THE "LETTERS TO THE EDITOR" ARE BELOW THE EDITORIAL

From The Editor

North Westmoreland’s transit problem worsens
Traffic congestion, SE 17th Avenue, McLoughlin Boulevard, speed limit, MAX croissing, Westmoreland, Southeast Portland, Oregon
At 8 a.m. one sunny weekday morning in late August, northbound traffic on S.E. 17th was backed up all the way to Insley Street; moments after this photo was taken more vehicles had accumulated, and the line extended past Harold Street. (Photo by Eric Norberg)

In the beginning, TriMet served north Westmoreland with five bus lines, all of which could be ridden to go downtown. Buses 31, 32, and 33 came and went to Clackamas County via McLoughlin Boulevard, round trip northbound to the Central Eastside and from there to the center of downtown Portland and back, with frequent stops at S.E. 17th and at Harold Street.

Bus 70 traveled through the neighborhood on 17th, providing transit south to Sellwood and north to the Rose Quarter, from where a stroll over the Broadway Bridge could place you in the north end of downtown.  And Bus 19 ran on Milwaukie Avenue south to Bybee, and from there east to Woodstock and beyond, while taking the Ross Island Bridge to and from the south end of downtown, and PSU.

But TriMet had a vision to improve transit for north Westmoreland, and in the 1990’s came to SMILE, the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood association, to ask for its support in its request to rezone the area from Insley north to McLoughlin Boulevard (and some south of there on the western and eastern ends of north Westmoreland) for high density apartment development – because they would be building a light rail line along McLoughlin, and would have a station there to serve the area.

The original station was to be on the north side of McLoughlin, approximately opposite 18th or 19th, and connected to the neighborhood by an overhead walkway across the highway. SMILE voted to support the plan, and the zoning change was made. Today, TriMet has seemingly forgotten it ever made that request, but it did – it’s in SMILE minutes, and some members of the SMILE Board are still there who remember it.

TriMet then put what is today’s Orange MAX line on the ballot, and although Inner Southeast voted for it, other areas already had their MAX line and did not. So it took close to two decades for the Orange Line to be built and opened – and somehow, that north Westmoreland station, now moved around to Harold Street, and then Reedway, became an asterisk on the map, and it did not get built.

It would have been nice for TriMet to have acknowledged that, retaining bus service downtown for the neighborhood with buses 31, 32, and 33 – but it ended those lines in Milwaukie, and terminated their service north of there, on the very day the new MAX line opened – so public transit access in north Westmoreland became much worse.

Today, bus service is limited to Bus 70 – which no longer goes to the Rose Quarter but now veers off to the northeast toward Fremont Street; and Bus 19 – the last bus serving north Westmoreland that actually goes downtown, but it still does so over the Ross Island Bridge, rather than on the much faster Tillicum Transit Bridge, making for a very slow trip in commute times.

If a resident of the neighborhood wants to take MAX, one has to walk or drive over a half mile south to the Bybee Bridge, or over a half mile north across McLoughlin and Holgate Boulevards. TriMet owns a large property just west of the Holgate Station which could be used for a park-and-ride lot, but which it apparently intends to sell for development instead.

So, it is no wonder that, with all that new apartment housing built and under construction in north Westmoreland, so many of the new apartment residents own cars – some of them new cars – in order to reach their jobs downtown and elsewhere.

And they largely rely on access to northbound McLoughlin or Powell using S.E. 17th, which remains a vital connector between Highway 224 and Highway 99E for those living in Westmoreland.  Milwaukie Avenue also has a direct connection to Powell, but not to McLoughlin, making 17th vital for commuters.

Lately, two developments have worsened commuting via S.E. 17th at McLoughlin.

The first was the sluggish timing set for the railroad crossing signal on the north side of McLoughlin on northbound 17th:  MAX trains trigger the signal well before they arrive – probably to eliminate the need for the light rail train to stop there – but, alas, the train is long gone and nearly out of sight before the signals stop and the arm goes up after it has passed.. 

Very frequently this eliminates the opportunity for drivers continuing north of S.E. 17th to take their turn, delaying traffic at the intersection; and when traffic backs up northbound, those seeking to get into the left turn lane to turn north on McLoughlin cannot reach that lane, because northbound traffic is backed up so far in the single lane leading up to the turn lane.

