Joe Bike

PBOT vows to defend Flanders bikeway from impacts of proposed 23-story building

Posted by on December 27th, 2019 at 11:44 am

Proposed design of new hotel and residential tower at NW 12th and Flanders.
(Source: Otak)

Disaster averted.

“A high turnover passenger loading and unloading zone is likely to create operational issues along the neighborhood greenway.”
— Chris Warner, PBOT Director

That’s how some bicycling advocates feel now that the Portland Bureau of Transportation has weighed in on a major new development in the Pearl District.

The parking lot on the northwest corner of Northwest 12th and Flanders is slated to become a 23-story hotel and residential tower. The Hyatt Place & The Allison Residences building has attracted concern from Pearl District residents and cycling advocates. One of the worries is how the presence of the building will impact street safety — specifically on NW Flanders, a street slated to be a marquee neighborhood greenway with a new carfree bridge over I-405 just three blocks away.

Red flags about the project started popping up over a year ago when developer Vibrant Cities and project designer Otak proposed locating valet parking and loading zones on NW Flanders. Flanders is not only a forthcoming neighborhood greenway but its classification in the recently updated Comprehensive Plan was upgraded from City Bikeway to Major City Bikeway. In an August 2018 pre-application conference as part of the project’s development review process, PBOT wrote, “This is a critical change.” Portland’s zoning code disallows (but doesn’t prohibit) driveways for parking or loading on Major City Bikeways.

When designers moved the loading zones to 12th, a group called Pearl Neighbors for Integrity in Design (PNID, whose current mission is “fighting vertical sprawl”) mounted a campaign to oppose the project. “If this application is approved,” they wrote in a July 2019 press release, “the traffic congestion caused by the proposed Hyatt Hotel, Residences and loading docks on NW 12th Avenue would endanger the safety of the users of the bike path and pedestrians.” (PNID feels the building is likely to have a lot of valet and pick-up/drop-off activity because the building will have 170 hotel rooms and 110 apartments, but no auto parking spaces (there will be 174 long-term bicycle parking spaces)).

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When Otak then proposed moving the valet and drop-off zone to Flanders, they heard opposition from cycling advocates.

Site plans as of April 2019.

In an email on October 4th, PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) member and Pearl District resident Reza Farhoodi wrote to city staff that, “Moving the valet drop-off spaces will increase traffic volumes on the block and could significantly impact the safety of people using the Flanders neighborhood greenway to walk or bike… I can’t think of too many things more antithetical to a safe bicycle facility than a busy hotel zone directly on the block.”

Responding to Farhoodi’s concerns a few days later, PBOT Neighborhood Greenways manager Scott Cohen wrote, “A hotel zone should work fine on Flanders if it operates as intended. If cars are double parked all over the place or traffic increases beyond our guidelines, then we’ll have to make traffic or parking operational changes or work with Hyatt to ensure they keep the street operating as intended.” Cohen then assured Farhoodi that PBOT would monitor the situation to make changes if necessary.

Earlier this month the Willamette Week reported that a PBOT spokesman reiterated Cohen’s position and would work with whatever the Design Commission decided.

On November 21st, PBOT BAC Committee Chair Alex Zimmerman and Co-Chair David Stein wrote a letter (PDF) to PBOT Director Chris Warner requesting that, “PBOT take meaningful steps to preserve the integrity of the future neighborhood greenway, including relocating the proposed valet zone to the 12th Avenue frontage.”

Warner responded last week. “A high turnover passenger loading and unloading zone is likely to create operational issues along the neighborhood greenway,” he wrote, “I am directing staff to locate the passenger loading and unloading zone… on NW 12th Avenue.” Warner then added, “PBOT staff is coordinating internally to ensure that future hotel operations are both safe and compatible with our investments in the corridor.”

The next Design Commission hearing for this project is January 9th. Agenda and link to materials here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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24 Comments
  • Avatar
    Champs December 27, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    I think “vertical sprawl” is an apt description of trends as we march further along into late-stage this and post-fact that. Traffic and shadows are proxy issues for keeping the neighborhood (such as it is) more exclusive.

    Loading zones on every block face make it impossible to consolidate into the kind of superblocks that could make neighborhood greenways come alive rather than serve as business district bypasses.

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    • Avatar
      Chris I December 27, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      The fact that the “vertical sprawl” term was coined by a group of people who own condos in high-rise buildings built on former rail yard and warehouse land makes it even more amazing. These people need to be called out.

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    9watts December 27, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    ‘Vertical sprawl’ – that is good.

    Maybe a fancy 21st Century word for population growth?

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    • Avatar
      David Hampsten December 27, 2019 at 6:44 pm

      Only if the building have local residents in them. I remember a tour of Vancouver BC in which a local councilor pointed out that many of the residential towers in Yaletown were predominantly empty and only had “executive housing” (i.e. Air BnBs). It reminds me of the promise of robot cars – just because there’s a lot of motor vehicles doesn’t mean that there’s anyone in them – for all we know, they might be moving just packages and pets around town.

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    CaptainKarma December 27, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    Any housing that touts “valet parking” surely is “exclusive” rather than “inclusive”. Guess we’ll see how this works out. Money talks.

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    • Avatar
      maccoinnich December 27, 2019 at 8:46 pm

      This building contains a hotel and rental apartment units. Like most recently hotels built in Central Portland, it does not have on site parking. The valet is so that the hotel can offer parking to its guests, by using existing parking garages with excess capacity.

