Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Question of Security

There is an overabundance of homes for sale across the country. Our building is not different.  Today there were 14 realtors’ lockboxes hanging in their designated area representing 14 units for sale. Consequently, there frequently are open houses conducted by realtors.

Today, like many other days, there was an open house. Multiple signs outside the building described the 2-bedroom and 2-bath unit and directed visitors to see it. Taped boldly to our entry gate was a sign describing how to gain entrance to the building. Access code for our digital entry system was displayed along with specific entry instructions. There was no realtor stationed by the gate to screen or assist visitors; no security officer was standing by.

"PRESS 004 - Walk thru gate, turn left . . . "

Is this a security problem?

Phantom Services

We pounded the pavement once again in search of Clean & Safe services. In spite of the rain and chill today, we spotted two separate Portland Mall Management, Inc., employees on the job. The first was on 6th Avenue and Columbia Street (surprisingly close to home) and the second was on Alder Street between 6th and Park Avenues. Between those two sightings we spotted a Portland police officer with his bicycle. He was on 6th Avenue near Taylor Street.

There was the usual flow of activity around the downtown area and a record number of clean and safe type of sightings. Once again we failed to spot any workers from the Clean & Safe team.

As downtown condo owners, we pay extra fees specifically for Clean & Safe services. With so much duplication of service, and the others quite visible, shouldn’t we use phantom dollars to pay for phantom services?

Portland Police and Portland Mall Management on the job. Where is Clean & Safe?

On Target

Word leaked out last September that Target Corp. was looking at downtown Portland for a new store location. Today OregonLive.com reported that this dream is coming closer to fruition. New documents including proposed images and more specifics have been submitted to the city for consideration.

The Galleria at SW 10th Avenue and Alder Street appears to be the prime candidate for the new Target store.

From the A to red dot (due south) - just a walk or streetcar ride.

From A to red dot (due south) - just a walk or streetcar ride.

Proposed new Target store.

Where Are You?

Although this blog is still in its infancy, readership has grown steadily. It is always fun to take a look at where readers come from. Today’s readers came from:

Thank you for stopping by!

He Said What?

The member of the Clean & Safe board of directors representing 10 condominiums in the Clean & Safe district spoke before the City Council on Wednesday, April 20, 2011. His goal was to put before the council his reasons for consideration of expansion of the current Clean & Safe district to include more condominiums on the west side of the South Park Blocks. He spoke uninterrupted for about eight minutes* and then presented five photos for the council and the world to see. Two of the photos captured graffiti on the exterior walls of two neighborhood churches. Three photos were of “homeless people standing or sitting in the strip of sidewalk where the city allows them to sit,” explained The Portland Mercury weekly newspaper and affirmed later in the meeting by Councilwoman Amanda Fritz. The speaker explained the last photo as being  “probably the best picture … this is the view from the living room of a resident of the Eliot tower and … this is what he has to look at virtually every day.”

City Councilwoman Fritz asked, “What is the problem in the photograph we’re looking at?”

The speaker responded by describing the sights and sounds that homeless people make. The Portland Mercury online in its blog was stunned by his words. They commented in their blog later that day that the speaker “eventually got frighteningly honest about his vision for downtown security: ‘The fact that someone with a sidearm shows up and does some gentle nudging, it’s very effective.’”

Here is a thought, Mr. Speaker – Instead of nudging homeless people with sidearm-carrying security officers, how about working toward helping these people find their way back to productive lives.

City Council Meeting – April 20, 2011. Our speaker is 2nd from right at the speaker’s table.

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*City Council video is 251 minutes long. The above speaker begins at minute 58:00. He introduces the photos at about minute 65:30.

Cleaner & Safer – Followup

A new day. We zigzaged our way once again through our neighborhood and onward through the core retail district. There we came upon a uniformed Clean & Safe employee. He was actively on the job. I asked him if I could take a picture of him for this blog and he said, “Most definitely.”

On the job across from Nordstrom at Morrison and SW Park Avenues.

We thanked him and walked on. I glanced back and lo and behold, our charming and diligent street cleaner was not from Clean & Safe after all! He, like the others, is from Portland Mall Management, Inc.

Portland Mall Management, Inc., at work.

 And so far, still no sign of any security officers.

Cleaner and Safer

 

Services are augmented in our busy downtown to attract business, tourists, and activities. Enter Clean & Safe, an organization managed by the Portland Business Alliance (the Chamber of Commerce), developed 20 years ago to enhance services to the downtown core district – with its own cleaning crews, street ambassadors, and patrol officers. Two years ago, the condos in the area were forced to contribute to the Clean & Safe program. Initially our board of directors actively opposed the new fees. When inclusion seemed imminent, they began chanting “remapping” and “economies of scale” and with that, suddenly they were in favor of our participation.

