Be logical about Linnton
MY VIEW • Critique of 'village' proposal was misguided
ome points in your June 9 editorial concerning the future of the Linnton waterfront (Keep riverfront working for all) illustrate a reliance on alarmist rhetoric that has come to characterize the case made in opposition to a mixed-use village there.
For starters, the Portland Planning Commission did not vote specifically 'to recommend to the City Council that more than 400 housing units and a mixture of retail and business uses be allowed,' as stated in the editorial. Instead, it voted to recommend changing the Comprehensive Plan designation so that the Linnton waterfront would be removed from the industrial sanctuary.
That change would allow housing if the current industrial zoning were to be changed via a formal request on the part of a landowner and subsequent approval in the form of a quasi-judicial decision. Until then, industrial uses still would be allowed.
This points to another important fact not often mentioned by the industrial protection advocates, namely that the site has been for sale since 2001. If the site is indeed the heavy industrial utopia that the Working Waterfront Coalition and others would have us believe, why has the land not been purchased? (There has been one offer for the site that was turned down by the board of directors of the Linnton Plywood Association, a cooperative composed of about 150 former millworkers. That offer entailed turning the property into a bio-diesel plant. Another offer by developer Homer Williams fell through because of zoning issues, but Williams said he would still be interested if the zoning was changed to allow a mixed-use development.)
Even if the waterfront coalition doesn't have specific plans for it, why not pool its collective resources and purchase the Linnton Plywood site, which would preserve its strictly industrial character for the foreseeable future and effectively render the entire debate immaterial?
The likely answer is that this is nothing more than a symbolic dispute in which the coalition has little to nothing to lose. Why not use scare tactics in light of the highly politicized backdrop against which the City Council decision will ultimately unfold? Relinquishing a mere 35 acres of isolated and prohibitively narrow industrial land will not mean that 'waterfront-based jobs will go to other states,' as your editorial contends. The slippery slope argument against 'chipping away at the working Willamette riverfront' upon which this logic relies is tenuous at best. The fate of the Linnton waterfront is not a bellwether for the future of industry in Portland, but rather a minor policy decision whose effects will ultimately be unfelt by those outside of the immediate vicinity.
Linnton has made more than its fair share of sacrifices through the years in the name of the common good. This unique, resolute neighborhood does not need more lip service in the form of 'a mandate to discover alternative ways to revitalize' itself. It needs the city to make good on a broken promise.
Aaron Breakstone lives in Northeast Portland.
Northwest Oregon Conference