Thursday, April 29, 2010

Portland's sit & lie ordinance – another go

Oregonian: ”Portland City Commissioners take up sidewalks, panhandling today.”

Superficially the drafters of this resurrected ordinance have constructed a decent ordinance, homeless neutral, to meet the goals of sidewalk management and legal requirements: unobstructed passage on public sidewalks..

The new attempt has a good chance of surviving legal challenges, but begs the question – will this ordinance resolve the complaints? Probably not, because many complaints were oriented towards eliminating the homeless from the streets.

It is important to grasp that it is the Oregon, not federal, constitution that needs to be satisfied. Thus, it often does little good to look to other states for solutions to the alleged need to keep individuals from sitting or lying on the sidewalk.

From the information provided via the mayor's web page, it isn't clear that he has grasped the issues. Arguably, the city has only attempted to camouflage the true goal - that is to rid the streets of those too often incorrectly termed the homeless. The city still sees the root cause of downtown issues as the homeless.

From the Sidewalk Management Plan: “The lack of [social] services has added social pressures to the way sidewalks are used and affected the City’s need to manage its sidewalks in a way that will accommodate the new pressures without restricting the fundamental purpose of the sidewalks, which is to move people.”

But, there is nothing in the ordinance text that smacks of an attack on the homeless. There is no “sit” or “lie” components. But, there is nothing there that will stop conduct like aggressive panhandling, making of inappropriate comments to pedestrians who do not “contribute,” etc. This is ironically left to the enforcement of other ordinances.

The key will be enforcement. The best way to do that is to have beat cops in the area. With that enforcement another ordinance would not be necessary. Instead the city apparently will leave it to the Portland Patrol – Portland Business Alliance downtown security – to effect enforcement. But they have no police powers only that of a citizen's arrest.

Another attempt doomed to fail because the city has failed to grasp the real problem and deal with it. It is not the homeless. While one might not like to see the panhandlers, homeless or not, or those that sit or lie on the sidewalks, but they can as long as pedestrian traffic is not impeded. Ironically the new ordinance permits this activity.

© 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PDC: unfettered spendthrift

Daily Journal of Commerce: ”PDC pursues Portland post office.”

The Journal's article was well written and presented an informative time line. The post office property is oddly situated. It abuts Union Station and Broadway Bridge area. The Portland Development Commission (PDC) has coveted the post office property for years.

"Presently, redevelopment of the property may be a bit of a pipe dream, but that hasn’t stopped the PDC from dreaming."

PDC is the spendthrift/spoiled child living off an unrestricted trust fund. It sees something that it must have. It doesn't know why - but it must be had. It has no plans but that is never an issue - planning can come later. Or it can sit there for years.

The trust fund is sustained by the River District (Pearl) Urban Renewal Area. It is essentially self administered. The trust fund board is merely a rubber stamp for the desires of the spoiled child.

Property taxpayers who are funding the $2 mil guarantee and the ultimate purchase price have no say. They were brought on board years ago with the understanding that there was an end date to the borrowing and spending - but there is no end in sight.

Unrestricted spending hidden by the false impression that this is somehow PDC's money, leaves them spending at will. PDC does what the city government cannot do without citizen votes - impose and collects taxes at will.

© 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

PDC's move – handwriting on the wall

Oregonian: ”Developer Tom Moyer's company makes sweetened offer for PDC headquarters.”

April 28th meetingshould put an end to the faux dance between PDC and developer Moyer. Ryan Frank reports that the developer has offered to pay the moving costs, thus PDC would wake up one morning and get off the MAX in front of Peterson's. And they thought Old Town was bad.

Expect more of this crap at the meeting: ”"This is a really tough decision, really tough," Andrews [PDC chair appointed by Mayor Adams] said. "You have two great real estate families who've given a lot to this community. You have two great projects. Two great neighborhoods. I'm on the fence."

So you see, the liberal and conservative brand of capitalism is not really different. It is politically driven economic theory to benefit those who have and not those who have not. Mr. Moyer took a risk, probably fairly characterized as bonehead, in starting his project, but he is getting bailed out with no demonstrable economic benefit to the city.

