Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Environmental exaggeration

gga.org
Environmental exaggeration harms emerging economies
Alarmist and false claims are counterproductive to environmental protection

Feb 01, 2014
Ivo Vegter is a South African columnist writing on economics, politics, law and the environment. He is the author of “Extreme Environment”, a book on how environmental exaggeration harms emerging economies. In 2011, he was a finalist for the prestigious international Bastiat Prize for Journalism, which recognises work that promotes a free society.

Most professions demand formal qualifications of their practitioners. Often, the law prescribes these, but even if not, few customers would do business with unqualified accountants, engineers or lawyers.

In today’s world, there are three notable exceptions: activists, journalists and politicians. While some in these lines of work do have relevant qualifications, many do not, and justify their lay status by invoking the rights afforded people in free democracies. This however makes them uniquely susceptible to making wrong risk assessments, seeking out sensational stories, and basing public policy on the strength of lobby group advocacy rather than expert knowledge.

Marketing a cause often relies on exaggerated claims to counter competing causes. Scary stories sell newspapers. Public policy makers are inexpert at cost-benefit determinations. This toxic combination leads to systematic exaggeration about environmental threats, which harms, rather than helps. This affects countries with weak economies the most.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Density where it's wanted

Density where it's wanted....

Housing projects popping up in the Pearl
Portland Tribune, April 13, 2014

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Christopher Thoms lifts his son Asher onto netting at 
The Fields park playground. Thoms is a former neighbor whom moved to Tigard, but brings his son back 
because of the quality of the park.
Note: Thoms now has a child and has moved to the low-density suburbs.
 
After a five-year lull, the housing boom is back in Portland’s Pearl District.
Developers are working on at least six multifamily projects totaling more than 1,300 units, all north of Lovejoy Street in what’s known as the North Pearl. The new apartments and condos could fill out most of the undeveloped property in the bustling Northwest Portland district, and bring more then 2,000 residents to 
And Hoyt hopes to start construction in July on the $108 million, 150-unit Park Central condos sandwiched between The Fields and Tanner Springs parks. At 28 stories, it figures to be Portland’s tallest purely residential tower, Sweitzer says. “You’ve got five acres of parks right outside your door,” she says of the project.

(See Hoyt Property website for their vision for the Peal District.)

               
With Pearl District tower underway, Wood Partners isn't worried about surge in apartment development
The Oregonian, April 17, 2014; By Elliot Njus

Seattle Developer proposes Pearl tower
Security Properties' plans for a 15-story residential high-rise and five story building
Daily Journal of Commerce, April 11, 2014, Front Page; By Lee Fehrenbacher

High-Rise Apartment Buildings Sprout in Downtowns Nationwide

'Manhattananization' of America Driven by Young Professionals, and Empty Nesters
Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2014; Connor Dougherty

....and where it's not.


The great subdivide
Infill developers with subdivision plans in the Portland area are continuing to encounter resistance from existing residents.
Daily Journal of Commerce, April 28, 2014; By Lee Fehrenbacher



The fourth branch

A reflection on the Fourth Estate, maybe the most powerful branch of government.


For those who feel they are at odds with City Hall, or that the local government is no longer representative of its citizens, perhaps these definitions below) can explain why.  A bureaucratic body  that feels/is separated from the public, and increasingly answers only to itself by virtue of its specialized "expertise," can be dangerous to the a citizen's involvement in its own government.  

In Lake Oswego, staff routinely fails to give decision-making bodies (principally the City Council and Commissions) and citizens the full range of information and options they need for the issues they have to deal with.  Ours is a citizen-government, and the work belongs to the public.  It is incumbent upon every individual within government to act in accordance with their expected role as a public servant.  The task then, is to define who the "public" is.  In Lake Oswego, that would be the body politic.  

Bureaucracy

by Ludwig von Mises (1944)



Conclusion (excerpts)
Public administration, the handling of the government apparatus of coercion and compulsion, must necessarily be formalistic and bureaucratic. No reform can remove the bureaucratic features of the government’s bureaus.

