Beware, gardeners: After a winter’s heavy rain, your yard could swallow you whole. That was one takeaway from the neighborhood association’s February meeting, where Woodstock neighbor David Nordstrom shared his hair-raising encounter with a sinkhole.
In short, David stepped out in his yard at SE Insley near 60th one evening, felt the ground give way beneath him, and found himself in a slim, brick-lined pit nine feet deep. He escaped serious injury and began an investigation.
The pit turned out to be a cesspool, a popular option for sewage disposal in years gone by. Typically a house’s toilet(s) were piped to it, with the brick lining slowing the absorption of sewage into the soil. David’s house is from 1948, but others at the meeting reported finding similar pits at houses built as late as 1954. A similar kind of vintage pit is a cistern or drywell for rain drainage, like the one responsible for a death in 2010. Either could be covered with wood, then layers of soil. Eventually the wood rots, and then….
David found a permit to fill his pit on file from 2006, before the house was his. The permit’s status, nearly ten years later, was still “under review,” so apparently the work was never completed. David recommended looking up your house on Portland Maps and checking for any incomplete permits. He also recommended City of Portland employee Erin Mick as someone who can guide you through the process of “decommissioning” — that is, filling — any pit you find lurking.
That was last month. Who knows what you’ll learn at the next Woodstock Neighborhood Association meeting: first Wednesday of each month, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Woodstock Community Center (5905 SE 43rd Ave.).
At Woodstock Park, tensions ran high last fall when a child was injured by a dog on the playground. The city’s parks department proposed a divider between the playground and the adjacent dog off-leash area (DOLA for short). At February’s meeting of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association (first Wednesday of each month, 7 p.m. at the Woodstock Community Center), city reps presented what they have in mind. You can download and view their presentation, but keep in mind it’s a big (7MB) PDF file.
In a nutshell: It’s a gently curving border comprised of both shorter plants and taller trees, with a bench on either side but no formal fence. It’s intended to have enough presence to define the separate areas, but remain open enough that folks can see past it.
The presenters said that intentions are firm for installation this spring. They warned that initial activity won’t look like much; it will involve adding amendments to the soil and other prep work. Then the plants will be installed over about three days. The benefits should be immediate, though the plants will need about three years to get fully established.
The cost is estimated at about $22,000, to be picked up largely by the city. There may be a “memorial naming opportunity” for the two benches, to offset part of that cost; stay tuned for details.
So what do you think? Does this fit the need to keep the two uses separate without making anyone feel locked in?
A recent editorial in The Bee opined that “2015 has been a year of disgruntlement in Inner Southeast,” over issues connected with zoning changes, residential infill and more. “Some residents seem frustrated that these things go on, and react with lawn signs,” observes the editor. But “lawn signs are unlikely to bring about change.”
Well, maybe it’s time to get “re-gruntled.” To help define what activism beyond the lawn can look like, here are ten reasons to volunteer with the Woodstock Neighborhood Association.
Connect with neighbors. Meet, network and collaborate with others who live, work and do business in Woodstock.
Get rooted. Embrace the small-town atmosphere of Woodstock and cultivate community close to home.
Be a Friend of the Woodstock Community Center. We are lucky to have our very own community center. Make a solid contribution to the neighborhood by donating time to the “Friends” group that helps maintain the WCC in partnership with Portland Parks and Recreation.
Make an impact by sharing your expertise. WNA has “good bones” and volunteer board members with a variety of skills and experience. You may be just the person we need to round out our team.
Hone valuable skills in a supportive environment while building your résumé. Organizational and communication skills needed to run an all-volunteer organization are critical in the business sphere as well.
Be a mover and shaker. WNA provides a channel for information and a forum for discussion and action on many different issues that impact our neighborhood.
Organize the project or event of your dreams. WNA has a ready-made support structure just waiting for your initiative and leadership.
Get rewarded. Some employers actually offer bonuses to employees for donating time to nonprofit organizations.
Have a good time. Oh yeah; volunteering can be fun!
Make a great neighborhood even greater. Need we say more?
