The Providence Master Plan: Hearings Officer Rules in Favor of Providence

Neighbors, it’s over. The letter writing, the wondering, the studying, the waiting.

It’s over.

Gregory Frank, the Hearings Officer with the City of Portland, ruled on June 29 that Providence can have what they want. They want to cover more of each lot with buildings and a variance to the code was granted. They want to build taller buildings than the code allows and a variance to the code was granted. They want to build closer to the property line and, with all but one exception, a variance to the code was granted.

The one exception to the very long list of approvals is that they wanted to build 8 feet from the property line on Hoyt Street and the Hearings Officer decided that in order to build as tall as they wanted, they needed to maintain the current setback of 27.5 feet on Hoyt St.

Providence managed to present an anemic Transportation Demand Management Plan to the City and push it through as an acceptable document. Honestly, I’ve studied the plan and there’s nothing in it they didn’t accomplish a few years ago. In fact, about a week ago, I heard a rumor that one of the elements of the touted plan, the shuttle bus from the Hollywood Transit Center to the main campus at Providence, is being eliminated. I wonder if the Bureau of Transportation folks would have been so lenient about the details of the plan had the shuttle not been a part of the effort to reduce single occupancy vehicles coming to campus.

While the Transportation folks are asking the rest of the City to gear up for a significant reduction of parking spaces, a situation you can see with the construction of the building project next to the Hollywood Theater on NE Sandy Blvd. Those same Transportation staff have given Providence permission to build hundreds of parking spaces to handle the influx of additional cars that will certainly come when more outpatient medical office buildings and a day surgery center opens. Many of us wonder why Providence is not being held to the same parking and transportation standards as folks in the rest of the city?

You can read the ruling by the Hearings Officer online at the link here. You might recognize a few of the neighbors referred to in the document. Mr. Frank indeed paid enough attention to us during the hearing to make sure we knew that he heard our concerns. However, nothing the neighbors said influenced his decision, at least by my interpretation.

I went to the Bureau of Planning and read the documents that Providence submitted as rebuttal to some of the concerns of neighbors. What stood out to me was the vociferous way that Providence defended their decisions. We neighbors have lots of concerns and worries and they are the normal issues that anyone would have when they live next door to an institution the size and importance of Providence Hospital (you can read about one hospital’s acknowledgement of it’s impact on the surrounding neighborhood here). All of these concerns were pushed aside by Providence and by the Hearings Officer as unimportant and of no consequence.

It is perplexing to me just who we need to talk to or who we need to lobby in order to preserve our good neighborhood. It is clear that the process of development along our stretch of Glisan that has been underway for the last five decades focused little on the preservation and expansion of a livable community or the wellness and well-being of the good people who live and work in the area. I can find no city official in a position to do anything who is willing to sit down with us and have a non-defensive conversation about our concerns as if they lived on our streets.

I could go on and on about the ways that neighbors’ concerns were minimized and how we’ve basically made zero progress toward a more livable neighborhood. There is plenty to be disgruntled about. Once I got over my initial disappointment, I realized we need more professional help. Our neighborhood associations need to find a land use attorney who lives in our neighborhood who is willing to attend the GNA meetings and represent us in every conversation. We need to get more proactive so that we can influence the conversation, rather than reactive to the things that have long ago been decided.

What’s Ahead For This Blog . . . ???

We will continue gathering information and sharing about any and all of the issues related to Providence Hospital or Corporation and any other way they refer to themselves. We will continue including issues related to neighbors in North Tabor, Laurelhurst, Hollywood and Rose City Park. Our four neighborhoods are the Ground Zero of Providence here in NE Portland. If you haven’t discovered how, just get on your bike or walk and navigate your way along Glisan or 47th or Halsey.

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