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Bureau of Development Services DENIES Kurisu Development

The Kurisu family submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) for a four story mixed use building near the corner of Mississippi and Shaver. The BDS has denied their proposal.
In early August the Kurisu's submitted thier proposal to the BDS and I received it at my home. It took me awhile to find the words to respond to the proposal, but heres what i said:

"I am writing in opposition to this proposal. The approval criteria include:

Chapter 33.405.050 which states: The purpose of this section is to encourage the provision of well designed housing that is attractive and compatible with an areas established character.
* The established character of the Mississippi Conservation district includes 20-35ft streetcar era commercial building and turn-of-the-century single family homes. This ultra modern proposal is well out of the established character of the neighborhood.

Chapter 33.266.130.G.3 summarizes that parking lots with more than 10 spaces must have at least 45 square feet of landscaped space for each parking space.
* The Kurisu's made it a priority to separate their garden lot and their building lot when talking with neighbors and to the neighborhood. Now, when presenting this to the city, it is one big unit; I can only imagine that this is an attempt to subvert the requirements and obtain modifications that would be against the best interests of the community. A parking lot is still a parking lot, and since they are attempting to take public right of way for their parking lot, I would request that they adhere to this standard of landscaping.

Chapter 33.266.310.C summarizes that this building is required to have a loading space and are seeking a modification to remove that requirement.
* Alleyways are used as public loading spaces for the folks that are bound to them. This development is seeking to remove that right of way and clear access through the alley. They will also require loading spaces for their commercial properties, to lessen the burden on the surrounding neighbors I feel that this standard should be upheld. Loading on Mississippi near the intersection with Shaver is a traffic nightmare, this modification should not be granted.

I am also basing my opposition on the Community Design Guidelines listed:

* Community Design Guideline P2, which states "Enhance the identity of historic and conservation districts by incorporating site and building design that reinforce that areas historical significance."
- The ultra modern proposal does not incorporate any features that reinforce any historical significance.

* Community Design Guideline D4, which states "Locate parking in a manner that minimizes negative impacts on the community and its pedestrians."
- Mississippi Avenue is becoming a busier street, some peopl choose to use the alleyways for biking or walking to avoid the changes on Mississippi. By displacing an artery and removing the ability to freely traverse through the alley 24 hours a day this creates a large negative impact on the community, and especially the surrounding neighbors.

* Community Design Guideline D6, which states "Make additions compatible in scale, color, details, material proportion, and character with the existing building."
- Since the Kurisu's are including an Historic Streetcar Era building in their BDS proposal, I assume that this new building can be looked at as an addition to the old building and completely out of line with Guideline D6.

* Community Design Guideline D7 which states "Reduce the impact of development on established neighborhoods by incorporating elements of nearby, quality buildings, such as building details, massing, proportions, and materials."
- This neighborhood is well established and the elements of this proposed development look like they arent even from this planet, let alone any nearby quality buildings.

With this development missing the mark of so many Community Design Guidelines, I strongly recommend the Bureau of Development Services to deny this proposal."

When I came home from work today I had received the decision from the BDS: DENIED. They had received written correspondence from 21 folks, 18 were in support of the proposal (at least seven of which are developers/business owners) and three were in opposition. The Community Design Guidelines (.pdf) are a powerful tool. They are basically law, and developers in this conservation district must conform to them. With Community Design Guideline D7 the Mississippi Avenue Lofts was nearly halted. Heres how the BDS Staff interpreted the Kurisu Development:

Guidelines P1 - Plan Area Character, P2 - Historic Conservation Districts, D7 - Blending into the Neighborhood, E5 - Light, Wind and Rain: These Guidelines are not met.

Guidelines D8 - Interest, Quality and Composition, E1- Pedestrian Networks, E2 - Stopping PLaces, E3 - The Sidewalk level of Buildings, D1 - Outdoor Areas, D2 - Main Entrances, D3 - Landscape Features, D4 - Parking Areas and Garages, D5 - Crime Prevention: These Guidelines are met.

The Kurisu's also requested three modifications to Title 33: Portland Zoning Code:

  1. The applicants proposed parking does not include interior landscaping as a significant amount of perimeter landscaping with trees is intended to meet the purpose of this standard. 33.266.130.G.3.a: In all zones, interior landscaping must be provided for sites where there are more than 10 parking spaces on the entire site. At least 45 square feet of interior landscpaed area must be provided for each parking space. This modification was denied.
  2. The applicants proposed loading space is 24 feet in length and a modification to this standard is requested. 33.266.310.D: Size of loading spaces. Required loading spaces must be at least 35 feet long. 10 feet wide, and have a clearance of 13 feet. A minimum number of loading spaces are required to ensure adequate areas for loading for larger uses and developments. This modification was denied.
  3. The applicant proposes a back in/forward out loading area from N. Shaver St. 33.266.310.F: Forward Motion. Loading facilities must be designed so that vehicles enter and exit in a forward motion. This modification was denied.
The BDS Staff concluded: "While the proposal does meet some of the criteria necessary for Historic Design Review approval, there are significant compatability and design issues that prevent the applicat from meeting P1 Plan Area Character, P2 Historic and COnservation Districts and D7 Blending into the Neighborhood. As there is adequate site area available for the applicant to meet the development standards in 33.266 Parking and Loading and the applicant has not demonstrated how the proposal meets the approval criteria for modification of interior landscaping and loading, the requested modifications cannot be granted. Administrative Decision: Denial."