Okay, that was bad enough. Now it is much worse: Inexplicably, the Portland Bureau of Transportation decided to reduce the speed limit on S.E. 17th only in Westmoreland, from Nehalem to McLoughlin, from 25 MPH to 20 MPH, even though the sections of the street north and south of there, in Sellwood and Brooklyn, quite properly remain at 25 MPH.

And because of that unwarranted speed limit reduction only in Westmoreland, it appears that ODOT – the Oregon Department of Transportation – has slowed the timing of the light favoring S.E. 17th, both northbound and southbound at McLoughlin, apparently as a result of Portland no longer considering it as a connector street.

The slower timing of the light is causing backups, particular northbound, that frequently become epic in the morning commute period – not just because of the light slower cycle, but because the Orange Line MAX trains, both north and south, usually cross somewhere in the vicinity of 17th and McLoughlin, and that means that up to two successive opportunities to cross northbound across McLoughlin may be cancelled, now stalling northbound traffic for as much as ten minutes.

In the morning commute time, missing two successive green lights northbound can back up traffic on 17th – as shown in the accompanied photo, taken at random on a recent weekday morning – to Insley Street as shown; and even to Harold, Ellis, and Reedway. Since there are few alternatives to using this vital connector street, the cars accumulate.

So what do we suggest? We certainly have not given up on hoping TriMet will do as they originally promised, and address the longest stretch of the Orange MAX line without a station in Multnomah County by putting a MAX stop near S.E. Reedway Street.

And we’d love it if TriMet would acknowledge the problem they caused by cancelling busses 31, 32, and 33 without providing corresponding MAX access. Even just one of those buses, reestablished as a route downtown on McLoughlin with stops at 17th and at Harold, would be a blessing.

And speaking of a blessing, much more traffic could get through if TriMet’s signal and arm at the crossing at 17th at McLoughlin would switch off and clear the street as soon as the train has cleared the intersection (unless the opposite train is already close enough to keep it down in order, itself, to cross).  This small change really would make quite a difference, and seems very do-able. That’s how traffic signals respond when railroad trains clear a crossing!

But for right now, we are requesting that PBOT get back down here to Westmoreland and change S.E. 17th between Nehalem and McLoughlin back to a 25 MPH zone, as rightly it should be, and then notify ODOT of the change and request a return to a faster light cycle at its McLoughlin intersection.

After all, this section of 17th is at least as important as a connector street as is Woodstock Boulevard in its stretch between 28th and Chavez (39th), which is also in a primarily residential area, and even includes a college campus – and remains quite properly a 25 MPH zone.

There is no good reason why north Westmoreland needs to be the loser in every new city and state public transit policy.



Letters to the Editor

Resident protests city plan to disenfranchise neighbors

Editor,

Director of Portland’s Office of Community & Civic Life Suk Rhee’s “In My Opinion” column published on Sunday, Sept. 1, is a facile defense by a taxpayer-funded bureaucrat of why Portland officials are seeking to disenfranchise the City’s neighborhood associations and justify undemocratic processes in the name of “diversity” and “inclusion.”

The City stands “united against hate and violence” and strives to tackle “big issues so that working families, communities of color and rent-burdened tenants can keep calling Portland home,” says Rhee. But she explains in her piece that active members of neighborhood associations are older and more educated than the City as a whole. This is presumably because they seek to share their knowledge via civic involvement and because some are retired and more able to volunteer; it hardly makes them unrepresentative, though.

Rhee takes care not to address the back-channel City discussions that flagged neighborhood associations as “dominated by rich white people clueless about their sense of entitlement.” In private texts publicized by The Oregonian, it’s not just education, age or even wealth, but whiteness that Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Rhee find problematic. (Aug. 10, 2019).

Thus the revised code envisioned by Rhee and Eudaly writes the City’s 95 neighborhood associations out, in favor of hand-picked groups representing unnamed minorities, religions, immigrants, and others.

Yet virtually all citizens are welcomed in the neighborhood associations that blanket Portland, and thus they already represent tenants and diverse communities. Additionally, through its Diversity and Public Leadership Program, OCCL funds Latino, Native American, African American, and refugee networks, ensuring broad representation.

It is likely true that neighborhood associations (and other grantees) are not all equally well-run or equally strong. Some could undoubtedly benefit from OCCL assistance, as previously suggested by the City Auditor. But the auditor’s report of November 2016 never suggested their wholesale replacement. Instead, it asked the City to improve planning and accountability of grantees and communications among them, and to update City Code.

