BEND — Catherine Najand and her husband moved from Southern California to Bend three years ago so they could live in a quiet, tight-knit community.
She bought a home on a quarter-acre lot on the south edge of town, where she would live among ponderosa pines, wildlife and look out to dark, starry skies at night. But just a few years after moving in, neighboring property owners are threatening the things Najand cherishes the most about her neighborhood: They want to build a 192-unit apartment complex just blocks away.
Najand isn’t happy.
“I came here because I was told Bend is a community,” said Najand. “It’s not a community anymore; it’s a moneymaking machine.”
Najand is one of several residents protesting the proposed apartment complex, which would be located just north of Ponderosa Street on U.S. Highway 97. Although developers are still in the early stages of planning, Najand and some of her neighbors say the apartments won’t fit in with the neighborhood and will negatively impact their community, which doesn’t have sewer lines or adequate streets to handle hundreds of new residents.
Najand is not unlike dozens of other residents who have protested new developments in Bend — specifically apartments. Housing advocates and city officials say building up is the only way to provide enough homes for the city’s population; Bend’s rent prices have skyrocketed in recent years, pushing some longtime residents out of the city. But hundreds of other Bend residents say apartments will ruin quiet, single-family neighborhoods.
Developers haven’t applied for any permits yet for the Ponderosa Street project, but the initial proposal calls for multiple three-story apartment buildings, a clubhouse and pool, according to documents submitted to the city by Grant Hardgrave, a civil engineer in Bend. The 192-unit apartment complex would span 8.6 acres, which are owned by multiple property owners, according to property records. Hardgrave wouldn’t comment on the proposal.
Colin Stephens, planning manager for the city, said before anything can be built, the developers will have to send notices to neighbors and go through a planning and permit process, which will give people the chance to appeal the project. In order to move forward with the project, the property owners will also have to improve a main street and residential streets near the property, as well as build a sewer line that connects to a city sewer about 1,800 feet in the north.
But Najand and other neighbors say they’ll do whatever they can to stop construction.
So far, dozens of neighbors have met multiple times to try to prevent the apartments from being built, she said. Najand worries that Bend is changing from the community it used to be and says the city shouldn’t hurt existing residents in order to accommodate for those who want to move here.
“Just because people want to live here doesn’t mean they get to live here,” said Najand. “My husband said, ‘I want to live in Malibu,’ but that doesn’t mean you get to live there.”
The Ponderosa Street project isn’t the only housing proposal to have drawn criticism from neighborhoods recently.
Last year, hundreds showed up at a city meeting to fight a proposed apartment complex near Central Oregon Community College, saying the development was too dense for that neighborhood and could potentially drive down property values. Similarly, when the owners of a property on Reed Lane near the Bend Parkway proposed building up to 122 apartments or townhomes last summer, dozens of residents opposed it and eventually ended up appealing the city’s zone change. In 2015, a proposal to build 208 apartment units just east of Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint drew opposition from a group of residents who feared the apartments will degrade recreational experiences at the butte.
Duane Oakes, who lives in the same neighborhood as Najand, said he isn’t protesting the development because he doesn’t want apartments built — he’s worried that sewer and road problems will be worsened by hundreds of new residents. He’s lived in the neighborhood for 11 years and said it doesn’t have adequate roads — or any sidewalks for that matter — to deal with the new cars and people.
Additionally, most of the homes are on septic systems, and there are no city sewer lines in the area, he said. Oakes said if the developer or city builds a sewer line in that area, homeowners will be forced to eventually pay up to $30,000 to upgrade their septic systems. Under state law, homeowners aren’t allowed to repair failing septic systems if they’re within 300 feet of a city sewer line with capacity.
“I don’t think it’s right to stick it on the backs of the residents in the neighborhood,” said Oakes.
Oakes said he would be fine with the development if it were planned for 10 years down the road, when sewers, waterlines and new roads were built in the area. But for now, he wishes the city would site high-density developments in areas that have infrastructure to accommodate them, such as central Bend and the west side.
“The city has a big problem,” said Oakes. “How can they put all this load in the area and not deal with the infrastructure?”