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Daily Journal of Commerce: Planners get a look at North Portland issues

Bus tour opens eyes of planners, neighborhood stakeholders and planning commissioners POSTED: 04:00 AM PDT Friday, September 12, 2008 BY TYLER GRAF As city planners work to update Portland’s Comprehensive Plan, North Portland has emerged as the hub of working-class families most often forgotten by the city; however, the Planning Bureau wants to change that, planners say. On Tuesday, a collection of planners, planning commissioners and neighborhood stakeholders embarked on a four-hour tour of North Portland neighborhoods in a bumpy charter bus to discuss and learn more about the specific development issues affecting the city’s so-called fifth quadrant. Arianne Sperry, the North Portland liaison with the Planning Bureau, was the organizer of the bus tour. Sperry, new to the issues of North Portland, said the idea was to create a visual frame of reference for commissioners and planners. “A lot of the (members of the) commission hadn’t necessarily been exposed to the issues in North Portland,” she said. In the same vein, the Planning Bureau had already taken commissioners and planners on a tour of Portland’s outer-eastside neighborhoods, also visited little by planning commissioners, Sperry said. Neighbors from each of the eight neighborhoods that were toured highlighted problems specific to their neighborhoods, but certain issues came up multiple times. The problem of absent commercial tenants, especially along North Lombard Street, who neglected to take care of their storefronts, was mentioned by Steve Rupert, a resident of Kenton, Matthew Denton of Portsmouth and Lorelei Johnson of St. Johns. The opinion that North Portland is full of under-used properties was a near-universal sentiment. “I think all the neighborhoods along Lombard Street would like to see consistent growth and development,” said Phillip Tavenier, a resident of University Park. And Rupert added that North Portland still lacks basic services, such as grocery stores. Driving slowly along Lombard, where one man was asleep in front of a shuttered building, the tour bus passed two former grocery stores, which residents said are now used for “transient businesses” – not long-term ones. Sperry found herself drawn in the problems facing that street. “I was keen on the idea that (mostly) all these neighborhoods border Lombard,” Sperry said, “yet none of the land-use chairs think it’s functioning the way it’s supposed to.” In addition to discussing the role of commercial and business development in North Portland, some neighbors chose to underscore their desire to also protect the area’s wild habitat. Barbara Quinn, a resident of Cathedral Park, highlighted that neighborhood’s desire to protect Baltimore Woods, so it can act as a buffer between the Willamette River harbor and the neighborhood. Portland Planning intends to look at North Portland in a more comprehensive way, Sperry said, because of the number of what she calls “opportunity sites.” These sites can either be used for protection, such as Baltimore Woods, or for greater development, such as an empty field adjacent to De La Salle High School. The field could be used for a new “high activity” development such as a park or a plaza. And nearby, the future home of the North Portland branch of the Multnomah County Library, is considered to be a catalytic development. “The city is working on streetscape plans, and hopefully (those) will help spur development, so the next generation can embrace (the area),” Rupert said.

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