Tuesday, February 25, 2014

See how the power plays

Exhibit A in Beaumont-Wilshire: The making of a monster. As recently released city-developer documents show, neighbors have a stake but no say.

These cold nights are perfect for cozying up with the latest record of the permit decision under which developer Wally Remmers continues to throw up his oversize project on Northeast Fremont. All the observers who think this is a done deal and not worth the fight (or funding it)—that's exactly what Remmers wants you to think, and why he's plunged headlong into construction all this time even in the face of serious legal challenges. Perhaps there should be an ordinance against building anything that's subject of a Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) action, so that all parties have incentive to fix what's wrong and get a move on. We wouldn't be where we are, as late as we are, if Remmers/the city (now a hand-in-hand outfit—read on) had allowed our appeal to move forward unimpeded from the get-go.

I digress. In the record it's stunning to see a minion at Remmers's architecture firm basically telling the city what to do: In her e-mail she entreats that they needed to "get an appeal approved for this violation . . . . I know it sounds crazy but that is how the lawyer [for Remmers] wanted us to deal with it." That "us" is your city staff, working hard to help a brazen developer skirt a clear LUBA ruling requirement. That's how the hands behind the curtain directed city staff to generate a waiver for the developer's nonconforming drywell out of a secret meeting. It gives us pause.

The Bureau of Development Services ought to set up a satellite office in Salem so long as it uses the state judicial venue of LUBA as its quality assurance mechanism. Building in Portland is a choice opportunity; bending over backward for roughshod, out-of-town developers such as Remmers makes it clear he's as much in control as he is a customer. And you know what they say: The Customer Is Always Right. Right?

When I pay taxes, I feel like a customer, too. Except now it appears I pay them to an agent of Remmers's rather than an entity that's supposed to protect neighbors' interests (i.e., apply code) while overseeing Portland's growth spurt.

Milwaukie's Masonic Lodge, recent site of a film festival focused on "Place," including a forthcoming movie on the rash of controversial development across Portland's east side.

That's Density with a dollar sign.

Filmmaker Greg Baartz-Bowman talks with audience members before the screenings.

Filmmaker George Wolters oversees an extensive Q&A afterward.

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