Tag: Andrew Aebi

Smaller LID Maintains Sidewalk Gaps

Yesterday, the Portland City Council amended the SE 89th Ave and Taylor St Local Improvement District (LID) proposal, removing all but one private residence and significantly reducing the scope of infrastructure upgrades. The original LID included the construction of new curbs and sidewalks on both sides of SE 89th Avenue adjacent to Berrydale Park. The LID would have also added sidewalks on the south side of SE Taylor Street from 92nd Avenue to 98th Avenue. The amendments refocussed the LID on pedestrian improvements around the Park’s boundary, including just one home that sits between Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) owned lots.

Portland’s Local Improvement District Administrator, Andrew Aebi, recommended this change based on feedback from the homeowners initially included in the LID. Aebi explained that most potential LID members he communicated with opposed the $24,000 LID contribution. Local Improvement Districts form when a majority of property owners in an area elect to pool private funds with the City of Portland, sharing the new infrastructure expense. In early versions of the SE 89th Ave and Taylor St LID, several City bureaus covered an outsized portion of construction cost compared to private property owners. However, even the subsidized infrastructure investment exceeded what some affected homeowners felt they could afford.

Amended SE 89th & Taylor LID area

When the project first appeared at Portland City Council on October 12th, neighbors had already mobilized a combined opposition to the LID. Those efforts continued over the next month, with residents contacting Aebi and media outlets. The ordinance returned to the Mayor and City Commissioners on December 7th with proposed amendments that all but unraveled the LID but gained the support of the original LID participants. City Council approved the amendments and will hold the final vote on December 14th after a second reading.

The original scope of the proposal will remain with the ordinance. The now-approved amendments remove participant obligations and reduce planned work. Aebi recommended this approach to save time and retain a record of the process. Scrapping the LID would force PP&R back to the public works permitting process, delaying Berrydale Park’s renovation planned for Spring 2024. City staff also felt it important that future home buyers know an attempt to provide sidewalk infrastructure occurred. The houses that would have participated in the LID will have a $0 obligation recorded against the property referencing this LID, but they will not receive any upgrades. The lone participating private residence at 9020 SE Taylor Street will gain a sidewalk, and the owners are obligated to contribute $23,959.55 to the project’s cost.

Original SE 89th & Taylor LID

As amended, the SE 89th Ave and Taylor St LID will repave a portion of SE 89th Avenue and provide a disconnected sidewalk along the Park’s edge. However, it fails to create any measurable improvement to this area’s poor pedestrian infrastructure. Residents using SE 89th Avenue in anything other than a car face significant challenges. Pedestrians using SE Taylor Street will continue crossing over to the north side of the street for sidewalk access. Without the improvements to the northwest corner of the Park’s block, people requiring a walkway will need to travel through Berrydale Park on the new paths created during the Park’s renovations.

Image courtesy Portland Parks & Recreation

According to Andrew Aebi, opposition to the LID was based on costs alone. In his presentation to City Council, he explained that most remonstrances mentioned support for curbs and sidewalks, but not at the proposed price. That observation highlights the problem with infrastructure improvement models that require private funding. Lower-priced houses without sidewalks or paved streets sometimes attract buyers without extra income for upgrades. That creates streets of people who opt out of LIDs due to budgetary constraints. The City Council members and Aebi understood the financial burden this LID placed on these homeowners. The introduction and adoption of the amendments reflect that understanding. However, for non-participate supporters of the LID, this change denies them access to sidewalks, and they are left wondering how improvements will ever occur on their street.

There is no current solution to Portland’s sidewalk funding shortfall. New home builders must construct sidewalks with their projects or pay a Local Transportation Infrastructure Charge (LTIC). Property owners must pay to keep their sidewalks in good repair and accessible for people of all mobility needs. Eventually, homeowners on unimproved streets or places that lack sidewalks will have to pay for the creation of those street amenities. The timing of that is uncertain as City officials and citizens struggle with when to demand property owners pay for that infrastructure. For now, City leaders have passed that decision on to the next generation of homeowners.


