October 14, 2010
First UGB Expansion: South Hillsboro?
On Tuesday, the Metro council--which earlier in the year finalized the area's selection of urban and rural reserves--had a work session to discuss future expansions to the Urban Growth Boundary. The councilors expressed a need for about 15,000 housing units to meet future housing needs in the region, and one parcel which was discussed in some detail is the 1,000 acre South Hillsboro parcel located directly south of TV Highway and Cornelius Pass Road, and between SW 209th and 229th... here:
No votes were taken, no decisions were made--but a lot of questions came up in the discussion, and I have a few more here.
First, the location. It's probably a reasonable choice, given that it's a greenfield surrounded on 3 sides by existing industrial, commercial, residential, or recreational uses: Intel's Aloha campus is to the northeast; there's an existing retail complex to the northwest, and subdivisions to the west and north. To the southwest is a golf course. While the soil quality and topography is reportedly good for agriculture, it's cut off from other agricultural uses by pre-existing development.
However, not all agreed on its use for residential purposes. Clackamas County commissioner Charlotte Lehan suggested it might be put to better use as an industrial parcel, in order to limit the need to consume prime farmland around Cornelius for industrial purposes. Others questioned whether or not this would cause unacceptable amounts of industrial traffic to clog Hillsboro streets.
The question of residential density came up as well. The City of Hillsboro has planned for an average density of 12 housing units per acre; and city officials balked somewhat at Metro's discussion of a 15 unit/acre density--a figure which would include substantial amounts of multistory apartments as well as some single family homes. The discussion also calls for significant retail and commercial development within the parcel as well, which is good to hear.
For me, though, the biggest and most important question is "when"? It's unclear that the metro area needs additional housing stock at the present time--there is an abundant supply of homes available on the market. Councilor Rex Burkholder noted that the primary issue right now in the housing market is not availability of property, but availability of financing--building new homes won't make loans easier to come by, and may make the problem worse, by putting downward pressure on housing prices (and reducing the equity on existing financing). If these discussions are merely planning for the future--assuming the economy rebounds and there aren't a glut of foreclosures on the market--fine; but I have serious reservations about any residential UGB expansions in the near future.
My other concern--especially for an industrial development--is the effect on the transportation infrastructure. I find it interesting how city officials react with horror at the prospect of a few dozen additional 18-wheelers on the roads per day, but don't seem as concerned with the prospect of 30,000+ additional auto trips per day. TV Highway can't handle this amount of additional traffic in its current configuration, and even often-discussed proposals to widen it to six lanes would simply move the problem into Beaverton--where it becomes much less tractable (widening Canyon Road east of Hocken Street simply ain't going to fly). The #57 serves the property, and MAX is a few miles to the north, but a development of this scale needs to seriously consider transport issues (including a substantial amount of transit) before proceeding.
October 14, 2010 11:30 PM
Bob R. Says:
This raises an important question: How does a locality (presumably, in this case, the city of Hillsboro or perhaps Washington County), work proactively with TriMet to plan transit expansion to meet planned housing expansion?
This has been done for major projects like Westside MAX, but is there a formal procedure for increasing bus service hand-in-hand with land use? Or is it the case that TriMet takes a look after somebody says "hey, there's a bunch of new people living over there, where's the bus?"
October 15, 2010 12:01 AM
in psychology when a human has trouble maintaining social boundaries with others, we say that have "poor boundaries"..
if the boundaries keep moving, is it really a boundary?
is it just tempory? just pretend? should we even call it a boundary? jeeze. :)
October 15, 2010 12:03 AM
I suspect that much of it is done in a backwards fashion--but the same is much true for road development. (The entire Bethany area is a classic example of this phenomenon). Which is a shame.
Of course, what's a bigger shame is the large place at the table given to the real estate industry (homebuilders, realtors, etc). While somebody needs to represent and articulate the demand for housing stock; that strikes me like having car dealers and manufacturers involved in transportation planning. (Come to think of it...) I suspect that the reason developers and such GET such a big seat at the table is due to political muscle, not technical expertise (real or imaginary)... but still, can't we find somebody who's even slightly more impartial to represent this concern to the Council?