The current code requires neighborhood associations to seek input from the residents and businesses located within their boundaries, hold open meetings, elect officers and board members, discuss issues, vote transparently, and produce and file meeting minutes open to the public; other OCCL grantees are not held to these same standards.

Most importantly, the neighborhood associations represent almost the only way to achieve consistent grass roots inputs on City policies and urban services given that Portland has a Commission form of government in which all Commissioners are elected at large and none represent any geographic area.

Rhee says, “Passing the mic does not mute the voices of any.” But doing away with longstanding democratic processes and replacing them with fuzzy aspirational language lacking requirements for actual democratic input puts Portland’s citizens in danger.

In a democracy, citizens’ votes should not be weighted to give some greater standing than others. The City should certainly seek out minority opinions and take them into consideration. But while it is true that some citizens – because of culture, lack of time, or interest – vote or volunteer less frequently, Portland shouldn’t, thereby, negate the voices of those who do get involved. And it should require all groups to act democratically and transparently.

Wake up now, Portland. Democracy is threatened here. Without neighborhood input, the Office of Community & Civic Involvement, until recently the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, will choose which voices to hear and which to ignore – all in the name of diversity and inclusiveness.

Dinah Adkins
Via e-mail

 

Make way October 6 for the Portland Marathon!

Editor,

The Portland Marathon invites all Inner Southeast residents to visit online – http://www.portlandmarathon.com/traffic – to learn about the traffic impacts of the upcoming event on Sunday, October 6, The race route has been entirely changed from past years, and for the first time runs through Sellwood. All are encouraged to cheer the runners on as they make their way through Sellwood, Westmoreland, Brooklyn, Eastmoreland, and Reed during the Marathon. To ensure that you are able to plan your travel into and out of the neighborhood during the race, please visit that website!

Jared Rohatinsky
Via e-mail

 

THE BEE, and the Cascade Policy Institute

Editor,

I read with some amusement the interchange between the Cascade Institute and the THE BEE on the subject of the Sellwood Bridge. The former, a self-styled think tank, is – alas – typical of many such institutes, in that they adopt a way of thinking that might be summarized as, “The free market is the only solution. Now, what was the problem you were bringing to our attention?” (Disclosure: I worked for over a quarter of a century for a real think tank, where we internally systematically reviewed every publication before dissemination, to insure that each conclusion and recommendation was supported by logic and factual evidence. I even helped write one of our internal quality assurance documents.)

THE BEE, way back when the new bridge was under construction, noted that Clackamas County, whose residents greatly benefited from the renovation, refused to contribute to its construction; Cascade, located in that county, and as a devout anti-tax institute, supported the Clackamas refusal to contribute – [and] has no basis to gripe about any decisions made by Multnomah County, or, for that matter, the City of Portland – about their road systems.

So, Mr. Norberg and colleagues, please keep up the good work.

James Kahan, Ph.D.
Eastmoreland

 

Dispensary protest

Editor,

I was just sitting and having a bite to eat at the Sellwood New Seasons. Anyhow, I looked at your paper and noticed the article about neighbors being concerned of a dispensary being placed near a preschool and right next to a toy shop. This got me to think if their concerns had a valid reasoning for this concern. I looked up to [see] if a preschool was considered a school. Through my research I have found out it doesn't meet the OLCC requirements that the state put in place.

I understand people’s concerns yet [they] should do research and see if those can be expressed through a constructive protest. Thank you.

Sean King
Via e-mail

 

Editor,

Burying legal reality in an article’s final paragraphs, inside the fold, is a disservice to your readers. I speak of THE BEE's [September] article regarding the Electric Lettuce dispensary slated for S.E. 13th. Or really, the article’s topic is better characterized as the opposition to same – which, to be fair, is what the headline proclaims. But I would have expected a more helpful report on the situation; news, as it were.

And, as the city attorney is belatedly quoted [in the article] as having advised, a commercial preschool does not trigger an exclusionary zone [in the city permitting process]. Misplaced concerns, such as the purported code violation and Joe Camel comparisons, are the sort of thing one expects from NextDoor, not THE BEE.

Bill Ferranti
S.E. 17th Avenu
Sellwood

EDITOR’S NOTE: We quoted those who would be quoted, and were unable to quote those would not. The main issue involved, it seems to us – and this was, as we went to press, unresolved – is whether or not the state statute requiring 1,000 feet separation of a marijuana dispensary from a school would indeed apply to the private preschool at issue, as claimed by the lawyer quoted in the story, or not. If it does, then the city’s permit process would seem be at odds with the state statute, as we pointed out in the article.

