Union attempts to block Park Avenue West again

Union attempts to block Park Avenue West again
Service Employees International Union Local 49 has appealed the city of Portland's approval of Park Avenue West, a 30-story tower under construction at 728 S.W. Ninth Ave., on the grounds it lacks affordable housing. TMT Development, the project's owner, called it a stall tactic by a union attempting to force it to contract with union janitors at a separate project.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A labor union is again attempting to interfere with TMT Development’s construction of Park Avenue West on the purported grounds that the 30-story office, retail and apartment project lacks affordable housing.

Service Employees International Union Local 49 appealed the Portland Design Commission’s Dec. 19 approval of the project on Jan. 7.

Vanessa Sturgeon, president of TMT, called the appeal a "blatant abuse" of Portland's land use process and a stall tactic designed to further the union's goal of securing a janitorial contract at a separate TMT building, Fox Tower.

“The union has made it very clear that their interest is in trying to force us to hire them at Fox Tower for janitorial,” she said. TMT already contracts with a SEIU vendor for security at Fox Tower. Using the same union for both janitorial and security services is a conflict of interest under the National Labor Relations Act, she said.

“It’s not a legitimate appeal. There’s nothing in their appeal that has anything to do with land use. It’s just a delay tactic to force us to hire their people.”

A union spokeswoman did not answer calls placed immediately after it sent out an announcement about the appeal Wednesday morning. The union also failed to acknowledge a request for a copy of the appeal.

It is SEIU 49’s second attempt to stop the project for affordable housing reasons.

In September, the union and a member, Adelaide Maza, appealed the city’s Type II approval of the project.

TMT withdrew the Type II application and resubmitted the project for the more rigorous Type III review process. The move effectively ended the original appeal.

In a brief press release Wednesday morning, Maza, a janitor, called on TMT Development to “do the right thing."

“TMT has had every opportunity to do the right thing by providing affordable housing in our City. Instead, they are forcing working families to live farther and farther away from where we work. This isn’t what Portland is about,” she said in the statement.

It is unclear what if any immediate impact SEIU’s appeal will have on construction of the tower, which resumed before Thanksgiving after a 55-month recession-induced hiatus.

The matter has not yet been placed on the city hearings examiner's agenda.

Park Avenue West will have 211 luxury apartments on 15 floors, 13 floors of office space, of which nine are pre-leased to law firm Stoel Rives LLP, and two floors of retail space.

TMT's decision to restart Park Avenue West in late 2013 was one of the leading real estate stories of 2013 and promised to generate hundreds of jobs during construction. The $175 million project is being funded by a construction loan placed by PCCP LLC on behalf of the Ohio Public Employees Pension System.

I have inquired with the Bureau of Development Services office and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ office about how the city will process the appeal.

The Portland Business Journal is a KATU.com news partner.

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