A proposed development of a wooded watershed area in the Hayhurst neighborhood of Southwest Portland has many neighbors worried about a long list of what they see as avoidable problems associated with the plan.
The 2.3-acre, privately-owned lot at the center of the controversy currently has one home on it: a 90-year-old, single-family dwelling in the north corner. The rest of the site is old-growth woods and wetland.
But Everett Custom Homes has proposed replacing the trees with 11 single-family homes. As part of the plan, the developer also would connect a break in Southwest Pendleton Street, add sidewalks to that street and pave the dead-end section of Southwest 48th Avenue on the southern part of the planned development.
Those plans worry the Hayhurst Neighborhood Association, which says the current woods on the lot serve to absorb and direct excess storm water. The group also has concerns about what increased traffic on Southwest Pendleton Street will do to the safety of the current "safe route to school" on adjacent 48th Avenue, which gives kids and families pedestrian access to Hayhurst Elementary.
Janet Hawkins, chair of the HNA, says that connecting Southwest Pendleton will push more traffic onto the relatively quiet Southwest 48th, which has no sidewalk.
"We're concerned about the potential for disruption," Hawkins said. "Southwest 48th is just not built for that amount of cars coming through the neighborhood."
"We have looked at many different layouts," wrote Vic Remmers, owner and president of Everett Custom Homes, in an email to the Connection. "The one we ended up with meets what the City of Portland is requiring. The connectivity of the two Pendleton roads really drove the final design."
Hawkins also is concerned about the potential loss of trees, although Everett has proposed planting new trees within the area it will be leveling for the homes.
Everett does not intend to build on a piece of the lot that the City has designated as an Environmental Conservation overlay zone, a heavily wooded wetland area on the southwestern section of the site. However, according to the Bureau of Development Services' staff report on the plan, five native and three non-native trees will be removed within the zone to accommodate right-of-way improvements required by the Bureau of Transportation.
The site, which has a noticeable slope, would be graded to level the topography and could be raised by as much as 17 feet in some places. Currently, drainage on the site flows from east to west along the slope.
What about the water?
Representatives from the Hayhurst Neighborhood Association, as well as individual neighbors, relayed their opposition to the current plan to the City at a public hearing held on March 8. Among their concerns: Everett's plans to deal with storm water runoff.
At the hearing, BDS staff explained that a majority of the storm water from the developed site would be directed to planters on lots or in the street that will be connected to storm sewer drains. Everett's proposal also includes improvements to a strip of Southwest 48th that's currently unpaved gravel and not maintained by the City. BDS says that other proposed changes, like sloping the street to the east, will direct runoff to a new public storm water management facility on the east side of Southwest 48th.
Everett also plans to redirect Southwest Pendleton storm water from gutters and planters to a culvert underneath Southwest 48th. But Randi Sachs, who lives directly across from the site on Southwest 48th and is leading a "Save Pendleton Creek Woods" contingent, says her backyard already floods due to drainage issues coming off the adjacent lot.
At the March 8 hearing, she said that some of her neighbors on Southwest 48th could have even more flooding issues if the development redirects storm water to the street and through culverts of varying sizes.
"The culvert that is proposed to be replaced would be 36 inches in diameter," Sachs said. "The culvert that picks up immediately after that, which is about 15 feet downstream, is only 18 inches in diameter."
Sachs noted that a BDS memo sent out in December stated that the property owner downstream of the culvert should be prepared to expect flooding in his/her driveway.
"We as neighbors find that to be unacceptable," she said.
Another water-related problem was also revealed at the March 8 hearing. The Bureau of Environmental Services said that while a majority of active streams flow within the delineated wetland, it had found one outside the designated Environmental Conservation zone. Because of that, BES couldn't approve the entire plan.
"We are investigating the spring," Remmers wrote to The Connection. "We do not believe it meets the definition of a spring, but we are doing further research and survey work to confirm the location and if it is a spring. This is a very minor issue, because even if this ends up being a spring we will put that spring into a 'tract' and that is allowed."
The neighborhood association's final major concern is that the lot lies in a Potential Landslide Hazard area.
In December 2016, residents of Colonial Manor Apartments at 4334 S.W. Fairvale Drive — just a half mile northeast of the proposed development — were evacuated after a landslide that had been linked to heavy rain and nearby construction made it unsafe to live in the apartment complex.
But in a report that cited Everett's assessment of the landslide hazard, BDS concluded the site is "stable and suitable for development and that the proposed grading will not adversely impact the stability of the site."
At the March 8 hearing, the HNA submitted a proposed alteration to the development, which reduced the number of lots to six instead of 11.
"The Hayhurst Neighborhood Association is not opposed to development on the site in question, but is strongly opposed to the development in question," Susan King, who co-chairs HNA's land-use committee, said at the hearing.
King called the proposed storm water management plan "inconsistent and insufficient" and said the association isn't convinced that Everett has exhausted all other options for development on the site.
"The burden of proof is a responsibility of the applicant and that burden cannot be satisfied simply by the statement that lower-impact options are impossible," King said.
After the hearing, Sachs said she did not feel representatives for the City were looking to come to a compromise.
"It did feel to us that the City was not neutral," she said. "It felt like the City was more on the side of the developer, and was looking to push this through."
The lot has not been sold to Everett Custom Homes yet. A hearings officer for the City, Joe Turner, will be reviewing the BDS findings as well as comments from the neighbors, the applicant and the HNA. He can then approve or reject the development plan.
"We are really excited about the opportunity to build some new homes in a great neighborhood," Remmers said.