What kind of town are we?

I’ve been watching from the sidelines for a year and a half now, and feel compelled to write this letter.
 
One of the hardest things to witness has been the public opposition and appeals to Morrison Park rezone for affordable housing.
 
A friend recently observed that in Hood River we seem to value trees first, dogs second and people somewhere down the list. It’s laughable and heartbreaking at the same time.
 
Years ago, the council adopted the concept that “if you work here, you should be able to live here.”
 
This does not mean “if you can’t afford Hood River, move to The Dalles, Bingen or White Salmon.” This means that a complete, healthy community includes housing for all income levels, because all income levels support and make Hood River what it is. And this piece of paradise requires people of a strata of incomes to support the lifestyle residents have become accustomed to. 
 
As a community, we do not have to say it’s just too expensive to live here. We can and should say: What do we need to do to be inclusive?  There have to be some trade-offs to include those who keep this town whole (i.e. teachers, nurses, store clerks, baristas, people growing our food,  house cleaning services, landscaping services, workers at Tofurky, Ryan Juice, Hood River Distillers, Hood Tech, Luhr Jensen, and all the others). They are the backbone of our community and deserve to live here. 
 
So why is the Morrison Park Rezone for affordable housing so important for this community?
 
 The need is service worker housing is acute. For every 100 families with extremely low incomes, there are only 34 affordable units available.  That’s a deficit of 295 units to meet the need in Hood River (Oregon Housing Alliance). 
 
 The city is giving this land to Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation to develop 65 rent restricted apartments.  Given the price of land in Hood River, housing for residents with lower incomes (our service workers), housing cannot be built without the land donation or dramatically reduced cost. 
 
 Based on the conditions of approval of the zone change, only 2.78 acres of the 5-plus-acre property can be developed as affordable housing. That leaves the remaining 3 acres (the approximate size of Jackson Park) for park uses. That’s all.
 
 Since 1990, the city has not rezoned any existing open space designated land, but they did rezone the Hook, Waterfront Park, the Event Site, the Spit and about 21 acres of land on the east side of town down to the Hood River to allow for Open Space and Recreation. The city has been very supportive of open space and recreation. Please think about that.
 
However, there is no free land. The option of the state maintenance parcel on Cascade is not free. It requires finding a new parcel and paying for the relocation. The City/County Public Works yards require finding new parcels and paying for the relocation.
 
 Through all the years of appeals, no private developer, landowner, or citizen has stepped up and offered a piece of residential land nor are private developers building enough housing to assist in meeting the demand.
Please — let’s  be an inclusive community and let Morrison Park move forward.
 
 
Cindy Walbridge served as City of Hood River Planning Director from 1990-2017.

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(3) comments

gorgeres12

"Years ago, the council adopted the concept that “if you work here, you should be able to live here.” Really? When and by what Resolution?? This is a baseless assertion without a scintilla of factual support. Assuming for the sake of argument that any city council ever said anything of the kind, it has zero effect unless and until it is codified. There is no right (legal or otherwise) to live where you work. In point of fact, tens of millions of people in this country do not live in the cities where they work. Put simply, affordable housing should not come at the price of parks for the residents of Hood River.

gorgeres12

"Years ago, the council adopted the concept that “if you work here, you should be able to live here.” Really? When and by what Resolution?? This is a baseless assertion without a scintilla of factual support. Assuming for the sake of argument that any city council ever said anything of the kind, it has zero effect unless and until it is codified. There is no right (legal or otherwise) to live where you work. In pointe of fact, tens of millions of people in this country do not live in the cities where they work. Put simply, affordable housing should not come at the price of parks for the residents of Hood River.

gorgeres12

"Years ago, the council adopted the concept that “if you work here, you should be able to live here.” Really? When and by what Resolution?? This is a baseless assertion without a scintilla of factual support. Assuming for the sake of argument that any city council ever said anything of the kind, it has zero effect unless and until it is codified; there is no right (legal or otherwise) to live where you work. In pointe of fact, tens of millions of people in this country do not live in the cities where they work. Put simply, affordable housing should not come at the price of parks for the residents of Hood River.

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