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: 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 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 it 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 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 arrow 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? For 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 build able 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 used 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 primary 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 degrees).
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 used 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.

April Showers Bring New Customers

April – 2015

Mobile marketing has finally come of age.
Albertideation Small April 7, 2015
What’s Up?

If you want to guarantee that April showers indeed bring in new customers, please join me for one or both of my classes in Portland or meet with me one-on-one to up your on-line marketing game. If you’re wanting to know if your current efforts are on target – please send me your most recent newsletter, or point me to something you’d like me to take a look at. I’d be glad to share my honest feedback with you. The email marketing and social media worlds are changing so rapidly, it’s hard to keep up – and, that’s what I’m here for!

One point I really want to highlight is that everyone should be using a mobile-friendly template for their email marketing. If you are not sure if yours is mobile-friendly, please, let’s talk. 65% of people are checking email on their phones and if your newsletter is not mobile-friendly, you can guess what your customers are doing with your emails.
Here are some articles I’ve found useful, and at the bottom are more details about my upcoming free Portland-area classes!
Have a great Spring! Albert
New Mural on Alberta Street
4 Can't-Miss Mobile Marketing Best Practices

For many brands, mobile marketing remains somewhat vague and difficult to contain in the same way as traditional marketing. Here are a few best practices to help your business launch an exciting, innovative and successful mobile marketing campaign.

Read More >

While large businesses may have significant budgets to spend on social commerce and marketing, smaller-size companies too can leverage the new social trends to drive increased revenue. Consider these five strategies to boost sales in 2015.

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Upcoming Events

Social Media Timesavers
Thursday April 16, 2015 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM PDT
This session will help you save time at get back to what you love to do running your business or organization. Join me and learn the latest time savers and best practices from Constant Contact Authorized Local Expert, Albert Kaufman., Holladay Park Church of God

Constant Contact Toolkit Demonstration
Monday April 27, 2015 from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM PDT
Join me and learn how to use the whole Constant Contact Toolkit – from Newsletters to Events to Surveys to Social Campaigns: all from Constant Contact Authorized Local Expert, Albert Kaufman. Holladay Park Church of God

Albert Kaufman
Albertideation
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Register to vote online in Oregon NOW!

Vote

yes on 92 and yes on 91

Sensible Changes Coming to Oregon – Be a part of history!

Let’s legalize marijuana – I want to see us sending less people to jail for no good reason. Labeling GMOs also makes sense. Voter registration in Oregon ends on 10.14 – don’t miss this historic opportunity!

I’d love to legalize marijuana here in Oregon in a couple days. There are so many reasons this makes sense – not putting people in jail unecessarily (freeing funds for other actual problems) – creating all sorts of job – making it easier for people who need marijuana-related products for healing to receive them, legally – reducing peoples’ intake of alcohol (more on that another time, but I see a connection) – hemp may be the best answer to a lot of problems we face today – climate change, clear-cut logging of Oregon forests for paper products. Anyway, I think I could probably brainstorm about 100 reasons why this will be good for Oregon (tourism) – feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below. The news media mainly focuses on tax revenue – but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the positives!

We have 5 days left to register to vote here. And then, we get our ballots in 9 days, and then we vote.

We will also vote to Label GMOs (poison), which would delight me. As far as I can tell GMOs are poisons that are increasing the rates of cancer. By labeling any products that have them – I believe it will force food companies to reformulate their products (as they’ve done in other countries) so they can avoid having to include a GMO label. I learned about this and more in the film GMO OMG which has been showing around town. The film-makers are making screening rights free for anyone who wants to host a gathering on the topic – it’s quite brilliant and I highly recommend viewing it if you’re interested in learning more about the issue.

Some relevant links to share:

Register to vote on-line here

  1. Vote yes on 91 – Legalize It! Vote Yes on 91 – Endorsers
  2. Vote yes on 92 – Label GMO (poison) – YES!

91: Video with Rick Steves

92: Lively Video about GMOs by my friend, Dana Lyons

Thanks for your efforts to get everyone you know registered to vote. Know someone who has moved in the last 2 years? Know someone who turned or turns 18 before election day? Send them this link, thanks!

https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/vr/register.do?lang=eng

Both of these campaigns can also use our $-support and any time you can spare to Get out the Vote (GOTV) – Bring a posse with you for best results 🙂

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2014

mlk-banner

Letter from Selma

“The thirty thousand people who at one point or another took part in this week’s march from the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma, Alabama, to the statehouse in Montgomery were giving highly dramatic expression to a principle that could be articulated only in the vaguest terms. They were a varied lot: local Negroes, Northern clergymen, members of labor unions, delegates from state and city governments, entertainers, mothers pushing baby carriages, members of civil-rights groups more or less at odds with one another, isolated, shaggy marchers with an air of simple vagrancy, doctors, lawyers, teachers, children, college students, and a preponderance of what one marcher described as “ordinary, garden- variety civilians from just about everywhere.” They were insulated in front by soldiers and television camera crews, overhead and underfoot by helicopters and Army demolition teams, at the sides and rear by more members of the press and military, and over all by agents of the F.B.I. Most of them were aware that protection along a route of more than fifty miles of hostile country could not be absolute (on the night before the march, a student who had come here from Boston University was slashed across the cheek with a razor blade), yet few of the thirty-two hundred marchers who set out on Sunday morning seemed to have a strong consciousness of risk. They did not have a sharply defined sense of purpose, either. President Johnson’s speech about voting rights and Judge Johnson’s granting of permission for the march to take place had made the march itself ceremonial—almost redundant. The immediate aims of the abortive earlier marches had been realized: the national conscience had been aroused and federal intervention had been secured. In a sense, the government of Alabama was now in rebellion, and the marchers, with the sanction and protection of the federal government, were demonstrating against a rebellious state. It was unclear what such a demonstration could hope to achieve. Few segregationists could be converted by it, the national commitment to civil rights would hardly be increased by it, there was certainly an element of danger in it, and for the local citizenry it might have a long and ugly aftermath. The marchers, who had five days and four nights in which to talk, tended for the most part to avoid discussions of principle, apparently in the hope that their good will, their sense of solidarity, and the sheer pageantry of the occasion would resolve matters at some symbolic level and yield a clear statement of practical purpose before the march came to an end.  (read more)

The Acoustic Outpost is playing an incredible show today for MLK Jr. Day.  Give a Listenhttp://acousticoutpost.com/

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for inspiring all of us.

 

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