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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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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Champs
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Champs

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.

9watts
Subscriber

‘Vertical sprawl’ – that is good.

Maybe a fancy 21st Century word for population growth?

CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

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

JR
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JR

“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.

X
Guest
X

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.

Doug Klotz
Subscriber

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.

SafeStreetsNow
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SafeStreetsNow

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

Mark smith
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Mark smith

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.

Lenny Anderson
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Lenny Anderson

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.

gilly
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gilly

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.