Friday, August 14, 2009

Good housing intentions go bad in Hillsdale

The Housing Authority of Portland (HAP) is throwing itself headlong into a public housing project that's a good idea gone bad.

The good idea is creating new affordable and public housing in Hillsdale. The agency is applying to the feds to get about half the money needed to build it.

Here’s where the idea goes of the tracks. The agency wants the public housing, a "new" Hillsdale Terrace, in the same, obscure, hard-to-access gully where the old, smaller and decaying Hillsdale Terrace is now.

Why there? The project manager says the site is so bad that the Housing Authority can’t sell it.

I've suggested in The Hillsdale News that the highest and best use for the old real estate might be as a city-owned dog run. A swap with the parks bureau, which has assigned Hillsdale Park to the dogs, offers an obvious solution. Build the new housing in the park, which is behind Robert Gray Middle School, and direct the dogs and their owners to a new "Hillsdale Gulch" park.

Right now, a new complex on the existing site is estimated to cost $44.5 million for roughly 120 apartment units. I assume the cost estimate includes housing the present tenants of 63 units elsewhere for 18 months while their old, moldy, crumbling home is being demolished and replaced by one nearly twice as large.

If my calculator doesn't fail me, this approach will cost $367,000 per new apartment unit.

In this depressed real estate market, you could buy a pretty attractive house and lot for that.

Meanwhile the new high-rise South Waterfront properties have plenty of vacant apartments begging for buyers at that price.

Alas, at this point, a November 17 federal grant application deadline and bureaucratic myopia are driving the project.

Still, there's still a chance to put forward reasonable and more affordable alternatives.

HAP is holding a meeting on the project next Tuesday, August 18, at 5:30 p.m. at the Hillsdale Terrace community room. That’s at 6775 SW 26th. The entrance is across the street from the Mittleman Jewish Community Center.

Once you are down in the gully, you will see why the place has great promise as a dog run. The Hillsdale Terrace complex is to the right.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A friend who speaks my mind

Quakers have a brief way of supporting the words of others.

They simply state, "That Friend speaks my mind."

A (lower-case) friend of mine, John Frohnmayer, has spoken my mind in the current issue of Oregon Humanities magazine. His essay, titled "Beyond Individualism," is on the web HERE.

John, who was a fraternity brother of mine in the Sixties, lays out the perils of today's unbridled American capitalism.

Frohnmayer was chair the National Endowment for the Arts under George H.W. Bush and was fired under pressure from the Republican right wing. His brother, David, is the immediate past president of the University of Oregon.

Last year John ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent, a la Wayne Morse, before he dropped out of the race for lack of money. He also threatened to be a “spoiler” in a very close contest between then challenger (and now Senator) Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, and then Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican.

Although John ran "to the Left" of Merkley, his essay in this summer's issue of Oregon Humanities goes far beyond anything I recall him saying during his brief campaign.

Here’s an excerpt:

I have come to believe that capitalism, if it continues in its present form, will destroy us. It will destroy us physically because the earth cannot withstand present levels of consumption, let alone expansion. Just think of the carbon load when India and China have as many cars as we do.

Capitalism will destroy us economically because it makes a virtue of the vice of greed. The resulting wealth inequality causes social unrest, famine, health crises, terrorism, and insecurities throughout the world. Adam Smith's invisible hand is giving us a single-digit gesture.

The philosophy of unfettered self-interest is incompatible with justice, compassion, and, indeed, with freedom. And capitalism will destroy us spiritually because the accumulation of stuff does not make us happy. All we get from accumulating stuff is the insatiable craving for more stuff, most of which ends up in the landfill….

The first rule of economics is that everything is connected to everything else, so if we are to bumble our way out of this mess, we have to consider a few more values like equality, spiritual happiness, community, and pluralism. The preamble of the Constitution purports to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, and promote the general welfare, so shouldn't our economic policy have some relationship to these goals?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

August Garden

Where pointing and shooting always works—Portland's Japanese Garden.

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