Harvest Century September 22nd

Milwaukie approves proposal to demolish downtown buildings for parking lot

Posted by on January 21st, 2015 at 4:59 pm

A Google Street View image of the building that
could be destroyed.

Here’s an odd story forwarded to us this afternoon by reader Tim D.

According to Pamplin Media, a downtown Milwaukie business that already has a parking lot has gotten permission to demolish a row of sidewalk-facing shops on its small commercial Main Street in order to build a parking lot.

The property owner, regional credit firm Reliable Credit, doesn’t seem to have immediate plans to destroy the row of buildings at 10605 SE Main Street, which county records value at $180,000. Instead, the firm’s owner is apparently acting to ensure the company has the right to do so in the future.

Pamplin notes that a new land use code that would block such demolitions, called “Moving Milwaukie Forward,” is about to take effect. Because Reliable Credit secured the rights to demolish the site before the rule takes effect, it’ll have the option to do so in the future.

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Here’s more from reporter Raymond Rendleman:

The proposal has people scratching their heads since both Reliable Credit employees and downtown shoppers rarely have trouble finding parking. Many downtown business owners would like to see Milwaukie turn more into a vibrant shopping district such as Hawthorne Boulevard where parking issues take a backseat to higher density urban development and the commercial success that comes with it.

Wendy Wagner was among the many local residents who were “sickened” to learn of the company’s plan that passed a review of the Planning Commission last month. After living in Southeast Portland for 12 years, she said she would have never moved two years ago if she hadn’t seen downtown Milwaukie as charming and pedestrian-friendly.

“If I wanted to look at another ugly parking lot, I would have moved to Beaverton or Gresham — or even filthy, stinky 82nd Avenue,” Wagner wrote in an open letter to city officials. “I hope there’s a way to keep our town from turning into just another faceless, repellent suburb. Perhaps Reliable Credit should take a page from so many local businesses: encourage their employees to take the region’s world-class mass transit. After all, they’re going to be sitting on top of the brand new MAX line.”

A former state representative who lives in the area described the buildings as housing “a successful coffee shop and restaurant.”

Until the new development rules take effect, Reliable Credit has every legal right to do what it wants on its property. Situations like this one are, presumably, the reason Milwaukie is choosing to tighten its development rules in the first place.

But it’s hard to think of any better illustration of the tradeoffs neighborhoods face between finding enough space to store cars wherever we go, and building places that people actually want to go to.

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24 Comments
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    9watts January 21, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    This is a tactic familiar from the land use battles fought here in Oregon over the past decade: Measures 37 & 49. Getting on paper certain land use rights that either no longer exist or are perceived to be threatened. Oregonians in Action, the chief organization behind the ballot measures that took issue with Oregon’s land use laws, coached applicants to register the maximum allowable X on their applications, even if they had no intention of building, e.g., 27 houses on their, typically rural, properties.

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    Todd Boulanger January 21, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    …yes tearing down pedestrian streetscape retail for purposes of a surface “parking lot” can be a seen as a step in the wrong direction, we will have to wait for the current (or future) property owner to communicate what plans they have for this site. It also hurts more since this may be the neighbourhood’s “third place”, a coffee shop as community center.

    On the other hand, tearing down a single story post(?)war retail space is not a big hit to “density” or regional vibrancy…its not like it is a prewar 3 or 5 story mixed use building. A FAR of 1 is good only if one thinks in terms of suburban retail.

    [Thinking out loud: I often wish development rules (and neighbourhoods) would allow more flexibility in retaining prewar retail facades while adding 1 to 3 stories along some of the more lower density trolley car “old inner suburban” retail arterials…like the one I live on (Main Street in Uptown Village, Vancouver WA). So long as on-site car parking is not added or increased (or placed next door).]

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    q`Tzal January 21, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    This is all about property rights and they have the right to do anything not illegal.
    BUT, just as the recent xkcd comic about free speech makes the point, just because they have the right to do so does not mean the community is required to mindlessly support said ddecision.

    Now would be the time for Milwaukie residents to sign a public petition/statement saying that if this property owner exercises this legal right the concerned citizens of Milwaukie will exercise their right to boycott their business and refinance everyone off their books.

    Make this community opinion known NOW even in advance of any opinion. Clackastanians have to be forceably made to understand that rural “common sense” durn’t apply in da citty.

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    Adam H. January 22, 2015 at 8:32 am

    This is a land use issue; doesn’t Metro have to step in?

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      glen January 22, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Metro doesn’t engage in land use decisions at this level. Cities are required to make sure that their zoning, etc. comply with Metro and State law. once they do, the Cities are in charge of making day to day decisions.

      The tough thing here is that the City IS trying to make a more walkable vibrant downtown with new zoning and standards – the same types of place envisioned by Metro. Unfortunately, this landowner is exercising his legal rights based on the existing laws before the City Council has a chance to enact the new ones.