The Portland Business Alliance won out. Our condo now pays $17,000 annually for these business services – fees that are passed down to owners. We were promised increased security and the presence of cleaning crews to keep our immediate area free of debris and graffiti. Businesses were already paying for these services, so these added services were actually already in place. To date, I have not seen even one employee of the Clean & Safe program within at least a 5-block radius of our building – except for the lone patrolman who was the guest speaker at one board meeting.

Currently there is consideration to expand the Clean & Safe district to include an adjacent, largely residential, area, including more condominiums, and they, too, are opposed. As reported in OregonLive.com on April 21, 2011, “Jim Werner, the head of the Benson Tower homeowners’ association, said his membership this week voted 100 percent against the expansion — not because residents oppose the Clean and Safe District but because ‘you’re coming at us with a cookie-cutter approach. We are different. The whole area is different. When you go away from the downtown retail core, the model you have wouldn’t work for us at all.’” On target, Mr. Werner!

We have been walking the downtown streets of the Clean & Safe district looking to spot the cleaning crews, the patrolmen, the ambassadors. We even thought we spotted several in the past few days, always within a radius of just a few blocks of Pioneer Courthouse Square, never in our immediate neighborhood. But wait! The cleaning carts we saw were labeled “Portland Mall Management, Inc.” Did Clean & Safe change its name?

Unattended PMMI cleaning cart at Morrison and SW 10th Avenue.

Just a few blocks away, another unattended PMMI cleaning cart.

It turns out Portland Mall Management, Inc. (PMMI), provides its own cleaning crews and patrol officers. They cover a smaller area but within the Clean & Safe boundaries.  They, too, receive funds from the Portland Business Alliance, which actually coordinates both groups in the overlapping area. Will PMMI soon be demanding our money also?

Our HOA pays Pacific Patrol to  provide security services to our building and we display a large sign to that effect. We also pay for janitorial services that include keeping the premises clean and tidy inside and out. Pacific Patrol, Clean & Safe, Portland Mall Management, Inc., and Portland Police Bureau (city police) – they are all protecting us, apparently out of sight. With so many services, we must be cleaner and safer.

Wi-Fi

     Wi-Fi is now available in the community room.

I tried it.

It works.

A Tall Order

Condo ownership makes living easier. By pooling our resources and sharing our responsibilities, many chores are undertaken by the association. One such chore is window washing. Previously, as homeowners of single family houses, we washed our windows ourselves or paid a service to do so. Here, in Condoland, all windows are washed regularly. It is something for which owners do not have to arrange or write checks. Owners do not have to climb ladders or get drenched in filthy water. Instead, we make better use of our time now being cerebral – discussing how often is enough and does a northern exposure have different needs than a southern exposure (or the eastern or western exposures).

Washing windows is an event that must be planned and coordinated, and carried out while causing the least possible disruption to residents. It requires manpower, machinery, and equipment. Today we witnessed two window washers working as a team. They controlled pedestrian and street traffic on the ground and were at ease with a balancing act up high. And yes, they cleaned the windows.

Photobucket

On the ground.

High Above.

Teamwork.

 My windows have never been cleaner. I can relax and enjoy the view.

Civil Disagreement

Tonight’s board meeting promised to be lively. On the agenda was one hot topic: redecorating the common areas. There were some strong opinions waiting to give voice and the higher than usual number of attendees gave proof to the excitement even before the meeting commenced.

The chairman introduced the differing opinions by noting for the record those expressed on the web forum, by email, and in conversations around the building. Several people volunteered to speak on the subject. It was clear that opinions were primarily divided between owners who were planning on staying put and those that were either trying to sell their units or were trying to just sell units (realtors). Nevertheless, opinions were well stated and although there was disagreement, it was all done with respect. Not one voice was raised or angered. It was actually a pleasure to hear people disagree. Only intelligent and sound arguments were offered. Although nothing was resolved, the door was certainly opened to more thought and conversation.

The meeting ended with a new proposal and the adoption of that proposal to introduce Wi-Fi to the community room and its surrounding area. That small addition to the premises brings our building into the 21st century. As it turned out, the cost would be nominal (under $150) and even that was avoided when one unit owner offered to donate a router. Finally a new addition that adds to our marketability, does not cost much (if anything), and is welcomed by residents and hopeful sellers at the same time.

Every Vote Counts

Election day is approaching. We have five members on our board of directors. Each is elected for a two-year term. They have staggered terms, so one year two seats are up for election, and the next year three seats are up for election. Annual elections take place every May.

Election day is a big event. There are lots of rules governing the process. A quorum is required by bylaws at an annual meeting of the homeowners association.  To ensure a quorum, absentee ballots are distributed and are collected by mail or in person sometime before the meeting. Once a quorum is established and verified, a vote will take place. If there are empty seats on the board and no contenders (or too few contenders), the membership will be subjected to a lot of begging and pleading and finally long lectures until volunteers step forward.

