StreetsPDX and southwest Portland’s sidewalk problem

Man walks dog on an unimproved shoulder of SW Sunset Blvd (Photo: Lisa Caballero/BikePortland)

In Wednesday’s StreetsPDX post, I covered the features of its new website, its flow, tools, and the information about city code and policies it brings together in one location. StreetsPDX project manager Mathew Berkow presented the project last month to the transportation committee of southwest Portland’s soon-to-be-defunct coalition of neighborhood associations, SWNI (Southwest Neighborhoods Inc).

Today, I want to follow up on that post and share a bit of the conversation that happened after Berkow’s presentation, between Kurt Kruger, Portland’s new public works permitting czar, and a few experienced transportation advocates. Kruger’s group decides what public works, like sidewalks or bike lanes, the city will require a new development to build in the right-of-way.

Why is this exchange important? Because it got to the heart of what I’m hearing from every transportation advocate in the region, including most BikePortland commenters. Folks do not want same ol’ same ol’. The status quo is not acceptable. And the SWNI committee was no different, it seemed like they were expecting something more or different from StreetsPDX.

One participant asked, “I know that your goal is to create this comprehensive thing that makes decision-making clear and transparent for people. But, what’s the larger goal, is the larger goal to make the city better? Is there not a larger goal?”

Another participant, Don Baack, began with colorful language, mentioned “punching the card,” and ended with, “it is totally disgusting that we can’t figure out reasonable ways to solve problems that are very clear to most people on the ground.”

Keep in mind that the goal of StreetsPDX is to make a decision framework for how to allocate space in the right-of-way. And that’s good, it’s needed. But basically, it’s a guide to the inside of the box — way-finding for today’s status quo. Southwest’s problem is that it always ends up on the “How to deviate from standard improvements” pathway, which inevitably leads to shoulder widening, and pedestrians walking in the street protected by a stripe of white paint (see photos above and below). And also with the most incomplete bike network in the city.

Several minutes into the tense discussion between the transportation committee and Kruger, Marianne Fitzgerald asked a question which pivoted the conversation, and I heard something new from Kurt Kruger, for me at least. A glimmer of a suggestion of a way forward, at least in southwest Portland, and maybe in some other locations too. Here’s the exchange:

Woman walks a dog on the recently paved shoulder on SW Gibbs Street (Photos: Lisa Caballero/BikePortland)

Fitzgerald, neighborhood advocate:

How can we help you work together to try to dream about how to get there, do as much as we can to hold developers accountable for the infill … How can we work together for the designs, the dream, and then push for funding to get the network built?

Kruger, City of Portland:

I appreciate that Marianne, I’ll say that I probably got uninvited to town center [West Portland Town Center] meetings because I kept saying, ‘Please don’t give us the same lack of tools that go with the up-zoning of the town center.’ Because I don’t want to be having this conversation with Marianne, or Marianne’s kids, or grandkids — however long I keep working here — because the tools are not effective, they are not delivering solutions. And it’s a tough nut to crack.

So I’m going to suggest: please keep advocating. If the advocation is, ‘prioritize the top five streets in SWNI’s umbrella’ — [then] really we need street plans, we need to land where those improvements should be, what they should look like. And it has to be sort of granular, it needs to recognize certain pieces.

Multnomah Blvd, for example, is going through Multnomah Village. That’s a different construct than it is near the post office. And so a street plan would take in all those different pieces as a roadway travels through different topographies and watersheds.

And so, having a contextual street design gives us that tool that we can point to with a developer. And why do I say keep advocating? Because every advocate out there, you’ve got an equally, if not louder, voice than a developer in city council’s ear advocating for their piece. And they are not mutually aligned. I’ll just say it that way.

That was the first time I heard Kruger mention corridor-length plans. Mind you, they would just be required frontage improvements for future development, and thus decades away from delivering a complete pedestrian or bike network, if ever. But still, it was a faint light at the end of the tunnel, and the only time I have heard any city official acknowledge that there is a growing problem in the southwest that is going completely unaddressed.

Let me parse Kruger’s comment a little: Currently, development review looks at required frontage improvements in a piecemeal way, one development at a time. This is a lousy way to get a sidewalk or bike network built.

Much of the planned West Portland Town Center (WPTC) area, like the rest of southwest Portland, doesn’t have formal stormwater facilities so runoff water drains to streams. Because the city has no money to build stormwater facilities, and they don’t feel they can legally make developers build the stormwater system that runoff from a sidewalk requires, the city planned for a two-phased development of the Town Center. The first phase up-zones properties that already have adequate stormwater infrastructure in anticipation of a second phase, in which there is somehow capital to build stormwater facilities for the remaining properties.

