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June 8th, 2011 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: PPS Property Problem

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Portland Public Schools owns so many vacant properties—why don’t they sell some off? Or at least lease them out to raise funds for the repairs and upgrades that they seek?

—Cynthia V.

Ah, Cynthia, you poor, sweet, naive creature. You remind me of a child asking why Daddy can’t just drive to Heaven and bring Grandma back home in a garbage bag. 

If only it were that simple. Here’s the problem: the Portland Public Schools properties are, by definition, public. That means we all have a say in what happens to them. And just as soon as we bring every local business group, neighborhood association, and land-use-planning board into perfect agreement about exactly how to dispose of these sites, we are totally gonna do what you just suggested. Or something else just as cool!

Take Washington High, for example. Closed to students in 1981, this plum parcel on Southeast 12th Avenue and Stark Street was designated as “surplus” by PPS in 2002, and it seems like there’s been a community meeting about what to do with it once a month ever since, with no real end in sight. 

Sell it to developers? Too commercial! Make it a community center? Too expensive! Turn it into an adult-themed amusement park where you can get artisan hand jobs while riding in a hot-air balloon shaped like a giant boob? Too…um...OK, no one’s proposed that last one except me, but I still think it’d be pretty boss.

In the grand scheme of things, the powers that be are doing what you suggest. They’re just doing it so slowly as to be undetectable on human time scales. It’s like this one time when I was super baked, and I was like, “Dude, what if the universe exploded?” And my friend was all, “Dude: It is exploding!” Whoa.

 
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