There have been in the course of history many movements asking with enthusiasm and fanaticism for a reform of social institutions. People fought for their religious convictions, for the preservation of their civilization, for freedom, for self-determination, for the abolition of serfdom and slavery, for fairness and justice in court procedure. Today millions are fascinated by the plan to transform the whole world into a bureau, to make everybody a bureaucrat, and to wipe out any private initiative. The paradise of the future is visualized as an all-embracing bureaucratic apparatus. The most powerful reform movement that history has ever known, the first ideological trend not limited to a section of mankind only but supported by people of all races, nations, religions, and civilizations aims at all-round bureaucratization. The post office is the model for the construction of the New Jerusalem. The post-office clerk is the prototype of future man. Streams of blood have been shed for the realization of this ideal.

The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau. What an alluring utopia! What a noble cause to fight!
Against all this frenzy of agitation there is but one weapon available: reason. Just common sense is needed to prevent man from falling prey to illusory fantasies and empty catchwords.

Wikipedia:  

Administrative agencies

Some critics have argued that a central paradox at the heart of the American political system is democracy's reliance on the what the critics view as undemocratic bureaucratic institutions that characterize the administrative agencies of government.[4] An argument made for calling administrative agencies a "fourth branch" of government is the fact that such agencies typically exercise all three constitutionally divided powers within a single bureaucratic body: That is, agencies legislate (a power vested solely in the legislature by the Constitution)[5] through delegated rulemaking authority; investigate, execute, and enforce such rules (via the executive power these agencies are typically organized under); and apply, interpret, and enforce compliance with such rules (a power separately vested in the judicial branch).[6] Additionally, non-executive, or "independent" administrative agencies are often called a fourth branch of government, as they create rules with the effect of law, yet may be comprised at least partially of private, non-governmental actors.


Bureaucracy

A bureaucracy is "a body of nonelective government officials" and/or "an administrative policy-making group."[1] Historically, bureaucracy referred to government administration managed by departments staffed with nonelected officials.[2] In modern parlance, bureaucracy refers to the administrative system governing any large institution.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Since being coined, the word "bureaucracy" has developed negative connotations for some.[9] Bureaucracies are criticized when they become too complex, inefficient, or too inflexible.[10] The dehumanizing effects of excessive bureaucracy were a major theme in the work of Franz Kafka, and were central to his masterpiece The Trial.[11] The elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy is a keconcept in modern managerial theory,[12] and has been a central issue in numerous political campaigns.[13]

Others have defended the necessity of bureaucracies. The German sociologist Max Weber argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way in which human activity can be organized, and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies were necessary to maintain order, maximize efficiency and eliminate favoritism. But even Weber saw unfettered bureaucracy as a threat to individual freedom, in which an increase in the bureaucratization of human life can trap individuals in an "iron cage" of rule-based, rational control.[14][15] 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Deadline for TSP comments

The City Traffic Engineer, Amanda Owings said she will take public comments about the Transportation System Plan up to the end of April.  The collected comments will be considered when the staff does a re-write of the TSP as requested by the Planning Commission.


A few topics from the April 19 Mayor's Neighborhood Association Chairs Meeting:

  • One of the topics brought up at the meeting a week ago was what criteria was used for ranking the TSP projects.  The engineers present, Erica Rooney and Amanda Owings, said the rankings may not represent community values and would be removed.
  • A request was made to include the origin of each project - Metro plan, Parks and RC Trails Master Plan, CIP list, developer needs or neighborhood request.  There was much concern that regional goals dominated local, citizen desired projects.
  • Regional (Metro) plans and goals are not mandatory.  
  • In the discussion on how to relieve State St. congestion, the question was asked if there was scientific data that showed that adding a bike land (as suggested by the engineering staff) would reduce auto traffic.  The engineers did not know.  Further research has been reported here in a previous post on bike lanes and traffic congestion.  
  • There were questions about why the project list had certain projects on it that no one in the neighborhood or city wanted.  It was pointed out that once projects were put on the list they never came off and the list kept growing.
  • On the topic of trails and pathways crossing private land, sometimes through backyards, it was felt that property owners should be notified of the plans, though timing of notification was not agreed upon.  Some cited the Bullard case where a family had to take the city to court to prevent a path from taking their land and devaluing their property.  The gain would be nil for the one or two bicyclists who would use it.
  • There was extreme frustration about not seeing many maintenance projects listed on the TSP lists.  Many roads are in poor shape and some are near failure (actively slipping down hills) but have not caught the attention of the Public Works / Engineering Dept.  It was explained that the TSP is a planning document for the future, not the present.  However, many noted that some maintenance projects were on the project lists, carried over from the CIP, so that wasn't entirely true.
  • The funding portion of the TSP was felt to be weak as it did not address maintenance costs as a part of the estimates for listed projects.  As a planning document, the funding portion was not felt o be the job of the engineering dept. or part of the TSP.  
  • Transit is always a hot topic, but most conversation was about increasing bus service so it is a legitimate travel option once again.  
  • Up-classifying roadways and what that means for the neighborhoods and city was discussed and rejected by many NA Chairs present.  In light of little growth and no large developable pieces of land, the need for higher volume traffic roadways was nonexistent for the foreseeable future.  
  • The Planning Dept. (in past meetings) and Engineering staff seem to express a preference for sidewalks to give people "a place to walk" as if people haven't been walking the streets of LO for decades.  The overwhelming feeling from the citizens present was that we like our more relaxed, country-style streets and neighborhood character without sidewalks - meandering paths were OK, but no path was fine too.  One suggestion was to include an approved street cross section that showed existing roadways with shoulders only.  