October 15, 2010 12:12 AM
Well, changes to the UGB don't happen every day, and require a whole lot of process and procedure when they do happen, so yes--it is an effective boundary in that sense.
There is, however, lots of disagreement about when and where the boundary ought to be redrawn.
Maybe a better analogy would be a belt. You can loosen your belt, but doing so requires a deliberate act.
October 15, 2010 11:23 AM
Cameron Johnson Says:
*insert Italics here* This raises an important question: How does a locality (presumably, in this case, the city of Hillsboro or perhaps Washington County), work proactively with TriMet to plan transit expansion to meet planned housing expansion?
This has been done for major projects like Westside MAX, but is there a formal procedure for increasing bus service hand-in-hand with land use? Or is it the case that TriMet takes a look after somebody says "hey, there's a bunch of new people living over there, where's the bus?" *insert italics here*
I'd like to raise this point for the new development south of Scholls Ferry Road on SW Barrows and around that area, Bull Mountain, Walnut and such that has little to no bus service at all, with buses at Pacific HWY, 121st and Scholls Ferry (to Murray Only) and that whole patch of area in between those borders and beyond have no service. So, yeah, I'm not confident in that happening.
October 15, 2010 11:28 AM
A couple other thoughts and notes on the South Hillsboro area:
Right now, it is assumed--and there are no doubt legal arrangements in place--that if this parcel were to be developed, it would become part of the City of Hillsboro. Indeed, Hillsboro has done quite a bit of planning for South Hillsboro--which, as noted, is for a targeted density less than what Metro is proposing.
However--this may provide an opportunity to right a longstanding wrong. Currently, "SoHi" is not part of the City of Hillsboro, whose borders can be seen here.
What if the "SoHi" area--rather than becoming part of Hillsboro, were to become part of a new City of Aloha?
Washington County has long had the issue with acres and acres of areas which are urbanized, but not part of any urban government. In some cases, urbanization is resisted by residents who want to avoid the generally higher taxes imposed by cities (and conversely aren't interested in things like nice streets and sidewalks, services that cities provide but the county does not--the lack of good pedestrian facilities in these neighborhoods ought to be of concern to PT readers. Cedar Hills and Cedar Mill are example of "leave us alone" communities.
But Aloha's a different case--many residents there would benefit from better urban services, and there seems to be some support for urbanization. But there's one problem: the cities of Beaverton and (to a lesser extent) Hillsboro have, over the years, annexed the "desirable" properties in the community (those to the north), leaving behind and refusing to annex some of the more blighted neighborhoods. An attempt to incorporate failed back in the 80s or 90s when it was determined that the community lacked a sufficient tax base to provide urban services.
But nowadays--is this still true? The Intel Aloha plant is there--and a plumb that the city of Hillsboro would love to pick. There may be an opportunity to resurrect the idea of incorporating Aloha. Currently the Census Designated Place of Aloha has a population of nearly 42k; were the SoHi parcel to be developed and made part of a city of Aloha, the population could swell to over 70-80k--nearly the size of Beaverton and Hillsboro.
Would it work? Would residents there welcome incorporation were a feasible plan put together? I don't know... but the current community of Aloha is lagging behind the cities of Beaverton and Aloha in many ways relevant to this forum.
October 15, 2010 11:43 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Any discussion of UGB expansion should include this item: "How to make better use of the thousands of acres of land in industrial/employment areas of the region that are given away free for parking."
The biggest transportation incentive offered employees is free parking, everywhere but Portland Central City.
October 15, 2010 1:38 PM
dan w Says:
If they opt to go the industrial route with this parcel, it does have the advantage of freight rail access. As for truck traffic, it might be easier to improve north-south connections with Sunset rather than widen TV Hwy.
