More stories from March's issue of THE BEE!

Winter Light Festival, east bank, Willamette River, Esplanade, OMSI, Southeast, Portland, Oregon, Richard Cawley, Portland Artists Collective
Richard Cawley from Portal Arts Collective in Westmoreland’s Watershed Building tells visitors about the rotating fire pit he calls “Cosmic Fire Turtle”; the stainless steel globe is decorated with figures of endangered animals “to help raise environmental awareness – as well as help keep people warm!” (Photo by David F. Ashton)

‘Winter Light Fest’ again dazzles on Willamette’s east bank


The three-day Portland Winter Light Festival, held along and near the Eastbank Esplanade, showed off the imagination of area makers and creators – who were displaying their illuminated works of art, attracting thousands of visitors who braved the sub-freezing temperatures on opening night, February 7.

“This year – our fourth annual festival – more than 100 illuminated installations, artists, performers, interactive activities, and events brightened the cityscape, helping Portlanders escape the dark drab days of winter!” beamed festival spokesperson Michelle David.

“This free all-ages festival, an annual program of the ‘Willamette Light Brigade’, has expanded from the area near OMSI south to the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, and also to areas west of the Willamette River,” Ms. David told THE BEE.

Sharp blasts of freezing winter wind didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of people who came to enjoy the festival. Many found fire- and heat-oriented sculptures and locations particularly attractive places for spectators to linger.

Drawing interest and recognition from across the region, the artists were almost exclusively from the Pacific Northwest, commented Ms. David. “The combination of unique art installations, and family-friendly atmosphere, continues to attract visitors and artists to this show.”

The festival continued for its full scheduled run, in spite of a “Winter Weather Warning” posted for the area. However, it did close two hours early, due to inclement weather, on February 9 – the final evening of the show.

Keep it in mind for next year; it’s usually held on the second weekend in February. Learn more by going online –

Rhine Avenue, overcrossing, Brooklyn, Yard, MAX, light rail, elevators, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
With construction fences pulled back, pedestrians use the stairs of the TriMet’s Rhine-Lafayette Pedestrian Overpass; an elevator tower is at right. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

‘Rhine-Lafayette Overpass’ reopens – elevators fixed!


After the rickety wooden pedestrian overpass, built in the early 1940s, was demolished, it was replaced with TriMet’s Rhine-Lafayette Pedestrian Overpass, constructed over the Union Pacific Railroad Brooklyn Yard as part of the Portland-Milwaukie MAX Light Rail Transit Project that started in 2014.

The $3.9 million project, opened on September 2, 2015, was a boon to walkers and bicyclists – featuring glass elevator cabs at each end of the span, large enough to accommodate bicycles with trailers, or a child’s tag-along attachment.

However, this remarkable structure was constructed with a failing: That flaw caused it to be closed for construction that began on November 26, 2018 and which took the elevators out of service on December 3

“The improvements are being made because the elevators did have occasional weather-related issues, especially during extreme heat,” conceded TriMet Public Information Officer Tim Becker.

The project required full closure of the overpass at times, as contractors installed HVAC equipment inside the elevator towers to regulate the temperature and humidity year-round, Becker said. “We also installed canopies over both elevator towers and adding drainage at the base of the towers, to prevent rain from getting into the elevator mechanisms.”

Scheduled to reopen on February 5, it opened a few days early, Becker told THE BEE. So, expect a drier elevator ride in the winter, and a cooler ride in the summer, “and increased reliability, year around,” added Becker. Other MAX elevators on the Orange Line may soon be getting the same treatment.

Oaks Bottom, rehab, planting, deer, Sellwood, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
This pair of Oaks Bottom diners, in the newly-planted area, appear to know each other. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Thousands of plants are revegetating Oaks Bottom


Between July and November of 2018, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) completed the construction work on the “Oaks Bottom Habitat Enhancement Project”, as previously reported in THE BEE. After that, the Springwater Trail through the area reopened; but that didn’t end the project..

In fact, the work in the wildlife refuge is far from over, according to BES Environmental Program Coordinator Ronda Fast, who took THE BEE for a look at the replanting project underway on January 31. “Just before winter weather really moves in, we are starting to plant thousands of trees and shrubs, part of the final elements of the project,” Fast remarked as we looked over the newly-created tidal area.