Read the document, walk and drive and bike around your neighborhood and city, and tell the engineers what YOU want for Lake Oswego.  You have only 2 more days to do it!  

Less Parking, Tastes Great

LESS PARKING, TASTES GREAT
PSU, nonprofit hope to turn parking spots into public-use areas
Portland Tribune  4/24/2014

“When we leave (campus) for lunch, we don’t want to go back, because we have an hour break,” says Michael Coon, a graduate student at PSU’s School of Architecture. “The food carts are always an option, but there’s nowhere to stay and eat.”
If PBOT approves the Fourth Avenue “parklet” proposal, it would remove two parking spots in front of the food cart pod between Southwest College and Hall streets.
The parklet would consist of a 32-foot wooden deck with a slanted polycarbonate roof, housing a variety of seating arrangements for up to 20 people, rain or shine.
The structure could be moved between locations.
And in true Portland style, it would be designed and built by students, with sustainable materials, plants for stormwater runoff, and partnerships with local businesses.


* * * * * 


The "LIFT"  Winner of 2013 Design Competition
Total cost: $6,000.  Built with donations. 

Typical Portland Street Seat installation. 

And in true Portland style, more public ROW asphalt meant for automobiles will be removed from service.  

I have heard the argument that cars parked on the street are using public assets for free and that this needs to be stopped.  I have also heard people say that bicyclists don't pay gas taxes or license fees and therefore do not contribute to the construction or maintenance of bicycle (or roadway) infrastructure.   Those who own and drive automobiles do not park on public streets for free, they paid for, and continue to pay for the streets, and for right to park on them.  It has never been "free."  


In the swirl of excitement about expanding the Street Seats program, it seems the Portland Bureau of Transportation has forgotten about current bricks and mortar businesses and their customers that depend on availability of street parking.  In true Portland style, some businesses prosper and some suffer at the hands of the city's eco-political agenda.  

What are streets for?  Transportation?  Parklets?  Restaurant annexes?  


* * * * *
Vocabulary:
EcoDistrict:  Originally a planned area that functioned like a self-contained eco-system where all food, energy, water, garbage, etc. was produced and recycled within the district.   The more recent iteration involves a more intense version of energy and water conservation and other eco-friendly practices.   The Foothills Plan may become an Ecodistrict - wait and see.  It may involve public subsidies as these "best practices" do not usually pay for themselves.  

Parklet:  A small park.  How does the PSU street seat become a park since it is rented and sponsored by a nonprofit rather than the public?  Parklet or park, these don't seem Like the right terms for what they are.  
Pavement to Parks:  San Francisco's program to turn street parking into mini-parks.  

SoMa:  South of Market; used to be the University District, also the University Eco-District.  SoMa sounds so --- hip I guess - like SoHo in NY, or SoMa in SF.  Wait, there's two SoMas?  
Street Seats:  Portland's version of the SF program, but parking spaces are rented to restaurants who maintain exclusive use for their customers. 




Friday, April 25, 2014

Treatisms

There's more where this came from, just google her name, "Leah Treat, Portland."

