Land Use and Transportation in Sunnyside and Beyond!

4738 SE Belmont St. Update. Following their presentation at the October 8th SNA meeting, the architect of the proposed multi-family development at 4738 SE Belmont provide notes with responses to the attendees’ questions.  A selection of comments and the Architect’s responses follows:

 The fence along the perimeter of the site appears a bit industrial in design. We will take a closer look at designs to make this fence more residential in nature and to provide plantings at the fence along 48th. These plantings will also assist in screening the rear of the building from the street.

There is concern about the height relationship and visual screening between this structure and the single-family home to the south. We have offered to work with the resident of this home to design the landscaping buffer to best suite them.

How will the existing building be disposed during demolition? There are currently no plans to take special actions to divert from landfills. All demolition and disposal of building materials will be in accordance with state, federal and local codes.

Will an elevator be provided? An elevator is not proposed for this development.

There is concern about bike security on the site given bicycle theft is an issue in the area. All bike parking will be located within locked gates or within the building in a bicycle parking room. Since this discussion, we have also added a video monitoring system that will cover all parked bicycles.

Incorporating two- and three-bedroom units would be welcome in the project, particularly to promote tenant retention in the neighborhood as families grow and require more space. This is an excellent point; however, the unit mix will remain as studios and one-bedrooms for this project.

SNA Safety & Livability Update

At the November SNA meeting we discussed the ongoing crisis on Oak Street by Laurelhurst Park, deciding that we need to ask the city what their plans are for services to the camp. At this point there is a discussion of a sweep rather than an effort to provide assistance and sanitation. While the City claims there is a public health issue with the manner in which people are living, the CDC is crystal clear on not moving people regardless of ability to social distance. The City secondarily claims a “verified nexus of criminal activity.”

We proposed getting a written commitment from the City of their intention to do a deep clean, allowing people to return. The City has been doing that throughout COVID19. We believe that the City’s messaging isn’t successful enough in making it clear how these sweeps benefit the houseless campers in Laurelhurst Park.

My personal perspective is that if there’s criminal activity, then the Portland police should do law enforcement and leave the rest of the camp alone. The logic behind the “sweep because crime” narrative baffles me. Using this logic, if I went on a crime spree the city, in the form of its various agencies, would show up, and rather than arrest me they would evict not only me but all my neighbors and bulldoze our building. The loss of human life is unacceptable and the enormous expense has to outweigh the cost of law enforcement. If this is because of the “catch and release” program alleged to be happening at the County level, then we need to start addressing that.

We discussed the existence of disconnected “information silos” being an issue between city agencies, NAs, residents, activists, and service providers. A motion was unanimously approved for the following action items:

  • Liaise with the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association to understand their plan of action and feelings, and
  • Reach out to the City to ask for a mediator to begin a conversation with campers and surrounding neighbors

We welcomed Vahid Brown, a founder of Agape Village ( and Hazelnut Grove, whose expertise and experience with managed service providers and shelters is invaluable. We continued discussing various possibilities including sanctioned tent camps, parking spaces for community members who are vehicle camping, more permanent structures such as tiny houses, and services. Vahid noted that there was a statement released by the Village Coalition ( underscoring the harmfulness of sweeps.

We are working to have the Sunnyside Methodist Church Emergency Warming Shelter available for freezing nights, and we discussed how to get an inspection. The church can provide 10 beds and has lists of potential volunteers. For a properly managed service, the shelter would need two volunteers per shift; there would be two to three shifts of four to six hours each. Emergency shelters usually operate from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

At our November 17th Safety and Livability meeting we welcomed a member of HUCIRP (Homelessness/Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program) to get some answers and learn what policies are in effect during the COVID19 pandemic.