By planting them now, the native seedlings, cuttings, and vegetation will compete well against invasive species in the area, Fast observed. “Because it’s cold, and the site has no irrigation; we have to be careful about the timing and the size of the plantings. Small plantings, such as we’ve been doing, do really well at this time of year.

“These plants can focus their energy on growing roots and establishing themselves,” she pointed out. “Then, with the warmth of the spring, they will begin sprouting; their survival is expected to be pretty good.”

Away from the planting crew, two well-fed fawns leisurely grazed on a buffet of newly-planted bushes. “We ‘over-plant’, knowing that some plants will not survive, and others will be grazed by the wildlife – including the family of deer, here – so, we do plant expecting some foraging.”

PP&R specified the flora to be installed, she said. “Two of them, Salix (willow) and Cornus sericea (red-osier dogwood), we harvested as cuttings from the refuge itself before the project. Now, we’re re-propagating those in the refuge, where we know they’ve already thrived.”

Coming up in late spring or summer, contractors plan on installing a viewing platform along the Springwater Trail to overlook the natural wildlife preserve.

Ogden Street, fire, empty house, call for help, fire, Brentwood Darlington, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
In this smoke-filled second-story room, wearing a mask and breathing apparatus, a firefighter locates the overheating, smoking floor refinishing machine. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Remodeling blamed for starting Brentwood-Darlington house fire


Often, the report of a house fire comes from a resident or neighbor. But, at 6:42 p.m. on February 13, a Brentwood-Darlington house – with no one inside – called for help by itself.

Nine Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) units responded to an apparently-vacant house being renovated at 6908 S.E. Ogden Street – thanks to a properly-operating and monitored smoke detector.

The monitored fire alarm inside the two-story home sent an alert to a security company, which, in turn, alerted Portland’s 9-1-1 dispatchers – who then dispatched firefighters to the scene.

The communication was rapid; so much so, that when the first unit arrived – PF&R Lents Station 11’s Engine Company – they reported seeing smoke in second-story bedrooms, and quickly located the cause before the fire flared up.

The fire engine’s water lines were charged [pressurized], and soon, the incident was declared ended. A PF&R lieutenant told THE BEE, “It seems that some kind of floor refinishing device was left plugged in – and overheated.”

A firefighter used a pressurized fire extinguisher to cool the hot spot and solve the problem.

Smoke and fire detectors not only save lives, as the firefighters are quick to point out; they also save houses from burning down! Are yours working?

Tenth Church of Christ Scientist, Chuirch, 17th Avenue, condominiums, town houses, new street, development, Westmoreland, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
The property on which now stands the Tenth Church of Christ Scientist, at 5736 S.E. 17th Avenue in Westmoreland, has been sold, and is slated to become a large condominium development. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Westmoreland to lose church, gain condos – and a new street


Hoping to learn more about what will happen at the Tenth Church of Christ Scientist property – which a developer has purchased to build condominiums – 27 people, including many neighbors, attended the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) Land Use Committee meeting on February 6, at SMILE Station.

Two of the guests were members of church, located just north of the Space Age gas station at 5736 S.E. 17th Avenue – Don Horman, and his wife – and they made it clear they just came to listen, and were not official representatives of their church.

As at many churches, the size of their congregation has dwindled over the years, Horman remarked, in casual conversation before the meeting began. The large church campus requires maintenance that they can’t support; and so, given the opportunity, the church leaders decided to sell the property.

At the meeting’s outset, SMILE Land Use Committee Chair David Schoellhamer stated, “Because more than 11 lots are being created [from the one property], there will be a public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for March 6. How the lots are divided is to be the subject of the hearing; comments must just address the ‘Approval Criteria’, and other comments we may have are not legally binding in administrative hearing,” Schoellhamer admonished.

Those “Approval Criteria” include:

  • Lots: R1 density, 15 foot minimum, with four attached homes
  • Trees: Preserve 35% of canopy
  • Clearing, grading, and land suitability: Minimize grading
  • Tracts and easements: Homeowners Association and maintenance agreement for common areas
  • Transportation: Adding an extension of S.E. Ramona Street, between 17th and 18th Avenues

Because the distance between the streets to the north and south is great enough, Portland Bureau of Transportation rules require putting in the Ramona Street extension, even though it will divide the condo development into two sections. “Under the existing [land use zoning] rules, the maximum density would be 52 units; however, only 23 units are being proposed by the developer,” Schoellhamer said.