Leah Treat is the Director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.  Ms. Treat was hired last June and makes about $174,000/year and is 43 years old.




On Leah Treat's Twitter Page:  @leahtreat

Government gal with a passion for change in the trans industry.
Mom to 4 smarty-pants kids and wife to an artsy, intellectual, bike fanatic. 

Leah Treat:  Portland transportation director talks road funding package, close calls on her bike, settling in

Q: How often do you get out there, check out conditions?
A: "I have been out there. I'm new to the city so I don't know it like the back of my hand. I have been out with every crew of maintenance and I've seen every type of project that we do. I get out on the weekends and ride my bike around as much as I can. I made it out to the coast for the first time last weekend. "


Q: You're talking about light rail? (Refers to surprises about Portland's transportation network)
"We're still way ahead of the country in the transportation arena, it's just getting lost in the messaging somewhere. So we need to be talking more about the really exciting things that we're doing. Like the Portland-Milwaukie light rail bridge. That is really cool. To our knowledge it's the first bridge in North America that's built to handle car capacity and won't handle cars. That's insane. That's really, really cool. I did not know as much about the road conditions and had been surprised about the lack of investment in the local road infrastructure. That was surprising to me."


Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat talks culture, cars and rail projects in Honolulu

Q: How did you swing this trip? Patrick Quinton got Indianapolis?
"Really sweet gig, right?  

Q: What's Honolulu's transportation network like, when compared to Portland?
"Honolulu has a very robust bus system that is owned and operated by the local government. And it is named 'The Bus.' I LOVE that. I hope they name their new rail system 'The Rail.'"

Q: The ULI fellows visited Portland, and were quite impressed with how 'we' do things here. What was your impression of Honolulu?
[The Blaisdell Center] is where cultural gatherings are held and where Hawaiians celebrate themselves. 


Lastly, and how did I make this last??????, Honolulu is building a rail system that will have a station within a 5-minute walk of the Blaisdell Center. We Portlanders know what a new rail station means.

Our group recommended creating a 'yellow brick road' that went from the Blaisdell Center to the beach, activating the park and celebrating its rich cultural heritage, taking underused road lanes for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, consolidating uses of the Blaisdell Center for higher value, partnering with the museum and schools for a magnet arts program, tackling difficult parking issues; and considering different taxes/fees to generate much needed maintenance revenue. 


Q: What, if any, similarities did you notice when comparing Portland to Honolulu? Are there any major differences that stick out? 

A remarkable difference for me was how car-centric Honolulu is.  But I applaud Mayor Caldwell and his vision of transforming Honolulu by bringing bike share to the city, installing bike lanes and building a rail system."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Help Metro plan the future of the region

With an unscientific cohort sample, Metro is using an online survey to plan the future of the region?  They should have asked before they spent millions on the PLMR.  They should have asked before planning the future of Damascus or Tigard.  They should ask first, plan second, then ask us again if they got it right - before codes are changed and developers swoop in.
I am retracting my initial cynical critique of Metro's survey process.  I see that Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall created the survey presumable to probe the depths of our psyche to tell them how we prefer to live.  After the prerequisite demographic questions, the survey asks you to choose one of two options - option A or option B - on a series of screens.  You have to choose which set of variables you prefer - a single family home you own in the suburbs with a 45 minute commute, or a rented attached housing in an urban area with a 10-minute commute to work,   With each pair, there were trade offs between commute time, cost of rent or mortgage, size of the dwelling, renting or owning the home, and location type.  

So why is Metro doing a housing preference survey now?  Is there a problem with how well their station communities or density guidelines are received?   If housing choice were a function of the market and not tightly managed by Central Planning, it would be easier to tell what the public preferred.  Will we ever get back to that minimum level of government regulations again?  

April 18, 2014  1:30 PM

Help plan the future of our region! Take the residential preference survey.


