POD Village Proposal Update as Vote Nears

We are now less than a week away from the neighborhood vote on the POD Village Proposal at the General Meeting, but somehow new developments keep emerging.

If you haven’t already heard, the KNA was informed this week that Transition Projects, Inc. (TPI) has signed a letter of intent with the Portland Development Commission (PDC) to build an innovative affordable housing project at 2221 N Argyle St—the same site of the POD Village Proposal. The board of the PDC will vote to finalize the agreement next week.

Confused? Let’s unpack this situation.

First off, these are two different projects. They are not connected and would not be happening at the same time. The POD Village, assuming it moves forward, would occur for one year and then TPI, assuming they get funding, would develop the land after the village has left the site.

The PDC, who owns the property, has always slated this site for a capital improvement project, and TPI had signaled intentions to development the site in the past before the POD Village Proposal existed. However, while the KNA had knowledge of TPI looking at the site previously, the KNA was unaware of any new negotiations/activities between TPI and the PDC since the advent of the POD Village Proposal until now.

Either way, it’s been clear since the POD Village Proposal was brought forth that it would be a temporary pilot project only assured a year of using the PDC’s land.

So what does this all mean?

The POD Village Proposal stands as is. Nothing has changed about the proposal, and project organizers have told the KNA that they are confident the POD Village can exist within TPI’s timeline.

As for the TPI project, it presents a long-term vision for 2221 N Argyle St that shouldn’t be conflated with the POD Village Proposal. TPI wants to develop an actual permitted housing complex at the site, not establish an expanded POD Village 2.0.

TPI has 18 months to secure the funding for their project. If they get the funding, their project goes forward with shovels in the ground in 2018. Although it could certainly have an impact in one’s decision-making, the TPI project is not up for a vote on March 8th and don’t expect it to ever be. Holding a neighborhood vote on a proposal is extremely unprecedented; we should all remember that the POD Village Proposal is a very unique situation.

Finally, the following is the press release and rendering from TPI on their project:

Low-Income Single Adult Housing (LISAH) Project Overview

Transition Projects is pleased to serve as sponsor and developer of the proposed Low-Income Single Adult Housing (LISAH) project to be located at 2221 N Argyle Street in the Kenton neighborhood of North Portland. LISAH will provide 72 units of affordable, permanent housing for individuals who are transitioning from, or are at risk of, homelessness. The project’s location will provide residents with good access to transport, commercial, and recreational offerings – all of which are essential elements of successful housing for low-income, formerly homeless, residents.

LISAH is comprised of 72 studios and single-room occupancy (SRO) units. The SRO units are designed in ‘pods’ of six units that share a common kitchen and bathrooms. The site design includes three small buildings of two pods each, for a total of 36 SRO units.  The studios, manager’s unit, and a large community room are in a separate three-story elevator building. All the units at LISAH will be affordable to persons earning no more than 60% Area Median Income (AMI).

Based upon a cohousing model and employing a modular system of prefabricated units, LISAH is designed to: reduce upfront and operating costs; make optimal use of available land; promote a sense of community among residents; and provide a replicable model of cost-effective housing to serve low-income individuals across Oregon. Transition Projects has received very welcome support from Meyer Memorial Trust’s Innovations in Affordable Housing Initiative to support the development of LISAH. Assuming the required funding can be secured, Transition Projects hopes to break ground on the Argyle site during 2018.

Neighborhood Survey 

Thanks to everyone that took part in our survey on the POD Village Proposal; we have had over 500 people chime in, and the data has been very insightful in evaluating how well the KNA has been in informing and educating neighbors as well as gauging concerns and opinions on the proposal in the neighborhood.

In general, the survey points to neighbors (1) either just hearing about the proposal or having known about it for over a month; (2) having concerns in multiple areas with safety/security and oversight/accountability being the most common; (3) evenly being split in favor and unsure/opposed of the proposal.

If you would like to review the data in more detail, please head here.

General Meeting

We have received many questions from neighbors about the General Meeting and the voting process, so let’s try to clear those up.

A person must be physically present at some point during the meeting (6-8pm) to obtain a ballot and then cast their vote. In order to get a ballot, a person must meet eligibility requirements under the bylaws (18 and over and lives, leases, rents and/or owns any real property within Kenton) and sign in with their name and address.

The ballots go in a ballot box and the KNA Board counts them. We hope to announce the results right around the end of the meeting.

What about alternative voting options? Not possible and probably not practical. The KNA bylaws aren’t designed for mail-in voting or anything like that. They are designed for neighbors to show up to a General Meeting and vote.

If our bylaws were different, it would take some considerable planning and thought to potentially expand the KNA’s voting system; we couldn’t just throw that together. And even then, it ultimately might not be a practical option for a volunteer organization like the KNA to take on.

I know that’s not what many neighbors want to hear, but we are also being put in a very unique situation here with this proposal: The organizers are letting us make a deciding vote on it. That just doesn’t happen. I can’t emphasize that enough. We are in uncharted territory for a neighborhood association.

As for the event, I’m expecting it to be a little wild with a significant turnout, lots of media and elected officials like the Mayor himself. More details can be found here.

Ballot Language

The particular ballot language will be as follows: Does the General Membership of the Kenton Neighborhood Association support the POD Village Proposal under the following stipulations:

-The project will be a one-year pilot endeavor at the Portland Development Commission’s (PDC) land at 2221 N Argyle St. for up to 14 homeless female-identified people to each house a micro-housing sleeping pod on a transitional basis in a village-style community with oversight and ongoing support from Catholic Charities.

-The project will not delay and/or interfere with any future development of the site under the PDC and their partners and will ensure that a comprehensive strategy is in place to transition off the site at the project’s conclusion.

-The project will operate within all applicable laws, regulations and rules.

-The project will not move forward without a Good Neighbor Agreement that is agreed to by all parties determined applicable by the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, including the Board of the Kenton Neighborhood Association.

-The project will operate under the support of the City of Portland Mayor and the Multnomah County Chair.

Updates on the POD Village Proposal

Leading up to the vote next week, we unfortunately don’t have any new or additional documentation to share. Any documentation we do have is here.

The Good Neighbor Agreement remains unfinished. The Office of Neighborhood Involvement, who is organizing the process, had trouble getting a response from some of the stakeholders, but with the vote coming soon and the pressure mounting to get something put together, work has finally been scheduled on it in the next few days. However, I wouldn’t expect it to be approved by the KNA before the meeting.

Final Thoughts

Various neighbors have asked if the KNA Board would be making a recommendation to the general membership on the proposal. That’s unlikely. The board intends to remain neutral on the project to ensure that its activities in educating and engaging neighbors on the proposal are as objective as possible. I can say that the proposal does have significant support under the POD Village Committee from neighbors on that committee that are not also members of the KNA Board.

Of course, neighbors have also wondered what happens if the proposal is voted down. I can’t completely say, but I can that as a neighborhood association, the voice of the general membership will be respected. As well, the reality is that the proposal could go forward regardless of how the neighborhood vote goes.

To all the neighbors that volunteered their time on this proposal, your passion and desire for our neighborhood encourages and aspires all of us to make Kenton a better place. I particularly want to reach out to the committee members that worked on the POD Village Proposal and offer my thanks. This group of neighbors went above and beyond to evaluate and offer feedback on the proposal.

Please feel to contact us for any questions, comments, concerns, etc. Otherwise, we’ll see you at the General Meeting.

Tyler Roppe

KNA Chair

 

 

 

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