This is the same build-and-hope approach that has landed southwest Portland the infamous distinction of having the worst sidewalk coverage in the city.

When Kruger says that “contextual street design” gives him a tool “with a developer,” he is referring to the legal requirement that a city proportionately, appropriately and consistently apply its frontage requirements. (Known as Nollan/Dolan jurisprudence, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed limits on how and how much a government could exact from a developer for public works.) A pre-existing corridor-length plan allows the city to justify a frontage exaction as being consistently required of all developments, thus shielding it from developer claims of unfairness and consequent lawsuits.

And that’s a peek at the insider baseball of land use and transportation. Kruger’s answer wasn’t a home run, but it seemed like a step in the right direction. And it is a good idea to periodically touch base with what Kruger is thinking.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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Scott Kocher
Scott Kocher
3 months ago

A couple thoughts:

First, don’t forget the Ped Bike Bill, ORS 366.514. If the City constructs or reconstructs a street (anything more than a repave) they must provide ped and bike facilities. This has been true since 1971, and the exceptions are narrow. This law is triggered by street construction or reconstruction projects, not by infill development itself. However, if infill results in more than a repave of the street then the Ped Bike Bill kicks in.

Second, several (relatively) cheap tools are underused in SW and East Portland: lowered speeds with speed bumps to achieve them, and the “alternative” walkway designs that are new to the 2022 Portland Ped Design Guide at pages 39-47, which all SW and East Portland advocates should know about:

https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2022/PBOT%20Pedestrian%20Design%20Guide%202022.pdf

Calming and the “alternative” designs aren’t perfect but some improvements should be achievable through engineering channels, especially if advocates are frequently reminding engineers what they already know: putting peds, bikes and fast cars in the same space isn’t ok, and there are approved options available that they’re failing to use. Emailing specific, informed requests about the worst spots to safe[at]portlandoregon.gov is a good start.

cct
cct
3 months ago
Reply to  Scott Kocher

Here is the matrix (pg. 40) PBOT is supposed to use going forward. Tack it to your fridge!

page-40
Ryan
Ryan
3 months ago
Reply to  Scott Kocher

However, if infill results in more than a repave of the street then the Ped Bike Bill kicks in

ORS 366.514 is “Use of highway fund for footpaths and bicycle trails”.
Honest question…how would this statute ever apply to improvements built by a private developer? Outside of some sort of interesting public/private partnership, improvements build by a private developer don’t involve State Highway Fund dollars.

David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Ryan

According to a 2000 PBOT study, in the 1930s the city used a federal program called the Work Progress Administration (WPA) to put the mass of unemployed homeless to work, to build sidewalks (and some paved streets) in existing developed neighborhoods in the so-called Streetcar Suburbs of inner Portland. The city still doesn’t know what portion of the total sidewalk coverage was built in this program – much of the documentation is either lost or not yet properly researched – but it’s apparently a huge portion of the city’s current inner sidewalk coverage. The idea that the sidewalk in front of your house was put in by the developer is a bit hit-or-miss historically – in many cases, the city did it, sometimes the state, or it was paid for with federal funding – or in the case of the 1930s WPA program, the feds allowed the city to use temporary “free laborers” (conscripted labor, or as the Romans called them, government slaves) to build sidewalks in front of private frontages. It would be interesting to find out what the actual percentage of current sidewalks were built by developers – my guess it’s less than half citywide – but until there’s a comprehensive study I don’t think we’ll ever know. The WPA program was later ruled to be unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.

ED
ED
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Do you have a link to this 2000 study? There’s another comment below saying it’s hard to find and not much publicized but it sounds fascinating. I work in land use planning and hear so often about how there isn’t enough public money to build infrastructure and it’s too expensive for private developers to build and still make things “pencil,” at a time when housing prices are astronomical already, so I am very curious about how we used to fund infrastructure. Was it cheap immigrant labor or underemployed WPA labor? Cheaper materials as we exploited natural resources? Lack of government regulations? Cultural priorities? What lessons might we learn for today’s seeming conundrum of no money, no housing and no infrastructure??

ED
ED
3 months ago

Thank you!!

cct
cct
3 months ago

As I mentioned in comments about the last article, Lisa and I have veeerrrryyy different opinions on Kruger.

