With the help of 116 property owners who agreed to pay their share, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is ready to build the long-awaited Errol Heights Street Improvement Project. First envisioned in 2008, the $9.4 million project will pave 1.2 miles of gravel and dirt roads in a neighborhood just north of the Springwater Corridor path between SE 45th and 52nd avenues.
In addition to an innovative funding plan where the city worked with residents who agreed to make financial commitments to improve streets in their neighborhood, the project will also allow PBOT to create “shared streets” with a 15 mph speed limit. Streets signed for 15 mph are extremely rare in Portland and only occur on a few short stretches of road citywide. As part of the project, PBOT will also add street traffic calming elements to keep driving speeds down, add street lights and trees, and improve stormwater management.
“Kids [could not] ride their bikes on the street outside because… they have to share the street with cars that swerve all over to avoid potholes.”
— Errol Heights resident
“As a pilot project for the city of Portland’s Neighborhood Streets Program, the project is an opportunity to highlight cost-effective designs for neighborhood streets and stormwater management, which can be used in areas that would be difficult or costly to serve,” reads the project website.
At Portland city council on Wednesday, PBOT project managers revealed that $1.64 million (or 18%) of the project’s $9.4 million tab will be paid by residents through a process known as “local improvement district” (the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Water Bureau are also funding partners on the project). To help raise money to make the changes, the City of Portland plans to assess each property owner $2.55 per square foot for an average of $14,137 per owner. PBOT will pay the fee up-front and then a lien is placed on the property which is then due when sold. (NOTE: PBOT wants to clarify that the LID has not yet been formed. The project managers will return to city council in March with an ordinance for adoption and will hold the official LID formation hearing at that time. Yesterday’s council action authorized PBOT to begin the official formation proceedings.)
When this project was first proposed in 2008, the cost for each property owner was around $80,000. PBOT worked to find as many other funding sources as possible in order to get the cost-per-property to a more manageable amount. Over 80% of property owners support the LID.
By accepting the deal, property owners will get smooth new streets where they can feel safe walking and biking.
“My kids could not learn to ride a bike outside the street,” said one Errol Heights resident who testified Wednesday. “Even my neighbor’s kids — none of them can ride their bikes on the street outside because there is no place for them to ride and they have to share the street with cars that swerve all over to avoid potholes. A paved street is something we need as a neighborhood, just to help kids be able to play safely outside on sidewalks.”
PBOT Project Manager Elizabeth Tillstrom said the shared street design will mean, “Everyone can use that space equally as pedestrians, cyclists or motor vehicles.” State law dictates that if PBOT wants to sign a street for 15 mph it must carry less than 500 cars per day (the threshold for neighborhood greenways is less than 1,000 per day) and have special shared street signage. While the majority of streets in the neighborhood will be shared, the main access streets of SE Tenino and SE Malden will be “separated streets”. PBOT says the design on these will include sidewalks to “pull pedestrians out of the roadway”.
PBOT traffic models showed that the newly paved roads could result in more cut-through traffic: “So we want to ensure that pedestrians are safe,” Tillstrom said. To do that PBOT will build new traffic calming features to keep car trips and speeds as low as possible. The new roads will be chicanes that are intentionally curvilinear and will have speed bumps.
Before voting to authorize the project yesterday, PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty praised the cross-bureau collaborations and called it an “Incredible effort… in a community that has lacked sidewalks and infrastructure for so long.” “I’m really excited about this project on a personal level,” she continued, “because you are in my neck of the woods.”
The project is expected to break ground in July of this year and be completed by late summer 2022.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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Mixed emotions! So glad safe streets are getting attention in my ‘hood and that my neighbors feel it’s worthy of investment. A bit worried about paving over many of my favorite “unimproved” streets where me and my little bike club (felony flats hill killerz) like to roam on hyper-local gravel grinds. Fingers crossed on best results!
Same feelings Maria. I personally don’t like paving over gravel streets, but I know almost everyone else does (even most cyclists). They’re safer, more fun (I’m partial to mud), and they typically get replaced with straight, flat smoothe raceway, which is really, truly boring.
I just took a closer look at the grid they’ll be paving and am so bummed. I do hill repeats on 52nd Ave from Harney to Flavel Street and part of what makes it a perfect hill repeat hill is very little traffic from side streets. I am guessing that once they’re paved, the traffic will increase and my little repeat hill will become too dangerous to be fun anymore.
