Hey there, sweetie, lets make a deal

On the Town

As most people in the know will concede, city government has always been about leveraging real estate values and cutting sweetheart deals for favored developers.

So maybe what we're seeing now is just a refinement of that age-old governmental two-step - disguised, of course, in progressive, Earth-friendly rhetoric perfected by that former golden boy of Portland politics, Neil Goldschmidt.

Somehow, though, what's going on these days seems to be a step beyond the ordinary. It's almost as if the folks who run P-town, elected officials and bureaucrats alike, think they're in the real estate development business themselves.

Since I'm not exactly an expert in this sort of thing, I don't profess to understand what it all means. However, I'm sure there are any number of people out there, who, after reading this, will be able to fill in some blanks - and as they say in government circles, I welcome your input.

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What got me going on this was the city's ongoing efforts to shut down Cindy's Adult Book Store, which happens to sit on an extremely valuable piece of land in Old Town, near the corner of West Burnside Street and Fourth Avenue.

Cindy's co-owner Michael Wright says the city is using its fire-inspection process to force him to sell the property for less than it's worth. And whatever you may think of dirty-book salesmen like Wright, it's also true that fair is fair.

Last time the inspector came by, he found 30 code violations. The time before that, two.

Across the street from Cindy's is the old Grove Hotel. Not long ago, the owners of the Grove - faced with a similar onslaught of city code violations they couldn't afford to correct - sold their property to the Portland Housing Authority.

One of the owners, Morris Hasson, says they lost about $2 million or $3 million on the deal.

Well, you say, maybe the city just wanted to provide a nicer, safer place for the residents of the Grove? Not exactly.

As revealed in Tuesday's Portland Tribune, the plan is to bulldoze the hotel and put up a massive grocery store, to be owned by developer David Gold.

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And it's not just Old Town where these shenanigans are taking place.

Down by Portland State, in the vicinity of the new light-rail line, TriMet is trying to force the owner of an old house at 525 S.W. Jackson St. to sell his property for less than he says it's worth.

TriMet hasn't made an official offer yet to the building's owner, Randy Acker, who operates a law business there. However, documents obtained by Acker indicate that TriMet - which can seize property through eminent domain - wants to get the property for $400,000, which is less than Acker has invested in the place. And that doesn't begin to take into account how much the property will be worth with the new light-rail line.

Not that TriMet needs the property for its light-rail operation, you understand. This is a real estate deal, pure and simple.

Apparently, the folks over at TriMet have some sort of partnership agreement with Portland State - and Portland State wants to put up a huge 18-story dormitory on the site.

TriMet's own documents show that it plans to hand a $2 million profit on the sale of the block on to PSU.

I don't know about you, but something here smells a little fishy.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone, 503-546-5166, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..