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About The Southwest Portland Post. (Portland, Oregon) 2007-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 1, 2008)
The Southwest Portland Post • 3
Commissioner Fish goes to Washington; trip includes
Sears Armory housing project
By Lee Perlman
The Southwest Portland Post
Newly elected City Commissioner
Nick Fish spent three days in Wash-
ington D.C. last month, and came away
with significant progress on three local
issues, at least one affecting southwest
As the commissioner in charge of
housing issues, Fish attended a national
convention on homelessness. He also
took the time to meet with Col. Jim
Balocki of the Department of Defense’s
Base Re-alignment and Closure Divi-
sion on the disposition of the Sears
The army has designated the 3.7 acre
site at 2730 S.W. Multnomah Blvd. as
surplus, and the Portland City Council
has endorsed a plan by Community
Partners for Affordable Housing to
develop the site for 100 or more units
of affordable housing.
According to Fish, Balocki was very
impressed with the city’s plans for
the property. Balocki sent an e-mail
complementing Portland on its draft
proposal, and Fish told The Post that he
was “pretty optimistic” that the transfer
A potential hang-up, he said, was
approval of the project by the federal
bureau of Housing and Urban Devel-
opment, necessary because the project
involves low-income housing. In theory
reviews of this sort are supposed to be
completed within 60 days, Fish said,
but because HUD is “a little backed
up” in its work the process could take
up to a year.
For this reason Fish also paid a visit to
Congressman Barney Frank of Massa-
chusetts, chair of the House committee
that oversees HUD, and he promised to
try to facilitate the process. Fish worked
for Frank immediately after he gradu-
ated from law school.
Fish renewed a promise he made to
the Multnomah Neighborhood Asso-
ciation to form an advisory committee
that would provide input on the project,
including its design. The committee
would, among other things, visit “com-
parable” projects in other parts of town
and incorporate design features they
liked. “We have a chance to do this
right,” he said.
Fish also visited members of the
Oregon congressional delegation in
pursuit of his third project. Portland has
11 housing projects containing a total
of 700 units with contracts that are due
to expire in 2013. Currently the owners
maintain affordable rents in return for
With the expiration of the contracts
the buildings could be sold, converted
to condominiums or have their rents
raised to market rates, and up to 800
poor people could face eviction into a
market that can’t accommodate those
already seeking housing.
However, as part of their contracts,
the projects’ owners have been paying
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into an “excess receipts” fund that has
grown to $7 to $9 million. Fish says he
is asking the Oregon delegation, and
Frank, for a “discreet change in the law”
that would allow these funds to be used
to help transferred to a suitable non-
profit agency that would keep them
“Preservation is one of our housing
strategies,” Fish said. “We’re building
more affordable housing, but we also
want to preserve all we can of what
City plans series of bio-swales for
The city is planning the installation
of three bio-swales, with attendant new
sidewalks, in Multnomah in the next
year, and some merchants are seeking
to change the scheduling of one of them.
The first such project, at a cost of
$18,000, would be installed at South-
west 35 th Avenue and Troy Street, with
work set to commence later this month.
A second, in front of the Lucky Lab
Pub on Southwest Capitol Highway at
35 th Avenue, would be installed in the
spring and cost $27,000.
The most ambitious, called Raindrop
Walk, would cost $115,000, would be on
Southwest Capitol Highway between
35 th and 36 th avenues, and would be
installed beginning in the fall of 2009.
If the U.S. Department of Defense ap-
proves, the Sears Armory site will be
rebuilt into an affordable housing project.
(Post file photo by Don Snedecor)
This last has made some merchants
nervous. They fear that the work, and
attendant disruption, could interfere
with sales, particularly if the work con-
tinued into the holiday season. Leonard
Gard, Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc.
land use specialist, said city officials are
reluctant to reschedule the work, since
this is one of several projects that must
be completed within a budget year, but
that they haven’t ruled it out.
SWNI hosts debate between City
Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc. is
hosting a public debate between Port-
land City Council candidates Amanda
Fritz and Charles Lewis beginning at
7 p.m. October 20 at Multnomah Arts
Center, 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway.
Bring your curiosity and questions to
help decide who will hold this impor-
tant political position.