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SE 89th and Taylor LID’s Burden and Benefit

On October 12th, Portland City Council approved a declaration of intent to form the SE 89th Ave and Taylor St Local Improvement District (LID). This proposed infrastructure project would rebuild 450 feet of SE 89th Avenue adjacent to Berrydale Park, adding curbs and sidewalks to this partially paved roadway. The LID would also add sidewalks on the south side of SE Taylor Street from 92nd Avenue to 98th Avenue. Although unanimously approved, the Council members expressed deep concerns regarding the financial burden placed on the adjacent homeowners, some of whom testified against this LID’s formation.

Local Improvement Districts form when a majority of property owners in an area elect to pool private funds with the City of Portland, sharing the cost of infrastructure construction. Landowners commonly use LIDs to improve unpaved streets and reconstruct paved roads not built to current engineering standards. Although SE 89th Avenue has paved travel lanes, it’s bordered by curbless gravel shoulders, lacks stormwater management, and has no sidewalks. Andrew Aebi, Portland’s Local Improvement District Administrator, worked with Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to propose this LID formation ahead of Berrydale Park’s renovation in the Spring of 2024. Portland Parks & Recreation owns the majority of street frontages included in this LID and will shoulder the bulk of its costs.

Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) chose to pursue this expanded infrastructure improvement project based on lessons learned from the missed opportunities of past projects. In 2007, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) built Holly Farm Park in a neighborhood of SW Portland without sidewalks, consistent curbs, or stormwater management. Crews constructed the missing infrastructure around the Park’s frontage and reconstructed the road to the center of the street. However, the properties across from the Park still lack sidewalks and stormwater management. Aebi pointed to this project as a turning point in the City. The lost opportunity to improve conditions for adjacent residents was glaring. PP&R now collaborates with the other Portland bureaus to include infrastructure upgrades during Park construction and encourages LID formations so area residents can take advantage of discounted upgrades made cheaper by piggybacking on funded projects.

At last Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Aebi explained that regardless of a LID’s formation, the Berrydale Park project will include curb and sidewalk construction on PP&R property. However, as is now standard procedure, City staff proposed the SE 89th Ave and Taylor St Local Improvement District to offer cost savings to adjacent property owners. If this LID is approved by City Council on November 30th, residences involved in the LID could pay substantially less for the infrastructure improvements. “We have structured this LID so that Parks pays the lion’s share of LID Costs,” said Aebi. The savings stem from an 800,000 commitment to the LID from PP&R and other City contributions intended to defer the financial burden placed on homeowners. The City will cover all roadway reconstruction costs and only ask residents to pay for the curbs and sidewalks built in front of their property.

Even with all the expected cost savings for property owners, the City is seeking a significant sum. If City Council enacts the LID as presented, 14 property owners will each contribute close to $24,000. Payment is due after LID work is completed, with the option to pay over time. Financed over 20 years, people would pay $165 per month for the infrastructure added to their property. Although not an exorbitant amount, people on fixed incomes could face hardship due to the forced monthly payment. Commissioner Dan Ryan expressed reluctance to approve the LID, fearing that this financial imposition could jeopardize retired people’s ability to age in place.

Looking west on SE Taylor showing where the sidewalk ends at SE 89th

In addition to the homeowners opposed to the LID, City Council heard from three testifiers in favor of the project. However, those in support of the LID were not members of the planned improvement district. Instead, they all lived near Berrydale Park and planned to use the sidewalk infrastructure to navigate the neighborhood. One speaker, who uses a wheelchair, mentioned the challenges of moving around his street due to the lack of curb ramps and sidewalks. His testimony highlighted the shared responsibility for infrastructure in a community and how delaying these updates will negatively impact other people on the street.

City staff will keep working with affected property owners and try to find options that everyone can accept. Andrew Aebi anticipates returning to Council in November with two different proposals for a LID in this area. He intends to present an option that will fully modernize the public infrastructure around the Park’s property and another that creates fewer enhancements but still builds the pedestrian access needed for parkgoers and schoolchildren walking to this destination. City Council will hear this item next month and likely vote on the LID formation in December.