ashland.news
July 23, 2024

Viewpoint: A closer look at the Grand Terrace proposal

The site plan for the Grand Terrace project off Highway 99 just north of Ashland.
August 21, 2023

Rogue Advocates member says Ashland.news missed some points in latest story on the proposed housing project and cites ‘the systematic coddling of developers’ by the city

By Craig Anderson

Regarding the Aug. 16 article “Ashland Planning Commission approves Grand Terrace development for the third time”:

Thank you for covering this important issue. Your reporter did a good job summarizing some of the complex legal issues involved. However, there were a few inaccuracies that could use clarification.

First, the Planning Commission was not asked to “approve (the annexation) for a third time” at its Aug. 8 meeting. Rather, as a result of the Land Use Board of Appeals’ (LUBA’s) May 2023 remand, the City of Ashland must respond to two specific legal issues in order for its December 2022 approval to be affirmed. If the City of Ashland isn’t able to successfully respond to the two issues, the approval will be reversed, necessitating a third application to come before the Planning Commission and the council.

Of the two issues remanded back to the city, one requires the city to explain how, given Ashland’s minimum square footage requirements for affordable one-bedroom and studio units of 500 and 350 square feet, respectively, the city approved 499- and 250-square foot units. Although the 1-square-foot difference (499 versus 500) for one-bedroom units is certainly negligible, the 100-square-foot difference (250 versus 350) for studio units is definitely not.

Your article mentioned only the one-bedroom units. The Grand Terrace application materials indicate that 30 of the 38 affordable units would be studio units. So, based on the city’s approval, nearly 80% of affordable housing occupants would be crammed into substandard 250-square-foot apartments in the bottom floor of a three-story building that’s dug into the side of a hill, permitting daylight to only one side of the studio units.

In contrast, the two upper floors — designated for “luxury” market-rate occupancy — would be above ground, with balconies facing Grizzly Peak to the east and views of mountains to the west. This type of “ghettoization” of affordable units was prohibited by our code up until immediately before the city’s first approval of Grand Terrace in December 2020.

Other changes — including reducing the number of required affordable units, altering System Development Charge payment terms, and lowering the review standards for bicycle and pedestrian safety — were similarly approved by the council in order to make things easier, and less costly, for Grand Terrace’s developer.

Which brings us to the main point overlooked in your article: The systematic coddling of developers by the City of Ashland to the point of ignoring affordable housing requirements as well as basic public safety issues, as exemplified by LUBA’s reversal and remand of two separate approvals. Ashland’s housing needs are well-defined. “Luxury” market-rate and substandard “affordable” apartments — as proposed by the developer of Grand Terrace — don’t begin to address those needs, particularly given the extreme difficulty of ingress and egress on a 45-mph stretch of highway with poor visibility.

Why are we rewriting — and ignoring — our laws in an effort to approve something that doesn’t meet our needs?

Craig Anderson is a former transportation and land use planner and member of Rogue Advocates.

Ashland.news welcomes Viewpoint submissions of 500-700 words. Viewpoints may be emailed to betling@ashland.news or submitted through the “Article Submission Form” link at the bottom right corner of the home page. Please include your name and city of residence with your Viewpoint (which will be published) and, in case we have a question, your contact information (which won’t be published unless you say it’s OK).

Picture of Jim

Jim


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