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