They’re more fun for a very select amount of people though. If you’re in a wheelchair or pushing a mobility scooter they’re going to be virtually impassible at some times of the year.
Sorry, but if you live in Portland (a major city) it’s not a crazy expectation to have paved roads AND sidewalks.
I mean, totally agree. I’d rather have ADA access for other people, than a fun street to ride. My fear sometimes is when PBoT paves new streets, they make them wider and faster. My wish for these gravel roads, particularly in E Portland, is single lane w sections of cobblestone or shared space such as a woonerf or similar to above.
This is likely to be problematic in the grid south of Woodstock as there are so few streets that connect and actually go through.
The worst is when you have a partially paved street with gigantic potholes that can swallow a lifted 4×4 pickup truck that breeds mosquitoes all year. You can’t bike through them, you can’t drive through them, you can’t walk around them. Full of mud, oil, antifreeze and other nasty toxic crap. They don’t drain because the city never put in any storm drains either.
Can we use the criteria for shared streets on neighborhood greenways?
Reading the criteria for greenways feels more like a wish list than actual criteria.
Exactly what I was thinking
“owners who agreed to pay their share”
soooooo. penalized in order to receive basic services?
Or those that have money get PBOT services, those that don’t, don’t.
So much for that whole “equity” initiative, huh?!?
Or those who can afford it pay for their own services so PBOT can focus their limited resources on those with greater need, resulting in better outcomes for everyone.
Much of Brentwood-Darlington can’t afford it though. This is a lower income area of the city.
I know there are ways that the property owner can defer until they sell the property, but I’m still not a fan of LIDs, especially in neighborhoods who were annexed against their will, and promised they would get city services that never were delivered.
Whoa HK….If that’s how funding and resources were distributed then the biking, walking infrastructure in East Portland would look much different than it does. PBOT hasn’t shown the equity part of funding in the years since East Portland was annexed. Dr. Jennifer Dill from Portland State University made a point of mentioning the inequitable distribution of biking infrastructure in the city in a previous BP article. I’ll be interested if East Portland’s share of active transportation funding will increase with PBOT’s supposed move to a more equitable distribution of said funding. I doubt it.
Obviously, that model only works for “discretionary” projects like paving dirt streets, or, back in the day, installing speed bumps and such. But it makes sense that if there is a limited pot of funding, everyone should have access to it, and those who want to get their project done sooner without tapping into it should be able to. That makes the line for the city provided pot shorter, so everyone wins.
The penalization comes when the house is sold. It’s that or wait for PBOT to “do the right thing” in 50 years from now. They’ve done similar projects over the years in other parts of Portland, including in SW and East.
Penalized? Local Improvement District financing has been a thing for so long that I can remember my grandparents banding together with the long time neighbors to fight the short timers/investors over paving of their street because they wanted to pay neither the LID fee nor the increased property taxes of being on an improved street.
That was 45-50 years ago.
Yes, and Portland (both neighborhoods and government) have been kicking that can down the road for decades, and we end up with a ton of sub-standard roads.
Yeah, I’ve got a problem with the way Portland charges property owners to pave their own streets, when everyone will be able to use them. A complete street system is a public good. The costs should be born by the public at large.
The current system is not only unfair, it barely works at all. The city’s “wait around for adjacent property owners to take the initiative” strategy has left gravel streets unpaved for a century in some parts of town.
I grew up in a community that required, with no exceptions whatsoever, that every developer build out ALL the streets, sewers, water lines, power grid, sidewalks, curb ramps, and driveways of a development before any foundations were allowed to go in. Any violators not only had to pay fines but the city refused to hook up sewers, power lines, and water lines to the main system until things were fixed. Sure houses cost more and outside developers complained to city council, but the system was very fair and the city engineer was after all paid to be a total asshole.
Almost every arterial stroad in East Portland, Cully, Brentwood-Darlington, and SW was built with public funding by the county before annexation by the city, as were most state highways (but some inner Portland state highways were local streets re-designated as state highways.)
Especially when the vast majority of these streets that need improvement are in lower income areas of Portland.
The property values of these homes will jump with the upgrades, it is typical that adjacent property owners pay a portion of the costs to upgrade streets that have not met standards historically.
“adjacent property owners pay ”
unless you are a developer, these days 🙂 i’m familiar with lids and muds. my problem is that this example, replicated, will make portland less affordable; that money will be added to the sales price to recover it. great for the seller if they bought low, or stayed for a long time… but for buyers, that money may prevent them from affording these homes.
and no, until we tax certain demographics appropriately at the federal level and disperse those funds back to communities, i don’t have a solution.
