Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Lesson for Marin about the Growth without Planning for Basic Services

For a lesson in how Plan Bay Area might be implemented from the Mecca of “smart” growth, Portland (The Oregonian is the largest general-purpose newspaper in the Greater Portland area).

East Portland's housing explosion tied to city plan without basic services

Teresa Ascenzi, 58, lives on a half-acre flag lot in Portland's Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, right behind the home where she grew up. There was a time when the lot adjacent to her had horses and a huge vegetable garden. Now, she has nearly two-dozen homes and duplexes next door, and a four-story senior center looming in the distance. (Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)
Brad Schmidt | bschmidt@oregonian.comBy Brad Schmidt | 
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on December 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM, updated December 20, 2013 at 8:02 PM

For a glimpse of most everything that’s gone wrong in east Portland, step into Teresa Ascenzi’s backyard.
Just over the chain-link fence of her spacious half-acre lot loom nearly two-dozen houses and duplexes. Beyond those rooftops, a four-story senior center juts upward amid the Douglas firs that once helped distinguish Portland’s Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood as a decent place to live.

Broken Promises

Follow The Oregonian’s series on the future of east Portland, looking closely at promises not kept.
But we need your help. Do you live, work, study or own property east of 82nd Avenue? Tell us your story.
Her message to the city leaders who ushered in this unchecked, inescapable infill?
“They failed,” said Ascenzi, 58, who lives on a flag lot behind the house that her parents bought almost 45 years ago. “F-minus.”
Today, Powellhurst-Gilbert is the land of cheap, dense housing crammed into a community that still lacks basic public improvements such as paved streets, sidewalks and nearby parks.
The channeling of tightly packed homes into this formerly suburban landscape east of Interstate 205 was a deliberate choice made by city planners and elected officials nearly 20 years ago. Yet the failure to add services and amenities to support those newly urban neighborhoods stands as an oversight that borders on negligence.
In a city nationally renowned for smart urban planning, Powellhurst-Gilbert represents all that Portland leaders got wrong – and the legacy of problems that will haunt generations of residents for decades to come.
Seeking to protect farms and forests from sprawl, the Portland City Council in 1996 approved a sweeping blueprint for growth that directed 14,000 new houses, apartments and townhomes toward the city’s newly annexed eastern edge.
Planners under the watch of then-CommissionerCharlie Hales made wholesale zoning changes to push in higher density. East Portland went on to add more than its fair share of new homes while city leaders let affluent Southwest Portland, which staged a political firestorm against growth, shrug off its burden.

City leaders now admit mistakes after years of complaints from residents. East Portland grew too quickly and without the sidewalks, parks and transportation system bestowed on other high-growth areas such as the Pearl District, Portland’s utopian planning playground.
“I don’t think we would say it took more than its fair share,” said Eric Engstrom, a principal planner for the city. “I think we’d say, in retrospect, it took more than it should have.”
"Spiral of improvement"
The Outer Southeast Community Plan was supposed to make east Portland a better place.
Planners wanted to transform a 28-square-mile expanse that encompassed the streetcar neighborhoods of Lents, the 1950s subdivisions of Hazelwood, the tree-lined hillsides of Pleasant Valley and the partially developed farmland of Powellhurst-Gilbert.
They hoped to capitalize on the success of earlier community plans for the Central City and Albina by adding 50,000 new homes and 100,000 new residents citywide over two decades.
Because land within the Outer Southeast area made up almost one-fifth of the city’s total, officials figured it should welcome one-fifth of the new residents. They set targets of 20,000 newcomers, 14,000 new homes and 6,000 new jobs.

Expectations were lofty. Large lots would be divided into small blocks with cozy streetscapes. Roads would be paved, sidewalks built, trees planted, transit service improved, the entire area cleaner and safer, according to the “perfect vision” that accompanied the plan.
“This spiral of improvement is continuing into the future,” it read.
Growth was coming with or without changes. Planners projected about 9,000 new units over 20 years. But by rezoning the area for smaller yards and more multifamily projects, planners swelled those projections to 14,000 units, a 55 percent jump.
“We had all the best intentions,” said Paul Scarlett, a city planner who worked on the effort and now heads the Bureau of Development Services.

