Killian Pacific, a Vancouver, Wash.,-based developer, is quietly attempting to rezone an acre of Northwest District property from residential to commercial.
The company is seeking to slip the changes in as “code reconciliation and map refinement projects” to the citywide Comprehensive Plan Update, which is being fine-tuned after approval by City Council.
The Northwest District Association Planning Committee suspects the company of using a backdoor route to avoid the full scrutiny and substantial expense of orthodox zone change requests.
The property is in three parcels, all involving commercial buildings in residential zones. The largest of the three contains the five-story 25th & Lovejoy Medical Building, which connects to a garage facing Marshall Street.
The second, occupied by the one-story Lovejoy Surgicenter, is across the street from the larger medical building.
The third is a 50×100-foot lot behind Pottery Barn at Northwest 23rd and Everett that is used as accessory parking for the store.
Property owners are permitted to continue nonconforming uses but cannot expand them without zone changes. The zoning requested would allow construction of larger commercial buildings and the introduction of retail uses.
The proposed changes were presented to the neighborhood committee by Joan Fredrickson of the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability. Fredrickson, while conceding that changing the zoning map in this manner would bypass stricter standards, said reconsideration of the parcels was requested by one or more members of City Council.
Neighborhood representatives were critical of the whole idea.
Committee member Greg Theisen said allowing commercial uses to creep into residential areas harms the neighborhood. Michael Harrison agreed, saying “the residential character of the neighborhood is constantly being assaulted.”
Theisen was particularly bothered by the lot behind Pottery Barn, where part of a house has been used as an office to legalize the parking.
“Why should we do this for someone who got away with something before?” he asked.
NWDA President Karen Karlsson offered a frank assessment of the request gaining neighborhood support: “No way in hell.”
Local developer and former Portland Planning Commission chair Rick Michaelson said the path sought by Killian Pacific could provide enormous benefits to the company. He described the normal zone change process as involving “months and months and tens of thousands of dollars. The Bureau of Development Services fee itself is $30,000. Even then, it is extremely difficult to meet the approval criteria.”
Adam Tyler, vice president of development for Killian Pacific, said the company has no plans for the properties other than mechanical and perhaps exterior upgrades. As to the possibility of substantial redevelopment, “You’re looking further down the road than we are.”
Tyler said he was not aware of the advantages inherent in changing zoning through the code reconciliation process.