Deplores Portland’s “Big City-fication”

Editor,

Portland is no longer what it once was. It is losing itself to the expectations of a big city. If one has lived here for a time, longer than just a few years, [one] has seen these changes. Most agree that change is good; but not always. Climate change we agree is not a good change, there are other changes that are not acceptable as well. For instance:

Traffic: Is this Portland or Los Angeles? Speed bumps, as if everyone is four-wheeling the Rocky Mountains. Terrible road designs, forcing traffic into funnels of impediments. Traffic lights timed so terribly that one feels stuck in “Groundhog Day”. Road designs and bridge designs like a bad game of mouse trap. We are speaking of newly built.

People walking out in the street or in front of TriMet without looking: Do you have a death wish? Some have fallen to this unfortunate destiny. The arguments between bicycles and cars and public transportation – can we not all get along?

Historic houses destroyed, giant monster houses replacing them: Neighborhoods are losing their identity; large apartment buildings with no [provided tenant] parking. [Is this] intelligent?

Overcrowded trails, more parking meters in ridiculous places. . . No parking spaces provided, winter parking permits, trailhead parking permits; one cannot even go to the mountains anymore without having to pay a fee. Some things in life should be available without a cost. Overcrowded campgrounds that used to be free – [but] now cost.

Homelessness abounds: This is a very sad situation of who we are as a society.

So, without continuing a rant of sorts, [I suggest that] the heart and soul is being ripped from this once-beautiful city! Portland has lost its soul. . . but we can stop and not continue this devastating loss of what we all have either moved here for, or have grown up and lived here for.

Roark Roberts
S.E. Miller Street
Sellwood


Questions path upgrade on 72nd

Editor,

For over 80 years I have enjoyed traveling along 72nd Street where it links Foster Road and Holgate Boulevard. [That part] is a divided street with grass and mature trees [in the middle]. Your reporter called it “unimproved’ (THE BEE, September, 2019), although I have never thought of it that way.

Now two people . . . have given it a name, given themselves titles, and got a grant to “improve” it. But how? And why?

A.D. Drake
Portland 97286

EDITOR’S NOTE: The two people in the article are volunteers in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood association is involved in this, having sought the small grant. The “improvement”, if it does proceed, is mostly to provide a path by which people might more easily walk down the wide strip, between the northbound and southbound lanes of S.E. 72nd; a strip which at the moment gets quite muddy when it rains. No other improvement is planned from this grant.



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Obituary
Steven L Maxwell
Steven L. Maxwell

Steven L. Maxwell

August 17, 1946 – August 15, 2019

Steven L. Maxwell, a Woodstock resident, died on August 15th of complications of ALS (“Lou Gherig’s Disease”), two days before his 73rd birthday. An article in the July BEE described his recent contribution of a more convenient customer entrance and exit door to the Woodstock Laundry, a business he had patronized for many years.

Steve was born right after World War II in Richmond, Virginia, to George S. Maxwell and Carolyn H. Maxwell (maiden name: Harris). He had no siblings. His family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he graduated from high school. He attended one year of school at Idaho State University, before entering the military and serving three years in Vietnam. He went back to school later, and received a Bachelor of Science and Business Administration degree from Oregon State University in 1975, and an MBA from Portland State University in 1992.

Steve worked for Food Services of America from 1994 until 2011, and received Buyer of the Year awards in both 2004 and 2005.

Steve was a generous person, as the BEE story of his gift to the Woodstock Laundry suggested – giving of his time and energy to the Ross Island EarlyRisers Kiwanis Club, Meals on Wheels, and the Red Cross, among other organizations. He served as District Chair for Pacific Northwest Kiwanis for the “Save Old Spectacles” project for many years, collecting used glasses for worldwide distribution.

Steve enjoyed friends, food, reading his newspaper, and encouraging others to “Pay It Forward.” He leaves behind no survivors in his immediate family.

A service at Willamette National Cemetery was held on September 9th. A Celebration of Life will take place on Thursday, October 3rd at 6:30 p.m. at the Lucky Labrador Public House in Multnomah Village, at 7675 S.W. Capitol Highway. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to Mt Hood Kiwanis Camp, 10725 S.W. Barbur Blvd., Suite 50, Portland, OR 97219.  --  Elizabeth Ussher Groff

 


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