East Portland broken promises: Density floods neighborhoods, squeezes residents (video)In 1996, city officials steered development of 14,000 new homes, apartments and townhouses toward newly annexed land. Zoning decisions enabled where those dense projects could be built.

Powellhurst-Gilbert became the designated epicenter for the accelerated growth.
The neighborhood already had 6,250 homes. But planners saw the potential to add 3,600 more because of its deep, underdeveloped lots and roads with bus service, such as Southeast Division Street, Powell Boulevard and 122nd Avenue.
Planners blanketed the area with multi-family housing designations along key transit routes, enabling the construction of 22 to 65 units an acre. Planners stretched some of the tighter zoning five to six blocks on either side of major streets into neighborhoods.
At the same time, officials all but eliminated development of single-family homes on large lots, which for years dominated the landscape.
eastportlandhomes.jpgCity planners and elected officials approved a plan to increase housing production on the city's eastern edge from 9,000 to 14,000 homes over 20 years. That helped keep the region's urban growth boundary tight. Nick Sauvie, an affordable housing developer, said east Portland has taken more than its share of multi-family housing and "the region owes east Portland." 
Residents didn’t know what hit them.
Nick Sauvie was part of the plan’s technical advisory committee. The level of community involvement wasn’t sufficient, he said.
“The magnitude of 14,000 units, it doesn’t have context,” said Sauvie, executive director for ROSE Community Development, which builds affordable housing.
“At the time, I didn’t realize what that meant. If I didn’t, I think virtually nobody was thinking about what that actually meant.”
"Fundamentally dangerous"
The housing explosion never struck Southwest Portland. Residents refused to let it happen.
In September 1996, just eight months after the City Council approved the Outer Southeast plan, officials breezed into the West Hills looking to equitably spread their vision of housing growth to all corners of the city.
They presented a proposal with new zoning that would ensure “likely development” of 7,500 new housing units over 20 years. It included high-density apartments and mixed-use buildings along Barbur Boulevard, the area’s main commercial drag.
Residents were furious.
Judges, attorneys and doctors flooded City Hall with angry letters. Liz Kaufman, a political consultant who lived in South Burlingame, called the Southwest Community Plan “fundamentally dangerous.”

(continued ...)

Lessons for Marin (especially Marinwood and Novato) from the Portland Planning disaster

In Gateway, a well-meaning project draws objections

Glisan Commons represents the kind of taller, denser development planners say will turn Gateway into a true regional center. It's also highly controversial. (Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian)
Anna Griffin | agriffin@oregonian.comBy Anna Griffin | 
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on July 12, 2013 at 1:29 PM, updated July 17, 2013 at 12:35 PM


[Editor's Note: These are the type buildings we can expect to see in Marinwood in the near future if we are unsuccessful at repealing the Housing Element for unincorporated Marin.  So far, Supervisor Adams and her business/political associates seem intent on making Marinwood the next "smart growth" community in Marin despite all community objections over costs and infrastructure demands.  Please remember this on voting day]

Glisan Commons, the concrete and steel 

creation rising at Northeast 100th Avenue and Glisan Street, is that rarest of things in Gateway: New construction.

Despite bold plans to remake Gateway into "Portland's second downtown" and a "regional center," the east Portland district remains a mishmash of car-centric, suburban-style sprawl, much of it dating to the 1950s and '60s.

Broken Promises

Follow The Oregonian's series on the future of east Portland, looking closely at promises not kept.
But we need your help. Do you live, work, study or own property east of 82nd Avenue? Tell us your story.
So a multi-story, mixed-use project less than 1,000 feet from a MAX station would seem cause for applause. This is, however, east Portland, where nothing comes easy and neighbors harbor a generation's worth of resentment and distrust. Both the process and the policies behind this particular bit of urban renewal have some Gateway advocates frowning.

"It's more desirable than what was there," said Arlene Kimura, president of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association. "Unfortunately, it's also another nonprofit project that does not generate tax revenue."

Up until a year or so ago, this busy corner was home to a shuttered golf-club manufacturing plant, a dirt-floor barn, two houses and a crowd of homeless people and drug users who occupied it every night.
Human Solutions, a nonprofit that helps poor families find permanent housing, bought the land in 2006 with plans to build 155 apartments. Then the recession hit.
"The timing was horrible," said Jean DeMaster, the nonprofit's executive director. "We couldn't make it work."