Having a safe, comfortable and affordable place to live is a shared aspiration for all residents in the Portland metropolitan area.
As part of the urban growth management process a region-wide coalition of private and public sector organizations, led by Metro, is conducting a residential preference survey in April, 2014. Our goal is to hear from as many residents of the region as possible about the kinds of neighborhoods, homes, parks, transportation options and other facilities that people want.
I invite you to take 10 minutes of your time to answer the survey and give Metro your input. Your participation is crucial to help plan for the future of the region.
The survey will remain open until May 9, 2014. Thank you for your participation

Measuring traffic congestion


t seems stories about bicycles are everywhere.  The article I posted yesterday from FiveThirtyEight.com about bike lanes, traffic volumes and congestion sparked a lot of conversation among professionals about how one measures congestion.  A follow-up article, How To Measure Traffic Congestion, gives another perspective on measurement techniques from traffic professionals, and the original authors' response.  

My own thoughts on the bike lane discussion are:
  • If traffic volume does not change significantly after putting in bike lanes, no GHG were reduced.  
  • If congestion worsened after a bike lane was built, GHG emissions may be expected to go up - a little or a lot) due to the increased time autos spend on the road and idling in traffic.  
  • If GHG reduction AND congestion relief are removed from their purpose, we must re-examine why we are building and maintaining bike lane infrastructure and justify each project's costs and benefits with new criteria.
My suggestion to Portland's Transportation Commissioner and Director is to forget building anything new and work on making existing bike and pedestrian routes safer (remove bike paths from high crash zones and high-traffic roads).



OOOOOOOOOOOO

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce a new website I have added to my list of Favorite Blogs - FiveThirtyEight.com.  The contributors are top notch as is their reporting.


Public health crisis by the numbers


KOIN TV did some fact checking on Leah Treat's dramatic claim in a policy speech (bid for more money for bike, ped and transit projects) that Portland had a public health crisis - traffic.  Read the story and check the data against the claims.  Ms. Treat's goal of zero traffic accidents (Vision Zero) appears to be predicated upon reducing [auto] traffic, but does Portland have a "crisis" on its hands?

Click Here for the full story with facts:  Portland's public health crisis - traffic


Traffic called "public health threat"

Transportation director calls traffic 'public health threat'
Portland Tribune
 | 


Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat declared war on cars Tuesday, saying her top priority was providing more alternatives to automobiles for city residents.
"We have a growing public health crisis in Portland — traffic," Treat said during a lunch jointly sponsored by the Portland City Club and the Oregon Active Transportation Summit at the downtown Sentinel Hotel. The summit is a gathering of bicycle, walking and alternative transportation advocates being held this week at the hotel.
Citing statistics that show more Portanders are being killed in traffic accidents than by homicides, Treat said her guiding philosophy is Vision Zero, a movement she said started in Sweden in 1997 that makes safety the top transportation priority with a goal of eliminating all traffic-related deaths.
In her first major public address since taking over the transportation bureau in July 2013, Treat said Portland needs more transit, bike lanes and walking paths to maintain its reputation as American's most livable city.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *
"More Portlanders are being killed in traffic accidents than by homocides."  Interesting factoid, obviously designed to shock and titillate and stir people to action to fight the "growing public health crisis" in Portland!

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. But what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things that you could not do before."   Rahman Emanuel,  Nov. 2008

Considering that Oregon has 770 autos per capita (Wikipedia), this could mean roughly 1 automobile per adult in the state, or about 450,000 in Portland alone.  Considering the other causes of death that top the list, why pick homocide instead of suicide, or cancer, or heart disease?   Because homocide paints a more sensational and urgent picture - it creates a chill of evil and death that clings to the notion of driving a car.  We are asked to engage in a war on cars just as we are compelled to be incensed with murder.  We might just be inclined to fall into the pity trap if the rhetoric wasn't so exaggerated and manipulative.  This shows how to capitalize on a crisis - first you must manufacture the crisis before you can express outrage and issue a call to action.  


FAVORITE PORTLAND TRIBUNE ONLINE COMMENT:
Dave Lister

I have news for the director. Portland declared war on the automobile when Goldschmidt killed the Mt. Hood Freeway and the eastside MAX was built. Her predecessors have been trying to get people out of their cars for the last forty years. Guess what? People still prefer to get around by automobile. Why? Because it is convenient, it is quick and you can go where you want when you want. All this newspeak about "transportation choices" is actually about eliminating your choice to drive, pure and simple.

And just what exactly is so great about "imaginging you could take your kids to OMSI without having to drive"? Last I checked, you can do that now. What the director is really saying is "imagine how great it would be if no cars could get to OMSI". That, for her, is a turn on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Do bike lanes reduce traffic volume?

