Positive decision for Alpenrose permit bodes well for bicycling

The milk processing building on the Alpenrose site. (Photo: Lisa Caballero/BikePortland)

By the time most people know what’s going on, the decisions have largely been made. At least that’s how things often go.

It applies to a lot of situations, but I happen to be thinking of development and land use, specifically the proposed housing project on the site of the 51-acre former Alpenrose Dairy, in the Hayhurst neighborhood of southwest Portland.

When BikePortland last wrote about Alpenrose a few months ago, preliminary plans for the site had just been made public, and word was out that the developer was about to initiate the Public Works Alternative Review (PWAR) process. What’s the PWAR? It might seem a bit in-the-weeds, but it’s also a key step in whether or not this development will have good bicycling and walking facilities. And just this week, the City of Portland made a decision that bodes well for those facilities.

Public Works Alternative Review decision

Alpenrose site on Portland Maps.

The news is that the City of Portland Public Works permitting group has released a decision in response to the developer’s request to submit frontage plans (sidewalks, bike lanes and trails) that differ from the “full standard frontage improvements” usually required by the city.

Lost yet? Briefly, new development is required by city ordinance to build improvements along all the places where the property abuts the right-of-way — the frontages. In some locations, however, the right-of-way is not wide enough, or there are topological constraints, making it difficult or overly expensive to fulfill the city’s frontage requirements. In these cases, the developer can request to build an alternative to the standard, and this request initiates the Public Works Alternative Review process.

That may seem like more than you want to know, but those frontage decisions are what determine whether you will have a safe place to walk or ride a bicycle.

What happened this week is that the city has written a positive decision in response to the developer’s proposed frontage requests, including the multi-use path on the west side of Shattuck Rd. And although I’ve been focused on plans for Shattuck, the decision also mentioned the Red Electric Trail to the north, and changes on Vermont St. That’s a big deal, often sidewalks and bike lanes die in alternative review. But, so far, it looks like the area immediately surrounding the property will be well-served by new facilities.

Here’s what the PWAR decision form says about the Red Electric Trail:

“Given the slopes, the presence of mature protected natural resources, and the proposal to build the Red Electric Trail as a through pedestrian and bicycle connection, the committee supports the applicant’s proposal. Building the paved public trail through the site instead of building disconnected improvements at the existing right of way grade will greatly reduce impacts to natural resources while providing a substantial public benefit for the city’s priority modes of walking and cycling.”

The decision has come with conditions. It is an approval of concepts, not of specific engineering, and further details will need to be worked out. But at this stage of the process, this is a good outcome for the bike lanes, sidewalks and paths which will border the property. That doesn’t mean everybody, or even most people, are going to be happy. Neighbors are very concerned about car traffic impacts, not only in the immediate vicinity, but further north at the intersections of SW Shattuck and Oleson with Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (BHH). And even though the frontages of the site will have new facilities, those sidewalks and bike lanes will not continue past the boundary of the property. That means that the nice new multi-use path on Shattuck will end long before the road reaches BHH to the north.

We will cover more about neighborhood reactions (which are predominantly about traffic, but also concern the design of the subdivision) after a “Community Conversation” meeting later this month.

If you want to dive deeper into this important project, two community groups have been doing an outstanding job of tracking the planning process and keeping the public informed, the Hayhurst Neighborhood Association and the Friends of Alpenrose (FoA). To the extent that they are well-informed, neighbors can thank these volunteers. Friends of Alpenrose will be hosting a “Community Conversation about Transportation in Southwest Portland,” on June 24. Metro Councilor Duncan Hwang and State Representative Dacia Grayber will lead the conversation, with other regional and city officials present, and they will “talk about how the transportation planning process works.”

Being informed about what’s happening is much, much better than wandering down the road and wondering what the bulldozers are all about. For current information on how things are moving along, the Friends of Alpenrose provides timely updates. The City of Portland also regularly uploads permitting and other information which you can access through Portland Maps.

We’re keeping a close eye on this project as it moves along the process. Stay tuned.


— View a PDF of the PWAR decision below.


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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Fred
Fred
6 days ago

Thanks, Lisa, for the update, though you didn’t say specifically what the improvements are.

