It boils down to livability and traffic

by Kim Cottrell

In my mind, there are two issues that affect the neighbors nearest Providence. Livability, in the sense of a community of retail and services we can walk to and mingle with neighbors. And, traffic and safety for pedestrians and bicycles.

From a livability perspective, we are in trouble. Providence owns most of the properties zoned for retail and in 1995 someone in the City of Portland expanded the Providence Growth Boundary and gave them access to the rest of it. I wonder if today’s city zoners would do the same, but that’s a moot point. Providence gets to build on any property they buy from NE 44th all along Glisan to NE 53rd.

As to why Providence does not include retail spaces on the ground floor of the buildings they construct, the code does not require it of them. The Good Neighbor Agreement does ask for retail on the ground floor and a preservation of retail space but there has not been an opportunity to exercise that requirement. I’m sure some of you had questions about the Guest House and whether that property would include retail. It will not. The Guest House property appears to have fallen into a gray area within the language of the Good Neighbor Agreement and Providence will be building a building that does not include retail for neighbors.

In terms of traffic and safety, we are also in trouble. I sat through the Land Use Hearing for the Guest House last August and listened to the traffic engineers from both the private firm hired by Providence and the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation report that the project would have no impact on the traffic and congestion in the immediate area.

You and I know otherwise. We see the cars. We see the difficulties at the intersection of 47th & Glisan every day. We are living it.

The communication around these issues takes place between Providence and the Neighborhood Associations. Providence is not obligated to talk to the neighbors except through the Good Neighbor Agreement. In fact, Providence doesn’t have to answer our emails, our phone calls, or even our questions at a Community Meeting. Conveniently, they can wave their hands and suggest we talk to our neighborhood representative. If you don’t attend your neighborhood meetings, you might actually miss what’s going on.

For myself, I can see what a tough job the neighborhood representatives have. They are doing their best to keep an open and functioning environment on the Standing Committee to the Good Neighbor Agreement, and they have limited ways to get their message out to the neighbors. There are too many holes in the system, meetings that are every other month and newsletters that need minutes approved before they can get into the next issue. Sometimes it’s a 3-5 month delay depending on the time of the year.

It’s so easy to get discouraged, but we can take heart from some of Portland’s good neighbors . . . many of whom have fought for the things they felt their community needed.

    • The neighbors in Rose City Park got speed bumps on 53rd avenue.
    • The neighbors in Irvington succeeded in getting a proposed 6-story condo building down to 4-stories next to the Lion & the Rose
    • Neighbors on 33rd Avenue demonstrated with the help of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition in the middle of the street and there are now abundant crosswalks on NE 33rd near Grant High School and all along 33rd

We have a few choices.

    • We can email our neighborhood representative and let him know what our concerns are about our neighborhood related to traffic and livability.
    • We can email the Land Use Services Division and share our concerns about traffic and safety.

I hope to hear from you, either privately through the submissions form here, or in  a comment. If I get your comments, I’ll include them in my letter to the City and ask them to consider that 10 or 20 or more of my neighbors are also wanting traffic calming, crosswalks, and pedestrian and bike facilities.

What Neighbors Dream

And, if you’d like to send your own letter to the neighborhood representative or the land use division, just say so in your comment. I will email you the email addresses so you have them. And, please know that the email you enter in your comment will not show publicly, but I will have it and send you the information you need. Rest assured, I’ll get you the information if you let me know here or in the Submit Information tab under Contact.

We appreciate you reading and getting informed.

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5 Responses to It boils down to livability and traffic

  1. Beth Welty says:

    I would love to have the contact name of my neighborhood city rep. I have called Providence on so many occassions over the last several years from speeding parents dropping off to Montessori to employees parking on city streets that obstruct those of us trying to leave our neighborhood. I have been on NE Flanders for 11 years and the amount of traffic flying down my street between 47th and 52nd is amazing; so many drivers have realized the shortcut around the traffic on Glisan. Also, my child will start Laurelhurst soon and I cringe at the thought of all those “late” employees and patients zipping past the school zone.

    I understood when I moved into my house in 2001 that there would be some issues with Providence, but I could not imagine the new cancer center, new parking deck, new practice and parking on 53rd. Now there are plans for them to move east.

    I welcome the chance to get involved. Providence refuses to acknowledge residents, and frankly they know that after all these years, residents are worn out from not being heard.

    Thank you for making this blog!

    • kimcottrell says:

      Beth, you are more than welcome. We share your frustrations and you’ve said it beautifully. Stay tuned for more info here and I’ll forward your reply to your neighborhood representative and cc you so you’ll have his info. We appreciate you reading and sharing with your friends and neighbors who also are concerned. Much of the way Providence has succeeded in largely unfettered growth is because there were only a few people aware at any one time of what was about to happen. At each juncture, they gained more “cause” for the next thing they asked for. Many of us are wondering where the heart of the institution is when they so blatantly ignore the concerns of the neighbors and do little to help us ameliorate the situation that is caused by them being in the middle of a neighborhood. There is much to do, and we’ll keep you posted. Bottom line is that all our comments need to be in to the City Land Use reviewer by March 31 so he can prepare his report to the Hearings Officer for an April 25 Hearing. Thanks again.

  2. Debbie Kaufman says:

    Thanks for your work on this! I’ve also been concerned about the increase in traffic over the last couple of years, and the dangerous close calls I see frequently at 47th and Glisan. Is there an employee parking regulation for the neighborhood? I’ve noticed someone parking in front of my house then walking to the hospital almost on a daily basis recently.


  3. Debbie Kaufman says:


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