Several neighbors voiced sadness that the community would lose the church’s parking lot, which is the neighborhood’s only designated TriMet “Park & Ride” lot, but others remarked that [since the proposed Harold Street MAX Station had not been built] the lot was currently lightly used.

However, all who voiced an opinion said they were glad to see that the two large purple beech trees near S.E. 17th Avenue would be retained in the commonly-owned condo association tract of land as open space.

Asked if the community will have a say over the design, Schoellhamer responded, “If the [proposed development] were rental units, and not a planned land division, they would be required to get back to us to discuss the actual design of the buildings. “But, because they are doing the land division, this is treated as 23 individual lots. There will be 23 individual building permits, and they do not have to put in affordable housing because this is 23 individual projects, even though some of them share common walls,”

That being said, several committee members chimed in that in the earlier meetings, they had found the developer to have been, and is likely to be, “accommodating and forthcoming” with neighbors.

If the project is approved, it may be as long as two years for construction to begin, as the developer finalizes plans and designs, and obtains permits, Schoellhamer said.

drunk, crashes, Ross Island Bridge, high risk, traffic stop, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
Kelly Pyatt, age 34, was jailed on a number of charges, after his arrest in a high-risk traffic stop at the east end of the Ross Island Bridge. (MCDC booking photo)

Drunk driver finally stopped by police on Ross Island Bridge

Editor, THE BEE

On Monday, January 28th, at approximately 3:48 p.m., a Central Precinct officer came across a collision involving a Subaru and a GMC Suburban in the area of S.E. Division Street and 8th Avenue. The driver of the damaged Subaru told the officer the GMC driver had hit is car, and when he protested had pointed a gun at him. The GMC driver then rammed into the Subaru again – and drove away.

Police later determined that the same GMC had smashed into an empty parked car near the Goodwill store just north of the Ross Island Bridge on S.E. Grand Avenue some hours earlier.

The officer followed the GMC driver and initiated a high-risk traffic stop, with the help of other officers, on the east end of the Ross Island Bridge, and the GMC driver was arrested. During a search of the GMC, officers located a loaded firearm, which they seized.

The suspect was identified as 34-year-old Kelly Pyatt. A blood test revealed that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.29 percent at the time of his arrest – while the state legal limit is 0.08 percent. That’s three times over the legal limit in Oregon.

Pyatt was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC), charged with Unlawful Use of a Weapon, Criminal Mischief I, Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII), Reckless Endangering (2 counts), Reckless Driving, Menacing, and Failing to Perform the Duties of a Driver.

Bye Bye Birdie, Franklin High School, F H S, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
Rehearsing for the Franklin High production of “Bye Bye Birdie”, opening in early March, senior Jonas Boone towers over his “adoring fans” as he portrays rock-and-roll star “Conrad Birdie”. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

‘Bye Bye Birdie’ takes flight in Franklin High Theater


Stage productions mounted by the Franklin High School (FHS) Theater Department have excelled in the past, and continue to do so, in part, through the inspiration provided by the school’s modern, new 500-seat theater.

When word got out about last year’s winter musical, “Anything Goes”, the cast was playing to sold-house houses – and this year’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie” will likely do the same, when it opens on March 6.

“We chose this show because it’s lively, lighthearted, and has lots of opportunities for parts – as well as several sparkling stage-filling numbers,” remarked the show’s director – who is also the FHS Theatre Department Director – Joshua Forsyth.

The cast, featuring 65 players and 40 people on the tech crew – all of whom are FHS students – presents this musical that focuses on hip-gyrating rock-and-roll star Conrad Birdie, who is being drafted into the Army.

“Hijinks ensue when Birdie’s management, Albert and Rosie, concoct a plan to capitalize on the fact that their main star is now going into the military service – a story inspired by the media circus surrounding Elvis Presley being drafted into the Army in September, 1957,” Forsythe told THE BEE. Presley served from March of 1958 until March of 1960.