The PDC meeting ought to be rather enlightening. No longer will there be a reason to withhold the terms of the offers and the final lease terms. Will there be any planned loopholes that will cause the cost to lease to increase over the term of the lease? You betcha.

While all the public participation was going on – I believe the decision to move had long been made. Public participation has allowed PDC to make the economic excuse to Old Town – gee Old Town we would love to stay, and we will not forget you, but the cost of leasing is the same and the economic benefit to the city is substantial. Jobs will be the banner line.

However, the construction jobs created will not be permanent nor will those paychecks be spent in the city. Assuming that the building can be filled, there is no guarantee, in fact it is unlikely, that the those that move in will represent new to the city jobs. PDC is an example – no new jobs are created in this move – no new discretionary income is made available.

When the Moyer building is ready for the move in - and it will more likely occur after the present lease expiration - will Kalberer Company stick it to PDC for the extension? Probably not.

© 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Historic hysteria

Daily Journal of Commerce: "Historic Portland home must move or be destroyed."

The historic house that is the subject of the article is on private property - PSU - and hasn't been used as a residence for many moons. PSU will be tearing it down unless some takes their offer to pay $1 plus and moving expenses. It is not a house in any sense - it has been used commercially.

The story raises the issue - isn't Portland just a little too 'save historic buildings' for its own good? I would agree that a house built in 1894 deserves a look to save before demolishing. But I see nothing in the article that indicates anything that makes this house unique enough to save. Victorian? It isn't what I would call a classic Victorian.

A neat but not stated concept relating to the determination to save "historic" buildings comes from the piece - use or lose. This building like way too many in Portland have lost their use function. They are left to sit unoccupied and waste away.

If the property owner determines a better (subjective) use - then it alone ought to decide the fate of the buildings on its property. Then if the city disagrees it should make the property owner economically whole.

In this particular case if someone takes the challenge to move the building - everybody wins. If they don't, it isn't clear that anyone loses by the demolition.

However, in the typical demolition situation, historic designations have become a limited taking by government. Maybe the question is – should the past stand in the way of the future, i. e., progress?

© 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Portland's affordable housing

Willamette Week: "City Hall Protesters Demand More Housing Money. Fritz Laments There Isn’t Any."

The commentators to this piece clearly pointed out the fallacy in Commissioner Fritz's response. It is unclear why it wasn't Commissioner Fish who provided the 'if only we had the money' response. He is the housing commissioner.

There seems to be money available for everything but affordable housing. $20 million was easily found for bike advocates. Whatever happened to the 30% set aside whereby 30% of the gross urban renewal district's new development funds were to go to affordable housing?

However, from the "city hall protesters" the Community Alliance of Tenants, Street Roots, and Sisters of the Road's perspective "affordability" is related to housing the "homeless." Their focus is on the zero and very income housing, not affordable housing for all. Private developers without urban renewal dollars focus on the high end housing.

Portland has an imbalance in funding affordability. Particularly deficient is the funding for affordable workforce housing.

© 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Changing of the business model

The newspaper industry is undergoing a significant change. Not so much as the result of the present economy or some other external pressure – but because they have finally looked up and read the handwriting on the wall.

The industry has been on the decline for years, maybe decades. Print news readership as well as the general news audience has declined for a host of reasons. None really matter because there is no fix to go back to the good old days. [State of the News Media 2009].
"Several years ago, there was vague talk that the industry would work through shedding less-desirable subscribers and that print circulation numbers might stabilize if not turn back up. That now appears less likely as the gradual shift of audience to the Internet continues and financial pressures rule out aggressive investment in building print circulation for most metro and mid-sized papers. So expect circulation totals to decline again in 2009 and 2010." State of the News Media 2009
Newspapers have gone out of business, some have converted to Internet only, some have taken a hybrid approach - still printing but mirrored to a certain extent on an online site.

The industry has become more concentrated with once independent print media companies coming under one ownership. E. g., the Oregonian is a part of Advance Publications. To see what else Advance Publications owns click here.The American City Business Journals in the list is the bizjournals, Portland Business Journal being one of 40 similar publications.