In 2008, Human Solutions sold the land to the Portland Development Commission for $1.9 million. Two years later, the Portland Housing Bureau released a request for proposals from developers interested in building affordable housing in Gateway.
The RFP wanted to target renters earning from zero to 60 percent of the Portland region'smedian family income. It promised special consideration for developers who included commercial space on the ground floor and those willing to rent to the poorest of the working poor -- people earning less than 30 percent of the region's median family income. The regional median is $68,300 for a family of four or $47,810 for a single person.

Two groups responded. The winner was a two-phased partnership between three nonprofits.
In phase one, Human Solutions will build 67 apartments for people just entering the workforce. The ground floor will include 16,000 square feet for Ride Connection, which helps seniors and people with disabilities find transportation options. Some 50 Ride Connection workers will relocate to the new headquarters.
In the second phase, Reach Community Development Inc. will build 60 apartments for senior citizens.
glisanstreet.JPGConstruction has begun on the first phase of Glisan Commons.
A handful of units in each phase will be priced for people earning at or below 30 percent of the region's median family income, which translates to rents of $325 a month. The entire complex will be either studios or one-bedroom apartments, a favor to the severely overcrowded David Douglas School District.
The city is providing $5.9 million in urban-renewal money for the two phases, and the land for $1 a year.

From government's perspective, the project meets multiple goals: It's taller, denser, environmentally friendly construction in a stretch of the city envisioned as more urban in feel. It targets two of east Portland's fastest growing demographic groups in new workers and seniors.

And it meets a city requirement that 30 percent of money spent in urban renewal districts pay for new affordable housing, a policy pushed by former Commissioner Erik Sten as part of his effort against homelessness.

"I think it's going to be a fantastic project for the community," said Patrick Quinton, executive director of the Portland Development Commission. "If there are complaints, I'm not sure where they're coming from."

They're coming from years of frustration with how city leaders have handled Gateway redevelopment.

The view from east Portland

"We get ripped off by paying a disproportionate share of taxes for services that we don't even get."
— Carrie A., Montavilla
"The best thing about east Portland is the diversity. There is so much variety in lifestyle and experiences with diversity."
—Lauren Ashley J., Powellhurst-Gilbert

See more

Residents and property owners here say the city has routinely used urban-renewal money generated in the district for projects that don't improve the area's economy. The first $682,000 in Gateway went to build a county receiving center for abandoned or abused children. Urban-renewal money has also gone to extend light rail to Clackamas County, to build a Gateway Transit Center parking garage and to buy land for a park that the city cannot yet afford to build or operate.

The PDC has done a smaller series of street improvements and storefront upgrades with urban-renewal money, but neighbors and property owners say the big-ticket items funded with tax increment financing always seem to be projects dearer to elected officials downtown than people in Gateway.

"I'm positive about Glisan Commons because we need more good, affordable housing for seniors," said Bob Earnest, a longtime east Portland resident. "I also feel like we're always spinning our wheels in Gateway."

"The idea behind urban renewal is to generate tax-increment financing and use that to reinvest in our community. That just hasn't happened here. This is one more case."
Residents and private developers in Gateway note that the city's decision to buy land from Human Solutions then quickly -- at least, quickly in development terms -- donate it back to a Human Solutions project looks inappropriate. But city and Human Solutions officials say there was no deal in the works when the city made its purchase.
Affordable housing is always a controversial topic in east Portland, which has seen a flood of cheap apartment complexes and publicly subsidized projects in the past decade. When early plans for Gateway's transformation into a regional center were in the works, some residents argued for putting all new affordable housing in the district on property along I-205.

"I remember standing up at a meeting and telling people, 'That's not right, and that's not fair,'" Earnest said. "It also wasn't realistic."

Community advocates also have a more specific concern: That Glisan Commons puts a publicly funded project in direct competition with private developers.
Riad Sahli, Reach's housing project manager, said surveys done pre-construction suggest most Glisan Commons apartments will cost about 20 percent less than the market average.

glisaninside.JPGLee Jackson takes a break from plumbing work on the first phase of Glisan Commons. The two-part project will eventually offer 127 units of affordable, one-bedroom apartments.
A 2012 market study conducted for the Portland Development Commission showed that newer one-bedroom apartments in outer northeast Portland rented for an average of $765 a month, including utilities. Most of the one-bedroom apartments in the first phase of Glisan Commons will go for around $570 a month, not including water and electric bills.

