets.

            Although, hmm, here is a recent possible exception. The latest 20’s bikeway plans apparently include traffic lights on NE 30th – a small residential street, I’d say – at Burnside and a couple other arterials. Should the people who live on those corner lots be compelled to collectively pay $1MM+ for the traffic lights?

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      • davemess April 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm

        But it could benefit every one, as it’s a public street. Any resident has just as much right to use it as anyone else. We’re not talking about private ownership of roads. You are talking about a slippery slope of essentially user fees, where clearly some areas of the city are going to lose out to others.

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    • J_R April 24, 2014 at 10:15 am

      No, it would not be “fair” to charge just those who live next to the sewer plant the whole cost, but that’s not a reasonable comparison. But, yes, you are responsible for the line running from your house to the sewer main in the street.

      In the case of the roads, I think it is fair to charge the adjacent owner for the cost of the storm sewer, curb, gutter, sidewalk and part of the street. Notice that I said part of the street. Most cities and counties only require the property owner to pay for the equivalent of a half (or less) of a local street. If it the street has more lanes and is wider, the city or county pays for that.

      I have already paid for the street and sidewalk in front of my house (it was included in the price of the house when I bought it from the developer.) Where’s the fairness in now asking me to pay increased taxes or participate in an assessment district to pay for the same think in front of someone else’s house?

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      • wsbob April 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm

        “…Where’s the fairness in now asking me to pay increased taxes or participate in an assessment district to pay for the same think in front of someone else’s house?” J_R

        The fairness for the public, of which you’re a part, to pay, may be associated with situations where the street in front of someone’s house is sees over a certain level of public use. As in the example of the 1200′ foot distance to schools that Malinowski cites in his essay. Or, as I cited in my comment above, neighborhood streets that more than others become routes from within or through neighborhoods to services and amenities such as schools, shops, churches and so on.

        Communities do need safe routes to schools, and shops, and churches, not just for kids, but for adults also. Big developments bringing more people into areas, do place additional demand on existing infrastructure. Determining exactly how it can be fair for expansion of that infrastructure to be paid for is not as simple as it appears some people would like to think.

        From what he writes in his essay, I can’t tell what Malinowski thinks would be a fair way of distributing cost of infrastructure to individuals or the public.

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  • davemess April 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    “I have already paid for the street and sidewalk in front of my house (it was included in the price of the house when I bought it from the developer.”

    Who likely had some kind of subsidy to do so.

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    • paikikala April 24, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      That’s a pretty left-field statement, unless you can provide some evidence to support it.

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      • davemess April 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm

        So above Rosie quoted out $95K for “upgrades” for her property (which apparently you disagree with). Is that what you think developers routinely pay? Is so, I fail to see how they could possibly be making much profit on many of their builds.

        I understand your defense of the rules of law on this subject. I disagree with the those rules, and think that with Portland’s history of annexation (often times unwanted) this city has created a difficult situation, where almost all of these roads are in neighborhoods where few residents have any means to “improve” them. And because of this we’re one of the worst cities for unpaved roads in the country (we’re ahead of Oklahoma City though!)!

        I hope you have read this, but if not:

        “But there’s a bigger problem with the city’s policy—it’s based on a total falsehood. That particular version of city history was thoroughly debunked in a report provided to Willamette Week by PBOT itself.

        In a 2000 report to City Council about funding for street improvements, an expert panel delved into the history of Portland infrastructure. They called the notion that property owners have always borne the cost of paving streets a “long-standing myth.”

        As recently as 2000, the study found, the city was paying most or all of the costs to pave many streets, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

        “The implication of this myth was that property owners paid almost entirely for their street, a proposition that is nowhere near the truth,” the report says. “It is much more accurate, and also much more relevant to the problems we face today, to state that property owners have almost always helped pay for at least a portion of the costs for improving their streets.””

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        • 9watts April 24, 2014 at 5:21 pm

          Fascinating. Thanks for posting this.
          When I sat on a citizen advisory committee that focused on sorting out the nonconforming sewer mess a few years back, BES staff tried to tell us similar fictions about how sewer connections had come to be so diverse, that it was because folks were ‘trying to save a buck,’ skip the proper procedures, when in fact some digging showed that the City had (starting in the 1960s) cajoled homeowners with, for instance, septic systems to connect to the city sewer by whatever route and method they could, and quickly, please. Only to come back fifty years later and justify sticking homeowners with hefty fees, ostensibly because they (or those they’d bought or inherited their houses from) had taken the cheap/unofficial route intially.

          A careful revisit of the history of infrastructure financing would be a great public service.

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  • Tim April 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Yes – property owners should pay for sidewalks. I paid for the street and sidewalk in front of my house and if you have sidewalks in your neighborhood, you paid for them. Some houses don’t have sidewalks or paved streets because the owners never paid for them in the first place.
    How a street is born – there are basically the ways that roads came to be roads
    1) The strip of land between adjoining properties or a trail used for transportation is a common law right of way. At some point this strip being used for transportation is surveyed and is recognized as a public easement. If the road is further developed the easement is often purchased by the local agency doing the development. Most of these easements date to before the widespread use of the automobile and often the easements were granted without charge to the county in exchange for county maintenance.
    2) Streets, sidewalks and utilities are constructed to city and county standards by the developer and the cost is past on to the purchasers of lots. The street property along with the liability for maintenance is granted to the city or county. Note that the city and county did not pay for the construction of the street or sidewalk. The liability for sidewalk maintenance usually stays with the property. If you street has a pothole it is city property and the city is liable for the repairs, but the property owner will be required to repair the sidewalk. If you don’t have a sidewalk it is because you didn’t pay for it.
    3) Interstate highways and new major arterial connectors are funded through a variety of public and private sources including taxes and development fees.
    Hope this helps some to understand why cars don’t pay for streets and why some areas don’t have sidewalks.

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  • Skid April 28, 2014 at 12:16 am

    I guess you have to live in Beaverton or unincorporated Aloha to understand this. See, there are many streets out here that don’t have sidewalks. When one property on the street is develop it HAS TO put in a sidewalk. The result is there are sidewalk sections where development is taking place but no sidewalk where it has not occurred. Requiring adjacent properties to may extend the chunk of sidewalk but it may not make them connect. SW Blanton St. between SW 165th and SW 185th is a good example of this.

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