There was a time not that long ago that the newspaper was the marketing medium. What ever one wanted to buy or sell - a job to fill or seeking a job - real estate of a car to sell – it was through your local newspaper. But along the way to the Internet, TV/cable provided an alternative for some advertising that was once exclusive to the newspaper, e. g., local automotive dealers.

Today the Internet provides a wide consumer access and a less expensive means of marketing a service or product. Business and consumers benefit. It is an evolution from single-media, print marketing to multi-media marketing.

An Internet site makes available a multi-media approach to presentation of news and, of course, advertising. It is foreseeable that even the sense of smell will be available– leaving touch as the only sense not available via the Net.

And, pushing this evolution in news marketing is the demographics, while the older population still reads the newspaper, the younger generation is finding everything it wants and needs on the Internet.And while they are there they might read the news.

The Internet is today's marketing medium. It is the electronic shopping mall. Virtually everything is available from the comfort of your home. Businesses have recognized this and have moved to the Net. Banks, department stores and any other business one might patronize during the day has an online presence.

Newspapers though have been slow to establish an online presence and to seek out the commercial benefits offered by the web. The Oregonian is a newspaper that seems to be taking the hybrid approach for the time being.

Arguably, there is still enough demand for the print version of the news that they can continue to print a daily and a Sunday paper, but it seems only at substantial cost cutting. See the latest buyout offer by the Oregonian.

It isn't the news, but marketing that is the game. News itself is not a profit generating product – the needed revenue comes from advertising sales. The Oregonian as part of Advance Publications appears to be benefiting from them as a larger and more marketing savvy organization.

First take notice of the look of the Oregonian's online site. It is a new and better look, and it appears to be a common look among the Advance Publications Internet sites. It is geared for better ad placements. Several recent items re the Oregonian are examples of their new marketing techniques designed to bring in advertising dollars. One is the ad wrap - “which is an ad that folds around the spine of a newspaper.”[Blogger: Inside Out].

If you have brought a Sunday paper and read the comics you have seen the this form of advertising before. It is a new use for the front page. It is called spadea ad. Oregonian's executive editor states that “ads like these pay for the news staff.

But the real marketing changes are coming from Advance Publications. They have partnered with Microsoft – say good bye to Google ads? - who “is once again seeing the benefits of the newspaper company local connection.” “Advance Internet is the first major local news company reselling display ads into the Microsoft Media Network.”
"Advance Internet's own salespeople, and then the vanguard of its newspaper sales reps, will sell into the Microsoft Media Network, encompassing all the Microsoft sites. So, in essence, Advance will greatly expand what its sales teams can offer local advertisers. The idea and the centerpiece of the deal for Advance: the ability to offer local businesses additional marketing solutions, multiplying Advance's sales."
The above quotes in the two paragraphs above are taken from “Microsoft's First Big Newspaper Partnership, ” Seeking Alpha by Ken Doctor. It is an excellent article that provides much more detail.

What also comes out of this partnership is the connection that Advance Publications has with Microsoft who with NBC owns The latter has acquired Everyblock which is a “block-level aggregation of news application.” [Blog Inside out.].

It is another move that “expands the growing emphasis that the newspaper sales force can help local firms grow their businesses on the best medium, offering marketing solutions beyond print.” See Blog Inside out.

Everyblock is a new experiment in online journalism, offering a news feed for every city block in 15 cities. Enter any address, neighborhood or ZIP code in those cities, and the site shows you recent public records, news articles and other Web content that's geographically relevant to you.” [The Everyblock FAQ].

What comes out of this is that the Oregonian as part of a conglomerate will survive not as a print newspaper but as a print newspaper and online news site plus.

But, I am not sure about the Oregonian continuing in the not too distance future as a print newspaper. That probably depends on the online success in collecting advertising dollars enabling the online portion to subsidize the print.

It would seem that if the print version cannot be profitable on its own – then it ought to cease. But, new advertising techniques might prove that print news circulation might well stabilize and stop the circulation decline, thus becoming an asset.