Both those points are debatable. There are plenty of historical records showing that the city paid for road paving or upgrades at different points.
And honestly I’m not sure how much of a bump these properties will really see. Maybe their gravel roads were turning off a few prospective buyers, but I’m just not sure that this leads to a direct jump in property values.
Really? Nice new sidewalks and paved streets versus
muddy gravel. Can’t see any way that would not raise property values significantly.
Quite the opposite. Local residential streets were initially improved by the developer who passed the cost onto the property purchaser. The City maintains streets in whichever condition the developer leaves them. This is historically how streets are constructed here and around the country. In some places that were considered far flung and/or under county development rules, full streets were not required of the developers. Most of east portland streets were developed under rural county standards before Portland annexed these areas.
These owners are getting a break by only covering about 18% of the cost of these street improvements, rather than the full cost, which is the more typical Local Improvement District model. I hope this cost-sharing model is used to help advance full and safer street improvements throughout areas like this, including where I live.
Thanks JR. Great explanation.
PBOT is still dragging their feet regarding issuing permits for the Portland Pathways Program Process. It took over twelve years to get a permit to rebuild an existing path the city recognized on the walk maps. It is the staircase path on SW 25th between Bertha and BH Highway. Twelve years and the community did all of the manual labor.
“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.””
This LID will use renter tax dollars to markedly juice property prices so owner-class tears are NOT allowed.
I would have thought that given your libertarian-leanings you would at least theoretically support renter residents having a voice in such a major taxpayer-funded change in their community.
The decision to repave has been made; this is about whether owners want to obligate themselves to pay via a LID. Anyone who would be obligated to pay should have a voice. And they do.
Neighborhood streets are not constructed by PBOT or any other government agency. Streets are constructed to city standards (at the time) and turned over (given) to the city. The cost of initial street construction is paid for in the cost of home construction and services are largely paid for by property taxes. If you neighborhood has gravel roads, it is because the streets were constructed prior to requirements for paved streets and the local property owners never paid for paving unlike local property owners everywhere else.
We should all learn how streets are funded. Constructing streets for motor vehicles is paid for by the cost of housing. Another way the automobiles are subsidized by housing costs.
Except here is the big wrinkle. These “roads” were built before this area was part of Portland. These properties were annexed into Portland against their will with the promise that their roads (and sidewalks and sewers) would be upgraded.
I’ve never seen the “road promise” documented anywhere, and this is the first I’ve even heard of a “sidewalk promise”. Can you clarify what exactly was promised? And surely some people were willing to join Portland, especially if it got them access to working sewers.
East Portland residents were promised a lot of things, but the discount on the sewer projects was my incentive to sign the annexation agreement. The city absolutely needed outer East Portland residents to get on board with the sewer project. What I didn’t realize at the time was the change in zoning codes to allow for an extreme amount of residential infill to proceed in outer East Portland which has contributed to the unsafe transportation infrastructure we now experience. There was no safety issues before annexation.
When East Portland property owners were hooked into the City’s sewer system we paid the price of the sewer infrastructure improvements based on the size of our lots. What I take issue with is the fact that because we are part of the city we now have to pay for the inner city’s old pipes replacement and antiquated storm water management system. Perhaps inner city residents should pony up for the improvements?https://bikeportland.org/2021/02/01/green-streets-and-the-fight-against-vehicular-violence-325515
Were these “many promises” documented anywhere? I ask only because it comes up from time to time, and it’s really hard to know who actually made promises, what standing they had, and how to determine if those promises have been fulfilled.
Like many claims going back decades or even centuries, it’s really hard to determine who owes what to whom and why someone who moved to SW Portland last year owes someone who moved to E Portland at the same time anything at all, morally, legally, or otherwise. At some point, claims like this have to expire.
I’m still owed a day’s wages from my very first paid employment, but while it still bugs me all these years later, I know I’m not getting my money, and I’ve stopped complaining about it (mostly).
Some of these promises were made verbally at community meetings by elected officials and bureaucrats that are long gone.
Should we regard a verbal commitment made by a politician or a functionary at public meeting to be binding on the city decades in the future?
No, the initial “promises” were not documented, but subsequent “Neighborhood Plans” after annexation were. It is these plans the city has been chipping away on for years. Timelines stated in those plans have expired with many projects left undone. Alas, more broken promises….
If it makes you feel better, the city is ignoring neighborhood plans everywhere, and has been for decades.