"Our housing prices are still so cheap," Kimura said. "A lot of people who qualify for Glisan Commons could also afford something offered by the private sector."

That equation may be true today, but city officials and project organizers are betting it won't continue as Gateway grows and the private market becomes more upscale. The Housing Bureau's request for proposals required that the Glisan development meet the criteria to be considered affordable housing for 60 years.

"Yes, we'll probably be competing for some of the tenants in the area right now," DeMaster said. "But we're building something that we know has to last 60 years. By that point, it might be the only affordable housing on this street."

In that regard, project organizers sound more optimistic than Gateway advocates about the future success of redevelopment here.

Failed Smart Growth promises in Portland's Suburbs.(Lesson for Marin)

The lost vision for east Portland's Gateway 

Broken Promises: A failed vision for GatewayOver the past two decades, planners and economic developers have crafted multiple visions for remaking Gateway into a true regional center. All of them called of the district to become denser, more walkable and generally more urban in feel. That hasn't happened.Editor's Note: Be certain to watch the three minute video above. I imagine many of us in Marin will be frustrated like the residents of East Portland, ten years from now, with a county ruined from overdevelopment and failed promises.  Like Portland, Marin is not considering basic services, like water, sewer, school capacity, road widening and other problems of rapid urbanization. We can do better in Marin. In the sixties we led the nation in conservation when we saved West Marin.  We will lead the nation again and push back against these latest hyperdevelopment schemes .  We will Save Marin (again).
Anna Griffin | agriffin@oregonian.comBy Anna Griffin | 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 12, 2013 at 11:14 AM, updated August 23, 2013 at 3:21 PM


Gateway was going to be something special.
Two decades ago, when planners, elected officials and economic developers looked at this collection of working-class neighborhoods and worn-down commercial strips, they predicted big, bold things.
Gateway would be a "regional center," a bustling hub of high-tech jobs and educational institutions on Portland's eastern edge. Gateway would be a "second downtown," with all the parks, bike lanes, coffee shops and density to go with it.
gatewayoverhead.JPGDespite years of planning, Gateway remains largely suburban in feel.
Instead, Gateway is underdeveloped, underutilized and under-served. Rather than the best of urban life in a more suburban setting, residents and business owners have usually received the worst of both.Taxpayers have spent millions to remake this literal doorway to east Portland. Yet Gateway remains a place where public services cost more, cars trump mass transit, property values lag - and residents expect people in power to let them down.
Built by Fred Meyer
A half century ago, Gateway wasn't even a place. That was its appeal.
Grocery store owner Fred Meyer, looking to expand, was tired of Portland regulations. He picked a spot amid the orchards of unincorporated midcounty, the no man's land between Portland and Gresham, and in 1954 built one of the region's first car-centric, suburban-style shopping centers.
gatewayfred.JPGFred Meyer, here celebrating the second anniversary of Gateway Shopping Center with his wife, chose to build in midcounty to avoid city regulations.
He named the place Gateway, and erected a tall concrete arch signifying the entry to a new kind of community."People looked to Gateway as the answer to urban decay: You don't want to live in the city but you don't want to be that far out," said Fred Sanchez, a real-estate broker and a leadingbooster of Gateway since the late 1960s. "This was the new frontier: 'Go east, young man!'"
Orchards gave way to subdivisions. A 1953 Oregonian advertisement for homes in Lorene Park boasted of "modern ranch homes" built with sidewalks, "ornamental streetlights" and paved streets.
"Yes, for living at its best, for real luxury living, Lorene Park is your answer," the ad said.
The boom didn't last long. Portland successfully revitalized closer-in streetcar neighborhoods, slowing outward migration. Those who did ditch the city for suburbia instead chose newer subdivisions in Clark, Clackamas and Washington counties, lands of lower taxes and more services.
Portland annexed most of the neighborhoods around Gateway in the 1980s, to the chagrin of many residents who chose their homes specifically because they weren't inside city limits. Parallel to annexation, Portland built the Mid County Sewer Project. The city charged property owners to upgrade from septic tanks and cesspools to new sewer lines.
"They promised us all these services, then the first thing they did was send us a bill," said Linda Robinson, who grew up in Gresham and bought a home in Gateway in 1986. "That sort of set a mood."