The 20-member FHS Orchestra will provide the music for the show, said the school’s Band and Orchestra Director, Jason Owens. “The music is a cool mixture of ’50s rock ‘n roll, with some jazz. There’s a lot of lively, upbeat music, with the occasional romantic ballad to tempers the tempo of the show,” said Owens.

“Bye Bye Birdie” opens March 8 at 7 p.m.; and evening performances continue on March 9, 14, 15 and 16. There’s also a Family Matinee on March 10 at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for students/seniors. Tickets may be available at the door, but many shows are expected to sell out early. Buy tickets securely online –  

Creston Park, plan, Powell Boulevard, Creston Kenilworth, PP&R, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
Joanne Schwartz, Landscape Architect at Mayer-Reed, Inc., presented the planned new Creston Park playground design. Work to update the park begins in about a year. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

Creston Park playground update plans unveiled


Creston Park, a 14.5-acre city park, on the south side of Powell Boulevard near S.E. 44th, was created in 1919. Endowed with a public pool, playground, a softball field, and a tree-shaded picnic area, it's a popular place.

However, shade brings problems of moisture, and the playground equipment put there over 30 years ago now needs repair. A playground upgrade is in the works.

The project will be largely funded by the Parks Replacement Bond. Public input on the updates was gathered at a May meeting, where three design options were offered for comment at an open house and online.  That resulted in 104 public comments, suggesting such options as peek-a-boo frames and mirrors, climbing towers, adventure pathways, poles and frames, soft mounds, low boulders, a net climber, spinner, and group swings.

During the past summer, PP&R removed the previous swings near the western park entrance due to safety concerns. In August, Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced an allocation of an additional $850,000 in “System Development Charges” funds for the project, which now total over $2 million. This will allow expansion and enhancement of the playground, adding play equipment for kids of all abilities, and also for those aged five years and under.

The final plan for improvements was revealed at a public meeting November 8 at the Creston School Cafeteria. New features will include some rubberized safety surfacing, a variety of swings, climbing mounds, a 10-foot-tall geodome, and a natural play area. There will also be ADA-accessible features including paths, picnic tables, a parking space, park benches, and a new drinking fountain.

At the November 8th announcement, PP&R and the design team from Mayer/Reed, Inc. shared a draft of the final design. PP&R Project Manager Robin Johnson-Craig advised that they hope to retain all mature fir trees on-site.

“Our mission is to help neighbors by providing safe places, facilities, and programs that promote physical, mental, and social activities, and connect the park to the community,” she said. “We recognize and encourage celebration of the differences around us. ‘Diversity and equity’ are vital to our ideals and values.”

Construction should begin in about a year, and be complete by spring of 2020. Nearly 3,000 homes are within Creston Park’s service area.

Foster Road, high risk, traffic stop, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
After stopping this white Chevy SUV on S.E. Foster Road, members of the Portland Police Gang Enforcement Team interviewed the occupants. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

‘High Risk’ traffic stop closes Foster Road


With S.E. Foster Road now pared down to two traffic lanes, when members of the Portland Police Bureau’s Gang Enforcement Team (GET) stopped a vehicle between S.E. 69th and 70th avenues at 4:40 p.m. on January 22, the action closed off all westbound traffic.

Many police units responded when officers stopped a white Chevy Tahoe SUV, approaching from both east and west, and blocking it off with a police technique called a “high risk” stop.

Within minutes, officers had pulled the SUV to the curb on the westbound lane of Foster Road, and there had taken a man and woman into custody.

“We’ve been keeping our eyes on the SUV, tracking its movements for a while now; at this point, we’re speaking with the occupants of the vehicle,” a GET officer told THE BEE.

Because the stop was in conjunction with a “gang related” ongoing investigation, the officer declined to provide further details, including whether or not there had been an arrest. Eventually Foster reopened to traffic.

Youth Progress, mural, Brooklyn neighborhood, Powell Boulevard, dedicated, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
The new “Youth Progress” mural at S.E. 20th and Powell Boulevard was handmade in historic Mexican dot-paint style. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

‘Youth Progress’ mural dedicated in Brooklyn


A large Brooklyn neighborhood mural, completed in January, was dedicated at a public ceremony on Thursday, February 7. Artist Rodolfo Redstone Serna created the 76-foot-wide, 26-foot-tall mural that overlooks the Youth Progress Association parking lot. “I'm calling it the ‘Youth Progress Mural’,” Serna tells THE BEE, “although when I look at it, the words ‘her heartbeat goes on’ come to mind!