I have never seen this website before, but it offers statistical data about a wide variety of subjects.  I was doing research on how bike lanes affect volume of traffic and congestion when I stumbled upon it. Planners like to say that by building bike lanes, auto traffic will decrease because more people will ride bikes, and that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).   That sounds like it could be right, but is it true?

At a meeting last Sat. regarding our city's transportation system plan, the discussion turned to ways to reduce congestion on State St. including adding bike lanes.  I asked if there was research to show that bike lanes reduce traffic volume:  Is there any proof that what you are proposing will have the desired outcome?  The two engineers (one a traffic engineer) did not know.  The did not know of any research to prove that people would get out of their cars and start to bicycle to work, and that traffic volumes would go down.  On the most congested streets, bike lanes are suggested as a mitigation technique to lessen volume.  But the study cited here maintains bike lanes would only ADD to the congestion!  

This isn't rocket science.  It is common sense vs idealism.  We need to start making plans by conjuring a desire able outcome - the what-if-we-could-do-this kind of brainstorming you need to do come up with ideas.  But ideas need to be tested against reality by using scientific data.  The "bike lanes will get people out of their cars" idea fails to make the grade.  No doubt there are places that prove the exception, but public policy cannot be made based on hoping one's jurisdiction will be the exception.  

In the article below, note that there are no examples of roads with added bike lanes that had a decrease in traffic volume - only increases in congestion that vary based upon what level of volume to capacity the streets were at prior to the addition of the bike lanes.  If bikes lanes don't work - to decrease volume, congestion and greenhouse gasses - why are they being promoted so heavily as a viable  transportation mode to replace automobiles?  Is this a plan to intentionally make traffic worse, to frustrate drivers so they will WANT to leave their cars at home - and it isn't about bikes at all?  


Bike Lanes Don't Cause Traffic Jams If You're Smart About Where You Build Them
By Gretchen Johnson and Aaron Johnson
FiveThirtyEight  April 11, 2014

These days, road construction isn’t just benefiting drivers. As cities re-design streets, they’re making a concerted effort to create more bike lanes. This is happening not only in large metropolises like New York CitySan Francisco and Chicago. Bike lanes are in the planning or construction phases in Louisville, Ky.Raleigh, N.C., the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, Ferndale, Mich.Rutland, Vt., and Elyria, Ohio.
New bike lanes certainly make life better for cyclists, but how do they affect drivers? This question is hotly debated, especially when a new bike lane replaces a lane used by vehicular traffic. It seems that unless a ton of people start commuting by bicycle, giving away a lane would cause increased car traffic. But is this really the case?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How we talk about where we live

This is a very thoughtful piece on the meanings of the words we use to describe our home, our towns, and the places we live and work.   The author is Ben Ross.  Ross has published a new book, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism.   The title of the book is a bit off-putting - I'd have to read it to approve or reject it - but the essay here is a good reminder about how people see the world differently.  As Ross concludes, "For a half-century and more, deformed language has made it hard to think clearly about the communities we live in. Our system of land use will be the easier to understand, the more we use words that say plainly what we mean."
Click Here to read the complete essay.


Dead ends: Euphemisms hide our true feelings about growth

In Briarcliff, New York, a spurned builder once wrote, the aim of zoning is to guarantee "that each newcomer must be wealthier than those who came before, but must be of a character to preserve the illusion that their poorer neighbors are as wealthy as they."

Photo by Michael Patrick on Flickr.
Such frank talk about land use is rare indeed. If you don't want something built, an honest statement of objections invites defeat in court. If you do, plain speaking is unlikely to convince the zoning board, and it risks offending any neighbors who might be open to a compromise.
Each party has an illusion to maintain, so words become tools of purposeful confusion.

