Southwest residents push for sidewalks on Shattuck Rd at meeting with city staffer

    Sign on the west side of SW Shattuck Rd at the mouth of the Red Electric Trail. (Photos: Lisa Caballero/BikePortland)
    The area surrounding the Alpenrose site, bounded by Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, SW Oleson Rd, Vermont St and Shattuck Rd.

    On Monday night, I listened to the most informative neighborhood association meeting I’ve ever attended. Tammy Boren-King, a senior planner at the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), was invited by the Hayhurst NA to bring it up-to-speed on last week’s Alpenrose Public Works Alternative Review (PWAR) decision. Boren-King was the chairperson of the PWAR Committee, and the NA wanted to better understand what PWAR was all about.

    As BikePortland reported last week, the city’s PWAR decision regarding frontages on the proposed 51-acre, 269-unit “Raleigh Crest” subdivision was quite positive. The city accepted (in concept) the developer’s proposal to build a multi-use path (MUP) and bio-swale along the frontage on the west side of SW Shattuck Rd. The MUP will narrow as it crosses a stream to intersect with Vermont, and then split along the short Vermont frontage into a more traditional sidewalk and bike lane. The PWAR decision also described its reasoning for using the Red Electric Trail on the north of the property as an east-west connection which runs at a relatively level grade and with little disturbance of a sensitive environmental area, as well as the potential road connecting the proposed subdivision to the west, into Beaverton.

    Admittedly, this is pretty dry stuff. But I see it as an “as-it-unfolds-in-real-time” opportunity to tell a story that I have struggled with for my three-and-a half years writing for BikePortland. Namely, how to explain to a mainly east side audience, with its largely complete street grid, what is involved in trying to get a sidewalk or protected bike lane built in southwest Portland. It’s complicated, and frankly, I’m not going to try to make it seem less so. That it is difficult is my point.

    You might not care. Maybe how government works isn’t your thing.

    But maybe, just maybe, you are sick and tired of riding on disconnected bike routes. Why are bike facilities, particularly in southwest Portland, so piecemeal? Why can’t Portland just connect things?

    PBOT’s Boren-King, in a forthright and expansive discussion, answered a lot of those questions, at least indirectly.

    She began by explaining that the City of Portland is organized, “as a series of bureaus that are run independently … we are working on changing that, moving to a city manager form of government. But as a result, a lot of our codes operate kind of independently of one another.” One of the tasks of the Public Works review is to reconcile the code requirements of four different bureaus operating in the right-of-way — PBOT, Environmental Services, Water and Parks.

    With questions about PWAR answered, neighbors turned to what is becoming the bigger issue for them: how to get an off-site sidewalk and bike path that continues from the Alpenrose frontage all the way to Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (BHH) to the north. Shattuck Rd is one of the area’s few north-south connections to the commercial centers and bus routes on BHH, and it currently lacks a sidewalk all the way from BHH to Vermont.

    Boren-King responded:

    The policy of the City of Portland is that the streets are built at the expense of the abutting property owners. So the goal is that over time, as things redevelop, we will get a complete system. Of course, that doesn’t happen and we end up with capital projects. But for this large of a chunk of land — it feels like we can’t with a straight face say they don’t need to build a sidewalk, at all. So I feel like, I have to require a sidewalk, a multi-path to connect people especially from Illinois, which is a neighborhood greenway, along the frontage of Shattuck and up to the Red Electric Trail.

    But this is our shot of getting a sidewalk for this property. Hopefully some day in the future there will be funding available to build the next segment and the next segment and the next segment. But I hear what you are saying, that this is another “sidewalk to nowhere.” I don’t have a perfect answer for you.

    Hayhurst NA President Marita Ingalsbe then asked how to advocate for funding and prioritization for the rest of Shattuck Rd. “Is there any chance of the System Development Charges (SDCs) that the developer is going to be paying, [to] have those allotted to the rest of Shattuck? How would we go about that?”

    Boren-King said she’s not an SDC expert but that funds from a specific development aren’t necessarily spent nearby. “It’s a priority [project funding] list based on the system-wide plan,” Boren-King explained.

    This is just one snippet of an information-dense evening. I’ve been limiting my reporting to Shattuck Rd, but meeting attendees had questions about all the frontages, the crossings on Shattuck, traffic impacts on surrounding streets and more. Boren-King touched upon the legal limits of what a city can require a developer to build on public land and the city’s request for more information in the Traffic Impact Analysis.

    That is a lot to understand for your average Portlander who just wants a safe space to commute by bike or on foot. One Hayhurst neighbor, Claudio Mello, captured the frustration of someone who doesn’t want to become an expert, but just wishes everything were more coordinated. Mello wanted to know why, given that the city wanted more people to take the bus, it wasn’t providing the neighborhood with a safe way to reach the bus stop on BHH. Indeed.

    But there is good news too. All parties — the developer, the city and the neighborhood organizations — appear to listening to one another and working together. Boren-King, the city staffer, even praised the developer. Neighbors emphasized they were advocating for safe streets, and appeared sincerely interested in, and knowledgeable about, transportation. The developer has submitted early frontage plans which, in some instances, go beyond city requirements. So far, relations appear to be cooperative and free of the animosity that can often arise.

    My take on the process, though, is that it eats the time of volunteers. Neighbors should not have to become mini-land use experts to get a sidewalk built. Couldn’t Marita Ingalsbe’s efforts be supported by a representative or three on a city council which is attentive to local issues? I noticed at least one District Four candidate, Bob Weinstein, on the zoom call, and that gives me hope that in the future neighborhood associations might not have to shoulder these issues alone.

    The Friends of Alpenrose will be hosting a Community Conversation on June 24th which will be moderated by Metro Councilor Duncan Hwang and State Representative Dacia Grayber. My recommendation to the moderators is that they come prepared. This is a very knowledgeable group of neighbors.

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