It is not difficult to see that advertising in print and online could be connected in a sales package offering local businesses a broad coverage. There is still a large percentage of print readers.

And readership is important because it is estimated that readership is 2.3 times the daily circulation and 2.6 times the Sunday circulation. Thus, readership includes circulation and those who read the paper but didn't buy it. [See the article State of the News Media 2006].

The business model for newspapers is changing and not soon enough. It may well be the situation where a large conglomerate – if well organized and efficiently operated – can reinvent news presentation.

For better or worse - reading the news will never be the same.

© 2009, 2010; originally published on the Old Town Blog, Oregonlive, October 2009

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Old Town as seen by "journalists."

Oregonian: A new look at Old Town's big changes; Old-school barber shop embodies the realities and possibilities of Old Town and Chinatown.

These were two articles one by an Oregonian columnist and another by a University of Oregon graduate student in journalism and media production. Neither author had any sense of the subject matter.

The columnist has traditionally written excellent articles, but seems to stray in order to offer less than deserved praise for the new journalists. The student's article was merely an English 101 writing exercise.

Harsh on the student? Yes. I am wondering how anyone, much less a graduate student in journalism, can spend 10 weeks in Old Town and produce only an article focusing on a barber. Not that he was not worth the focus - but if this is all that was ascertained in 10 weeks – he should have failed the class.

The student: "Few people actually head into Chinatown or Old Town, where the vacant storefronts and boarded-up buildings are a tangible reminder of the bad economy and this historic community's struggle to redefine its purpose and identity."

He should have stopped at the first comma. ”Vacant storefronts . . . tangible reminder of the bad economy?” That is factually incorrect. So too ”this historic community's struggle to redefine its purpose and identity.”

Accompany the student's article were other graduate student's photos and videos. But none portrayed the essence of Old Town today or yesterday. They failed to convey factual information of value except maybe for someone's scrapbook.

Omitted was the historical and present role of the Japanese in Old Town. The focus is the myth - that Old Town is a Chinatown. It is more a Japanese Town as it once was. Particularly inexcusable for a journalist, student or not, is the failure to cover the Japanese internment.

Sorry - I guess I expected more out of 2010 graduate students.

© 2010

"If students aren't in school, they can't learn"

The title is a quote from a article: "Truancy court in Oakland is for parents."

The article is about truancy court in Oakland, Alameda County, California (directly across from San Francisco) where appropriately the focus is on the "responsible" parents not the children. I wonder how many truant children in the Portland School System have parents like these in Oakland?

"One mom said she couldn't find her son's school. Another blamed traffic. One said her son was repeatedly tardy to class because he had difficulty opening his locker."

Truancy affects funding, but more importantly it increases the crime rates. drug use, the future economic profile of the city. Education, not necessarily academic, is key to an individual's economic well being.

© 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

To fill the development void - tourism

New York Times: "San Francisco Detours Into Reality Tourism."

The city and PDC have narrowed down the leased premises to two - Park Avenue West and the extant location. Logic and unfulfilled promises dictate that PDC stays put - but this is Portland.

But in some sense it matters not that PDC goes or stays - development in Old Town showed little promise even with PDC smack in the middle of Old Town. So Old Town needs to put together a 'x' year plan to attract development. They can't rely on the city or PDC.

Is it possible that tourism could be an alchemic process - or maybe even better - could it be the making of lemonade with the given lemons?

San Francisco. "So it is that armed with a recent listing on the National Register of Historic Places, community and city leaders are readying the Tenderloin for its big moment, complete with plans for a new museum, an arts district and walking tours of “the world’s largest collection of historic single-room occupancy hotels.” And unlike, say, the Tenement Museum in New York, which offers tours of a long-unused Lower East Side apartment building, a trip to the Tenderloin could go a step further."

“We can bring people into an SRO and show them where people are living now,” Mr. Shaw said, referring to the single-room occupancy dwellings, or residential hotels, in the area. “And that’s a real plus.”

