The District 1 Annual Meeting occurred this evening and despite the postponement from last month, it drew a crowd of around eighty (80) people – some with general questions and others with personal questions. City councilor Belinda Ray facilitated the meeting.
It’s an opportunity for residents to meet city officials and ask them questions one-on-one – city manager Jon Jennings was absent, but most other department heads were present. Deb Andrews, Historic Preservation Program Manager, was not present.
Mary Davis of the housing office, presented an overview of the services her office provides. Following that, Chris Huff, city tax assessor, presented a summary of the on-going data assessment his office is responsible for. The last tax assessment was performed back in 2004 Therefore, values on the peninsula are lower than they should be and everyone can expect an increase in the valuation.
It was stated that the popular bus stop at the corner of North & Congress needs a bus shelter. Public works director Chris Branch said that will be a priority in the future.
Carol Connor expressed concern about design changes in the development on the HIll. “They are not fitting and compatible,” she said. Councilor Ray said it is too early to assess whether the overlay program is working or not. “There is a challenge trying to balance the need for cities to grow and be sustainable as well as to preserve open space,” Ray said.
Barry Manter observed that prime waterfront space with great views is being developed into 9 to 5 garages. Why she wanted to know? Acting Planning Director Christine Gramado said the city is trying to mix garage space with other uses – such as retail and office space. Wayne Balzano (sp?) asked about short-term rentals. Ray responded that there is a cap of 400 on commercial or non-occupied units in Portland.
Alicia Harding, commented on the garrish lights at city hall that shine into her apartment. She wondered if the police can’t do more to get drivers to stop for pedestrians at walkways.
Lauren Ashwell, a Hill resident, expressed concern about the expense of living within the proposed historic district on the HIll. She and her husband purchased their home in 2010 and have been modernizing it since. The cost of providing siding is prohibitive. Are these working class values? Marcus Miller had a similar concern. He said an analysis on costs for “maintenance” for the historic district is needed.” He said he might have to pass expenses on to his renters. Jeremy Ruthewicz asked: “Has the city analyzed the impact of the 12th historic district on the carbon neutral by 2030 pledge?” (See above left photo). Councilor Ray said not that she knew of. That information will be needed as the city council gets closer to considering the historic district option.
Nini McManamy proposed a public safety power emergency plan. It included providing shelter for people who lose power for more than two hours in warm weather and charging stations in each neighborhood in the event of power loss. Furthermore, she recommended on site wellness checks for vulnerable residents with special attention to those over 80 and those with disabilities. An inventory of those at risk and locations to check as well as training for city employees to carry out the emergency plan. Communications about these plans be announced early in the emergency with publication of this plan on the city website.
Ned Chester, an attorney who lives and works on the HIll with his wife, Barbara Vestal, said that low income housing is a crisis. He doesn’t understand the need for density in an already dense neighborhood. He strongly supports the historic district classification for the Hill. And he added that the Historic Preservation office will not make residents pay excessively for siding responding to Lauren Ashwell’s concern. (See above left photo of Chester).
In the absence of Deb Andrews, program manager for the Historic Preservation office, Rob Weiner, program compliance coordinator, responded that: “We are flexible. We work with people. Solar panels will not be prevented in historic preservation districts.”
A historic preservation district on the HIll will do nothing to make housing more affordable, Ned.