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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 5, 2006 1:42 PM. The previous post in this blog was Bush's secret courts. The next post in this blog is Play it safe. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Sunday, March 5, 2006

They've got it all wrong

How dare The Oregonian complain that middle-class people with families are fleeing Portland in droves? Let them live in "skinny" houses. Fifteen feet wide ought to be enough if you've got only two kids.

No, with all these wonderful new condo towers going up, this place is getting better every day. Let's get several thousand more black beret types and empty nesters on the voter registration rolls -- that will help the school funding picture. And don't forget the "snazzy" streetcar and aerial tram [rim shot]! Great job, Erik and Dan!

Comments (41)

I wonder how many of the things the PDC accomplishes would just happen anyway if all that money was put into the school system, giving Portland a nationally reknowned school district?

Indeed, many sections of Portland are not family friendly. Somebody should start questioning why the LEAST children friendly areas of Portland are the areas most recently "re-done" by the PDC, primarily using Homer Davenport & Co, with massive tax breaks as the incentive.

Until that is answered, Mayor Tom should no longer feel honest opening meetings with "How are the children?"

Right. When he pulls that one out, somebody in the audience should holler out, "What children?"

Doesn't it help when PDC's Bruce Warner says,

"The city's plan is moving precisely the way urban renewal is supposed to.
"That's the plan. It's on track." ???

I wonder where the school folks are on this stuff?

I think a deal's been made between the public employees and the developers: They both get theirs. For the rest of us, there's MasterCard.

Jack, I came to that same conclusion when I saw what had been exempted from the Measure 47/50 limit of only allowing a 3% increase on Portland Taxes

1. Fire and Police Disability

2. Urban Renewal

This was in the Oregonian's long Article on Taxes a few months back. It no longer links because it is more than 14 days.

That is why some folks in Portland were paying more than the "limit" of $20/$1000 before the PPS levey ran out this year. This years tax bill was down to just under $20/$1000.

Hi. My name's Eric. I like Portland.

[ducks and covers]

To make a serious contribution to the thread: My wife and I are preparing to start a family. We just bought a house in close-in NE; we're not headed to the 'burbs, nor are many of our friends with children. Admittedly anecdotal, but I'd just suggest that a statistical trend does not necessarily also mean impending doom for everyone in the school system. There are a lot of people who will pay a premium to live in a liveable city like Portland; there are also a lot of people who prefer living elsewhere because it's cheaper.

And I'd also observe that poorly funded schools are a statewide issue, not just at the K-12 level but colleges as well. I'm not sure I'd assign responsibility for Portland's school quality to the UGB or infill development or expensive housing.

Damn you Eric and your fecund ways! You will rout the naysayers on this site with your behavior!

Did you notice how the couple in the article can't seem to get their stuff together? First, they worry about the condition of the high school, even though their son is 4. So they move.

Then, they worry about the poverty level of the kids in their new neighborhood (ooooh, we can't let our kids learn next to poor people!). As though this fact wasn't known before they moved. And then, their third choice, Chief Joseph, has perfectly fine academic performance, yet isn't exactly what they want. Sheesh!

They seem like people who want "the perfect school" for their precious children. As though life were ever perfect. They seem to want their children to never have to face any adversity, even though as soon as these kids get OUT of school, they'll have to deal with all the people their parents were trying to shield them from - the poor, the different, the diverse.

So they whine and moan about the schools, move around, hither and dither, and then decide the best thing to do isn't to try to make the system better in the place where they made "lifelong friends," but to rather consider either fleeing to private school or the suburbs.

Give me a break. Portland schools are far from perfect, but with potential consumers like this, who want promises of certainty for the next fifteen years, it sets an impossible standard. Life is full of surprises. Deal with it.

Makes one wonder about all the money being spent on a "vision" for Portland when there has obviously been one in place for years. Just noone had a say in it unless you work for the PDC.

Question to those who know the ins and outs of these things far better than I: can "urban renewal" money be spent on, say, renovation work at a crumbling urban high school? That would seem to fit the very definition of "urban renewal," no? Has such a thing every been proposed in Portland? I'd sure prefer that my property tax dollars go towards rehabbing Jefferson than building a fancy condo tower in SoWa.

Jack, Jack... Sure, condo towers are the refuge of wine-n-cheese trust funders. We all know that. They're also a lifestyle choice for working people who want to walk to the store and don't want to maintain a yard. What's so bad about that?

Speaking of school funding: Portland Public Schools don't get a better deal than childless folks paying property and income taxes.

The true unwritten scandal in Portland is the explosion of conspicuous consumers within a 5 mile radius of downtown. Where are these 25-35 year olds getting the bling to "be seen" at Bluehour and get their bedhead haircuts and hemp shirts? Or buy their $325K "starter" home in NoPo?

I want to know where the money comes from. These people don't have the beaten down look of someone who just turned in a 40 hour timecard. Where do I go to learn the Nu-math?

This is the story that cries to be written. Anyone??? Jack?

I want to know where the money comes from. These people don't have the beaten down look of someone who just turned in a 40 hour timecard. Where do I go to learn the Nu-math?

