Friendly Streets

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Noise Review Board Considers Action

As the impact hammer pile driver reverberates throughout the North Pearl at Hoyt Street’s Block 20 project, the Noise Review Board (NRB) met on November 9th to discuss a proposal that would reduce the harmful effects of this antiquated method. 
With some 25 to 30 Pearl residents present to offer testimony and support, the board discussed its proposal to delete the exemption of impact hammer pile driving from the current construction noise ordinance and to provide that the use of this method come before the NRB for variance approval. This revision to the ordinance would require that pile driving not exceed 85 decibels, the same requirement as other construction activities. Impact hammer pile driving has been recorded as high as 110 decibels, a level that is harmful to hearing. Faced with that requirement, developers would have to consider quieter methods of pile driving such as the auger cast or to provide noise mitigation.
There was overwhelming support at the meeting for the NRB  to move this forward to City council where three votes will be required to revise the ordinance. The NRB will now develop the language of the proposal which is anticipated to be presented to City Council early next year. 
While the many opponents of the impact hammer will still have to suffer through the daily disruption of the current activity at Block 20, they are pleased to see progress on this issue that, if passed, will relieve future suffering for others across the city.

Centennial Mills Town Hall recap

The history of the Centennial Mills property is a long and sad one. As one of the most historic and iconic properties in the Pearl District, and the entire city, there was much optimism about this prime riverfront site being developed into a unique and significant project benefitting the whole city.

Purchased by the Portland Development Commission (PDC) in 2000, there was great anticipation that the city would guide this project to fruition. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. An agreement with a developer in 2008 fell through leading to a lawsuit that was eventually settled. The most recent 2013 agreement with Harsch Investments again fell apart, suddenly and unilaterally on the part of PDC. With no public process, PDC surprisingly announced last year that portions of the site and possibly the entire site would be demolished. Selective demolition is currently underway, but there is fear that the two most important and  iconic buildings, the flour and feed mills, may be next for the wrecking ball.

With that as background, a standing room crowd packed the Pure Space meeting room on January  21st for a Centennial Mills Town Hall sponsored by the Pearl District Neighborhood Association (PDNA) and Jordan Schnitzer of Harsch Investments. Led by Patty Gardner, President of PDNA and Chair of its Planning Committee, the crowd heard the history of the city’s involvement with the property including an agreement in 2005 to keep portions of the site for historical purposes, and the creation in 2006 of a  Framework Plan to guide future development. Historian Chet Orloff then presented a slide show relating the historic importance of Centennial Mills and Oregon’s prominent wheat industry  dating back to the early 1800’s.

Jordan Schnitzer followed with a presentation of his team’s numerous options for development, with associated costs, that would fulfill the objectives of the Framework Plan by:

  • preserving open space
  • maintaining historic character
  • being a focal point
  • being sustainable
  • strengthening connection  

Mr. Schnitzer stressed the importance of this site being a legacy for Portland and the region. Having put together an impressive team of planners, designers and engineers, renderings of the options were available for the audience to see. Mr. Schnitzer spoke about not being permitted by PDC to engage the public in the process and then being surprised by the City’s unilateral decision to proceed with demolition. The costs of developing the site and the public investment portion are an issue, but Mr. Schnitzer noted that there could be many creative ways to find the necessary funding. The crowd applauded with approval when Mr. Schnitzer stated, “the city has lost its way.”

The Town Hall ended with questions from the audience and Ms. Gardner reminding everyone who wants the site to be saved to please write letters to the Mayor, PDC and the newspapers.

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Friendly Streets Launches Information Campaign  to Reduce Crime on the Streets

With crime increasing in many of our neighborhoods, Friendly Streets has launched a campaign to distribute informational flyers describing various illegal activities and how to report them to city authorities. Friendly Streets emphasizes the importance of reporting crimes in order to draw the city’s  attention to trouble spots and to address them. 

The flyer below is being distributed around the city with the hope that residents and businesses will respond. Multifamily buildings and businesses are being asked to post the flyer and distribute to their residents and employees. A pocket guide version is also available.

City Council Adopts Ordinance to Improve Sidewalks 

Following a three year initiative by several neighborhood associations,  Portland City Council on January 7th unanimously adopted an amended ordinance to regulate publication boxes on our city sidewalks. 

The amended code creates guidelines as to when, where, and how publication boxes can be placed, as well as requiring publishers to affix a sticker to all of their boxes with a working phone number to report condition issues with the boxes.  It defines what constitutes an abandoned box, and it creates a mechanism for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to enforce the code.  The code revision also creates an option for newspaper co-publication boxes in other parts of the city.  This is a huge step forward towards cleaning up the public right-of-way.  Along with other quality of life issues such as noise, trash and graffiti, this as an important victory in making city streets cleaner, safer and more livable.

In supportive testimony before City Council, Friendly Streets President and representative to the Joint Subcommittee on Sidewalk Management Jan Valentine said, “Our concern is that the proper regulation of public sidewalks must provide for multiple beneficial uses and the safety of sidewalk users. In particular, based on physical surveys, we have observed there is a need to locate public amenities, such as publication boxes, in a way that respects everyone's legal rights, while enhancing the pedestrian experience.” 

Representatives from the Northwest Neighborhood Association,  the Downtown Neighborhood Association, the Portland Business Alliance and Friendly Streets also provided testimony in support of the ordinance. The passage of this ordinance is a testament to how the collaborative efforts of neighborhood associations, business associations,  other stakeholders (including the publishing industry) and government (PBOT) can help to create more livable communities.