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    Evan January 22, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Textbook example of how to kill a potentially vibrant downtown: take away the buildings that support the reason people come downtown in the first place (for businesses, not to put their car somewhere for a while).
    It’s like the Bush forest plan – if we cut down all the trees, they can’t burn!

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    Kyle January 22, 2015 at 9:09 am

    “‘If I wanted to look at another ugly parking lot, I would have moved to Beaverton or Gresham — or even filthy, stinky 82nd Avenue,’ Wagner wrote in an open letter to city officials.”

    I’m always amazed at the blanket image of Gresham in most people’s minds. I don’t think this person has been to downtown Gresham…

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      AMA January 22, 2015 at 9:38 am

      Yeah. Gresham actually has a nice little downtown.

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      Spiffy January 22, 2015 at 10:43 am

      if you’re talking about the areas around 1st and Main it’s about half parking lots…

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        AMA January 22, 2015 at 10:54 am

        Ha. Well…I suppose nice is in comparison to the reputation Gresham gets.

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    New Media January 22, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Food Carts?

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    Nick Skaggs January 22, 2015 at 9:34 am

    The coffee shop on that strip is Wind Horse Coffee.

    The owner of that coffee shop has a delightful photo album there filled with pictures of bicycle touring through the late ’70’s/early 80’s. It’s really fun to look through, and they make a mean Americano.

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    Craig Harlow January 22, 2015 at 9:43 am

    That’s just being a bad neighbor.

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    Thom Batty January 22, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Well, I guess people can park in Milwaukie and ride their bikes to Oregon City, our downtown is doing great!

    Don’t flame me, I was joking. I hate to see any small town downtown deteriorate, and I truly hope the property owner does not follow through on this. The key to livable communities is citizen involvement. Make your voices heard!

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    davemess January 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Micheal this is a pretty misleading title, considering you admit in the article that there are no current plans to demo to build a parking lot.

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      Yppah January 22, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      Did the proposal get approved? What was in the proposal?

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) January 22, 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Do you think so? I hemmed and hawed some, but decided they really did approve the proposal and that’s what the news is here. The fact that there are no immediate plans to enact the proposal is very important, and that’s why it’s in the third paragraph, before the jump.

      I appreciate the dissent, as always.

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        davemess January 23, 2015 at 8:30 am

        Yes, They were just petitioning to retain the right (be grandfathered in). That doesn’t at all mean (or guarantee) that it will happen, just that it possibly could in the future.

        That is not at all how the title reads. It reads like it is definitely going happen.

        I agree that it’s great to push people to action (in this case frequenting the present businesses to show what a viable location this is for businesses), but it’s just misleading.

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    Pete January 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    They paved paradise to put up a parking lot?

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    rick January 22, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    horrible idea

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    Todd Boulanger January 22, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Hey! Did my comment on this post get “edited” away?

    I would have thought after 24 hours it would have been released from it’s “hold”. I swear I did not use any blue words or praise suburban sprawl.

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      Matt- Bike Milwaukie January 26, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      Yes, after taking time to type up something and press the ‘post’ buttion I too have recently had a comments disappear into oblivion. Are you guys having a technical problem with comments not posting?

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) January 26, 2015 at 11:51 pm

        Hey, Matt – yes, unfortunately this does sometimes happen. Usually it’s a matter of a false positive by our spam filter, which is supposed to send marginal posts to a moderation queue but sometimes sends good stuff straight to the trash can. In its defense, this site gets one spam comment every two minutes or so, and very rarely does something slip through.

        Anyway, for some reason several recent posts did land in the bad bucket. I just fished them out and approved them. I realize this is really annoying, but it is relatively rare. Never hesitate to let us know – we’re happy to help on this stuff.

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    Tim Davis January 24, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this right away, Michael! I wrote to all of Milwaukie’s City Council members about how this would destroy a significant part of what little charm and urban (people-friendly) vibrancy downtown Milwaukie has, how unbelievably outdated this thinking is in 2015 (especially with MAX coming in!), how abundant free parking is actually a net negative for any downtown (which always sounds counterintuitive to most City Council members), etc.

    And I got a great response very soon from one of the City Council members–so keep writing to them!! It also offers great insight into how this came about. Here’s what he wrote:

    Hi Tim,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. What triggered this proposal by Reliable was our attempt to update our code which would disallow exactly what it is they are proposing. Unfortunately we have no way of stopping them because the current code allows them to do what they are doing. We are still working with them to try and work out a compromise solution that does not involve tearing down that building. Stay tuned and keep writing well reasoned letters like this one.

    ———–

    Here are the emails of Milwaukie’s City Council members. Write to them; it really does help! And please be kind and professional to them; they really do want to make Milwaukie a better place for all residents. Their job is often thankless, and they’d appreciate our encouragement! 🙂

    churchills@milwaukieoregon.gov
    bateyl@milwaukieoregon.gov
    gambam@milwaukieoregon.gov (his lapel has a BIKE on it! Too bad it’s not the *Oregon* bike that I wish Rep. Blumenauer would wear, as well!)
    powerk@milwaukieoregon.gov

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