Monday, February 16, 2015

Reservoir debrief - HLC hearing #4, Decision

The Decision
At the fourth and final hearing before the Historic Landmarks Commission February 9th, the volunteer Commissioners continued to push for protections for Tabor’s historic resources.  A revised Staff Report was presented by BDS, with a new Approval Condition to mandate historic-preservation work for the reservoir structures.  While the language of this Approval Condition was not as specific (and therefore, not as easily enforceable) as we’d like it to be, its inclusion was a significant win.

A seventh commissioner joined the proceedings for the first time, and as it was immediately clear she would break the tie-vote in favor of an approval, the no-voters worked to strengthen the proposed Approval Conditions so as to afford the best protections available within this approval.  The Commission approved the Water Bureau application with significant Approval Conditions, you can see that decision here:  (the Approval Conditions are summarized on pages 30-31). 

Documentary filmmaker Brad Yazzolino offers his footage of the hearing here:

While we have won significant improvements to this construction plan, the Approval Conditions in this decision do have two significant flaws.

1) A massive factual error, caused by BDS.  As the Commissioners tried to pen stronger Approval Conditions on the fly at the hearing, they asked BDS employee Hillary Adam to clarify what the record stated were the historic fill levels for these reservoirs.  Without referencing the actual case record, Adam incorrectly and inappropriately answered from memory that fill levels were between 50% and 75%.  In fact, the December 23, 2014 letter from Portland Water Bureau to the Historic Landmarks Commission specifically answers this question, it is Exhibit H-51 in the case record, and on page 3 this letter states the historic fill levels are between 65% and 85%. 

As the Historic Landmarks Commissioners clearly intended to include accurate historic fill-levels in their Approval Condition, and as the record provides the accurate data point, MTNA immediately raised this mistake with the Hearings Clerk at the hearing, citing the exhibit number.  The Hearings Clerk carried the error to the BDS employee running the hearing, Tim Heron, and he refused to bring the mistake forward to the floor.  MTNA again addressed the mistake with these BDS employees at the close of the hearing, and again in writing within a few hours of the hearing.  MTNA also alerted the Landmarks Commissioners to this mistake, and the Chair initially responded with confidence that the error could be corrected because their intention to quote accurate historic fill levels was clear.  Yet, the official decision was published 4 days later with the significant fill-level error.  This error should have, and could have been corrected by now. 

2) It’s missing quantifiable metrics.  The language in the Approval Criteria could be more specific, such that compliance was easy to verify.  We are concerned that the existing language will lead to future compliance and enforcement disputes.

Is it over yet?
Nope.  Your water bureau, funded by you, in service to your community, directed by a Commissioner you elected, opposes mandates to care for Tabor’s historic resources, even those mandates set forth by Portland’s respected Historic Landmarks Commissioners.  We are disheartened to report that there is a high likelihood the Portland Water Bureau will file an appeal to have those mandates overturned.  BUT, the decision to appeal is one the Water Bureau will make in concert with the Commissioner in charge = Nick Fish.  And Commissioners are politicians, and politicians notice when the community calls in.

You can help NOW!
We need 1,000 phone calls or emails to Nick Fish’s office between now and February 27th.  Have everyone in your house make a separate call!  Tell Nick Fish to direct the Portland Water Bureau to accept the Landmarks Commission decision from February 9th – “Do not appeal!”  Spread the word widely about this call campaign, and track progress by logging your calls here:                

Nick Fish’s office: 503-823-3589

And while you are at it, call Amanda Fritz’s office and urge her staff to fix the mistake BDS staff Hillary Adam made at the hearing on February 9th, which resulted in a factual error in the Approval Condition, regarding historic fill levels.  “Fix the fill numbers!” 

Amanda Fritz’s office: 503-823-3008

The reservoirs need your financial support!
While the volunteers at MTNA would prefer not to litigate this case through an appeal, we are committed to doing what is necessary to protect water as an essential feature for the Tabor site, and to secure preservation work and planning for Tabor’s historic resources.  If Portland Water Bureau continues to reject their duties as stewards of the public’s historic resources, and they appeal the HLC decision, we will enter an expensive appeal process.  Additionally, if we can’t get corrected through less-litigious means, that significant error BDS staffers made in the Approval Condition language (regarding the historic fill-levels of Tabor’s reservoirs), then we may have to litigate the point.  And, it is likely that the community will have to litigate to get any of the mandates enforced going forward.  It is time to raise money.  Send a check of any size, it’s tax-deductible!

Make checks payable to “SE Uplift” and include “MTNA-reservoirs” in the memo line . 
Mail checks to:
SE Uplift
3534 SE Main St.
Portland, OR 97214

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