In a nutshell:

  • Shattuck will get a sidewalk and two-way MUP for the length of the property on Shattuck, though it will be narrower on the south end near Vermont Creek.
  • Vermont will get the same treatment but only for a few hundred feet west of Shattuck.
  • The Red Electric Trail will run through the development and dump out onto one of the dead-end streets on the west side.

Is that correct?

If so, I guess it counts as a win for cycling in Portland, which means: You get dedicated space to ride before you are dumped out again onto the narrow two-way streets (Shattuck and Vermont) so good luck to you, which is the status quo in SW.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago

Thanks, Lisa. I firmly believe that the unofficial motto of Portland is “You’ll get nothing and like it.”

So anytime we get more than nothing, that’s a win. And that’s what this development feels like: not great but not all bad.

maxD
maxD
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

I don’t like 2-way MUP’s on streets and I have a new reason to dislike them. I was just informed by the City that the Naito bike lanes are in fact an MUP and pedestrians are welcome to use them and the City can divert pedestrians into them anytime they want. I actually miss the good ole bike lanes that were not used for drop-offs by ubers, loading zones for Saturday market and the festivals, and pedestrian routes whenever the City wants to fence off and lease the sidewalk to a carnival.

I know it is bit off topic to talk about Naito, but I would be concerned that a 2-way MUP that is not well connected will become attractive real estate for delivery drivers, ubers, or just straight up parking. a 5′ or 6′-wide protected bike lane on either side of a street is less prone to being taken over.

Keith
Keith
6 days ago

Thanks for keeping up on this one. Getting adequate pedestrian/bike facilities with connections will be a key for this upcoming development. While there isn’t a ped/bike connection to BH Hwy. any existing sidewalk or pathway sections are on the west side of Shattuck. Making improvements to connect the dots is at least in the realm of possibility. We’ll see.

cct
cct
6 days ago

I am happy to admit I am surprised it wasn’t an outright ‘NO’ but wonder if this is permission to fail; all it takes is one regultion that renders it too expensive or too out-of-compliance and it all goes down.

I remain cynical because this is THE EXACT THING the city said it would not be doing anymore: those “sidewalks to nowhere” that end at the property line. Nollan/Dolan threw a pipebomb in the idea that future developments will complete the system, and Portland (unlike other cities) just caved on the idea of crafting a defendable standard.

Quite frankly, I think they have set the city up for a raft of future lawsuits with this if neighborhoods have an exaple to point to and cry ‘you let them do it!’ Looking at you, SW Gibbs!

And this bit is odd

Building the paved public trail through the site instead of building disconnected improvements

because it is talking about Red Electric, and then goes on to bash the very thing they just approved. Lazy language, or is someone laying foundations for “no frontage worked out, but hey, you have the Red Electric! ‘Conditions mostly met;’ approved!”

C’mon PBOT – warm this Grinchy heart and actually work FOR this, instead of passive-aggressively letting it trip over some small bump.

Mike Murray
Mike Murray
6 days ago

The title of the article might be correct but it doesn’t account for the devastating loss of the Alpenrose Velodrome. This did harm to cycling, both locally and nationally, which is not offset by the items described in the article.

Mike Murray
Mike Murray
6 days ago

No one could reasonably complain about the Cadonau’s support of cycling over the past 50+ years. They have been more than generous. The property belongs to their family so they can do what they want with it. The family members currently making decisions have taken the property in a completely different direction from those that have run it in the past. They were also not very straight forward with the people running the velodrome about their plans for future access. The whole story is very sad.

Vans
Vans
6 days ago
Reply to  Mike Murray

They made sure your efforts got no traction in the end, a very sad day indeed.

Quite a waste and shortsighted in the end, it could have been a very unique and novel centerpiece of a specific sector of the development that very well could have been a cornerstone of cycling infrastructure there.

Vans
Vans
6 days ago

If only they would keep the Velodrome……..

Jeffery
Jeffery
2 days ago
Reply to  Vans

I second this. I feel like the track community would love this piece of history back & bring back something that missing. Its a shame they let it sit there while The U.S loses another velodrome. Only 21 in America now.

Jeffery
Jeffery
2 days ago

This is great news but it’s still such a great loss that the Velodrome has been shut down for the last couples years siting empty & overgrown. Is there in news on that?