Now having lived in the San Francisco Bay area for 30 plus years - Old Town is clearly not a tenderloin area. Its problem is image though. Ridding the streets of the drug dealers and capitalizing on the positives could bring development dollars to Old Town.

Thanks to the city and PDC, Old Town development has strayed from its development plan. But the path can be set upon once again by the active efforts of the Old Town community consisting of the property owners, small businesses and the non-profits like University of Oregon and Mercy Corps led by an active neighborhood association.

Then I woke up.

© 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

PDC choices for new location - down to two

Oregonian: "PDC narrows HQ pick to Old Town, Park Avenue West"

Park Avenue West is a hole in the ground and is likely to remain as such until the economy becomes robust. It is a hole in the ground because of the arguable incompetence of the developer Moyer who took the financial risk to start digging without the prospect of tenants or lenders.

Park Avenue hasn't been able to find a anchor tenant. There is no one interested. That alone should say it all. PDC is the last ditch effort. And, why is it that this city agency will make a difference? If it is just to fill space then move some of the other city agencies/departments into the building. According to Mayor Adams there is a need for space.

A hundred of construction jobs that would most likely be non-Portland residents will do little for Portland's economy but a lot for Mr. Moyer's. There is little if any job multiplier effect. Temporary construction employment - is a poor trade for the potential loss of businesses in Old Town where there would be a reverse job multiplier.

It is unlikely that there will be new tenants at Park Avenue but tenants from other Portland locations moving to "better" office space. It is the trading of space not an influx of new tenants.

Spending $500,000 and more to move somewhere around 200 employees (I think it is much less) to move seems rather ridiculous use of tax payer dollars. It is hardly likely that the new lease will match the terms offer by Kalberer Company. Thus, the "cost" to move is likely to be substantial to the tax payers.

I would challenge too that there would be an economic boost by a PDC move to Park Avenue. There is no guarantee that becoming a tenant would produce the bank loans necessary to finish construction. There is no guarantee that 'new to the building' tenants will fully populate the building.

There has been no evidence offered that another office tower with high end leases will revitalize Portland's economy. Where is the rationale that a city should bail out a particular developer for his failure. Who is next? The city's money is tax payer money - it should be spent wisely.

While I believe that the city has made a decision to move - justifications to follow - I hope that the Kalberer Company when PDC needs an extension to stay put because the new location isn't constructed - kicks them to the curb.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last post on the Oregonian/Oregonlive

I published my last post on Oregonlive as Old Town. The content of my Old Town blog became a substantial bone of contention between Oregonlive and myself. Where before I was absolutely free to post content, that changed to an occasional “suggestions.” Frankly I saw these suggestions as a form of censorship. [See Jesse Jackson post from the Old Town blog that was depublished by Oregonlive without notice.]

The Oregonian and Oregonlive are part of Advance Publications that one might argue seeks to squeeze every penny out web site content. Community or neighborhood content is not oriented to any social or political value to the community, but only set to tie community and neighborhood businesses to ad revenue.

Since 2005, I have attempted to focus attention on Old Town. I am sure many didn't appreciate that focus because it was for the most part bringing to the light of scrutiny the very negative aspects.

The failed promises by the city and PDC to develop Old Town has resulted in the ever present drug dealers and growing street users; the housing of substantial number of sexual predators; and an ever increasing concentration of social services and low to no income housing contrary to established city policies.

Old Town is not like any other Portland neighborhood. Old Town was on its way, a very slow path to be sure, to development. I see Old Town as the perfect part of the city for unique urban renewal unlike downtown, South Waterfront, or even Pearl.

It is ideally situated for working class housing, startup businesses, commercial offices and the retail to support them. There is even room for a public market and boutique hotel. But oddly enough, ever since Vera Katz left the mayor's office, Old Town development has been avoided.

Location, location, location – Old Town has it. The Willamette River separates it from the eastside. The river and Waterfront Park is at its back with Pearl and downtown as contingent neighborhoods. The Coliseum and convention center as well as Lloyd Center are just across the river. All of the MAX and virtually all buses transits Old Town.