To improve transit service to this parcel, WES could be extended along the existing freight tracks, although officials might be reluctant to expand this service given the anemic (unless there's been a sudden recent upward tick I'm unaware of) ridership. It would probably be cheaper than extending the MAX Red Line to this area via a new spur, however.
October 15, 2010 3:28 PM
See that little spot of land just to the right of 229th where it bends to the west?
Well, those are the transmitter towers for AM 1360 KUIK. 5 KW daytime, 1 KW directional nighttime. You can see the transmitter building in the center of the lot.
I'm willing to bet that not many people are going to want to live near that transmitter. I live over at Main & Brookwood, and have receiver sensitivity issues on my radios and televisions due to the front-end overloading.
This really should be an industrial area and should definitely not be for residential use. Just imagine the complaints!
October 15, 2010 7:41 PM
Dave H Says:
Well, those are the transmitter towers for AM 1360 KUIK.
A certain segment of the population might care. Most don't. That's not a valid reason to zone property a certain way.
October 15, 2010 8:18 PM
A 5kW transmitter is pretty small. Lots of folks in the West Hills live near the small forest of transmitters up there, many of which put out orders of magnitude more power. Obviously, if it concerns you, you probably ought not live near one, but given that the strength of an electric field varies inversely with the square of the difference (assuming a point source), you're DNA is probably more likely to be scrambled by your cell phone and/or your house wiring. Or your PC, if you're a nerd like me who occasionally runs with the case open (though with modern Wintel computers, doing this will cook your microprocessor long before it cooks you...)
October 15, 2010 8:38 PM
Bob R. Says:
Or your PC, if you're a nerd like me who occasionally runs with the case open (though with modern Wintel computers, doing this will cook your microprocessor long before it cooks you...)
[maximum snark] You have no business calling yourself a nerd or an engineer unless you're posting your comment from the Lynx browser running on hard-coded Linux burned onto wire wrap EPROM board crammed into your MITS Altair 8800. In my day we didn't have any of these newfangled wintel workthingys. [/maximum snark]
(And no, I don't have one either.)
October 15, 2010 8:46 PM
Now, now. I may be a nerd; I'm not a dinosaur.
Though as a teen, I was active in the local BBS scene during the 1980s. Just what I was DOING online back then, I'd rather not say. :)
October 15, 2010 11:57 PM
Bob R. Says:
Though as a teen, I was active in the local BBS scene during the 1980s.
Any Bit Bucket Bulletin Board veterans around here?
(To segue and get us sort of back on topic (sorry for the diversion), didn't Metro formally adopt the first regional urban growth boundary sometime around 1980?)
October 16, 2010 12:09 PM
Tim Walsh Says:
dan w -
According to the most recent TriMet ridership report (from August), WES set a ridership record in August with 1400 boarding rides, up almost 20% from last year. From my own personal observations, the single-car train that pulls into Beaverton TC around 5:30 is almost always standing-room only.
All that said, I'm intrigued by the idea of making this industrial land - especially given it's proximity to an existing freight rail line.
October 16, 2010 3:16 PM
R A Fontes Says:
From the full August performance report:
WES - Operations cost/train hour $1,019.85
MAX - Operations cost/train hour $230.73
October 17, 2010 1:01 PM
Just Saying Says:
"From the full August performance report:
WES - Operations cost/train hour $1,019.85
MAX - Operations cost/train hour $230.73
Far from closing the case, this is really an example of meaningless statistics. Comparing hourly vehicle costs is really irrelevant.
October 17, 2010 2:04 PM
Bob R. Says:
I wouldn't say irrelevant... the operating cost is necessary to reach a conclusion, but that conclusion can't also be reached without knowing boardings per train hour (and also passenger-miles per boarding for further detail.)
So how about "incomplete, more info please".
WES would need to carry 5X as many passengers per train hour than MAX to have similar costs. On the other hand, WES only runs at peak hours and doesn't run comparatively empty off-peak trains. But 5X difference due to peak-only service doesn't seem that easy to attain.
So the case may not be closed just yet, but it's not looking great for the defendant (WES).