Tag: Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty

Officials Tour 82nd Ave Ahead of Improvements

Today, three elected officials toured SE 82nd Ave to highlight proposed safety investments coming to the roadway. Thanks to United States Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the recently passed US House infrastructure package contains $5 million for 82nd Ave safety improvements. These federal dollars will join $185 million in State and City funds previously committed to 82nd Ave improvements as part of the jurisdictional transfer of the State-owned highway to the City of Portland.

State Representative Khanh Pham and Portland City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty joined Rep. Blumenauer on the July 9th walk from SE Hawthorne Blvd to the APANO offices on SE Division Street. Positioned on the sidewalks of 82nd Ave, members of the procession observed the failing infrastructure and talked about future repairs.

Along the journey, Comm. Hardesty and others address the concern that gentrification often follows transit improvement projects. The group agreed that 82nd Ave projects need to consider their impact on existing residents and businesses to minimize displacement. Preventing community upheaval was a concern echoed later by Rep. Blumenauer at the press conference that followed today’s tour. “There is a significant amount of wealth to be generated by doing it right, but we have to do it… so it doesn’t displace and drive people away.” He called for projects to “reinforce the elements of community” and kickstart developments that serve all income levels.

At the press conference, the speakers celebrated the infrastructure improvements coming to the roadway. Better lighting and enhanced crosswalks will provide residents near this street the same safety other Portlanders have within their neighborhoods. These upgrades join public transportation developments designed to make living along 82nd Ave feasible.

These infrastructure improvements make the area suitable for more density housing projects that use the untaped real estate above commercial spaces. Rep. Pham expressed dismay at the number of “Mega Storage Units” being created along the roadway. Rep. Blumenauer agreed that those facilities negatively affect community-building efforts. He explained that Self Storage businesses allow companies to hold onto land and generate some profit while they wait for the value of the property to rise, creating “black holes in the community.”

Rep. Blumenauer is a longtime believer in East Portland’s potential. Years ago, he aggressively pressed for PCC’s to expand into the Southeast, with the desire to create social destinations. Much of 82nd Ave’s transportation move people through the area instead of bringing people in. “82nd Ave is the highest volume of transit in the city [and] it has been a lost opportunity for as long as I remember,” Rep. Blumenauer recalled. Fortunately, investments coming to the highway will create the safe spaces people need to live, walk, and build their community. 

Early next year, 82nd Ave will become part of Portland’s network of roads and begin receiving upgrades to make the street safe and modern. Last month, the Oregon legislature approved $80 million in funds that will partially pay for 82nd Ave’s transfer to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It was one of the last obstacles to overcome ahead of next year’s jurisdictional transfer.

Rep. Blumenauer praised the work of Rep. Pham and Comm. Hardesty on their efforts to move the decades-long transfer process near completion. It required countless hours of negotiations before State and City staff agreed to the terms of transfer. However, the agreement would have stalled if not for an influx of federal recovery funding. Years of work needed to coincide with the right timing for infrastructure investments. Today’s events represented an acknowledgment that supporters won the fight for change on 82nd Ave. Now, efforts will shift to enacting projects that build up the community without pushing people out.

Veterinary Clinic on Stark

Today, a presentation at Portland City Council revealed a potential new tenant at 8037 SE Stark Street. The presenter explained that a group of veterinarians intended to create an urgent-care veterinary clinic in the corner shopfront. However, required site improvements could diminish or cancel their plans. This project served as one example in the presentation to support a temporary suspension of nonconforming upgrade requirements.

In the City Council AM Session on Wednesday, June 23rd, Matt Wickstrom with the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) shared a slide deck endorsing the temporary regulatory changes. The proposal seeks to remove the nonconforming upgrade burden on tenants during a post-COVID-19 recovery timeframe. Currently, on projects costing over $306,000, the applicant must spend up to ten percent of the project’s valuation on improving the property to current zoning requirements. Nonconforming upgrades trigger on existing developments where a tenant proposes an alteration or renovations, but site features no longer comply with city standards. These fees can sometimes stifle businesses attempting to fill empty commercial properties as the project costs can increase beyond what their budget will allow. Older buildings are most susceptible to this type of hidden development cost due to the number of regulatory changes made over time.

The proposal would exempt projects from being evaluated for nonconforming improvements until March 21st, 2023. After that date, city staff expects Portland’s economy will have recovered. However, the proposal doesn’t consider project size or the applicant’s ability to pay for the upgrades. As a result, larger projects could slip through without meeting site standards, denying overlooked communities the neighborhood enhancements these rules were designed to provide. Example improvements include tree planting, landscaping, and bicycle parking around the site. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty expressed reservations over passing this moratorium, fearing that large developers would take the opportunity to shirk their social responsibility to provide projects that meet the cities livability standards.


Nonconforming Upgrades include:

  • Landscaping – particularly parking lot landscaping
  • Screening – separation between differently zoned sites
  • On-site pedestrian circulation
  • Bicycle parking
  • Trees

An amendment to this proposal delayed the final vote until next week. However, it is likely to pass when it next comes to City Council. The passing of this proposal will clear the way for the urgent-care veterinary clinic to proceed unencumbered by the costs of providing parking lot landscaping. Look for updates to this project in the coming months after next week’s vote.

City Council 2021-06-23 AM Session 3:58:08

82nd Ave Changing Hands in 2022

Yesterday, The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) reached an agreement to transfer jurisdictional responsibility of 82nd Ave by January 2022. This State Highway running through the geographic center of Portland is in poor condition and requires significant investments. The roadway’s deferred maintenance costs were the primary blocker to Portlands adoption of 82nd Ave into PBOT’s portfolio of streets. This new agreement establishes a price for those repairs and an outline for funding that work.

After years of negotiation, both parties assessed 82nd Avenue’s transfer cost at $185 million. Included in that sum are enhanced signals, lighting, ADA-compliant curb ramps, pavement repairs, and stormwater management. The total also contains money for urgent sidewalk and pedestrian crossing upgrades already approved last month. Three budgetary sources will provide the funds needed. A commitment from the legislature dedicated to fixing the most pressing safety and maintenance needs will supply $80 million. Another $70 million comes from an investment from ODOT and a $35 million commitment from PBOT.

This agreement is a significant achievement for a process that has taken over ten years to negotiate. It follows a deadly year for pedestrians crossing 82nd Ave. Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has focused her recent effort on fixing this roadway and placing its responsibility into her department. “The pedestrian deaths that have occurred recently are unacceptable but preventable with proper investment in safety infrastructure improvements. Portland is ready to take ownership of 82nd but will need adequate State funding to get it into a state of good repair. I’m appreciative of ODOT and the Portland Metro area legislators that have agreed these deaths are unacceptable, and am hopeful we can get the State funding needed to bring change to one of the most important streets in our City.” 

Legislative approval needs to be in place before this agreement can move forward. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and Oregon Representative Khanh Pham championed the deal between City and State. With their endorsement and growing support within the legislature, this plan seems likely to succeed.

Despite the substantial investment coming to 82nd Ave, work will only tackle projects ignored over years of neglect. To fully modernize the roadway, additional funds are required. That investment is far more likely to occur under PBOT’s ownership, making this jurisdictional transfer an essential first step to revitalizing the area served by 82nd Ave. Within a year, 82nd Ave could transform from a forgotten State Highway to a future community corridor of Portland.