He has apparently told SW ped advocates he prefers large once-a-generation projects like Capitol Highway, and I personally heard him say that’s ‘all SW was getting for the next 20 years.’ So design all those grand street plans you want; they aren’t getting built while we are alive. I do note that such plans were suggested to a senior PBOT staffer a decade ago, and they commented “Great idea; never happen” so that’s progress at least.

“A pre-existing corridor-length plan allows the city to justify a frontage exaction as being consistently required of all developments, thus shielding it from developer lawsuits.”

As advocates – AND the Ped Design Guide research – have stated repeatedly, this is a necessity. However, tt requires a legal staff willing to defend it, or a city staff willing to defy the legal staff and DIRECT them to defend it. A story was related to me where Kruger stated “My boss told me: ‘maximum density; don’t get me sued.'” That doesn’t sound like a city hall with a spine.

Kruger is a snake oil salesman; he tells the neighborhoods nice half-truths and shaded facts (like ‘sidewalks in SW cost 20 million a mile’), but looks good and sounds nice while doing it, so he gets away with telling them they’ll get nothing and like it. He is just so sincerely sorry there’s nothng he can do do fix situations that are actually his job to fix, while knifing ped improvements in the dark back room of Alternative Review.

And it really isn’t just Kruger – although he is the Ken-Doll face of the rot – since it starts at the mayor’s desk. Wheeler pulled off several coups to completely eliminate Neighborhood Associations and neighborhood activists from having any serious sway on development; SWNI was the most formidable foe on that, and he kept his fingers off the knife while Eudaly went after it… and then appointed Hardesty to deliver the killing thrust. He then appointed Mapps, who everyone (including Mapps) thought would be in charge of NAs and restore their power, to PBOT, an agency Wheeler had to know was going to be difficult. And a millstone around the neck of whomever ran it should they want to be mayor… just in case Ted wanted another term.

Wheeler has then presided over the implosion of OCCL, the continued guttings of Land Use code (‘MOSTLY meets all codes’ vs ‘must meet’ being the most egregious), and the further diminishment of neighborhood power. The latest “temporary, then permanent” BDS rule changes eliminate much public notice and comment on development, yet all the hype is over bird-safe glass; a masterclass in deflection while the real work goes unnoticed. Did Wheeler DO each of these things? No, but the whole ‘weak mayor’ schtick is just that; my impression has been that under the guise of ‘making housing affordable’ Wheeler has steered a lot of developer-friendly policies through the halls at 4th and Madison.

It all adds up to a city which has been relentlessly closing off citizen participation and activism, while smiling nicely and talking about inclusion. Not just in ped and bike circles, by the way.

I’ll stop the inside-baseball rantings and leave with this:

“Because every advocate out there, you’ve got an equally, if not louder, voice than a developer in city council’s ear advocating for their piece.”- Kruger

If you believe THAT one, the problem isn’t Kruger; it’s you.

cct
cct
3 months ago
Reply to  cct

One (hopefully) last thing:
Don Baack, … ended with, “it is totally disgusting that we can’t figure out reasonable ways to solve problems that are very clear to most people on the ground.””

In some ways, it isn’t PBOT’s fault they can’t; the engineers are trained to follow the AASHTO manuals, and the legal staff is trained to tell the engineers not to deviate. What makes complete sense as PED and BIKE users is often not ‘per the manual’ because ‘the manual’ is written for CARS. You are “an obstacle in the Clear Field” as far as that manual is concerned.

The sooner advocates realize what the true problem is the better.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  cct

I love these comments b/c they ring true to me. Lisa has to say nice things about the people she covers, but we commenters can call ’em as we see ’em.

For me this entire discussion just leaves me exhausted. When I visit other cities and bike on their wonderful trails and bike lanes, I just wonder why Portland can’t do what other cities are somehow able to do.

Ryan
Ryan
3 months ago
Reply to  cct

It all adds up to a city which has been relentlessly closing off citizen participation and activism, while smiling nicely and talking about inclusion. Not just in ped and bike circles, by the way.

Things are not likely going to get better for you in this regard, and it’s not just the city. The Governor’s Housing Production Advisory Council is recommending policies that would preclude appeals of housing land use decisions by anyone other than an applicant and exempt housing development from any public discretionary review.
https://www.oregon.gov/gov/policies/Documents/HPAC%20Preliminarily%20Adopted%20Recommendations%20Summary%20(12-21%20DRAFT).pdf
(some of these are recommended as temporary measures for however long we’re in a housing emergency, and any of the recommendations still need legislative or executive action)

Neighbors, neighborhood groups, and the general public will have as much input on a housing development as they would on a plumbing permit.