Historic districts. Old Town has two. Although I am not particularly enthused about historic districts because for the most part in Old Town they have become the rationale to oppose development. While touting the two districts - the city has failed to restore many of the properties in the districts, especially the Skidmore Historic District. They sit vacant from the retail level up and are underutilized at the retail level.

Walkable. A resident in Old Town can easily avoid MAX and buses by walking. It is an easy walk to downtown even to PSU and PGE Park. And, only few blocks away from Pearl and the immediate eastside.

The irony is that there is little in Old Town to keep a resident there. If you have discretionary income – you leave the area to spend it. It is the trip out and back that is the issue.

Walking in and out of Old Town is not comfortable. It is not the homeless or panhandlers or even public drunkenness – it is the drug dealers and drug users that have taken the streets as their own. These are not residents – they come to the neighborhood to sell and use drugs. Portions of 6th Avenue are unsafe to walk at any time.

It is the potential of Old Town that keeps me enthused and actively engaged in criticizing failed city and PDC polices and promises. It is what happens when a city tunes its policies to benefit the lowest common denominator.

But even after years of writing and seeing little positive change in Old Town, I will continue to give my opinion. I remain hopeful that the city government will take cognizance of the need to balance “business” and “social” needs and to keep the promises of the city.

© 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jesse Jackson looking for a cause

[This is a March post that the Oregonlive depublished from my Old Town blog without even a notice courtesy.]

Jesse Jackson the new expert on Portland is here seeking to find a place for his brand of activism. He can't seem to grasp that his day is long gone. It is hard to imagine that anyone sees him as beneficial to any cause.

If he has any credibility left one wonders why he doesn't address issues like gang violence not only in Portland but elsewhere in the country. For the most part it is black on black murder.

See the Oregonian's article “Portland judge says he hopes sentence in gang shooting is a lesson to young African American men” wherein the judge is quoted: “Feeling disrespected is not enough of a reason to kill someone.”

The article indicates that the “Portland police said the shooting sent gang tensions to a boiling point -- spurring almost one shooting per a day for the next several weeks.”

But, “the Albina Ministerial Alliance, a group of pastors, held a news conference urging cooperation with police, denouncing the shooting and calling for a new push to reduce gang violence” failed to attract the attention of Jesse Jackson – but a police shooting ((suicide by cop) did.

Of course the Oregonian editorial board continues to whip up antagonism against the police by its irresponsible editorial and its hypocritical moralizing - “We're failing African-American young people in this community.”

This is part of the editorial that served no other purpose than to inflame the situation (and maybe to please Mr. Jackson): "[A] repeated criticism of the Portland Police Bureau is that it has failed to obtain prompt medical care for people beaten or shot by police; sickeningly, a dog was even allowed to lick Campbell, as he lay dying."

Apparently, it only takes a lunch with the editorial board to become a new Oregonian favorite son. Careful where that a*s kissing will lead to next.

© 2010 Larry Norton

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Editorial endorsements: here is how you should vote

The Oregonian: "Editorial endorsements not intended to tell people how to vote."

Poppycock! Editorial endorsements are intended to tell people how the Oregonian wants them to vote. Otherwise - why waste the time.

Shade it how you like, but by endorsing candidates or whatever is on the ballot it is an attempt to influence citizens' votes. It may not be a dictatorial demand but it is close enough.

It is rare that an Oregonian editorial offers an objective assessment of the candidate or measure. Or for that matter - an objective view of any editorial subject matter.

The Oregonian editorial content is an opinion politically biased, not neutral, and too often not well informed.

© 2010

Oxymoron: ethical state officials

The Oregonian: "Despite state ethics rules, Treasury officials golf regularly on duty."

"The state can levy a fine of up to $5,000 for violating the prohibitions." "It's [golfing] a great time, and great insights are gleaned from that activity." Emphasis added to make the point.

It is patently ridiculous to assume that playing golf is somehow business related. It is nothing more than an attempt by investment managers to influence state treasury officials, and an attempt by state treasury officials to obtain the influence.

The Oregonian states that ethic rules deny acceptance of "free entertainment unless its "incidental" to the main purpose of the event they're attending."

