anybody know where the block 49 thread is?
Group protests 'cheap' plan
Neighborhood - The South Waterfront association says an affordable housing project is wrong for the area
Thursday, January 31, 2008
They didn't like the tram and complained the South Waterfront's glass condo towers were too tall. Now a group of neighbors is objecting to a new housing project, this time because they say it's too small with not enough affordable places for families.
In December, Portland's Design Commission approved plans to build five stories of apartments over a floor of retail and office space on a block that is now a parking lot for the Old Spaghetti Factory.
Designs call for a brick-and-glass U-shaped building with a green, open courtyard surrounded by more than 200 housing units -- the first affordable housing in an area where developers have long promised moderately priced digs.
Developers pledge to target at least 42 units to disabled or homeless veterans with federal housing vouchers; they could ride the nearby streetcar and tram to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
But the South Portland Neighborhood Association, which vocally opposed that tram, asked the City Council on Wednesday to reject the planned affordable housing. Appealing the design commission's decision, the neighborhood group wrote that the planned building "looks cheap and is cheap."
"The comparative squat stature of the building is so radical as to label its residents 'Other' within the district," wrote the group.
And the group complained that "the project fails to provide affordable family housing" because its largest units have only two bedrooms.
The neighborhood group isn't opposed to having poor people or veterans move in, said Jim Davis, its land-use committee chairman. The association's real worry is that the building won't attract families with kids, he said.
"This is not a NIMBY situation for our neighborhood," Davis said. "We're asking for more affordable housing, more family housing."
South Portland used to have many affordable homes, public schools, gas stations and other amenities, Davis said. But the area has been gentrifying for decades, and rising home prices have squeezed out families. Today, he said, no public schools sit in the association's waterfront boundaries, and the area has just one filling station.
"We are essentially just a bedroom community with white, relatively wealthy people," Davis said. "How the hell can you have a neighborhood without families, without kids, without schools?"
City Council members agreed with Davis' desire to have more families in the South Waterfront but questioned the target of his appeal -- a building designed to house some of Portland's estimated 1,800 homeless vets.
"I think there is an urgent need for veterans housing, and I think there's a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put it here," Commissioner Sam Adams said. "I also am very impressed with the quality" of the building.
Commissioner Erik Sten, who drove the plan to house vets in the building, said it's impractical to design a moderately sized building that can house lots of children as well as veterans who need social services. While developers should build more family-friendly, affordable homes in the area, Sten said, "this is the right project for this spot."
The council voted 5-0 to uphold the design commission, which called the building "a straightforward housing block" with "pleasant compositional simplicity." Developers Homer Williams and Dike Dame hope to start construction by spring.
Andy Dworkin: 503-221-8564; firstname.lastname@example.org