Chain fails good-neighbor test
A new McDonald's, as currently proposed, definitely would not be a good thing for the Eliot neighborhood. The proposal is for a two-lane drive-through restaurant, extending 200 feet into a historic residential neighborhood.
This proposal would cause traffic issues that would change the area forever. The plans put both the entrances and exits on the residential streets of North Cook and Ivy streets, directly across from housing. There is no traffic signal at either street, making it all but impossible for traffic to easily get to and from Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
A huge portion of the 1,500 cars per day will find it easier to drive through the neighborhood's residential streets than trying to turn left on MLK without a traffic signal. Some of the area business leaders have endorsed the project contingent upon traffic impact mitigation, yet McDonald's has refused to even acknowledge cut-through traffic patterns, and it has refused to provide any mitigation measures whatsoever.
When you consider the odor, litter and noise of the drive-through squawk box operating from sunrise until midnight (possibly even 24 hours), it becomes clear why residents are opposed to this project.
Even more important than the nuisances mentioned above is the overall redevelopment of MLK Boulevard. After many years of decay and neglect, plans to revitalize our inner-city neighborhoods were enacted with the efforts and support of the residents, the businesses and the city. These plans called for development that would enhance the urban experience and create an environment that would be pedestrian-friendly and higher density, with a community-oriented Main Street worthy of the title 'The Soul of Portland.'
Those plans are working. In recent years, high-quality, mixed-use developments have drastically improved this area.
The proposed architectural plans do not respect those goals at all. They are nothing more than a minor variation on their suburban model, dedicating 80 percent of their land to parking and drive-through facilities. The plans are not compliant with the zoning code for the area, and they have requested multiple exemptions for things such as pedestrian walkways and bicycle parking (on a site bigger than a downtown city block, they could not find room for a couple of bike racks!).
McDonald's has tried to portray the opposition to this project as 'just a few activists.' In the surrounding area, we found that more than 70 percent of the residents (both newcomers and old-timers, people of all ages and ethnicities) strongly opposed, and less than 10 percent supported the project. This was confirmed when residents of the area sent in more than 800 written comments opposing the plan to the city's planning review office.
McDonald's supporters are using the argument, 'But this will provide jobs.' Yes, it will create a few (low-wage) jobs, but at what cost? A strip club, a guns 'n' ammo store, even a nuclear waste facility all would create jobs, but does that mean they would be a benefit to the community? (Even neighbors who generally like McDonald's are opposed. If they want a Big Mac or a part-time job, they are perfectly willing to go the Weidler store, less than a mile away.)
The larger issue here is whether Portland is serious about its land-use planning and its stated goal to preserve urban livability by encouraging development that will enhance the surrounding community. This proposed development fails that test at every level.
That's not surprising because the goals for this development do not have anything to do with the community. This project is aimed at taking the money from the cars passing by and sending it back to the corporate headquarters in Chicago, $3.99 at a time.
David Jahns is a resident of the Eliot neighborhood.