The only documentation I’ve seen regarding annexation of East Portland was sewer upgrades and emergency response times. I too am curious where city roads, sidewalks, etc. were explicitly promised.
If the promises were well documented there would have been legal action long ago. Instead it seems to be a lot of verbal promises with no weight. But it seems hard to fathom that residents in unincorporated Multnomah county would have just volunteered to be annexed and seen a large tax increase without some kind of suggestion that they would be getting improved services…..
Their property value will go up significantly. It will be an excellent investment for the the homeowners. They are only paying 18% of the improvement AND they don’t even have to come up with any money up front. I’d take that deal in a heartbeat! I imagine some will think it’s a bit unfair they don’t have to pay more.
I hope the speed bumps aren’t those ineffectual ones with the tire cut-outs to make it so you don’t have to slow down.
I seriously don’t see the point of those.
All the swerving to avoid potholes could just become swerving to use the “tire-cuts” or whatever they are.
That said, this looks like a very promising project.
I believe the tire cuts are for emergency vehicles to be able to travel swiftly. Notice how they are only on streets don’t have good alternatives for emergency vehicles like the lower part of Cornell and some of the greenways where the neighborhoods around them would require a lot of zig zags or have dead ends.
I agree though, I wish there were a better way to provide that advantage. I’ve always though the 2 cutouts center lane would be better as only emergency vehicles should ever be in that lane position.
Beaverton is going to put in the partial speed bumps on a street in an industrial district to stop the people traveling over twice the speed limit next year.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I kinda like those as a cyclist since it means that I don’t have to go over the bump at all 🙂
I’m curious if some of the shared streets would qualify as “narrow residential roadways” (or could be altered to qualify). And if so, could the speed limit then be set at 10 mph, vs. 15 mph (which is a great improvement in itself)?
Lawyer Scott Kocher said that not only CAN PBOT do 10 mph speed limits on those streets, they’re REQUIRED to. “That means all Portland streets in residence districts that are 18 feet or narrower — not including shoulders or parking — must be posted 10 mph.”
“Over 80% of property owners support…”
More evidence that non-property owners are voiceless second class citizens.
Since owners were the ones paying into the LID, it makes sense that they be the ones to vote. You wouldn’t expect tenants to make the decision about an owner-financed landscaping upgrade or fresh exterior paint, would you?
“it makes sense that they be the ones to vote”
82% of the project is funded by city revenue so excluding renters is 82% classist. FWIW, I suspect that renter votes would make these kinds of LIDs more feasible. 🙂
“owner-financed landscaping upgrade or fresh exterior paint”
This might be a shocking revelation but city streets and, even, parking spaces (!) are public property.
Council said if owners pony up 18% of the cost, they’ll make the improvements. The vote is whether to create a LID to assess owners their share of the 18%. Having owners collectively decide whether to pay is 0% classist. I’m reasonably sure that if a single owner (or tenant) decided to pay for the the entire project themselves, it would happen even absent the LID. The decision to repave has already been made; this is just about whether to use this particular mechanism for fundraising. I’m sure if a tenant wanted to contribute, they would be welcome to do so. But unlike owners, they would not be obligated to, so should not have a voice in whether to obligate others.
Also, your assertion that property owners in this area are of a different class than renters seems a bit speculative.
Given how many houseless people live in this area, I also wonder if there was any attempt at outreach by PBOT?
Do they pay property taxes?
The idea that only land owners get a vote when it comes to deciding how the city spends an enormous amount of the people’s money on transportation infrastructure is more than a little Jim Crow.
You can keep ratcheting up your rhetoric (first classism, now racism), but it doesn’t change the fact that council made the decision to pave the street. The only thing being decided here is how local property owners will pay for their part of the project.
That’s not really what’s happening here. It’s the property owners getting a vote as to whether to charge themselves.
I’m confused how polling renter’s would work, as they would be under no obligation to actually pay this lien on the property they are renting.
in essence you are arguing that land owners should be empowered to create a lid that would dramatically alter a neighborhoods transportation/infrastructure landscape without consulting much of the residential population. for example, in many neighborhood renters are the majority of population (~80%) and in some areas a few land owners own most of the land. it’s bizarre that people posting here can’t see how this mechanism is not just.
You are misunderstanding what is happening. The decision to alter the neighborhood was made by city council, using standard political process. The LID is only about residents deciding how they will pay the share that council required them to pony up if this project moves forward.
