Do you have a community, group of friends, or family that you love?

First you get the vaccine then you get the concertsGet yourself and your loved ones vaccinated as soon as possible.

The sooner you get yourself, friends and family vaccinated, the sooner you and they will feel safer and more at ease being together. If we each do this here’s what’s coming:

  • A healthier community, group of friends, family for you
  • Safer gatherings
  • Safer cities and towns

Every summer I’ve been attending multiple music and dance festivals. These will happen again sooner if we all get vaccinated. if everyone around you is vaccinated you’ll be much safer from this disease. I want that for me. I want that for you. 

I’m finding inspiration from the Covid Corps.  We don’t have to wait for the government to lead on this, though. We can take charge of our health and the health of our communities. Please join me – feel free to leave comments below if you have ideas to share.  Spread the word to your community, family and friends – Get Vaccinated ASAP!

Part 2 – once you’re vaccinated, please let everyone know. This will help encourage your friends and family to take this step. Be loud and proud about it. Show a picture of you getting vaccinated – that seems to do the trick.

MasksTo our health!

Albert Kaufman
Portland, Oregon 97215
The United States

here are pics for your social media accounts! C’mon – join me!

I got my Covid 19 Vaccine

I got my Covid 19 Vaccine

I got my Covid 19 Vaccine

If you or someone you know is feeling hesitant, listen to Rachel Maddow’s take.  She gets it. She has a good, compassionate message.

Hawthorne Blvd: Three Stories for a Happy Ending

Bagdad TheaterGuest Contribution by Jeff Cole of the Sunnyside Neighborhood, Portland, Oregon

Hawthorne Blvd: Three Stories for a Happy Ending

Close in Southeast Portland neighborhoods have this thing that urban planners love to talk about: a sense of place. I can’t help but feel a provincial pride in my own still somewhat scruffy Sunnyside. It’s been over a century in the making after all: not exactly urban, nor suburban – in no way prim, proper, or polished. A bit bohemian without being overt about it. You know where you are; here.

Yet, if our city’s planners and developers have their way – it may well be undone in a few short years. These are no idle fears – the behemoth across from Safeway (SE 27th/Hawthorne) and the four-story tragedy next to ¿Por Que No? (soon to be ¿Por Que?) is proof Sunnyside’s sense of place – and indeed the entire Hawthorne District – is on the auction block.

It’s not that so many monumental wonders line much of Hawthorne – glorious Baghdad theatre palace aside. What charms me is the collective mercantilism of Hawthorne’s modest commercial storefronts – an authentic, living vestige that attests to the historical nature of this corridor and others like Belmont and Division.

Hawthorne hosts the small businesses I love and use day in and day out – and others I just enjoy having there. From cat food to dog baths. Beads, yarns, and greeting cards. Fashions are new, handmade, and recycled. Herbs and perfumeries. Pipes, vapor cigs, and growlers. Vintage furniture across from retro tattoos. Powell’s and specialty bookstores. Restaurants and close-by grocery stores.

And it is the ease by which Hawthorne Blvd. could lose so much of this – replaced by a parade of Vanilla Deluxe four-six story mixed-used boxes a la North Williams – that is causing so much unease. Higher density corridors with greater populations drive up commercial rents that limit the types of businesses that can operate profitably. It’s worth noting that new mixed-used corridors like N. Williams St. have a comparatively limited expression of commercial typologies.

As our city plans for future growth in Southeast Portland, it’s worth noting we’re not talking about an old railroad yard morphing into the Pearl nor long gone shipyards now sprouting high rises. We have few large vacant lots like N. Williams St. People already live here; many have for quite some time.

So Memo to Powers That Be: in case you don’t realize it when you look west from Mt. Tabor there’s a wealth of moderately dense and immensely livable neighborhoods amongst the sea of trees. Our success is not the product of Urban Renewal Areas or generous public investments – our story is the cumulative uplift achieved by numerous small businesses and homeowners.

Historical Axis

Drawing lines: that’s the foundation of local SE PDX history. There’s a stone set yonder in Portland’s West Hills just off Skyline Blvd. – the survey marker originally staked in 1851 defines an east-west “Baseline” that shoots arrows straight all the way to Oregon’s eastern border. In Southeast Portland, this “baseline” is Stark St. – along which lies the Lone Fir Cemetery where James Hawthorne himself rests in peace.

A little over a hundred years later planners drew another line – to bulldoze a freeway eastward through 1800 buildings. The Mt. Hood Freeway would have pummeled Division St (named so being one mile of due south Stark St.) until about 40th St before jutting south to destroy Powell Blvd. Southeast Portland neighborhoods fought back in the early 1970’s – and won. The resulting solution – today’s MAX line running from Gateway into Downtown along the already existing transit corridor of I84 & the Union Pacific railroad is proof paths can be changed.

These days one senses an unanswered question: is it time for close-in SE PDX neighborhoods to rise up again? The bulldozers are back flattening hundred-year-old homes framed in old-growth wood. The Mt. Hood Freeway has returned – deconstructed into a wider blight – as over 1800 structures are demolished every four years in Portland. And like the freeway that thankfully never was – we are told this must be in the name of progress.

The Sky is Not the Limit

For decades zoning along Hawthorne Blvd. and many historical corridors has stated a forty-five-foot buildable height limit. In terms of property ownership – this is called a “right” – a kind of sacred promise that directly impacts land values.

