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.
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.