Citizen participation and activism can be a NIMBY cudgel that slows down housing production and makes homes less affordable. On the other hand though, local governments can and do miss (or misapply) regulations, and closing off public notice and appeals removes an important check within the process. Regardless of whether one thinks those policies are good or bad, that’s certianly the way things are trending.

On another topic…

although he is the Ken-Doll face of the rot

I think we can do better by sticking to substance and not commenting on someone’s physical appearance, no matter how benign the intent may be.

cct
cct
3 months ago
Reply to  Ryan

Yup, I have actually had neighbors tell me they want to oppose something because they ‘want to do the NIMBY.’ They are wrong. I have also had neighbors thoughtfully critique a project, had the staffer AGREE with them, and the project was made better. Removing all input is proverbial babies and bathwater.

I wasn’t commenting on Kruger’s appearance (I’ve seen him twice and couldn’t pick him out of a lineup), but the fact that people have said he ‘talks well and is pleasant’ – so he gets away with saying half-truths and bland platitudes. He’s inoffensive and plastic. – are people so tired of “Barbie” that pop-culture references using it are over? Noted.

Don
Don
3 months ago

Adding paved shoulders (Gibbs) or adding huge expanses of pavement as was done on Capital Highway is a non-starter. The cost and impacts of changing compact hillside street R.O.W.s to wide suburban streets with retaining walls (Capital Hwy.) is environmentally and financially not sustainable. More creative ways to use existing pavement and reallocate the use of paved areas, aggressive traffic calming, or other creative solutions that can be implemented at a large scale is what is needed and practical. Let’s not add any more pavement.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Don

I’d be in favor of making a lot more one-way streets so that the second lane could be devoted to bikes and peds.

🚲
🚲
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Cars will drive even faster on one-way streets knowing there is no oncoming traffic.
Remove the center double yellow lines, put in advisory lanes where cars have to make way for each other, and force cars into the center with physical obstacles separating it from the bike+ped lanes (bollards, jersey barriers, the occasional parked car).

Charley
Charley
3 months ago

I’m glad Lisa could read between the lines of Kruger’s quote, because it was very opaque to me!

As with the PBOT Director’s quotes, this kind of bureaucratic language is really frustrating to hear. It seems like the words are chosen to be vague enough that neither side of a controversial issue will feel threatened.

I can sympathize with why this kind of language might be necessary at times, but it’s just hard for citizens to parse.

Charley
Charley
3 months ago

Yeah, that makes sense.

I know a lot of wonky stuff (ask me about the Jones Act!), but Nolan/Dolan was news to me.

Nick
Nick
3 months ago

And why do I say keep advocating? Because every advocate out there, you’ve got an equally, if not louder, voice than a developer in city council’s ear advocating for their piece. And they are not mutually aligned. I’ll just say it that way.

This brought to mind how disturbingly effective the freight/trucking lobby and the fire department are at nixing road improvements

X
X
3 months ago

Is Mr. Kruger a person with line authority over permitting, somebody’s actual boss, or just a person with a finger in the pie? If a ‘czar’ doesn’t make effective decisions he’s a PR person.

If Kruger is really in charge it wouldn’t take developers long to figure out that no, you don’t have to build sidewalks but if you bring in a plan without them it’s going to be scrutinized and you’ll have to answer questions about everything and they’re going to bring in a big dog to run around and smell the whole thing, because it stinks.

Sidewalks, or some kind of safe and convenient pedestrian facility, should be the default. It’s like headlights on a car, not like a basket on a bicycle. It’s going to cost less to plan for sidewalks from the start than to come back and put them in after the whole neighborhood is built out.

Yes, storm water runoff has to be managed, but a development sheds runoff from its roof, its driveway and parking, etc. Where’s that going? The sidewalk runoff can go the same way. If a site is so extreme that you can’t manage water off 600 square feet of sidewalk, what are you going to do with water off 10,000 square feet of roof?

cct
cct
3 months ago

Kruger basically sets the tone on many development issues for PBOT, so if he is hostile to project-by-project ROW improvements, they will not be enforced. Spolier alert: he is hostile to them, and has stated a preference for mega-projects that fix a whole road. No money for that, so it happens once every generation. Lisa mentioned “I don’t write anything I don’t believe to be true” so she disagrees with some of my statements… but PBOT has done a number of projects where the only requirement is a paved shoulder, and sometimes a dedication of land to a FUTURE right of way to be built. So yes, I believe it to be true that Kruger has set policy for SW and other areas not getting sdewalks. He has, in my opinion, pitched his career on the premise that he smoothes the way for developers on the PBOT side, and he has been rewarded for it by being placed in charge of a large portion of Portland’s future. There is also a tale of him telling an opponent in a land use case that “if we do this (make a developer put in sidewalks), it will end my career.” Interpret that as you will.