Broken Promises

Follow The Oregonian's series on the future of east Portland, looking closely at promises not kept.
But we need your help. Do you live, work, study or own property east of 82nd Avenue? Tell us your story.
In 1992 mayoral candidate Vera Katz and her young campaign manager, Sam Adams, seized on east Portland's anger. Her opponent, then-City Commissioner Earl Blumenauer, ran the city sewer department. So Katz kicked off her campaign at an east Portland diner and made improvements in the neighborhoods beyond 82nd Avenue a key election promise:
"People in that community feel that the door has shut on them," she said at one business association meeting. "They're absolutely right."
Among political types, the sense was that a critical mass of voters was coming to the city's newest neighborhoods, particularly to those adjacent to Gateway. Metro planners looked at2040 growth projections and declared the area one of eight "regional centers."
City leaders, including future Mayor Charlie Hales, pushed for its inclusion: "We want it to be urban, but quieter and greener than downtown Portland," said Hales, who ran the city's planning department at the time.
In reports and studies, planners promised huge changes, including construction of a network of connector streets, an education center, a government center, parks galore, wider sidewalks, a performing arts space and bike lanes. The district's main drag, 102nd Avenue, would become a "boulevard with landscaped walkways, storefront windows, benches and fountains." Residents would eat outside at cafes and coffee shops and gather at a new "Gateway Station Plaza."
A 2000 study summed up the promise of Gateway: "More than anything else, it is expected to become a place to be proud of - an embodiment of the values and aspirations of the east Portland community."
Big plans never became realityFew of those envisioned improvements happened.
Gateway remains decidedly suburban, with wide streets carrying traffic at speeds that preclude walking and biking. 102nd Avenue has new trees and banners yet remains a fast-moving four-lane mishmash of aging strip malls, car lots and fast-food outlets, with the occasional 1950s house nodding to the district's curious and inconsistent zoning history.
There is no public square or plaza. The city owns land for a park at Northeast Halsey and 106th Avenue but lacks the money to build or operate it, and neighbors say drug dealers and homeless people plague the property.
Though his concrete arch was razed in 1991, Fred Meyer would have no trouble recognizing the place.
"There's been a lot of talk, but very little has actually happened," said Jerry Koike, a longtime neighborhood activist. "Everybody talks about wanting to do things out here, but the execution is always about helping downtown."
The recessions of 2001 and 2008 slowed development. Residents also blame government for years of benign neglect and poor prioritizing.
City leaders created a Gateway urban-renewal district in 2001, meaning that the city can borrow money to make public improvements, then use the ensuing property tax rise to repay debt. Elsewhere in Portland, urban renewal has paid for game-changing projects, transforming South Waterfront, the Pearl District and theNortheast Portland commercial strips of Alberta Street and Mississippi Avenue, for example.
Gateway's list of completed projects is very different and less impressive.
Planners who took part in the creation of the Gateway district recommended that the first projects built with urban renewal money generate new tax revenue. Instead, the district began with a compromise. In exchange for City Council support to create the area, members of a citizens advisory committee agreed to spend their initial $682,000 on the "children's receiving center," a temporary home at 102nd and Burnside for children declared wards of the court.
"We were told that we needed to do this or we would face a much harder time getting the district approved. We were told, 'You guys aren't against children, are you?'" said Arlene Kimura, president of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association. "In hindsight, it set a bad precedent."
Gateway's urban renewal money contributed $3 million toward extending light rail to Clackamas County, built a $9 million parking garage at the transit center and covered half the cost of buying the future park site at 106th and Halsey.
gatewayglisan.JPGGlisan Commons, an affordable housing project built with urban-renewal money, is an example of the taller, denser development envisioned for Gateway.
The district's latest high-dollar urban renewal project is another that doesn't put new property tax dollars back into Gateway: The Glisan Commons affordable housing development will feature 127 apartments on top of a new home for Ride Connection, a nonprofit that helps senior citizens and people with disabilities find transit options.Even the district's one clear economic success raises eyebrows.
The three-story, $3 million Oregon Clinic complex, paid for with New Market tax credits earned with city help, is the first thing riders see when they arrive at the transit center. It brought more than 300 new jobs to Gateway and was the first Class A office building erected in the district in 20 years. Yet it's also a nondescript box with none of the street-level charm or retail needed to key transit-friendly development - or called for repeatedly in all those plans for turning Gateway into a second downtown.
"I don't think anyone in charge was thinking long-term about why urban renewal was created here," said Colleen Gifford, who runs the Growing Gateway EcoDistrict, a nonprofit that promotes environmentally friendly development. "They've consistently taken money to do what people downtown wanted."
Hamstrung by infrastructure and financial realities
City leaders say it's unfair to compare urban renewal in east Portland with more central locations.
"I don't think what's happened in Gateway is in any way a result of the projects we've chosen to invest in," said Patrick Quinton, the Portland Development Commission's executive director. "By no means do I consider Gateway a success, but I think the broader market has a bigger impact than we do."