Map of where nobody lives

Another way to see the US: Map of where nobody lives

There are more than 300 million people living in the United States today, but America is such a huge country that we still have staggeringly vast areas that are completely devoid of humans. This map illustrates those places. Everything colored green is a census block with zero population.
Map by Nik Freeman of mapsbynik.com.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Portland Streetcar Inc. fails Pdx audit

Apr 17, 2014, 6:22am PDT

Damning city audit blasts Portland's streetcar operations, oversight



Digital Managing Editor-Portland Business Journal
Portland’s City Auditor strongly warned that city is taking too much of a financial and operational risk on Portland’s streetcar projects.
“While public-private partnerships generally allow for more private sector participation and/or ownership, we found the City applied an approach that includes the use of (transportation department) management and staff, with no real transfer of responsibility or risk to its partners,” Griffin-Valade wrote. “… The investments in Portland Streetcar’s system expansion and ongoing operations have increased over time. The City has leveraged financial resources from numerous sources, with TriMet jointly paying for annual operations.
However, Portland’s auditor “found that the Portland Streetcar structure is convoluted and confusing. Such partnerships should be tailored with the overall aim of matching risk with the partner best able to control that risk. Given the City’s clear ownership and operations responsibility, we question how and why the private sector is involved at each level of the organization.
We found the structure confusing because of how the City has chosen to involve its partners in Portland Streetcar operations. Similar to the financial information for total operations, the organization chart for Portland Streetcar required us to compile information from numerous discordant sources.

We questioned the appropriateness of the City’s membership on a contractor’s Board of Directors. City representation on the Board places a City Council member in the position of advising PSI on the scope of actions and projects, while voting at the same time to authorize funding and policy direction as a member of Council. At the very least, this gives rise to the appearance of a conflict of interest, a concern also raised as a public complaint to the City Ombudsman.

While we found no actual conflicts of interest, there are related-party relationships involving PSI employees and subcontractors, and we were told about perceived conflicts of interest. PSI has a significant subcontractor relationship with a firm that provides streetcar services for multiple jurisdictions. It is not always clear when the subcontractor is acting on behalf of the City and when it may be representing other interests.

This is a damning report indeed.  It leaves the City of Portland exposed to accusations of mismanagement and negligence.  The audit makes the relationship between the City of Portland and Portland Streetcar Inc. sound like a social club operating with the veneer of business management and civic responsibility.  The only thing public seems to be the source of funds for the sloppy management of PSI.  With further investigation, it would be nice to learn the level of special interests and cronyism involved in PSI's functions for its almost 20 years of operation.  

It is worth noting here that PSI's only Director of Operations from it's beginning in 1995 until he quit last month has been Rick Gustafson.  Gustafson is also a principal in Shiels Oblitz Johnson where he has worked since 1987.  SOJ is involved in the Portland Streetcar and other transportation and development projects in the region.  SOJ manages the construction and operation of Portland's Streetcar Project.  Gustafson was also Metro's first Executive Officer in 1978 and served 2 terms until he left in 1987.  Several Lake Oswegans served on the PSI Board of Directors for a time prior to 2013:  Jack Hoffman, Judie Hammerstad and Lynn Peterson.  Anne Lininger went to work for Oregon Iron Works that manufactures streetcars for Portland Streetcar Inc. after she left her position on the Clackamas Board of Commissioners in 2013. *

Jack is on the Board of Directors of Portland Street Car Initiative, Inc.  He is also on the Board of Directors of the Portland State University Institute for Metropolitan Studies.  Jack is a past member of the Executive Committee of the Local District Council of the Urban Land Institute. In 2006, Oregon Super Lawyers recognized Jack as a Super Lawyer in Land Use/Zoning.  

Judie was the founder and chair of the Community Streetcar Coalition, a national organization that promotes streetcar projects, and was a member of the board for Portland Streetcar, Inc. She is especially dedicated to bringing the streetcar from Portland to Lake Oswego. She also serves on the Marylhurst University Board of Trustees. She holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Oregon.

Clackamas-based Oregon Iron Works hired former Clackamas County Commissioner Ann Lininger to join its legal team.

Julie Gustafson is, as of September 2011, assistant community relations manager for Portland Streetcar, a task she performs on contract as an employee of Shiels Obletz Johnsen. She is also the daughter of Portland Streetcar Executive Director Rick Gustafson.






Metro survey on SW Corridor station communities

METRO wants your opinion

Metro is working on the High Capacity Transit portion of the SW Corridor Plan and wants to know what people think of their concept maps for transit station locations.  A "transit station" is the same thing as a Transit Oriented Community, or TOD.  Perhaps they have given up using the "community" portion of the designation since none of their TODs has come anywhere close to being one.  Simply put, these "transit stations" are places to warehouse people in densely packed apartments close to planned light rail stations and "multi-modal" transportation options (bicycle and pedestrian paths).    