Each year the Woodstock Neighborhood Association holds a pre-Mothers Day plant sale to support maintenance of the Woodstock Community Center. The success of that spring sale may depend on garden plans you’re making right now.
All the plants for the sale are donated, often due to folks redesigning their gardens. Are you considering a new look this year? Consider donating the plants you’re planning to replace. Perennials, herbs, ground covers, native plants, grasses, houseplants, small trees and shrubs are all welcome. You can also donate divided perennials along with vegetable starts and seedling volunteers.
This year’s sale is scheduled for Saturday, May 7. Drop off your plant contributions on Friday, May 6, between noon and 7 p.m. at the Woodstock Community Center (5905 SE 43rd). If you need empty pots or an alternate drop-off time, call Terry Griffiths at 503-771-0011.
Proceeds from the plant sale go to the Woodstock Community Center maintenance fund, which pays for custodial service and supplies, painting supplies and some landscaping needs. The fund supplements neighborhood volunteering, a key part of the agreement with Portland Parks that keeps the center open and available for community use.
Of course you were getting ready for the holidays, so you may have missed the big presentation by the city (Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) on Dec. 9, about the proposed zoning change for parts of the Woodstock neighborhood. (See the zoomable map at the end of this post.) But now it’s post-holiday re-entry time, and the main takeaway is that you need to act fast if you want your voice to be heard about both zoning and the kinds of infill buildings that a zoning change helps foster. Here’s how:
About the proposed zoning change: Send your thoughts to the City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Council Clerk, 1221 SW 4th Ave., Room 130, Portland, OR 97204, Attn: Comprehensive Plan Testimony. You can also attend a public hearing this Thursday, Jan. 7, 6 – 9 p.m. at 3920 N Kerby Ave. The quickest way may be to use the city’s MapApp, which allows you to click your area or address on a map and leave a comment that remains attached to it.
About infill buildings: In Woodstock and other neighborhoods, people are concerned about the affordability, scale and context of new homes built to replace demolished ones. The city’s Residential Infill Project wants your thoughts on the matter. Take this survey before Jan. 12 and help define community values.
For best results, inform yourself before commenting. To that end, below is a quick but not exhaustive collection of facts from the meeting and links for further pursuit. (If you were among the full house at the Woodstock Community Center that evening, please comment about what to add or clarify.)
How current and future zone types differ
For the areas in question, the current zoning is R5 and the designated (future) zoning is R2.5. Both have “R” for residential. The “5” might lead you to believe that the minimum square footage of land per dwelling is 5,000, but it’s actually 3,000. Meanwhile, the minimum for R2.5 is 1,6002,500 square feet. This incremental difference in square footage is enough to open possibilities for row houses, duplexes, and yes, skinny houses on typical 50 x 100 ft. lots. R2.5 also allows dwellings to be five feet taller (at 35 feet) than R5. That’s about it for differences. See a handy comparison table of zoning specs on the city’s site.
The zoning path for these areas is not new. For 35 years, R5 has been the current zoning type and R2.5 has been the designated or future zoning type. For a fee, property owners have been able to request a review that would give a property the future zoning type. This generally was granted if infrastructure was adequate. One Woodstock example of a project from this “early adopter” approach is the row houses behind Pizza Roma. Moreover, neighborhoods just to the south and east of Woodstock have carried a current zoning of R2.5 for 20 years.
If the city decides to make the move, the areas in question would see R2.5 as their current zoning type in late 2017 at the earliest.
Concurrent planning, and lack thereof
In deciding whether to make the designated zoning type the current one, the city looks at infrastructure including streets, sewer, water, fire protection, distance to public transit and more. However, there is no coordinated, concurrent planning with entities such as TriMet or Portland Public Schools. Presenters said that Portland Public Schools’ current plans already take future zoning into account — but still, there is no guarantee of denser services accompanying denser zoning.
About traffic and parking
In some cases, R2.5 zoning allows structures to be built without off-street parking. Other areas have used the city’s Area Parking Permit Program to limit the effects of street parking.