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Vahid Brown

As one of the founders of Hazelnut Grove, the houseless village at N. Interstate and N. Greeley, Vahid Brown knows a thing or two about advocating for Portland’s houseless population. For the past five years, he has worked as the Housing Policy Coordinator for Clackamas County’s Department of Health, Housing & Human Services. Recently, he has transitioned into a role leading the Clackamas implementation team for funds raised by Metro Measure 26-210. The measure, which passed by a sizable margin in May, is expected to raise $250 million a year for homeless services in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties. “It’s the largest per capita investment in homeless services the U.S. has ever seen,” Brown says.

How long have you lived in Sunnyside? Since the beginning of the year. I was in Raleigh Hills before this and I did not like living in outer Southwest. There were no sidewalks where I lived! No coffee shops! If my partner and I wanted to eat a vegan brunch, we’d come to Southeast.

Do you rent or own? Rent. I have a friend who told me the other side of the duplex he lives in was vacating.  

What do you love about Sunnyside—besides the vegan brunches? I love the walkability and the trees. It’s been a balm during COVID to walk so much. 

What’s one thing you would love to see change about Sunnyside?  I’m already seeing it: making the folks experiencing homelessness more welcome and having their needs better served. I was introduced to the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association’s Community Safety & Livability committee recently and I was happy to see they are working on this. 

Many housed Portlanders think that all we need to solve the homeless “problem” are more shelters. Can you explain why this may be shortsighted? While it does make sense to invest in expanding access to shelters, it should be a place where they can be for more than one night and where they can keep their things—a shelter that will allow them to stabilize. While an emergency shelter that’s a night out of the cold is a necessary intervention to save lives, it’s not the be-all-end-all. We also need alternative outdoor shelters and accommodations with community, with friends, and with family. There are some people experiencing homelessness who are seriously traumatized and are choosing their community where they live—people who they trust and feel safe with. They may have a mistrust of government systems and homeless services. A shelter may not seem a safe option to them.

There’s something that we’re missing. If someone gets a long term rental assistance voucher and moves into an apartment, it’s not uncommon that their street community will come over, hang out, use the shower. These are communities. We have to grapple with ways to treat them as communities.

Emergency Preparedness and the SNA Board

Save the date for the virtual SNA Board meeting on January 14, 2021, 7–8:30 p.m. 

Part of this meeting will be dedicated to SNA Board members’ sharing their preparedness efforts. I will be moderating this meeting and I will ask board members to share where they are on the preparedness continuum. Also, other members of the Sunnyside NET (Neighborhood Emergency Team) will attend. If time allows, other Sunnyside residents may share their preparedness efforts. I hope that you will be there.

November SNA Notes and December Plans

At the November Sunnyside Neighborhood Association’s General Meeting we hosted Oregon House Representative Rob Nosse. Rob not only won reelection but he will be the House Majority Whip in the upcoming House session. He briefly presented his thoughts about the election and expectations for legislation, then he fielded questions. Some key points in the discussion were:

  • Democrats are likely to emerge with supermajorities in both the Oregon House and Senate, enabling them to pass legislation increasing services during the pandemic.
  • Contrary to controversies that make news, Republicans and Democrats in the Oregon House agree 90 percent of the time. They can work together if shown mutual respect.
  • The Oregon legislature is keenly aware of the concerns about forest fires and will make that problem a priority.
  • Many tax increases, for example on beer or breweries, face strong headwinds.

SNA also heard from TJ Browning, Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association Safety Chair, about the camp in Laurelhurst Park and LNA’s recommendations on houselessness to the city. The LNA recommendations largely align with the Community First Strategy to Address Houselessness in Portland which can be found on the SNA website at SNA voted to endorse the Community First Strategy and to encourage SE Uplift ( and other Neighborhood Associations to join in that endorsement. At the risk of oversimplification, there seems to be broad agreement that the current policies are not working, that we need short, medium, and long term solutions, and that the cost of these solutions is less than the cost of inaction. Specific plans, especially in cooperation with LNA, will be discussed at SNA’s General Meeting on December 10th. Stay safe.