Ron Bersin, executive director of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, states "the commission does not think that a golf tournament at a conference is incidental." So Ron - where is the enforcement?

© 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Old Town neighborhood association on PDC lease renewal

The association's full motion can be found in the Oregonian piece by Ryan Frank. The motion makes several good points about the consequences and inappropriateness of the move. The article indicates that PDC will narrow down four proposals to two at the next PDC meeting on April 14.

[Immediately following is a revised paragraph because of a second look at the agenda.]

A look at the agenda indicates that there is an item possibly relating to the lease renewal of the headquarters, it is called office lease negotiation. There are no documents available yet for viewing. And, there is an item regarding an extension of the storage lease on the premises adjacent to the main PDC building.

It is interesting that this “storage” lease adds one more to the building list of justifications for a move. It turns out that the space subject to this lease, executed in 2005, is not now a proper space for storing public records. Thus, PDC after 5 years has discovered that the space is improper.

“Use of this space for storage of public records could put those records at continued risk due to the facility not meeting city standards for the maintenance of public records. PDC staff will take into consideration this issue when evaluating the potential relocation of PDC’s offices or the renewal of our current office space lease agreement as of September 1, 2011 and will make our best efforts to work with Kalberer Company prior to the new lease expiration date to address these deficiencies. “ [PDC Report 10-32 on the agenda].

Look - there is no doubt in my mind that the decision has already been made. What we have is a pretext by PDC that what Old Town has to say has relevance. Not that Old Town shouldn't rise up and storm the Bastille of hypocrisy.

But, I am not sure that Old Town residents and businesses get it. If PDC moves – Old Town's development has reached its zenith and will plummet to its nadir. Kiss any hope of an Asian market goodbye. Say goodbye now to the University of Oregon; they only lease those buildings. Say goodbye to those ancillary businesses that located in Old Town only because PDC was there.

You might as well burn all of those copies of the Old Town Chinatown development plans. Property and business values? Apparently, the city has no qualms about their decrease – they will still collect property taxes irrespective of losses assumed by property and business owners.

Redevelopment of the Skidmore Oldtown Historic District long promised and long overdue will be long forgotten. The Lan Su Chinese Garden may well become a lost asset.

While the city has made an attempt to ameliorate the effects of the move by saying it will fill the building with other city employees, it is a hollow statement. The city not only hasn't made a promise to that effect, but also it has not indicated one positive effect for Old Town nor countered any opposition argument.

While I am less than sanguine about the possibility of PDC staying put – I am conscious of the fact that it can be influenced to change its mind given the right opposition. It is not that PDC doesn't have the gonads - it is that it has to be reminded that it has a pair.

And, it matters not whether the main lease is on the agenda or not. PDC provides time at the beginning of their meetings for anyone to speak on any subject. I am hopeful therefore that at the next meeting Old Town will be there to demonstrate their outrage – not just concern.

Organization may well be key. A spokesman for a group sounds like a good idea, but I submit that quantity with quality of argument is best. The audience ought to be filled. Each person ought to have an argument against the move with the result that a goodly number of people speak presenting in total a list of opposition.

Finally, if the April 14th meeting is where in fact the final two proposals are selected, I hope that Old Town will have enlisted supporters, like League of Women Voters, to testify.

It is one thing to lose - but to lose without a fight is unthinkable.

© 2010 Larry Norton

Thursday, April 1, 2010

PDC move – results in May: Old Town say goodbye to PDC

It seems as the only media that cares enough to report on this especially important possibility is the Oregonian. Kudos to them, especially Ryan Frank.

I was not at the last PDC meeting on March 31, but I was at the meeting between Old Town and PDC concerning the move. While there was concern expressed by Old Town – the passion was not there. There is always a certain resignation in Old Town – a C'est la vie attitude.

It must be mentioned too that the Old Town Business Association has shown its impotence. It is an organization of a few that for the most part do not represent the bulk of Old Town businesses. As an organization, it has done little to galvanize the many local businesses in Old Town. Say goodbye to them too.

