THE "LETTERS TO THE EDITOR" ARE BELOW THE EDITORIAL

From The Editor

Hey, TriMet....
MAX, light rail, Westmoreland, Harold Street Station, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
An Orange Line MAX train soars past north Westmoreland…without stopping. (Photo by Eric Norberg)


Now and then THE BEE is a gadfly for things that a local governmental agency would rather we not bring up. TriMet has made it pretty clear that they are a bit short of delighted whenever we bring up one particular issue dealing with public transportation options in the north end of Westmoreland.

But if we don’t bring it up now and then, chances continue to diminish that anything will ever be done about it! So here we go again.

First the background; we’ll get to the problem – and the solution – later on. But first:

Back in the 1990’s, although nobody at TriMet seems to remember it now, a delegation from that agency came to the Board of SMILE – the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood association – to ask that it support higher residential density in the north end of Westmoreland specifically because they were going to build a light rail line down the McLoughlin alignment, and they wanted a lot of apartments to be within walking distance of the new light rail station they were going to put on the north side of McLoughlin at about 18th. They were going to construct an overhead pedestrian bridge at that point to provide access to the south side of McLoughlin in Westmoreland.

SMILE agreed to do it, and that became part of the Neighborhood Plan adopted by SMILE in the largest meeting SMILE ever conducted – involving some 600 residents, in the gym at Sellwood Middle School. After much contention, the plan passed by some fifty votes.

Shortly after that, the light rail line down McLoughlin went to a public election for funding – and, although Inner Southeast voted for it, areas which already had their own MAX line (which each had voted for) did not want to have to help fund ours, and defeated it. That led to a period of time when TriMet explored the idea of dedicated bus lines on McLoughlin, and even a Willamette River water taxi; but in the end – at all their open houses – the demand was simply and only for light rail, and eventually they promised to resurrect that idea.

But when our turn came again, they decided instead to build a light rail line down the I-205 corridor east of 82nd Avenue! They promised that ours would eventually follow, which finally it did.

But it didn’t follow before TriMet presented a plan that entirely left out that planned station to serve north Westmoreland which is now zoned to encourage apartments there! The problem was that the pedestrian bridge over McLoughlin at S.E. 18th would “cost too much”.

But, in subsequent open houses, it became clear that there was considerable demand for such a station anyway; and THE BEE noticed on the posted maps that the Reedway Street extension across the Union Pacific railyard still existed, which would be a great alignment for a pedestrian bridge that not only would connect north Westmoreland to a light rail station there, but would also connect the north side of Reed College (where the dorms are) directly to the new light rail station. It would also provide direct access to light rail to much of the Reed neighborhood – and would also allow direct pedestrian and bike access between north Westmoreland and Reed College.

If there weren’t funds for such a bridge at the start, we pointed out, there was and always has been a signalized crosswalk at S.E. Harold Street which would provide access for north Westmorland to a new MAX station at Reedway, fulfilling the original promise.

With what appeared to us to be some reluctance, TriMet added a “Harold Street Station” to the planned new MAX line opposite Reedway – but with an asterisk, making it clear it was an option rather than a certainty. However, the Reed neighborhood and Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood associations voted their support, and Reed College gave it support as well, as long as it would not displace the Bybee Station, which it did not.

As the new line was built, TriMet told SMILE that the new station would not be built at that time. They later said that because of the high grade opposite Reedway, the new station could not be added later, either. When SMILE protested and residents proposed bake sales to raise the money to build the station as the line was built, TriMet reversed itself and said the new station could be added later, after all.

….But will it?

Here’s why this is still such an issue to residents at the north end of Westmoreland – where the high-density zoning requested originally by TriMet is rapidly being filled by developers with large numbers of apartment houses:

  1. Westmoreland used to have frequent direct downtown TriMet bus service (Buses 31, 32, and 33), in addition to the much slower downtown service of Bus 19, which is still required to travel on the Ross Island Bridge (rather than the new transit bridge), and thus which runs very slowly in commute times. And there remains Bus 70, which used to stop near the Broadway Bridge for a fast walk downtown, but now veers east towards N.E. Fremont.
  2. The very day that the new MAX line opened (with no north Westmoreland station), it forever cancelled Buses 31, 32, and 33, north of Milwaukie. That ended fast and direct access downtown to and from this increasingly populated part of Westmoreland. Only Bus 19 goes downtown – slowly – now.
  3. Because of the lack of the “Harold Street Station”, the gap between the Holgate Station and the Bybee Station is the longest stretch in Multnomah County on the entire Orange Line without a station. Potential MAX riders have to hoof it across six lanes of McLoughlin and way up to Holgate, or down past Westmoreland Union Manor to Bybee, in order to catch the train. (Or, says TriMet helpfully, they can always catch Bus 70 to Holgate.) There is a space which could become a commuter parking lot on the northwest corner of Holgate and 17th, but TriMet is keeping it fenced off and is trying to sell it for development.

The surprising bottom line is that the new Orange MAX line has resulted in a considerable DECREASE of public transit options for those in north Westmoreland.

What does TriMet say about all this? See for yourself. It’s still posted online at: http://trimet.org/pdfs/pm/CDR/PMLR_CDR_Future_Station.pdf

They repeat statements that they cited originally to avoid building the station, as you’ll see. “Few will use it.” “The (one-minute) delay of stopping there would discourage Clackamas County riders from using it.” “The close proximity to other stations.” None of those objections stand up to scrutiny!

The real reason is acknowledged: “Land use in the area that does not support the station, and the cost of pedestrian bridges needed to connect the station to the Reed, Eastmoreland and Westmoreland neighborhoods.”

