Land Use Leadership Initiative Tours Southwest Corridor

Andrew Riley
Tue, 10/25/2016 - 10:00am

On Saturday, October 8th, 1000 Friends of Oregon's Land Use Leadership Initiative (LULI) began a 9-month training program with a tour of the Southwest Corridor area in the Portland metro region. Located between southwest Portland and Sherwood along Highway 99W and Interstate 5, the Southwest Corridor area is expected to experience explosive population and employment growth over the next 20 years. At the same time, the area’s transportation network is already at capacity, which leads to a fundamental question which our LULIs will explore between now and June:

Where will the tens of thousands of new residents in the Southwest Corridor live, work, play, and pray, and how will they get where they need to go?

What is LULI? And why focus on the Southwest Corridor?

Since 2012, 1000 Friends of Oregon has hosted approximately 20 community leaders and advocates each year for a ten-month training, designed to give participants a foundation in of land-use planning and advocacy. We also focus on bolstering participants’ knowledge of public policy, including affordable & accessible housing, access to transportation & transit, equitable community development, and meaningful public engagement. Our goal is twofold: we want to increase the number of advocates for responsible land-use in our communities, and diversify the chorus of voices advocating around land-use issues.

For our 2016-17 program, we’re fortunate to partner with Metro, the agency responsible for coordinating land-use planning in the Portland region. As part of that partnership, our cohort will focus its attention on the Southwest Corridor Project over the course of the program. By doing so, we not only allow our LULIs to focus in concretely on how land-use planning and advocacy operate in the real world, but also help provide feedback for Metro on various facets of the plan and the process.

Stop 1: King City

We left the Tigard Library and drove west-southwest on Highway 99W, also known as SW Pacific Highway in Tigard. Our first stop was King City, a community with a unique history and facing some uniquely-challenging development pressures.

King City was founded in 1966 as an age-restricted community under the federal Fair Housing Act; originally, long-term residents had to be over the age of 50, later changed to age 55. The King City Civic Association is the governing body which administers the age-restricted part of the community. Historically, that was all of King City; in the last few years, however, there’s been non-age-restricted development in the southwest portion of the city, sometimes called “New King City.”

In August 2016, King City’s City Manager wrote to Metro’s Urban Growth Readiness Task Force, requesting that Metro allow King City to develop its large urban reserves to the west and southwest of the city, along the border with Tigard. This is because, by 2018, King City expects that there will no longer be land suitable for development within its Urban Growth Boundary. Although admitting that they’ve historically taken an “isolationist” view of the greater Portland metropolitan area, the city increasingly views itself in a regional context as it grows.

Passing through Durham

The next leg of our tour involved a trip through the City of Durham. Like King City, Durham has had a unique history. It first developed as an unincorporated community adjacent to Albert Alonzo Durham’s sawmill and flour mill, which drew on nearby Fanno Creek. In 1908, the Oregon Electric Railroad began serving the area, connecting it to the region’s broader railway network.

Durham incorporated – that is, officially became a city – in 1966, which was a defensive move designed to prevent industrial development in the area. Durham is proud of its semi-rural character, and its zoning code is unique in maintaining it: although the city allows residential, light industrial, and office/commercial properties, it does not allow retail establishments within the city. Additionally, Durham has a strong tree code, which is meant to maintain the semi-forested nature of the area.

Stop 2: Tualatin and Bridgeport Village

After passing through Durham, the LULIs stopped at Bridgeport Village mall in Tualatin, the proposed end of the proposed MAX line under consideration. Formerly a rock quarry, Bridgeport Village is one of the region’s major employment and retail centers; it was constructed in the early 2000s, opening in May 2005.

Alice Cannon, Assistant City Manager for Tualatin, shared her perspective on opportunities and challenges facing her community. For one, Tualatin residents are challenged by the limited travel routes in and out of the city; every day, tens of thousands of Tualatin residents leave the city for work, while a similar number of works - particularly those at the Bridgeport Village mall - commute into the community. As Tualatin grows, commute times will only become longer, and a new MAX line would ease some of the pressure.

Beyond high-capacity transit, Tualatin is working to encourage more multifamily development in its core neighborhoods, particularly those with existing access to transit via the Tualatin Park & Ride facility. Making more rental homes available in centrally-located areas will allow more of the City's workforce to live near their places of employment, which in turns reduces some of the congestion on the area's already-overloaded highway network.

The Final Leg: Tigard and the Tigard Triangle

Finally, we passed through two parts of Tigard, the Tigard Triangle and the Tigard City Center.

The Tigard Triangle describes the area between Highway 99W to the north, I-5 to the east, and Highway 217 to the west. Unlike the rest of Tigard, the Triangle is designed as an auto-oriented mix of residential, retail, commercial, and industrial uses. Home to a number of large retailers (e.g. WinCo, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot), the Triangle is likely to see a significant amount of attention, new development, and redevelopment as a result of the Southwest Corridor project.

Tigard’s Central City, by contrast, is a walkable small-business hub. In fact, the City of Tigard aspires to become the most walkable city in North America in the near future.

One major fear for Tigard is the risk of residential and commercial displacement. This happens in two ways: some amount of physical displacement happens when properties are acquired and demolished to actually construct light-rail. But the lion’s share is what we call economic displacement – when projects like the Southwest Corridor make cities more attractive and desirable locations, land values rise. Those rising land values make housing and commercial rents more expensive, generally drive up the cost of living, which is what we refer to as gentrification. That gentrification drives the displacement of people as they become unable to afford to live or operate a business in their neighborhoods.

Displacement is already happening in Tigard: a company called Trion Properties recently purchased the Walnut Tree Apartments on SW Greenburg Rd, now known at the Tigardville Apartments. Some tenants had been renting apartments for $600-$650/month; rents are now in the neighborhood of $1300/month, and the new property managers mass-evicted existing tenants to facilitate that increase. This phenomenon is likely to occur more frequently in the absence of plans to stabilize and support low-income renters.

Thanks to our partners

LULI represents the work of many, many folks, and this October session was the result of a number of partnerships which 1000 Friends is fortunate to be a part of.

Many thanks to Eryn Kehe and Brian Harper with Metro, who took time out of their Saturday to brief our LULIs on the ins and outs of the Southwest Corridor project and process, as well as participating in the bus tour.

Second, thanks also to the City of Tigard for hosting our members in the beautiful Tigard Library space on Saturday morning.

Finally, we're deeply grateful to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, the labor union representing public transit operators and maintenance workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington, including TriMet employees. ATU 757 graciously offered us the use of their bus and a talented driver, Volunteer Coordinator Linda Jauron-Mills, which ultimately made this tour possible.

Photo: WES at Station Sign Tigard by Aaron Hockley, Creative Commons; LULI 2016 Cohort at Bridgeport by Andrew Riley