So, this is a huge victory for the neighbors around here. The Kurisu family has decided to appeal the decision of the BDS Staff, which will send this propoal to the Historical Landmarks Commission. The hearing will be on Monday October 9th, 1:30 pm. The location is 1900 SW 4th Avenue, on the second floor in room 2500a. I encourage folks to come to this hearing and testify.

some images 19.Sep.2006 17:27


some images i forgot.
from the front
from the front
from the back
from the back

more info 19.Sep.2006 18:51


first, the images above are speculative drawings from Holst architecture, the architects for the project.

upon further reading of the packet sent me by BDS, heres what else:

The Bureau of Environmental Services says: "Please be aware, it is the applicants responsibility to ensure Stormwater Management Manual requirements are met. A stormwater management facility may impact the design of this project. Until a stormwater management plan is submitted for review be BES and BDS, BES cannot recomment approval of this land use review.

THe Bureau of Transportation summarizes to say that they dont have any issue with the proposal. HOWEVER, since the Mississippi Corridor is a pedestrian district (which requires 12 ft sidewalks) they will sign off on the project if the Kurisu's will modify and relocate their building outside of this 2ft dedication. Basically, they will okay the project when the Kurisu's dedicate 2ft of their property to sidewalk.

The Kurisu's are also trying to vacate the alley so they can take over their portion of it for parking and possible greenspace. Until this is finalized BOT and the City Engineer cannot approve of this proposal. If the alley vacate is successful, it appears that BOT the City Engineer will approve of the parking space.

There is also a small portion about the loading zone from BOT, saying that they support the smaller loading zone with some improvements, unless the alley is not vacated, if the alley is not vacated they would want to see the loading zone in the alley.

Now, heres another part. The Kurisu's bought this with the intention of creating their "world headquarters" which is the reason they want to have a large japanese garden. They want to have thier offices in the back on the vacated alley so that their clients will have a direct view of their japanese garden work. They want to have water features.

in the packet it says that if they have water features that are more than 18 inches deep that they will be considered swimming pools and will require a four foot high fence three feet away from the outer edge of the pool. that wouldnt be very sightly. so i wonder what they will do?

Theres alot going on here and it seems that much of this is stacked against the Kurisu's. It seems futile of them to appeal the decision.

Next step? 19.Sep.2006 22:04


I commend bht for his skill and effectivness in addressing serious departures from city codes and Community Design Guidelines represented by Kurisu's design proposal for the Mississippi Ave neighborhood. Such things as skimping on parking lot landscape buffers, seeking to close the public thoroughfare alley, and seeking changes to loading are accomodations that might endanger public safety, definitely should be corrected before design approval.

Just speaking personally, and basing an opinion only on the renderings provided, I think this building's aesthetic design had merit, and might have been given some serious consideration as a newcomer to the neighborhood, even though it represents a dramatic departure from the context there. While the argument can be taken up that such a modern design may be too bold of a contextual departure next to neighboring vintage buildings, a certain variance in expression ought to be acceptable.

Maybe that's where Kurisu's design went wrong. Maybe their basic aesthetic design would have been more complementary if it had just been toned down a bit.

Nice work, bht 20.Sep.2006 07:15


You are an inspiration to the rest of us who are trying to keep some character in the places where we live. I will learn from your example, and fight more effectively from now on when some self-interested profiteer wants to come into my neighborhood and erect yet another 7-11, cheap ass mcmansion development, or mini mall. The only motive for building the shit people build anymore is their own profit. At least when they built things 100 years ago, they were built with pride in workmanship and built to last. Anymore, they are just crap designed by accountants and erected by disinterested assembly line cogs. Good work in fighting this. I'm with you.

a few more thoughts. 20.Sep.2006 21:48


Perhaps it's a good idea to note that at this point, unlike in the case of the Mississippi Avenue Lofts, approval of the Kurisu building design has not been halted by an appeal from the neighborhood, but by BDS through their own application of pertinent codes and guidelines, though articulately expressed comments from the public probably were not lost on members of BDS as they worked to arrive at their findings.

The more I study the two renderings of the Kurisu building design, the less I like the design, particularly for the intended location. Though the rendering of the front view hardly shows it, as I remember, the building is intended to sit directly west of the Mississippi Rising Ballroom.

All of the graceful balance and delicate detailing of the ballroom is overwhelmed by the taller, corporate monolithic styling of the Kurisu design. With neighboring residential homes, there would be no compatibility at all. Better to locate a building produced from such a design in an area that demands such an aggressive statement in order to focus attention on the building. In an industrial park surrounded by acres of ancillary buildings and parking lots comes to mind.

In fact, the back view rendering shows the design to be a jarring companion to what will probably be a splendid japanese garden. Why spoil this attribute with such an overwhelmingly bold design?

The reversed arch concept, if the designers were determined to retain it, could likely be employed in a design in a way that would meet Community Design Guidelines. Should be interesting to see what they come up with.