There's no such thing as "smart growth"
More depressing stuff about Portland in the paper yesterday. Here we have the City That Won't Let You Cut a Branch Off the Tree in Your Front Yard Without a Permit, but it will let you move a 100-year neighborhood landmark home to make way for an oversized junk condo building. The article quotes one of the 200 well-paid geniuses in the city Planning Bureau as saying something profound like, "Get used to it."
It's all part of Density Mania, whereby in order to save places like Newberg, we have to wreck Portland. It's so misguided. In case you haven't noticed, we're not saving Newberg, or Dundee or Sherwood. As far as our green space to the southwest is concerned, it's pretty much shot all the way down 99W to McMinnville -- so bad that they're about to build a toll road through the farmers' fields. Even the most prominent gentleman farmer from Portland can't buy his way out of the Californication. On the east-west axis, the U.S. 26 corridor is pretty much shot from Sandy to Seaside. When the last two contiguous Plaid Pantries meet somewhere around Cornelius, they're going to drive a golden spike through the curb.
So exactly what is it that we're ruining the priceless neighborhoods of inner Portland for? It really beats me.
There are a few big pictures here that our elected officials apparently can't see. One is supply and demand. Portland for many years was an island of low housing prices between the Bay Area and Seattle. But folks in both those markets noticed -- about 15 years ago, in fact -- and they've been moving to Oregon in droves ever since, because as outrageously high as our housing prices are, they're still relatively low for a West Coast city. If we keep slapping up particle board junk in Portland, increasing the housing supply, we'll keep our prices lower than theirs, and the hordes will continue to rush in to occupy the mold-encrusted apartments. This beat can go on indefinitely. It won't stop until our prices are as outlandish as they are to our south and to our north -- and the more we condo-ize the place, the longer that's going to take. And the more congestion and more social problems we're going to have.
We're sacrificing the quality of life of the people who are here now in order to make it easier for more people to move here and make it worse.
If Portland really wanted to make its mark as a planning mecca, it would abandon the "smart growth" mantra. There's no such thing as smart growth. It's all bad. You may slow the rate of wreckage down to half-speed with condomania, but you wind up in an even worse place when it's over.
If it comes down to wrecking inner southeast or wrecking Cornelius, I vote for wrecking Cornelius. But neither place has to be wrecked. A "no growth" or "minimum growth" policy could save them both. Sure, housing prices would continue to skyrocket, but when they reached parity with Seattle and the Bay Area, they'd level off, and then, people from those places wouldn't have those dollar signs in their eyes about Portland any more.
Back in the days of the Katz-Goldschmidt mayoral adminstration, they snuffed out the "no growth" folks. Made them out as kooks. Too bad. They were the only ones who had it right. By the time the current residents of Portland realize how right, many of the old neighborhoods will be chopped up beyond recognition.