Lisa also mentioned not personalizing disagreements; this isn’t personal, as I’ve barely met the guy (I will say I was not impressed by the picture drawn by his audit, however). What I HAVE met is the continued resistance to pedestrian safety and unwillingness to burden developers at an upper level at PBOT. Perhaps it wasn’t Kruger, but his old departed boss, and now we’ll see a dramatic reversal on things. I will not hold my breath, but wish to be pleasantly surprised.

Aside from all of that, Kruger’s role at Alternative Review was to decide what PBOT would actually find feasible for a tough spot. What they have come up with for the default treatment is an unsafe paved shoulder. Remember that phrase, “the buck stops here?” That buck is on Kruger’s desk. He owns the decisions made, so i feel fine calling him out for them. As I said: prove me wrong, brother.

David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  cct

I only met Kurt for SW-related projects and for overall city discussions about sidewalks – I’m pretty sure he never came to our East Portland meetings and I get the impression that he is one of several people who do what he does – different staff for each part of town with some limited overlap. He is as bland-looking as you say he is, as I recall, the perfect nameless faceless bureaucrat at taxpayer expense.

As I recall, he and his colleagues keep perpetuating the myth that all (or even most) sidewalks were put in by private developers, which even PBOT refuted in a 2000 study, but most PBOT staff have still not read their own report (and likely never will – it’s not well publicized.)

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
3 months ago

The stormwater treatment requirement seems a bit ridiculous. I suppose that will prevent sidewalks from ever being added to the vast majority of SW Portland streets that don’t have sidewalks now. So let’s focus on adding sidewalks to outer east Portland and Cully neighborhoods. I’m guessing most outer SW Portland residents live there because they like the “feel” of the area, which I call “weird Portland” because it is so unlike the rest of Portland – it’s basically a suburb, and they mostly don’t mind the lack of sidewalks. Sadly, it just reinforces to children that one must have a car to go anywhere, even a few blocks away.

Bryan
3 months ago
Reply to  Hunnybee

This is so not even true. People live in SW for many reasons, not least of which is they want to live in the city but work points west and don’t want a long commute. We want sidewalks everywhere. We already subside the rest of the city’s transit network, how about we get a bit more than the rest for sidewalks?

David Hampsten
3 months ago

There’s also parts of Pleasant Valley in East Portland with similar clay soils as SW, with just as bad drainage, while a large portion of Powellhurst-Gilbert near Johnson Creek is swamp.

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
3 months ago

Thanks for the graphic, that’s helpful to know. It is unfortunate that sidewalks weren’t built in many areas of Portland. I’ve posted on this site a few times saying there should be a moratorium on all spending on additional bike infrastructure in Portland and use that money to add sidewalks to lower income neighborhoods. It’s an equity issue. Sidewalks are also where children learn to ride bikes. I have seen multiple comments on this site about how people in SW like the more country-like feel of outer SW, which is partly due to the lack of sidewalks.

If only we lived in a wealthy nation….oh wait

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
3 months ago

Yeah, all of the busier, larger streets should be prioritized for getting sidewalks all over Portland. People might be willing to walk on calm side streets without sidewalks, but not on busy streets without sidewalks.

qqq
qqq
3 months ago

Exactly. When people are talking about how nice no-sidewalk streets can be, they’re talking about the quiet, low-traffic neighborhood streets, not busy streets like you listed.

And one bad thing (among many) about those busy SW streets with no sidewalks (and often no shoulders, and not nearly enough safe crossings) is that they’re often the only route connecting the quiet streets to destinations like grocery stores, parks and schools. For people to walk or bike to those destinations, they need safety the whole route.

Adam Pieniazek
2 months ago

Heck, even Beaverton Hillsdale Highway has large chunks without sidewalk. Five lanes for driving with no space for walking!

X
X
3 months ago

The Cully neighborhood lacks storm drains on over half the street frontage and it would be a swamp if it weren’t for the soil. The underlying soil in most of Cully is a coarse sandy loam that is highly permeable.

If we ever get sidewalks in Cully they’ll be built with curbs and storm drains which will be almost entirely redundant because of the soil and topography. It’s a place where storm water could be managed on site pretty easily.

