City council may have taken off for a week (or more, depending on who you ask), but hot city action was still lurking around every corner.
For instance! The Portland Development Commission released yet another appraisal of the embattled SW 3rd and Oak property, which it wants to develop into "market rate" housing—AKA condos for rich white people.
Currently, the property is a 10,000 square foot hole in the ground. In 2005, the PDC commissioned an appraisal that came back at a negative $2.7 million. (Wow! Negative millions of dollars! I'll take it!) The agency then wanted to give the property to Trammel Crow Development—for free—to turn into something called "Oak Tower."
But when Commissioner Randy Leonard caught wind of the deal, he started poking his little firefighter nose around, demanding to know how, exactly, a piece of property in a prime downtown location could be worth less than zero dollars. So he commissioned an audit, and the PDC agreed to another appraisal.
This one, conducted by Day Appraisal, curiously shows the property valued at a positive $1.12 million. Here's where it gets tricky: Along with the hole in the ground comes a shitty lease agreement signed by the previous owners. The new developer—whoever it is—will have to build a basement parking garage and then lease it to the neighboring parking business, Pine Street Parking, for 90 years. Plus! They'll have to pay Pine Street Parking rent for spaces that are unusable during construction.
What developer in their right mind would sign up for such a craptastic land deal? No one, apparently, which is why some—including Leonard—think PDC had to cook the books in order to give it a negative value. With no public subsidy required to get the project going, the developer wouldn't have to abide by the city and state's pesky rules, like paying prevailing wage and providing housing for the poor. That's what we call a win-lose situation.
The new appraisal kills that deal, but Leonard is still pissed.
"I am disappointed that they somehow think the issue is over what the property is appraised at. It is not," he said, while on vacation. "The issue is a culture at PDC that is clearly overly comfortable with the developers who benefit from the PDC's lack of clarity about who it is they really represent."
"Until the PDC gets that they are to deal in a transparent, open, and thoughtful manner when doling out the public's money and resources," he added, "they can get appraisals until the cows come home and I will not be satisfied."