Several meeting attendees brought up traffic specifics, including the current difficulty of making left turns at 52nd and Woodstock — but the word from presenters was that, as with other entities, there is also no concurrent planning with the Bureau of Transportation for changes such as designated left-turn cycles.
About property tax
The presenters stated their confidence, based on discussions with county tax assessors, that property taxes would not increase based solely on the zoning change. However, a property owner’s taxes could be expected to increase if the owner makes improvements allowed by the zoning type.
What infill housing might look like
Presenters stated that R2.5 zoning most often leads to infill dwellings that are attached, such as duplexes or row houses. But in some instances where the original platting allows, a typical 50 x 100 lot might be divided in two, creating conditions for the tall “skinny houses” that some find controversial.
The map of affected areas
Click the map to view a PDF version that allows you to zoom in. Areas outlined in orange and shaded in orchid (purple) show properties currently zoned R5 but designated R2.5 in the city’s existing Comprehensive Plan and in that plan’s draft update. For more on understanding current and potential zoning, see the city’s guide.
An earlier post surveyed effects on traffic and parking after three weeks of News Seasons on Woodstock Blvd.
At the most recent Woodstock Neighborhood Association meeting, New Seasons manager Mark Feuerborn reported good news about employee parking: KeyBank agreed to let New Seasons employees park in its lot — except on Farmers Market days, of course. Fifteen to 20 employees (out of New Seasons’ daily staff of 35 to 40) arrive by car, so the arrangement should reduce the burden on nearby streets just a bit.
Next up: delivery trucks
Mark also shared that the store is looking at how to reduce the impact of delivery trucks. One effect cited in an earlier comment is that delivery trucks lined up on SE Martins reduce visibility, leading to more sudden interactions between people in cars and people on foot or on bike.
Next meeting: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m., Woodstock Community Center, 5905 SE 43rd Ave.
These are interesting times for the Woodstock neighborhood. Percentage increases in its home prices this summer appear to have been among the steepest in the nation (based on a recently released report and the fact that Zillow.com showed Woodstock outpacing the city as a whole). Such a hot real estate market can mean rapid change in neighborhood character. Are you concerned about intertwined issues such as those listed below? You can be sure they’ll play a part in the neighborhood association’s next Land Use Committee (LUC) meeting, which is open to all.
Mayor Charlie Hales popped in at a meeting earlier this month to discuss his plan for a demolition tax. The basic idea is to charge developers $25,000 in cases where a viable house would just be replaced with another (that would likely be bigger and more expensive but wouldn’t make progress toward density goals). Exceptions would apply for derelict houses and other situations.
Infill in Current Zoning
The Woodstock neighborhood is predominantly zoned R5, which means one residence on a 5,000-square-foot lot — right? Not so fast: Illogically, the minimum lot size for R5 is 3,000 square feet, which makes for easier lot division and can favor taller, skinnier houses. A point of contention among those participating in the city’s Residential Infill Project is whether it’s in scope to clarify zoning terms for more predictable changes in neighborhood character.
Potential Changes in Future Zoning [updated Nov. 23]
Neighborhoods across the city are being asked to comment on the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, which helps determine how Portland will grow. For Woodstock, two potential changes are in play.
Mixed-use zoning: Residential zoning may change to mixed-use in some areas half a block from Woodstock Blvd. This is currently before City Council for review. You can testify about the change in person or in writing.
Also, full blocks north and south of Woodstock Boulevard are designated for future mixed-use zoning. This implies that the city’s vision for those blocks is for a combination of multifamily (apartment) and/or commercial use. Before that designation can become an actual zoning change, adequate infrastructure must be in place. In Woodstock, that would include a more complete street grid.
R2.5 zoning: Some parts of the neighborhood are zoned R5, but also have R2.5 designation. (See them on a map.) The city is analyzing whether and where these areas should have their zoning changed to R2.5 to match their designation. This would increase the potential for two housing units — such as skinny houses, rowhouses, or a duplex — to occupy lots where one house is allowed. The city’s analysis will lead to a proposal in January. If the proposal is to change zoning to R2.5, the city will notify all property owners — and the Planning and Sustainability Commission will hear testimony.