Until the turn of the century – only buildings with specialized uses neared the 45-foot height limit: the soaring Bagdad roof, or church steeples, or schools. Even during the late 1990s, new commercial storefronts on Hawthorne were one or two stories.

One might argue – in terms of the historical relationship between these corridors and the abutting residential housing – that code never intended the construction of solid (often block long) 4-6 story volumetric buildings. That is to say – the implied conditional use at the time involved new construction typically less than half the height limit in shorter segments of frontage.

Permitted uses along Hawthorne have become more restrictive over time. Unless grand-parented in, new oil changing operations, car repair shops, or drive-thru lanes cannot be built as freely as yesterday. That’s how the once proposed McDonalds drive-thru at 34th & Hawthorne (where Dosha stands today) was stopped in its tracks.

One might argue, if permitted usage of properties can be redefined, then usage, as expressed through maximum height limits, can be revisited, too. Lower height limits could be zoned along SE Hawthorne Blvd. and streets like Belmont and Division.

An Equitable Solution

Given what’s now being built on our historical corridors has been whittled down to the sole typology of McPortland Mixed Use, there are numerous advantages to instituting a 38 foot – or three-story – height limit on Hawthorne and other historical corridors:

Because a 4-story mixed-use project houses about 50% more residential units than a 3-story version the impacts on neighborhood fabric and infrastructure are dramatically higher with the former. The 3-story limit still allows increased density, and creates ground floor commercial space, while treading more respectfully.
The 3-story height imposes far less visual impact on surrounding single-family and garden apartment neighborhoods.
Solar access: even on Hawthorne Blvd. a 4-story building throws a wintertime shadow that reaches across the street up to the first story. Since SE PDX corridors run primarily east-west – the cumulative impact of taller buildings means a total loss of direct sunlight for many months. (Other popular streets like NW 23rd and N.Mississippi run north-south and avoid this problem to some degree).
Even with a 3-story limit, higher buildings could be allowed through a carefully controlled bonus height system requiring the builder to provide firm deliverables with community benefit based on neighborhood approval.

More Growth Where It’s Needed

Instead of encouraging excessive growth with the risk of damaging historical and vibrant neighborhoods, there are areas where more rapid development might be appropriate. Portland has already invested heavily in preparing the Gateway district for growth – which can draw on Urban Renewal Area funds. By contrast, close-in Southeast neighborhoods have limited access to resources needed to mitigate the impacts of higher density. Ironically, one of the strongest arguments for developing Gateway is its transit-rich location, especially in terms of light rail – a direct result of shutting down the once planned Mt. Hood Freeway.

Whether some of Portland’s neighborhoods are vibrant in the long-haul may well hinge on providing more than a parade of formulaic four-six story mixed-use buildings punctuated only by supermarkets. The engaging architectural vocabulary that once expressed itself through iconic neighborhood auditoriums and ballrooms, churches and synagogues, bungalows and garden apartments, and other single-use structures appears to have no current equivalent. Yet apparently it is a quality much sought after in many close-in Portland districts now experiencing bidding wars on a limited quantity of for-sale single-family houses. Perhaps it’s that sense of place that buyers are seeking so very much – somewhere that doesn’t seem like anywhere.

The world might feel like it’s unraveling… hold yourself, friends and family tight

Water rushing by a lighthouseIn doing some interesting reading and then noting what I’m seeing in our world – It feels that our world is unraveling a bit. There are a multitude of things going on at the same time, some of them tragic, some of them unseen in the past and thus a little hard to wrap our heads around. The natural world also seems to be going through changes – for anyone who is paying any attention at all to various scientific papers to recent conferences on the climate and just plain looking out your window (if it’s not frozen shut as the East Coast of USA experienced a bunch this year) – the climate is changing. Then, there’s the political/media circus of giving the Tea Party movement a lot of time and attention = cacophony in the political and social sphere.

All that said, and more. So, what to do when overloaded with stimuli – there are many reactions that people have. Some clam up, hide. Some pretend that nothing different is going on. Then there are some who are speaking about the change – and many who have been speaking about it for a while – Bill McKibbon comes to mind. But other authors, like James Kunstler, Richard Heinberg – these folks are tracking the change and writing about it.

But what I might suggest is for us not to forget ourselves.  Our strengths. What we each bring to the world – and not let the strong winds of change push us around too much, make us lost. That would be unfair. It’s unfair to you because this is your life, and it should be as sweet, powerful and wonderful as you wish it to be. And, it’s not fair to the rest of us and future generations – for a large group of us to sleepwalk through this next period of time – the next chapter in our lives.

So, learn to dance with the change – learn to see the signs of something changing and instead of “holy shit!” your mantra could be “how interesting?” or “hmm, how will I dance with this in my life?”

This is also a good time to remember to take the best care of yourself that you can – physically and emotionally. Take your vitamins, get plenty of sleep, move that body, and make sure to stay connected to people. Your friends. Your Neighbors. Your Family. and new friends. If I’ve learned one thing at Burning Man lo these past 10 years, it’s that friends and close connection is key in life. Also, the ability to make new friends quickly is an art and can be learned. Start by introducing yourself.

Albert Kaufman
3/29/10
Portland, Oregon

Related: 8.31.18 – A More Or Less Definitive Guide To Showing Up For Friends

And, Ben Bochner’s song – Hold on Strong!

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