What specifically they mean about the land use issue is unclear, but it probably is related to the second half of that statement – the cost of the pedestrian/bike bridge from the west side of McLoughlin at Reedway to the top of the MAX line berm and on to the stub of Reedway just south of S.E. 28th in the Reed neighborhood!

For some years, supported by the Reed, Sellwood-Westmoreland, and Eastmoreland neighborhood associations, an effort has been in progress by residents of the area to interest the city in itself building that bridge. It would, after all, provide the only pedestrian and bike access between the west side of McLoughlin and the neighborhoods east of the Brooklyn Rail Yard in the long stretch between Holgate and Bybee.

But, if the city builds the bridge, will TriMet finally build the Harold Street Station? We detect no real enthusiasm for the idea by TriMet, even if that were to happen.

Yet, as traffic problems increase, and as Portland increasingly relies on public transit solutions for future traffic congestion, it is clearly needed. In this situation, north Westmoreland, the Reed neighborhood, and Reed College are increasingly being left on an island with diminished public transportation options, as we in north Westmoreland watch the MAX train zip by…without stopping.

It needs to happen. And at the very least, we call on TriMet to update their studies to show the realities of demand, and respond to a need they themselves identified in the 1990’s before they even started building MAX here. They could restore Buses 31, 32, and 33 to downtown – or they could put the Harold Street Station back on the table.

And until they do address that need, THE BEE will keep its stinger out, to provide gentle jabs to our public transportation agency from time to time on this subject.



Letters to the Editor

Editor’s speculation wrong

Editor,

In the January issue of THE BEE, Letters to the Editor, your response to the letter about Sam's Attic speculated that there is a large apartment building planned for the west side of the block. The permit application for the property at – www.portlandmaps.com – states:

“NEW SINGLE STORY RETAIL BUILDING, PARKING LOT, DETACHED TRASH ENCLOSURE. LESS THAN 120 SQ FT FLOOR AREA, STORMWATER FACILITY, SITE IMPROVEMENTS AND UTILITIES.”

The application for an early assistance meeting the developer had with the City in 2017 states: “Future code – Construction of a 13,292 square foot retail pharmacy with parking for 20 vehicles.”

So it would appear that a one-story pharmacy is planned for the west side of 17th between Tacoma and Tenino, not a large apartment building. There is an 81-unit apartment building on the east side of 17th at the former Mike's Drive In site that is under review, perhaps this was the source of the confusion.

To help track development in the neighborhood, the SMILE Land Use Committee maintains a spreadsheet listing development projects in the pipeline that is available to the public at – www.sellwoodmoreland.org. Click on the Land Use Committee tab, then scroll down to find the latest Project Pipeline list.

David Schoellhamer
Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE)
Land Use Committee Chair

EDITOR’S NOTE: See separate article about “Sam’s Attic” in this issue for more information.

 

Coyotes spotted in Southeast

Editor,

In the Westmoreland and Sellwood areas of Portland we are seeing more coyotes in the mornings and mid-day. They have always been in this neighborhood, located between two golf courses and a wildlife refuge; but now it appears someone is actually encouraging them by leaving out food. I used to see 2 to 4 a year roaming around in daylight, now I’m seeing that many a week.

On the Nextdoor social media outlet there are varieties of recent posts, from urgent to casual, about their presence. There are reported sightings of coyotes with cats in their mouths and tales of people actually allowing their dogs to have contact.

Donna Kane|
via e-mail


Editor,

Coyotes in our neighborhood are becoming much too bold, and a danger to our pets and small children. There have been many sightings recently of coyotes in the streets of Sellwood and Eastmoreland, in Sellwood Park, and in people’s yards in Sellwood.  Many local residents have had their outdoor cats disappear – at least some of them likely taken by the coyotes.

I have posted many times already on Nextdoor about hazing coyotes to make them afraid of people, and to scare them away from "human territory" and [to make them] stay in Oaks Bottom and wherever else they live in the "wild" around here. . .

But apparently there are a lot of people who are not on Nextdoor, and they need education about this problem.  Two local residents reported that today they saw bread crumbs and raw chicken left outside for the wildlife to eat.  One of those residents wondered whether the chicken was poisoned.  S.E. Rex and Milwaukie is a location where one resident has seen food dumped regularly – apparently someone's wrong-headed idea of being nice to the birds, rats, coyotes, or something.

Mimi Silliau
via e-mail

EDITOR’S NOTE: Coyotes are native to the entire United States and they have long since made themselves at home in large cities as well as rural areas. For at least a decade we have received reports of dismembered or partially eaten cats in Inner Southeast, with coyotes the most likely culprits; coyotes have long roamed Reed Canyon and they apparently inhabit Oaks Bottom as well. At 10 am on December 5 I personally saw a sleek and well-fed coyote come up out of Oaks Bottom near S.E. 13th and Sellwood Boulevard, and a similar sighting was reported to near 18th and Harold around the same time. Normally coyotes avoid human interaction, but pets (especially cats not kept inside) and other small creatures are on the menu if coyotes come across them. They also eat squirrels and other wildlife. Along with raccoons, possums, skunks, rats, mice, birds, and other wildlife they share our city and it would be wise to keep pets and children away from opportunities to be confronted by them.

 

A yet-older house in Woodstock

Editor,

[In her story in the January BEE,] Ms. Fitzsimons asked to be contacted if any older houses were known than the 1892 Russell home. The house next door to mine, at 5803 S.E. Woodstock, is listed as 1890 in Portland Maps. It was converted into a duplex during the mid-Twentieth Century. I know the current owner has recently moved the renters, but I don’t know her plans for the future of the house.

Marisa Thyken
Woodstock




Letters to the Editor may be submitted via e-mail by clicking HERE.

All letters to the editor are subject to editing for clarity and available space, and all letters become property of THE BEE.


 


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