Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SW 12th & Spring Garden

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Our next adventure takes us to SW Portland's South Burlingame neighborhood, to a little spot I ran across while poking around on PortlandMaps (Portland's public GIS system), as one does. SW Spring Garden St. generally adheres to the normal city street grid, but it jogs south a bit to intersect SW Taylors Ferry Rd., and this forms a little triangle of land, too small to build on: Two sides of the triangle are somehow both named Spring Garden St., and the third side is formed by SW 12th Avenue right of way, although 12th is just a gravel path and a few steps here. It turns out the city owns this little parcel, specifically the Bureau of Environmental Services, the sewer and stormwater agency. I didn't see anything sewer-related, so I imagine it may have something to do with water quality. Somewhere nearby is the beginning of a small side creek that eventually flows into Tryon Creek at Marshall Park. That's my guess, anyway.

Back in 2008, the local neighborhood newsletter had a few mentions of local neighbors wanting to do a project here and clean up the place. I don't know the exact details on what this was about because the articles are paywalled, both the original newsletter and the copies uploaded to Docstoc. It didn't seem like a sufficiently good reason to open my wallet, so I don't know all the details, but in 2009 the city's Office of Neighborhood Involvement awarded a small grant to clean up the place:

South Burlingame Neighborhood Outreach and Improvement ($1,775): A clean up of Southwest 12th and Spring Garden for beautification and safety purposes. Following cleanup, a safety sign will be placed in the area. Funds will also be used to support a National Night Out community event in Burlingame Park.

I imagine the sunflowers here are due to neighborhood volunteers, midnight guerrilla gardeners, or possibly birds, just on the basis that I don't think the city usually goes for annual garden plants when they landscape an area.

When I showed up to look around, I was surprised to see sidewalks along Spring Garden (including our triangle here) and elsewhere in the neighborhood. It turns out this is a very recent development. Many streets in SW Portland were built without sidewalks, for a variety of reasons. Partly cost, partly walking being out of fashion in the mid-20th century, and partly due to big chunks of the SW hills being outside city limits when roads were built. The absence of sidewalks has been a major complaint of local residents for decades, and the city has a (very) long-term goal of retrofitting them in wherever possible.

Last year the city finally got around to SW Spring Garden, or at least the north side of the street, and they added sidewalks along a long stretch of the road, including here. A project map for the Taylors Ferry to 17th segment shows the triangle here as public greenspace. Detailed plans for the project go into a bit more detail, with various diagrams of the triangle on pages 16, 20, 42, 65, 71, and 78. It gives an idea of how much planning and how many steps are involved in something as seemingly simple as building a new sidewalk. One of the diagrams instructs crews to preserve pieces of the previous stairs in the SW 12th right of way. Detailed planning docs focus on the "how" and not the "why", so it isn't clear whether these stairs were old and historic, or whether city workers were just gathering it up pieces of concrete to recycle. Maybe there's a history article that would clear this up, just waiting behind a paywall. I rather doubt it though.

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