Kitty, that’s not true. LID projects only go forward after a majority vote for the project by the affected neighbors.
Only because the required money doesn’t materialize. If someone were to pony up the entire amount, even without a LID, the project would advance.
What I’m saying is that the city is not the main gatekeeper. It’s the neighbors. The City is not going to just require the neighbors to pay for a portion of the road improvements without having them vote on it.
While that may be true in other PDX neighborhoods, as of a few years ago, this area was majority owner/resident.
Regardless, I am asking you what is a “more just” way to get this done? Because if you poll renters and phrase it as “do you want your rents to go up”, I’m pretty sure they will almost all say “no” (and if it is passed it’s much easier for them to simply move out and burden the next tenant) and your road will never get paved until the majority of the neighborhood isn’t renters anymore.
I suspect most renters would be happy to have owners pay into a LID that would improve their built environment. As a low-income renter, I always vote for property tax increases — the higher, the better*!
PS: The idea that a small local increase in taxes would result in higher rents is not really credible.
*I’d prefer them to be progressive based on income/assets but that’s not likely in this libertarian state
You think that renters would likely vote for street improvements (increasing costs to property owners) and the landlords wouldn’t look to recoup that by raising rents??? Really?
And I’m guessing they only include property owners in the vote (as opposed to state or city tax votes) because it affects such a small, select population.
“increasing costs to property owners”
As a renter and tenant organizer who has had conversations about this question with dozens of renters, I believe renters are generally ok with property tax increases. For example, many tenants are upset that house loaners/owners have property tax control at 3% while renters have rent stabilization at ~10%.
“wouldn’t look to recoup that by raising rents”
there is a lag in transfer of property taxes and there are also market constraints (geographic and income) that often cause landlords to eat small/modest increase. and, thankfully, there are now some modest tenant protections that make large rent increases more difficult.
“because it affects such a small, select population.”
I brought this up here precisely because the LID mechanism has been used to disenfranchise non-owners in larger districts. Moreover, LID mechanisms can also disenfranchise single family home owners who end up have less of a voice than commercial land-owners.
“…this area was majority owner/resident.”
I understand that but I still object to the mechanism.
“…a “more just” way to get this done?”
Letting all residents vote on local improvement district property tax increase. This is how we do it for City, County, Metro, and State bonding/taxes so why not use the same mechanism for a neighborhood?
Not sure what houseless in the area would have to do with this. They certainly won’t be on the hook financially for any of the planned improvements.
They live in that neighborhood and should also have a voice in important decisions that are primarily funded by city dollars.
I agree; if they want to participate in the LID, they should be free to do so.
They “live” in the neighborhood. Um, no. they are squatting for free in the neighborhood and do not pay a single red cent for tax. They need to appreciate their squatting and leave it at that
A renter is somebody who wants to live in a place and have zero liability for property they also agreed to have zero part of the increase or decrease of the property. So no, they don’t get to vote on FINANCIAL matters relating to PROPERTY that isn’t theirs. They are however for you too participate in any other political process.
I’m sure they have no problem voting for property tax increases they’ll never pay….
I just added a note to the story to clarify something important. PBOT reached out to say:
“assess each property owner $2.55 per square foot ”
square foot of what? house size? lot size? frontage? footprint of whole project? unclear in article (to me at least) and haven’t found it in docs yet.
found in the 2017 open house doc: lot size.
Likely the presumption is that a larger lot has the potential to generate more car traffic at maximum buildout. I’ve other cities use frontage, which tends to encourage flag lots.
In early iterations of this project it was supposed to be based on road frontage (in feet). Yeah, I’m not sure square footage of the home should have anything to do with it.
Who needs a twenty-eight foot wide street with that amount of limited people driving cars and trucks? Why not make a shared street like the one two blocks north of West Burnside in old town?
The rights of municipalities to assess taxes are quite broad and could be seen as scary by those unaware with how they work. Given that we have amazingly overbuilt infrastructure in the USA I expect this sort of thing will be used more and more in coming years. There is a sweet spot between too high and property owners will just ditch their assets and too low and the city is broke.
This is the road configuration that has always been pushed by the city because it’s cheaper (with the guise of “safety”). I guess it’s better than nothing.
So upscale malden gets fancy streets and poor malden (up near 82nd) gets bombed out roads.
And the city says “tough luck”
One other aspect of this project (I have not seen mentioned here) is storm water management, given that these roads are uphill from Errol Heights park. The city has been pushing that angle for a number of years.