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  • Avatar
    JR December 27, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    “When designers moved the loading zones to 12th, a group called Pearl Neighbors for Integrity in Design (PNID, whose current mission is “fighting vertical sprawl”) mounted a campaign to oppose the project.“If this application is approved,” they wrote in a July 2019 press release, “the traffic congestion caused by the proposed Hyatt Hotel, Residences and loading docks on NW 12th Avenue would endanger the safety of the users of the bike path and pedestrians.” ”

    Let’s be clear, PNID opposed this and many other projects because they felt it was too dense (irony not lost on me), too tall (more irony), and most likely because it will block one of their member’s condo views. They are not bike advocates by any means and will make any claims imaginable to hold up their anti-growth mindset. They basically throw a colander full of spaghetti claims on the wall to see if anything sticks.

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    • Avatar
      9watts December 27, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      ‘anti-growth mindset’
      Easy to throw out an epithet like that. But what does it mean?
      Are you pro-growth? I certainly am not. And I doubt very many people would be if they understood the full significance of what growth, so called, bequeaths us.

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      • Avatar
        David Hampsten December 27, 2019 at 6:50 pm

        I for one am “pro growth”, especially for cities like Portland, Charlotte, Austin, Denver, and Seattle. The more people who move there, the more likely my affordable low-status community will continue to remain affordable (and low-status), and I won’t (again) be forced to move to an even more deplorable community because I’ve been priced out.

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  • Avatar
    X December 27, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    How many more hotel rooms does Portland need? There’s this idea that an invisible hand will shove the right number of 300 foot tall pieces into play but what happens in the real world is an over-allocation of money, street space, concrete, steel, glass, aluminum, gypsum, etc, followed by a market shakeout resulting in losses that we will subsidize through our tax system.

    Is there in fact a hotel bubble building in Portland? The fact that ongoing construction makes it difficult to find a way through the streets in some parts of town should be useful information. We don’t expect the city to plan our economy but it’s fair to ask developers to justify their planned additions to the landscape.

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  • Avatar
    Doug Klotz December 27, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    As JR points out, the opponents are just trying to kill the whole project by whatever argument they can. Glad that our new PBOT director has seen through that. The Jan. 9 (6:55 PM at 1900 SW 4th rm. 2500) meeting is closed to testimony, although people have been known to sit in the audience and hold up 8.5 x 11 signs.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty December 29, 2019 at 5:53 pm

      I’ll be there — Lord knows one of our more pressing needs is top-end hotel rooms and luxury apartment units… and the poor developer, up against all those angry people in the tower across the street.

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  • Avatar
    SafeStreetsNow December 27, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    This is a great move by Chris Warner. More of this assertiveness please.

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  • Avatar
    Mark smith December 28, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    While we all tout growth, the reality is without required affordable units inside, these units go to the highest bidder. And…few bike riders actually inhabit these buildings.

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    • Avatar
      9watts December 28, 2019 at 5:35 pm

      Some of us don’t advocate for growth. Just saying.

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    • Avatar
      Chris I December 30, 2019 at 9:11 am

      It isn’t reasonable to expect brand new, super-nice buildings to be affordable for the lower classes. New construction doesn’t have to be affordable, but we need new construction to keep downward pressure on housing demand, enabling older, cheaper buildings to become available for lower-income people.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty December 30, 2019 at 9:44 am

        If this ever works, and it’s not at all clear that it does, it would be when you have a static population. If your flashy new building attracts new residents (induced demand), it won’t do anything, even theoretically. And if these new residents later want to move to a house, or other limited housing resource in Portland, it will just drive those prices higher.

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        • Avatar
          Alex Reedin December 30, 2019 at 12:46 pm

          The available evidence suggests that induced demand is real for cars on roads, but not for people in housing. It’s reasonable to assume that this is because toll roads are rare, but rent is universal.

          http://cityobservatory.org/another-housing-myth-debunked-neighborhood-price-effects-of-new-apartments/

          I have had enough discussions about this with you, HK, and will not reply to any replies.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty December 30, 2019 at 1:25 pm

            Rent is universal, and so are rent differentials. There are tons of people who moved to Portland from California, attracted by our cheap housing. If you can get a new luxury unit for a (to you) bargain price, you might be induced to relocate (especially if you can telecommute). If all that’s available is something less fancy, you might not.

            The article you posted argues that new construction in gentrifying areas doesn’t raise rents in the surrounding area, which is something else altogether.

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    • Avatar
      maccoinnich December 30, 2019 at 9:20 am

      The building is required to comply with the city’s Inclusionary Housing program.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson December 28, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    What better place for a building like this than The Pearl. Some of the rental units should be affordable due to inclusionary zoning. If you don’t like high rises, don’t live in one or move to a higher one. Protect Flanders Bikeway come what may!
    Hotel bubble? when it collapses some rooms can become SORs for a lot of folks on the street.

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  • Avatar
    gilly December 28, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    Regardless of design, I don’t see how you would prevent hotel traffic from overflowing onto Flanders street. It has a corner entrance and only 40 feet on 12th for loading, unloading and valet parking.

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    • Avatar
      soren December 29, 2019 at 11:46 am

      Yeah…they will defend Flanders just like they defended the Broadway bike lane when the Raddison Red was built.

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