Keys to the City

My teenage stepson came home from school today and while he ate we talked about the day’s events. I told him I’d been quoted in the paper and he asked why.

I showed him the article and he asked, “Why does Providence want to expand? Why do they want a skybridge?

When I replied that I thought they wanted to have the biggest and the best hospital so they could show that they were better than OHSU with their tram and Emanual with their Level I Trauma Center and that everyone else had a skybridge, so they wanted a skybridge too . . . his reply was, “All those other hospitals are in more dense and commercial settings. They all have way different environments and actually need skybridge.”

Then he asked, “Who will use the skybridge and where will it go?” and I explained that the skybridge would connect a medical office building on the corner of 47th & Glisan to the main hospital.

He said, “Why can’t they just use the street?”

Even he gets that a skybridge is unnecessary as is much of the expansion that Providence has planned for the next 10 years. Most especially, the replacement of their main hospital with an 11-story tower.

With regard to the proposed 11-story tower, I explained they wanted to build private rooms so people didn’t have to share, and he said, “Build a wall. Or remodel. What a waste of a building.”

When I said it was old, he said, “All our homes in this neighborhood are 80 years old or more, there’s nothing wrong with an old building if you take care of it.”

Exactly.

Smart 16-year-old. When he was in grade school, he went to the corner convenience store on his own to get the odd quart of milk or popsicle. Nowadays, none of us adults in the neighborhood are comfortable with our younger children crossing Glisan. In the time it took him to get through middle school, there’s been a significant increase in the traffic and traffic speeds and the hostility of drivers.

The Land Grant

What was perplexing me, but probably doesn’t surprise any of you who’ve been around the neighborhood longer than my seven years, is why our concerns seem to fall on deaf ears within the City government. Until I really began to understand this land use process I thought someone in City was actually looking out for the best interests of the neighbors, it’s taxpaying citizens, for our long term and indefinite future.

What I’ve learned is that in 1995, the City of Portland granted Providence a Growth Boundary that includes all of the property on the north and south side of Glisan St from 44th to 55th and the property on both sides of Hoyt from 44th to 47th.

This new Growth Boundary paved the way for the Emilie House at 55th, a Medical Office Building at NE 53rd, the purchase of the old Moore Lithograph Building, and purchase of two medical office buildings on the corner of 47th & Glisan. At the present time, there is only one other block that is zoned for commercial/retail that Providence needs to buy and they’ll own the rest of the Glisan frontage. For all we know, Providence may well be in discussions with the owners of those properties.

Since that land grant in 1995, it seems that the City might have placed Providence in charge of all land use decisions about the future of our neighborhoods of North Tabor and Laurelhurst.

Did the City give the Keys to Providence?

In March, when I was researching some of the issues, I called the City of Portland Office of Sustainability to ask about the details of the much touted Portland Plan. I wanted to know if there were any improvements to our neighborhood included in the Portland Plan. A sheepish representative called me back a few days later and admitted that no, indeed there was nothing in the plan that would change or improve our neighborhood. Two  neighborhoods, in fact, that by my calculations add up to 4600 households which is a significant batch of taxes in the City coffers.

The only answer I can come up with is that the City is being polite and deferential and staying out of Providence’s way. When I tried to get some information about how to ask for oversight of the Good Neighbor Agreement from the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, no one returned my phone call or my email. When I called and emailed the Sustainability person at the Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Association, no one got back to me. I sent other queries here and there.

Complete silence.

What it boils down to is that the City is not planning anything for our neighborhood because Providence already has!!!!!!!

Time to Witness

Law HammerA bunch of neighbors are going down to the Land Use Services Division on Wednesday, April 25 at 9am, Room 2500A to listen to the City present a report that says that Providence has met all the criteria for the approval of their 10-year-Master Plan application. There will be much fuss about the reading of important items on the application and much about why the approval criteria have been met.

The rubber stamp will go on the 55-65 foot wall on Hoyt that is 8 feet from the property line with it’s 8’ hedge that will be enough to keep it from seeming overwhelming.

The rubber stamp will go on the skybridge in City Council in the coming weeks (separate process).

We citizens will lose to the corporation, but we need to go downtown anyway. We need to witness this process so that it does not go on in secret. We will know that we have done the right thing and attempted to keep our neighborhood safe and livable and protect the value of our homes.

When the hearing is over, Providence will build their castle wall along Hoyt and their skybridge over the moat that is 47th, complete with flagpoles and banners welcoming everyone to the village of Providence.

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2 Responses to Keys to the City

  1. Avis McHugh says:

    I live in Emilie House, which is managed by Providence along with Providence’s values for living. The qualifications are of the Federal agency, HUD. I am grateful for Providence’s values for living and for a clean secure home.

    I raised my family in Laurelhurst from the 70’s to late 80’s (three children) and they attended Laurelhurst Elementary and Washington High, Fernwood elementary and Franklin High after Washington closed. I walked my kindergardner to and from school every day because we had to cross busy streets of NE 39th Avenue and then NE Glisan Street for her to get to Laurelhurst Elementary. When the Markham bridge was built, traffic and the noise of it increased. We had issues of lead poison from the freeway traffic. As I recall, Providence expansion began to be of concern in the late 1980’s. I have been glad to have the hospital so close while my family was young and when my son was very ill at a young age, he was well taken care of in this hospital. Since then Providence Hospitals in Beaverton and Portland have treated me when I have had life threatening illness.

    Your post above with your son’s comments, touched me. Since North Tabor’s meeting this past Tuesday, I have been mulling my mixed emotions about Providence’s growth destroying the safety, peace, and integrity of our neighborhoods.

    My youngest child was born at Good Samaritan Hospital (before we moved to Laurelhurst) and I use that hospital’s clinic and am currently having eye care at Dever’s Eye Clinic. The neighborhood that Good Samaritan is located is full of older homes and apartments–very different from our neighborhood in some ways, but I view Good Samaritan Hospital as fitting in to this area quite nicely. They have a lovely garden area for anyone to stroll through. They have not taken over the area as Providence is doing. They have excellent parking, I am not certain how they handle employee parking.

    There are so many different views on healthcare and the cost of it–we all need to be concerned as the problems will only get bigger as our population increases. The expansion of Providence without being a good neighbor to those having homes nearby needs careful thought and consideration.

    Thank you for sharing your son’s viewpoints. The idea that Providence does not need to expand in order to be a great hospital in our neighborhood seems like a very clear solution.

  2. kimcottrell says:

    You are so right, Avis, thank you for commenting. So many of us get our healthcare right here in our neighborhood and there ARE programs that Providence runs so beautifully that are a wonderful contribution to everyone, including the neighbors. That is why it is so perplexing to see the outright denial of the concerns of those of us living closest to their doorstep. It is as if there is a complete disconnect between the public face of Providence and the mission the nuns began and the behind-the-scenes corporate face that decides what our futures will be. This latest report and recommendations from Mr. Douglas Hardy, Land Use Services Division, do not bode well for any of our neighborly concerns. At this point, maybe the best we can hope for is that you get a crosswalk and a safety island in front of Emilie House.

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