Through city policies, or the ignoring of those policies, the city as well as PDC have eliminated an opportunity for neighborhood building. The social services and entertainment sectors dominate the neighborhood called Old Town. PDC and Old Town itself has to take credit for Old Town's failure to develop.

Old Town's failure is that it never has recognized that it must do something other than attend meetings. These meetings were almost always attended by the same people who for the most part until recently were not even Old Town residents.

Neighborhood building was never discussed as such. Yes, there was an excellent development plan mostly ignored when push came to shove. The neighborhood association for years played third fiddle (there was no second fiddle) to the Vision Committee when it came to development issues.

[See the New York Times' (via Oregonian) view of Old Town development.]

When finally the neighborhood association gained top spot – other than the chair Mr. Mace – it has failed to demonstrate a passion to develop a neighborhood. I may be in error, but I believe he recognizes that a once a month board meeting where the community is virtually absent does not bring about change.

Mr. Mace was for all practical purposes alone at the recent meeting between Old Town and PDC. Part of that is because Old Town has failed to recognize the benefit of building alliances.

E. g., I don't know that any attempt was made to obtain the support from the League of Women Voters. They have been a long time supporter of urban renewal in Old Town, yet Old Town has done little to connect with them on an ongoing basis – apparently assuming their support would always be there.

Old Town has failed to take advantage of “testifying” at PDC commission hearings. It is an opportunity provided to speak on any subject irrespective of the agenda. PDC was right in the middle of their neighborhood. Yet – they seem to assume that because a PDC representative attended meetings that they didn't have to take any extra steps to let PDC know their concerns.

Same too at city hall, although with the present make up of the council – that may have been a waste of time. But, it may have been possible to gain editorial support from the local media. Too late though for “better late than never.”

It is all for naught. PDC is building their case for the move. They want out so bad they will “find” the reason to justify it. At the recent Old Town – PDC meeting the PDC chair was talking about a compelling need to be demonstrated for a move. That is no longer a basis.

The chair in a recent Oregonian story: ”If we can be the catalyst for a project that creates jobs and creates (property tax revenue) and doesn't cost us an arm and a leg compared to staying, that s what our commission is weighing.”

Close to transit was once a factor, but that is gone too. The favorite Portland developer who has been “helped” along by PDC is in the narrowed pack of 4. Gerding Edlen's Meier & Frank Depot building in Pearl has been determined as close to transit.

Hog wash! The transit is the Portland Streetcar – not buses – not MAX- not even a decent walking distance from buses or MAX. This is pure political and further demonstrates the PDC desire to exit Old Town by any means possible.

The Park Avenue West project – the completion of this building is seen as having a large catalytic impact. “Catalytic impact” is absent any real meaning. It is a cut and paste phrase used by PDC in everything they seek to justify without ever justifying.

Take a look at the PDC staff's 4 recommendations. The only one that makes sense is the one offered by the present landlord Kalbarer Company, AKA, Mason-Ehrman Building.

The RFI listed many factors for consideration. There is not one factor that the Kalbarer Company is bested by the 3 other competitors. No cost to move, rent will be less, and Old Town will not retrogress. There is no better transit connection. But – this isn't a transparent process – is it? It will be the unmentioned rationale that will win the day.

PDC will choose without any compelling objective and tangible reason between Gerding Edlen and Tom Moyer. The Commonwealth Building was thrown in to make the process seem fair and balanced. PDC wants out of Old Town.

Ryan Frank of the Oregonian had picked the Moyer Park Avenue West project as the winner – and I agree. The "compelling need" will be to bail out that project to further the appearance of a vibrant downtown.

Like other bailouts we have come to be familiar with – this is a project that became stalled because of Moyer's own incompetence. He chose to dig the eyesore hole without a tenant nor financing. Now the city is coming to his rescue with taxpayer funds an allocation that the taxpayers will have no say.

There might be those that say Mr. Moyer was extremely prescient in digging the hole because he knew that the city would not stand for a hole in the city's downtown fabric. They might be correct – the result is the same.

So – Old Town - say goodbye to PDC. In retrospect – we might look back and say good riddance.

© 2010