A closely related question for both issues is how unimproved streets would change to accommodate such use.
[Added Nov. 20] Learn about Zoning Changes in Your Area
If you live on or own property within two blocks of the following areas where zoning changes are being considered, plan to attend a special meeting on December 9 at 7 p.m. in the Woodstock Community Center:
Woodstock Blvd. between Chavez Blvd. and 60th
Chavez Blvd. between Woodstock and Insley St.
The intersection of Chavez and Holgate Blvd.
The intersection of Holgate and 52nd
A Hot Ticket
If land-use meetings are ever a hot ticket, it’s probably now. Come learn more about the issues that will shape our neighborhood, and maybe even add your influence to how they unfold.
Woodstock School is home to a renowned Mandarin-language immersion program and has consistently high test scores among the city’s elementary schools, making it a coveted destination. PPS cites “balancing enrollment” among its reasons for the proposal. Woodstock students move on to Hosford Middle School and Cleveland High. The PPS proposal would route students in the affected area to Woodmere Elementary, Lane Middle, and Franklin High.
“Don’t Chop Woodstock!”
Parents in the affected area are understandably concerned, with many citing how they chose housing in the area based heavily on school boundaries. They have organized the “Don’t Chop Woodstock!” website to rebut the proposal. The website raises several points — including a claim that 35 children currently attending Woodstock would be removed from their cohort to attend Woodmere instead, and that the proposed boundary changes apparently would lead to overcrowding at Lane Middle School.
Parents, please share developments
One detail that seems less than clear so far is the full extent to which children would be uprooted. A PPS “Frequently Asked Questions” document relates that “current policy allows students already attending a school and their younger, incoming siblings to remain at that school following boundary change in most cases,” but also that “policy could be revised and other exceptions could be recommended.” Parents attending the meetings are warmly welcome to share the latest developments by adding comments below.
After nearly three weeks of New Seasons on Woodstock Blvd., some effects on the neighborhood have begun to emerge.
At the neighborhood association’s meeting earlier this month, New Seasons manager Mark Feuerborn said he has received complaints about customers and staff parking motor vehicles on neighborhood streets. Because such parking is lawful, the manager can’t greatly influence what customers do. But Feuerborn is seeking the most neighborhood-friendly option for his staff, which includes 15 to 20 people per day who arrive by car. He’s exploring whether they can use parking at or near one of the banks, with KeyBank seemingly the most logical alternative (though not during Farmers Markets, of course).
The Woodstock and 45th Intersection
Thanks to New Seasons’ impressive Treehouse Bar & Lounge, it’s possible to pull up a chair four stories above the intersection closely connecting the boulevard’s two grocery stores and observe the goings-on from a bird’s-eye view. (See photo.) You’ll see road users, with and without motors, attempting to turn right and left from both the main road and the cross-street. You’ll see people on foot using the unmarked crosswalk there, as is quite lawful. You’ll see people in vehicles occupying the main road’s center lane while waiting to turn, complicating the movements of people on the cross-street. In total, you’ll see more (and more complex) activity than the intersection most likely was designed for.
You can smooth your trip for now by counting on making only right turns — but maybe, over the long term, the intersection would merit some kind of upgrade commensurate with its sudden new role as the town center’s “dead center.”
Congestion and Speed
It’s less than empirical, but traffic on Woodstock Blvd. during most times of the day now seems a little more dense and therefore slower moving. That’s not a bad thing for a commercial district, because slower speeds can mean a better chance to cross the road for an errand once you’re out of your car — and it might encourage through-travelers to use alternate routes such as Steele, Holgate or Johnson Creek.
One Cunning Strategy
Keep in mind that it’s effectively an ecosystem: If you’re concerned about the potential for more car congestion (both parked and moving) and slower travel times when you drive the area, a cunning strategy would be to encourage other people to come without their cars. For example, be sure to watch for people walking and biking to the stores and give them a break in their crossings and turnings.
OK, Your Turn
What other aspects of “the New Seasons effect” have you observed in the neighborhood — maybe even beyond traffic and parking?