“I was assisted by Rudy Rolon, the Brooklyn neighborhood Association, and volunteer painters from Youth Progress,” he goes on. “The project was funded by donations from local businesses, along with volunteer help from Youth Progress students and staff. Due to funding problems, the project stretched over nearly two years, but the actual painting time took only two months.”

The mural is rendered in historical Mexican dot-paint style. It features Brooklyn landmarks, such as the Ross Island Bridge, Sacred Heart Church, a Brooklyn Rail Yard engine, the historic Poulson House, and people playing at Brooklyn Park. In addition, there are also Oregon symbols like Mt. Hood, lumberjacks, wilderness areas, fishermen at Celilo Falls, and a bald eagle hunting salmon. “The themes of growth and metamorphosis come mostly from input I received from the Youth Progress participants,” says Serna.

Nick Gallo, Executive Director of the Youth Progress Association, agrees. “We really wanted a chance for our young people to see this project through, and have something in the neighborhood to celebrate that young people in the juvenile justice and foster care systems are also artists, athletes, leaders, scholars, and entrepreneurs. We appreciate their willingness to persist, and help complete the project.”

Speakers at the ceremony included Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pedersen, Nick Gallo, Benjamin Ome from a local Aztec Dance Group, Michael Navarro, and the artist.

In addition, information was offered to attendees about becoming a foster parent, and other ways to be involved with Youth Progress. A cultural blessing ceremony and a costumed dance was presented by Mexica Tiahui, a local Aztec Dance Group.

Ome remarked, “We feel that a person who paints is recording our history. Murals have brought our people together for thousands of years.”

Rhone Street, arrest, Southeast, Portland, Oregon, Nathan Daniel Perkins
Facing several felony and misdemeanor charges, and still in custody in lieu of $110,000 bail, is 36-year-old Nathan Daniel Perkins. (MCDC Booking Photo)

Neighbor subdues burglar with baseball bat in Foster-Powell


It had been a busy day for two suspected criminals on Wednesday, January 19 – reportedly burglarizing homes in both the Lents and the Foster-Powell neighborhoods, all the while driving around in a stolen car.

At 10:09 p.m. that evening, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Tactical Operations Division spotted the reportedly-stolen Subaru, with two men inside, near the intersection of S.E. 80th Ave and Rhone Street.

“The stolen car made an abrupt stop on Rhone near 82nd Avenue, and both occupants got out and fled from the Subaru,” later reported PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Brad Yakots.

The passenger complied with officers’ requests and was taken into custody without incident, Yakots said. But, the driver, later identified as 36-year-old Nathan Daniel Perkins, broke into a run.

As officers set up a containment area and started searching for him, the 9-1-1 Center took a call from a resident three blocks south, in the 8000 block of S.E. Center Street: “The caller stated that a stranger was inside his house, and he had hit the stranger over the head with a baseball bat to subdue him,” recalled Yakots.

Officers arrived and found Perkins, who’d suffered what was deemed a “minor head wound” as a result of the homeowner’s baseball-themed self-defense tactic. Perkins was taken to a local hospital for treatment, and when medically cleared, was booked into jail.

Going through the Subaru, officers found and seized a loaded Ruger LCP .357 caliber revolver. “Based on the information gathered during the investigation, Officers believed the firearm had been in the possession of Perkins,” revealed Yakots.

The passenger, 38-year-old Christopher Leroy Landaker, was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 11:39 p.m. on the evening of his arrest on charges of Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle and Possession of a Stolen vehicle. The judge “released” Landaker on both counts – and, although he’d violated his parole, the judge set him free on January 28. The judge’s Release Reason: “Time Served on a Sentence”.

Perkins was booked into MCDC at 12:42 p.m. on January 24 on felony firearm, burglary, and methamphetamine-possession charges.

At his arraignment later that day Perkins learned that, in addition to the felony charges, he’d also be called to answer for several misdemeanors. Currently Perkins is lodged in Inverness Jail in lieu of $110,000 combined bail.

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