Cured concrete is impermeable. Cement is a powder that is hygroscopic. I apologize for being pedantic but it reminds me of “cement pond” and I never liked that show.

dw
dw
3 months ago
Reply to  Hunnybee

There’s a fantasy that everyone in SW is some richy-rich who drives a luxury but that’s just not true. There’s plenty of folks out in East Portland, living in massive houses, who are freaking out about any change to their stroad-oriented lifestyle. See the backlash to Division and Outer Glisan changes as an example.

I get where these kind of comments are coming from, but it doesn’t do anyone a lick of good to try and pit different parts of the city against each other. Each neighborhood has different challenges and needs; it’s about balancing those across the entire city.

David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  dw

There are wealthier sections of East Portland, this is true, they are near Metro’s Glendoveer Golf Course, in (the People’s Republic of) Argay, in parts of Wilkes, and in the hills of Mt Scott in Lents and Pleasant Valley. The poorest sections of East Portland are in Glenwood and Centennial near Gresham/Rockwood, and various areas in Powellhurst-Gilbert, but in reality there’s poor and homeless people in every neighborhood in East Portland including Wilkes, Argay, and Pleasant Valley.

Young SW Advocate-in-Training
Young SW Advocate-in-Training
3 months ago

As a parent and a resident of SW Portland, I was heartened to read about PBOT’s new Safer In Cars Initiative. Formerly the Safe Streets Initiative, this new direction will be better aligned with our existing infrastructure, our current transportation investments, and our society’s values.

Let’s face it, in SW Portland, it’s not safe to have your children walk or bike anywhere. Our kids belong in the back seat of our car. The benefits are immense. First, driving in a car is a much healthier option than walking or biking once you consider SW Portland’s lack of sidewalks and the inertial difference between a four-year old and an Amazon delivery truck. Second, sidewalk infill projects that encourage active transportation are not good for the environment due to the negative impacts of increased storm water. Third, the future is digital, getting kids outside could mean an awkward face to face social interaction. This only slows their progress in developing digital relationships from the safety of their own homes (or back seats of our cars!). And finally, reducing or altogether eliminating sidewalk infill projects can help bridge the $500M funding gap for critical and more beneficial projects like the I-5 Rose Quarter project so we can get people back to their Southwest Washington tax havens 5 minutes quicker.

Our children are our future. Let’s invest in them. We don’t even have to teach them. They learn directly from us through the examples that we set. We can do this!

/s

qqq
qqq
3 months ago

You could take the sarcasm note off the bottom and post this on Nextdoor and be quite popular!

Charley
Charley
3 months ago

Ha! Took me a minute to figure it out.

X
X
3 months ago

Comment of the week. /s or not, it would be refreshing if the city were more frank in stating its policy and we could vote on that.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson
3 months ago

Thanks Lisa for your excellent coverage of transportation in SW. I grew up in SW, on an unpaved stretch of Hume St. near “the Village.” We walked everywhere…to the Village, to school, to friends. All those unpaved, pot holed streets made a very effective, though unmarked network for access to just about everything. One just walked down the middle of the street…or should one say “country lane;” traffic, if any, was slow. We all had bikes once we grew up a bit, and again whether it was to Hillsdale or elsewhere in SW, we found and knew by heart those less traveled, relatively smooth routes that no map could provide. I was hit by a pickup…in the Village, I switched to the sidewalk near Marcos, and was hit by a guy turning left!
Topography is a driver in transportation landscape of SW, but also note that much of it was unincorporated county for years, much like the outer east side. For some the semi-rural feel of SW is a delight; if you need sidewalks, you buy or rent on the wrong side of town.

David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Lenny Anderson

I’m a fan of neighborhood associations, they are a great way for neighbors to work on common concerns and develop local democratic institutions, but the way Portland has divided the city into 95 official NAs and 7 coalitions makes no sense. How can a “neighborhood” of over 3,000 residents (the Portland average) be represented by a dozen older folks? For me, every NA ought to be about the size of East Portland’s Woodland Park (at the NW corner of Halsey and NE 102nd) – 300 residents represented by a dozen or so neighbors – and not Powellhurst-Gilbert (also in East Portland) with 31,000 residents, that of a small city.

Given the 4 new electoral districts, I’d say there’s a really good opportunity to reorganize the city and how neighbors work with one another. I’d personally start with SW and NW Portland – encourage neighbors to form hilltop villages and mini-mainstreets – then create small suburban districts in between – and limit village populations to no more than 1,000 residents. Next, have neighbors work with planning and PBOT to figure out future traffic flows and connections – maybe the same as now, maybe not – with an assumption that few new roadways will ever be built, so existing roadways will need to become shared roadways of slow cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. Mark territories with sign-toppers and yard signs. Then work from there.