The view from east Portland

"We get ripped off by paying a disproportionate share of taxes for services that we don't even get."
— Carrie A., Montavilla"The best thing about east Portland is the diversity. There is so much variety in lifestyle and experiences with diversity."
—Lauren Ashley J., Powellhurst-Gilbert

See more

Gateway has a number of factors working against dramatic, quick change. It contains few large parcels of land owned by one or two developers, and thus has few properties ripe for projects that can change the course of a street or commercial strip seemingly overnight. Gateway is also a much smaller urban-renewal district - 658 acres compared with 2,800 in Lents and 3,990 in Interstate - meaning it has a much smaller tax base to generate redevelopment money.
City planners and economic developers are hamstrung by the realities of underlying infrastructure established when Multnomah County, with its far more hands-off approach to development, ran the area. Gateway has those wide, pedestrian-deterring streets, few east-west connectors and a hodgepodge of large and small plots that make orderly, grid-style development difficult. Removing even one parking spot from Gateway Shopping Center, let alone the hundreds required to create a plaza or movie theater, would require every tenant's approval.
Another, less tangible obstacle: City leaders and the people who live and work in Gateway haven't shared the same vision for what this neck of Portland should become.
GS.11GATE114.jpgView full size
Early on in the process of creating the new urban-renewal district, neighbors balked at giving the city powers to condemn property in the name of blight removal. Early rezoning efforts allowed 14-story buildings in Gateway, until residents objected. Early plans for urban renewal would have spread tax-increment financing over twice as many acres, but the district shrank to avoid residential neighborhoods.Planners say their vision for Gateway may have been, in hindsight, unsophisticated and overly ambitious.
Growth is still coming
Metro still predicts enormous growth for Gateway over the next three decades. Computer models project the area from I-205 to the Gresham line will grow by up to 60 percent by 2035, with many of those newcomers landing here.
For one thing, the district remains uniquely situated: It is the single most accessible spot in the entire area, within easy reach of two highways, a dozen bus lines and light rail in four directions. For another, neighborhoods closer to the central city can only take so many more residents. "Go east, young man" still applies.
The question is whether that growth will improve quality of life and city budgets or add to east Portland's existing woes.
"Sixty-five million people go through Gateway by car or MAX each year. If we can get something that makes people stop and look at what we have, everything changes," said Ted Gilbert, a developer who owns the equivalent of eight city blocks near the transit center.
He says that's Gateway Green, a grass-roots effort to turn 35 acres along I-205 into a public park for hiking and biking. Other advocates suggest building an international market, appropriate in a community with 70 languages spoken or an educational center to serve David Douglas and Parkrose school districts and local colleges.
All the ideas center on the same theme: giving people a reason to stop in Gateway.
"We have no signature place," Kimura said.
Small tweaks could help. The Transit Center is a small hub of activity surrounded by an ocean of concrete. There's a small concession stand, but no place away from the din of arriving buses and trains to talk with friends or enjoy the view of Rocky Butte over coffee.Consultants who looked at the station last year pointed out "a notable prevalence of negative signage such as no parking and no smoking ... which generally creates an atmosphere of mistrust and hostility." No signs direct new arrivals to any local landmarks. When the shopping center was rebuilt in the late