Whether or not you supported his policies and cozy ties with developers, Jim Francesconi always added an air of drama to city council meetings. Beyond his endless—and endlessly fun—battle with City Commissioner Erik Sten, Francesconi would light up a council session with unexpected outbursts of annoyed, weirdly impassioned speech. One minute, he'd be speaking in a calm, measured tone, then—without warning—jump into a loud, shrill voice that would continue on until he was finished talking!! His speaking style carried over into his failed bid for mayor, during which multiple observers wondered, "Why doesn't his campaign manager tell him he's scaring the shit out of voters?"
At any rate, it's been almost two years since his daily presence at city hall has been felt. So it was with sheer delight (on my part) to discover that Francesconi had been making the rounds at city hall leading up to council's vote on the controversial Allegro condo project in downtown's Goose Hollow neighborhood. The former commissioner was representing property owners adjacent to the project who wanted to see the developers scale back their plans. (I know—Francesconi siding against big developers? Weird.)
And during his testimony on their behalf in front of city council, he didn't disappoint. He started talking about floor-to-area -ratio transfers, density bonuses, etc., and then, as soon as he eyed the new Allegro plans, which hadn't yet been shown to anyone, Francesconi simply lost his shit.
Even more weirdly, council actually sided with Francesconi. Led by Dan Saltzman (who many see as the New Francesconi, although that's hardly fair), the mayor and commissioners voted to deny the condo project and its attempts to increase density by transferring building rights from a location three blocks away. Instead, Saltzman proposed that the developers come back with a smaller, less-dense proposal that might include feedback from the neighboring owners—exactly what Francesconi asked for.
For his part, Commissioner Randy Leonard took to the blogosphere to defend his anti-Allegro vote, telling our very own Blog Town, PDX that his objection was to developers buying airspace rights from other properties. Plus, he said, "I have no interest in promoting the interests of only the most wealthy in the community at the expense of the Goose Hollow neighborhood's approved plan without ANY counterbalancing benefit to the larger community."
Check the ongoing debate at portlandmercury.com/blogtown.
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