Ryan
Ryan
3 months ago

When Kruger says that “contextual street design” gives him a tool “with a developer,” he is referring to the legal requirement (known as Nollan/Dolan where the U.S. Supreme Court imposed limits on governments that attempted to take property from landowners in return for development approval) that a city consistently apply its frontage requirements. A pre-existing corridor-length plan allows the city to justify a frontage exaction as being consistently required of all developments, thus shielding it from developer lawsuits.

Defending exactions is not a matter of whether requirements are applied consistently throughout a corridor. It’s about the impacts a development has on public infrastructure and whether the exactions required for development approval are roughly proportional. Even if the transportation improvements are required consistently along a corridor, what the city can legally exact will depend on the specifics of the development and what was on the site beforehand.

Some of the comments on articles about development in SW fault city leaders and staff for not being tough enough on transportation requirements. Exactions aren’t just a matter of the city taking an aggressive stance and out-lawyering developers who object. It’s the government’s obligation to demonstrate nexus and proportionality; not the developer. Takings claims can also go straight to federal court due to a 2019 SCOTUS decision (Knick vs. Township of Scott), which increases the cost and risk for a city that wants to push the envelope on transportation requirements. If a city gets it wrong, it may not just be LUBA remanding or overturning a decision. Some of what’s portrayed as the city caving to developers might simply be experienced staff knowing the legal bounds of what can be required early in the process (not asserting that’s always the case though…).

Development review and exactions aren’t easy topics to cover, and I appreciate Lisa’s attention to them!

David Hampsten
3 months ago

How do you feel about waivers of remonstrances?

X
X
3 months ago

“…it makes no sense to build a stormwater system piecemeal…”

That’s exactly what happened to neighbors of mine who replaced their house, adding a little square footage but no new residents. They had to pay for a stranded length of sidewalk with curb and storm water inlets which presumably go into the sanitary sewer because they are about 300 feet from any other storm drain. I guess there’s a calculation that individuals won’t fight because a lawsuit would cost them more in money or time than just paying the bill.

I see a fair number of ‘remodels’ where a house is rebuilt around one section of wall left standing, maybe that’s the workaround for this sort of thing.

cct
cct
3 months ago
Reply to  Ryan

“Defending exactions is not a matter of whether requirements are applied consistently throughout a corridor.”

Actually, the courts have said it is. Not a corridor, but on all cases; if you are going to task each development, say, 7% of total costs for ROW improvements, you need to show why that’s a reasonable number, AND apply it consistently. Texas does this. Portland has applied things so inconsistently they don’t have a leg to stand on. I doubt they start now, because it would cost money, and they have to convince a court they are starting to be consistent now.

There have been several cases recently where the city seemingly spent more staff time and taxpayer $$$ showing why something COULDN’T be done, instead of what could. SW Gibbs is sorta the poster child for that, as the developer wanted to do more, and wasn’t allowed, so a takings case was never an issue

Look, I readily admit it’s hard, and courts are often skeptical of government takings – but that doesn’t excuse a culture of ‘we’ll never win so don’t try’ and simply paving a shoulder.

David Hampsten
3 months ago

Here’s my take (translation) of Kruger’s long quote:

Point #1: Advocating for improvements through the development process is completely pointless, don’t even bother trying. There are so few parts of town where this has actually worked, all of them high-density, that it isn’t worth the effort in such a low-density area as SW. And even those high-density areas had a lot of government funding, SDC and city largess.

Point #2: Advocating for systemic change such as sidewalks on every street is equally pointless. No one can afford it. Often times there’s not even enough land available for the sidewalks let alone to deal with the runoff.

Point #3: Recognize that PBOT is run by engineers. Engineers like ranked lists – as projects get funded and implemented, they can check off items as they go along.

Point #4: Y’all in SWNI-land need to rank all your projects from #1 through #100, in ranked order. If East Portland could do it in 2010-12, why can’t you? Start with Southwest In Motion (SWIM), figure out what projects are at the top, then figure out a process (or several processes) to rank them. Consult with the neighborhood folks at EPAP if you have to, many are still around. If you have a big huge project, think about dividing it into smaller portions. Include state highways like Barbur, MAX, Red Electric, etc.

Point #5: PBOT has planning staff who can help you develop a “granular detail” conceptual design for your main streets like they did for Powell in East Portland – just because it was a state highway didn’t stop ODOT from hiring PBOT to do the work for them.

