At our August 8th MTCY&NPG meeting, Greg D. from the Water Bureau was present (his first time at a meeting?… I believe he and Chad T. share a seat on the committee and Chad has often been present) to offer the Water Bureau’s perspective on land ownership of the site and how a re-design would affect them.

Land ownership of Mt. Tabor is complicated and not something I completely understand (does anybody?…) but, in a nut shell, the Water Bureau owns part of the land that the maintenance yard sits upon. If/when the re-design of the yard occurs, the Water Bureau is requesting that they “trade” the piece of land they own for an equivalent piece of land near Mt. Tabor to be used as a staging area for future construction projects on or near Mt. Tabor (e.g. work on the water reservoirs).

A couple of things bother me about their request.

Future staging area for Portland Water Bureau construction projects

Future staging area for Portland Water Bureau construction projects

First, the area that the Water Bureau is requesting is just north of the maintenance yard on land that is currently open space near the dog park. This area works for the Water Bureau because it is large enough to store heavy machinery, it allows for easy access to the reservoirs, and it doesn’t interfere with public access to the park. The Water Bureau expressed how the staging area would be temporary – used only during the time of construction. However, storage of heavy machinery, tools, and materials for a period of time would do irreparable damage to the wildness of the land.

I understand that materials and machinery need to be stored some place, but are there other options? Could they be stored on another spot on Mt. Tabor that isn’t currently open space, such as the playground or the “airstrip” (as I like to call it) above Reservoir #5?

Could the Water Bureau use this "airstrip" as their staging area?

Could the Water Bureau use this land above Reservoir #5 as a staging area

I’m not a fan of shutting down the playground for a couple of years, but my point is that using this area won’t harm the land further because it has already been compromised. And neighbors would get a refurbished playground once the Water Bureau is done (and possibly an added incentive for the City to get in and get out?)

And why not use the “airstrip?” Could somebody please let me know what this area is used for.

The second issue I have deals with the new road that will be built around SE 64th.  Via city code, any updates to the maintenance yard land triggers a ruling that a road be built connecting SE Division to SE Lincoln ajoining the property.  The planning group has known about this ruling and we are working the new road into our plans in hopes of creating a southern entrance into the park that is limited to pedestrian and bike access only.

The Water Bureau seemed satisfied with this idea, but stated that if/when the road is needed for construction, it would become fully accessible to vehicles. Neighbors asked if the vehicle access road could be deconstructed afterward, to which Greg replied, “let’s talk about the economics of that…”

We didn’t have that discussion because it veered us off topic, but the Water Bureau’s point bothers me and it needs to be investigated because it veers away from all we have discussed about being sustainable.

One of the points about sustainability that I have presented to the group – at meetings and in my thesis project – is that we prioritize the environment, economy, and equity in our planning considerations. That we’re together as neighbors, city officials, and employees discussing options makes this an equitable process. That the group, along with Opsis (our design firm), is pursuing green building standards shows that we are dedicated to the environment. But when more players become active in the process – in this case the Water Bureau – we are immediately brought back to the “reality” that economics holds the most significance in our decisions.

Economics does play a HUGE role in this process, and I realize it’s a much easier sell to the public if the tax dollars being spent are low(er). But aren’t we past realizing that when we carve up, trample down, pave over, and dismantle nature we find ourselves in quite a conundrum? That when you pave over half the world the weather gets a little bit crazy? That when we make an access road for maintenance vehicles only, 10 years later it’s ane anvenue for congested traffic on Division to cut the light at 60th and skirt across the hill…. or 20 years later it’s a major thoroughfare, complete with stop lights and (hopefully) cross walks?

If the Water Bureau needed to build the road for their construction project(s), one solution would be to leave some sledgehammers and jackhammers behind and let the neighbors take care of the deconstruction (and maybe a truck or two to haul away the asphalt).  This isn’t that crazy of an idea – see what others have done at www.depave.org.

I think the least we can do is talk about this some more because having the Water Bureau walk in and say this is the way it is doesn’t feel collaborative.

Please comment.

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