Election day is only weeks away. As of this writing, I do not know how many seats are up for grabs, who is running for those seats, when the election will take place, or where. However, some of this information is available (not the when or where), pending a little digging and probing. Nevertheless anything pertaining to annual elections has not yet been put before the membership.

Campaign promises that could sway my vote:

  1. HOA fees slashed by at least 25%.
  2. Free Wi-Fi.
  3. Discount admission to area attractions.
  4. Homeowner of the month award – Prize: HOA fee waived x 1 month.
  5. Moonstruck chocolate delivered to every door weekly.

I look forward to an active campaign season.

Duck and Cover

Do you remember the shelter drills of the 1950’s and early 1960’s? The Cold War with its threats of nuclear attack prompted shelter drills in schools to prepare and protect children from the effects of nuclear attack. While the children ducked and covered their heads at the sound of alarms, grownups were busy planning and creating fallout shelters.

Fallout shelters were built to create a safe environment from nuclear fallout and radioactivity. They were often built in basements or subbasements and were stocked with food and supplies for such emergencies. High-ranking government officials had very elaborate shelters built for them.

Fallout shelters were marked with signs. Some can still be found today. We found this fallout shelter just a few blocks from our condo. It is at The University Club at SW 6th Avenue. I wonder if it is still stocked with the original emergency supplies.

On the brick wall

Sign is affixed to the brick wall above its basement entrance.

Fallout shelter sign

Fallout shelter sign - a closer look

After the recent massive earthquake and tsunami and subsequent strong aftershocks that have devastated Japan, three of their nuclear reactors have been in peril. They continue to leak radiation. I know where there is a nearby fallout shelter. I hope it is big enough to hold all of us.

Time Out

We have heard the shouts of “marketability” being of great importance to our condo. It is a word used loudest and most often by one member of our board of directors. Such chants become a mantra.
 

As it stands, new carpeting and paint is budgeted for 2012 in the amount of $160,000. Needed or not, the board of directors and the arts, interior, and exterior committee (a married couple, by the way) are moving full steam ahead. Owners have spoken up at HOA meetings, stating that paint and carpeting are not yet needed. Those words fall on deaf ears. Today another owner spoke out against premature redecorating, this time on our condo web forum (which sadly remains grossly unused/unread). In the meantime, time (and money?) is being spent in consultation with several different professional decorators.

Marketability appears to be the personal concern of that same board member. It has become known that he is preparing to rent out his unit. It is a very tough condo sales market right now and selling might take too long. Selling, however, might be easier, if the whole building were freshly painted and carpeted.

Time Out!

Certainly, owners would agree that our building must be properly maintained. Everything must be kept in good repair and aesthetics is important, as well. As we approach the earliest allowable building redecoration, there are more whispers and more concerns expressed. Like the referee at a football game, only one voice calls the play.

Hub of Excitement

Life in the heart of a busy downtown often brings excitement to our doorstep. Parades, rallies, and protests are frequent events. The college campus next door contributes to the calendar of events.

Today’s announcement of a protest comes by email from our community management team:

“The Portland Police Bureau has information that there will be an “Anti-Police” Protest this Thursday, April 7th starting at 7pm in the South Park Blocks—at SW Park and Yamhill Streets.  As with any protest, it is possible that acts of vandalism to both public and private property may occur as well as disruption to vehicular traffic.  Please have your security staff on alert and prepared to secure your property.   It is also helpful if you can remove outdoor garbage containers, planters, landscape rocks or other types of outdoor fixtures that could be used to aid in vandalizing your property.  In the past these types of protest events have targeted financial institutions as well as large corporate retail stores.   Please be on the lookout for groups of young adults who may appear to be planning to commit criminal acts.  If you have any information or see large groups of young adults gathering on April 7th—please notify Sgt. Jim Dakin at 503-793-8237.”

Never a dull moment.

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

The online calendar has been updated.

April looks to be a busy month.

 

 

  

Spring? Hello, Spring?

Spring, where are you? You let sprout your daffodils’ stalks two months ago, teasing us with early spring. Then came only more winter, more rain. March set two weather records: outdoor temperatures never hitting 60 degrees and rain 29 of 31 days.

It’s the 3rd day of April. Our daily walk was under cloudy skies and temperature in the 40’s. Deciduous trees and shrubs stand naked although now with the first tiny green buds emerging – on close and careful inspection. The daffodils whose stalks stand tall still have no blooms.

Our courtyard has had no nursery-grown winter flowers planted this year. Now, well into spring (so says the calendar), no colorful spring flowers brighten the space. The honeysuckle, however, has permeated the air with its sweet smell and the azaleas show their new color but next to shrubs that look more like bundles of twigs.

Spring, I think you are winking at us. When you get here, please stay awhile.