Point #6: Having projects designed and vetted beforehand makes them easier to fund as opportunities arise. You know that already. But it’s also possible given the high rate of homelessness and unusual low rate of overall adult employment (percentage of all adults who are gainfully employed and have filed W4s) that the country could once again have make-work programs to build sidewalks.

Point #7: By having projects fully ranked and vetted with every advocate and neighborhood association, SWNI can coordinate their advocacy, and the city plus the development community can more easily work with a united Southwest rather than a divided cacophony of voices.

cct
cct
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Some good points here and in other comments, David. Most of us don’t advocate for universal sidewalks (maybe Ms. Fitzgerald), just a safe walking and biking experience. And I like to say ‘sidewalks don’t cause runoff problems; CURBS do.’ PBOT has sorta admitted that recently. Now if they can JUST make the leap from ‘removing curb requirements’ to ‘…and use alternate pedways!’
As for the rest…

You do understand SWIM is more of a “what can we do easy and cheap” rather than a “get things fixed,” right? Much of it is busy work with paint and making people walk in the road. Do we need a crosswalk? Curvy streets mean you don’t have 350′ of vivibiliy both directions, so you can’t have one, etc. Engineers love checking off boxes, and all their boxes check us off.Advocates made a joke about a flowchart for ped improvements, attached. I am bemused PBOT will try all sorts of experiments with bikes, some not used anywhere else (green crosswalks) but will NOT experiment with ped projects. I have to laugh at some excuses – when asking about a compacted dirt trail to get around an obstacle with no room for a sidewalk, etc. people were told it wouldn’t meet ADA requirements. And walking in the road did? Or that a path at Gibbs with a small slope next to it was more dangerous than walking in the road…

I do agree each neighborhood should make some priorities, get them all together and pick the top 10 for that NA, and press on those. But it has been tried, and as Don Baack said, it doesn’t get anywhere as long as someone at PBOT decides it won’t. Management needed to change at PBOT, and sadly the problem just became more deeply entrenched.

Many good folks at PBOT have tried hard to get things done, but pedestrian safety is NOT a priority for someone at PBOT, it is flowthrough for commuter traffic. Whomever that person(s) is, Alternative Review is the enforcer.

I don’t agree that ‘give up’ is the option for #1. It would make Kruger’s job easier, that’s for sure. Capitol Highway got done mainly because Ms. Fitzgerald was gonna hound him from beyond the grave if that’s what it took. I would love it if management at PBOT actually respected people’s efforts, worked with them on these plans you mention, and then looked for funding internally AND externally, even putting some of the onus on the neighborhoods to find grants, badger politicians, call the Feds, etc. All hands on deck. To a PBOT employee, that woulr require that your boss views this as a productive use of time, an achievable goal they can bring to their bosses with actual progress… and an upper management that supports it. I don’t see the last right now.

But as I said – I don’t listen when people tell me to gie up.

flowchart
David Hampsten
3 months ago

Lisa & CCT, for the record I don’t necessarily agree with Kurt’s comments to Marianne either, it’s just my translation of what he said. All the In-Motion plans are underfunded, even the downtown one, but we can’t get stuff funded and acquire Dolan/Nolan right-of-way unless it’s already in a plan somewhere, and the In-Motion plans were catch-alls for various neighborhood priorities, some of which were already in the TSP, but many of the smaller sidewalk and crossing projects were not. Getting funding has always been, and always will be, a political process – luck plays a huge part in getting funding – but so does good timing and having good ongoing relationships with politicians at all levels, including state legislators, members of Congress, and even unelected bureaucrats.

We were “lucky” in East Portland when an unfortunate 5-year-old girl (white of course) was hit and killed on 136th south of Powell by a sober middle-aged female driver in broad daylight – through a long sequence of unlikely events including a grandstanding local legislator, we gradually (and sometimes suddenly) got the needed funding to not only rebuild 136th ($18 million+ and counting), but 4 miles of Powell as well ($132 million) – the first Columbia Bridge had just got cancelled which freed up a lot of extra funding just when we needed it.

As Curly and others have pointed out, after 12 years the EPIM still isn’t even close to being completed, but over $400 million in transportation infrastructure has been invested in the area when normally it would have been a small fraction of that. Perceived unity of advocacy is an important aspect of successful lobbying, even if it’s a bit false. And when the second Columbia Bridge gets cancelled, it’s important that local state legislators see that SW is their top Portland priority when the time comes.