The original theory is that people would want to live near where they work, and these densely populated communities would be located within or next to (20-minute walking or biking distance) their place of employment.  Commercial areas are being relabeled, "Employment Districts," and mixed-use housing and retail is being worked into development codes to re-make the areas into "vibrant" communities - though the concepts of community and quality of life for the occupants is debatable.  The real test will be if large numbers of planners and their families start to move into the station communities they plan for others.  Or are these just gilded cages they will avoid?  

Lake Oswego is not on the map for proposed station communities because we have no current plans for HCT or linkages to the SW Corridor HCT plans - yet.  Lake Oswego is one of the listed "strategic partners" (I think that has something to do with wanting us to adopt their plans and then help pay for it), and both of our Employment Districts - one on Kruse Way, plus the re-designated industrial area at the southern end of Boones Ferry Rd. are adjacent to the SW Corridor transit lines on the other side of I-5.  

Should LO have station communities on Kruse Way or Boones Ferry Rd.?  Should LO become the newest experiment for New Urbanism community-building in the region?  Do the locations on the map make sense for dense housing, mixed use (employment/retail/housing) development opportunities?  What would you think if you lived in Durham, Tigard or Tualatin?  Would you shop at SW Corridor stores if the area became a string of transit stations?  Where should density really go?  
It's your chance to tell Metro what you really think.  Go for it!

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Take our online survey today!

An online survey for the Southwest Corridor Plan is available right now.  It asks for you to select your top choices for high capacity transit station areas and multimodal projects (bicycle, pedestrian and roadway improvements). Click here to review potential station area and multimodal project materials and provide your feedback! The materials necessary to answer the questions are linked directly in the survey itself. The feedback duration has been extended and will now be open until Friday, April 25 at 5 p.m. Your feedback will help inform which multimodal projects will be included for further study as part of the Plan’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Purpose and need statement update
The following is an update regarding public involvement for the Southwest Corridor Plan’s purpose and need statement. A statement of purpose and need is important because it forms a foundation for planning. It explains why a plan is needed and what it will do. The Southwest Corridor Plan’s purpose and need statement lists the needs that a high capacity transit project in the Southwest corridor would address and what the project sets out to accomplish During the present refinement stage, the statement was updated based on public feedback. A report on the public feedback can be found on the project website under “Project Library” (see Public comment report: Draft purpose and need statement for the refinement phase, January 2014).


The draft purpose and need statement for the refinement phase of the Southwest Corridor Plan opened to public feedback on Nov. 7, 2014 and closed 17 days later on Nov. 24. Feedback was gathered through an online survey that was posted to the project website, emailed twice to the interested parties list, and advertised through the project’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. The survey consisted of ten questions on the statement, plus five additional Title VI questions (for required demographic information tracking). Survey results are not meant to be statistically significant. Participants answered a general question to evaluate current support for the contents of the draft statement, submitted comments about what they saw as missing, submitted their own questions about the statement, and provided general feedback and improvement ideas.

The updated purpose and need statement can be found on the project website under “Project Library” (see Refinement phase: Adopted purpose and need statement for a high capacity transit project in the Southwest Corridor). Notes from the Steering Committee meeting discussion preceding approval of the purpose and need statement can also be found on the project website under “Decision-Making” (see Agenda and materials for Jan. 13, 2014).

Will there be another opportunity to comment on the purpose and need statement?

Yes. Public feedback on the purpose and need statement was gathered in November 2013 as part of the project refinement phase before a formal robust planning process begins as part of National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requirements. The NEPA process includes preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The purpose and need will be reviewed and potentially revised based on new information from the refinement process for the DEIS, and the public will have an opportunity to comment on the updated version. The comment period will likely take place during the summer of 2014.
More answers to frequently asked questions may be found in the latest project fact sheet on the project website under “Project Library” (see Southwest Corridor Plan fact sheet, spring 2014: Refinement phase activities and next steps).

Contact
Juan Carlos Ocaña-Chíu, Metro
503-797-1921