Jon--your error is assuming that they can all afford the goods they have. Look the financial picture of the average American--in debt, not saving anything, living paycheck to paycheck. I know lots of the people you describe--they are still in debt from school, they have not yet begun to consider investing for retirement even though they are 35, they are living beyond their means on an interest-only mortgage on that starter in NoPo. Just because they are doing it doesn't mean they can afford to be doing it.

can "urban renewal" money be spent on, say, renovation work at a crumbling urban high school?

How do the kids say it? ROTFLMAO?

Ugh. Other than Eric Miller and Sirajul, I wonder how many folks here actually live in inner Portland or spend enough time at ground zero. I keep hearing about these dadgum 'bedhead' kids, "wine-and-cheese trustfunders", or anyone that dares live in an urban setting. I'm sure I felt the same growing up in Sandy and living in Beaverton for a few years... Portland: the scary, weird, snobby, slacker utopia. I started working downtown three years ago and moved to inner-SE last year. My slight insecurities and generalizations magically disappeared when I found most folks actually defy their stereotypes at nearly every turn. The notion that urbanites enjoy excesses of wealth in all the wrong ways is laughable. Middle to upper middle class suburbanites are saddled with debt much more than their urban counterparts, filling up their walk-in closets or pantries, three car garages and numerous bonus rooms. Here in the city, I am constantly suprised how modest, honest and grounded the populace is, certainly with a better grasp on what our priorities should be.

Thank you, TK.

I live in inner southeast Portland. Specifically, it's an old streetcar suburb. I have no offstreet parking for my car. No driveway. My car tends to sit in front of my house most of the week, as I use mass transit or walk. I like it here. Folks are decent and there is a nice mix; occasionally we close a street and have a block party. I see downtown from my upstairs window, and up close and personal twice a day, three days a week, as I commute through it.

Here's a question: Why would PDC plan North Macadam Urban Renewal Disrict with potentially 5000 to 8,000 residences, and 15,000 or more residents and jobs without planning a school, or a playground for field sports? Our CTLH neighborhood which NM is a part of (it extends from Sellwood bridge to RiverPlace to Barbur Blvd.) has not ONE public school. In the near future the taxpayers will have to pay to buy inflated property and then be taxed for the new school in our CTLH neighborhood, if we have any children moving in.

Jon M: there is nothing wrong with condos, just let the developers and occupants pay for them, and not with public subsidies. Let the free market determine their viability.


Here in the city, I am constantly surprised how modest, honest, and grounded the populace is,
CERTAINLY with a better grasp of what our priorities should be.

UHHHHH....better "grasp" than who? Just curious.

Dave, thanks for the reply. I back-of-the-enveloped this for a 350K house:

* 6% interest only mortgage: $1750/mo
* Property taxes: $275/mo
* Insurance: $40/mo
* PITI (cost of ownership): $2065/mo
* Income required (at 33% of income to PITI): $74K
* Income breakdown: 2 people each making $18/hour

Throw in some credit card debt for the furniture, haircuts, and clothes and it's sort of makes sense.

TK: I hear you. I moved to Goose Hollow recently and was surprised by how accessible and grounded folks in my building are. Lots of diversity. We have quite a few people in their 70s and 80s, working people, self-employed, people from unusual circumstances, etc.

Prior to this, I lived in Tigard. Very uniform. Almost everyone was working to get by. Not lavishing their income on car payments, etc., but just trying to pay the rent and stay afloat. Souless? Yes, but pretty much the real world for working America.

The Great Portland Lie is that the urban hipster lifestyle is created by high-paying jobs that harness youthful creative enterprise. The truth as far as I can ascertain is debt and family assistance. If one pencils out the lifestyle that a $10-$12/hr job affords, it's pretty sobering. $12/hour is about $1550/mo after taxes. That's not a lot of trips to Whole Foods or the wine bar.

I'm not necessarily opposed to Portland becoming a hip haven for alternative ways of living. But, as a working stiff who's trying to be responsible and provide for their retirement, I'd like to know the true economics of the region.

Lee: Yup, I agree. No reason to subsidize condo construction. The price of condos is directly determined by supply and demand, which in turn determines the price of land. Not vice-versa. Trying to make the land more valuable by abating property taxes only serves to increase prices and decrease tax revenue.

I like it here. Folks are decent and there is a nice mix; occasionally we close a street and have a block party.

What does that have to do with city government? I love Portland. I don't love City Hall. Wait 'til they decide that your nice southeast neighborhood needs some skinny houses and a methadone clinic. That'll give you something to talk about at your block party.

No, with all these wonderful new condo towers going up, this place is getting better every day. Let's get several thousand more black beret types and empty nesters on the voter registration rolls -- that will help the school funding picture. And don't forget the "snazzy" streetcar and aerial tram

Jack, I hoped that you might rise above the continual stereotyping of folks that choose to live downtown. If you don't like the political and financial trappings surrounding urban renewal... great, but please respect those of us that live here.

Your reference to black berets is so dated. It speaks volumes about your knowledge of downtown. If you'd like to go on a walk with me through my neighborhood, I'd be more than happy to take you. I think it would do you good to meet the real people... THE FAMILIES, for god's sake that call downtown home.

Lynnette, you read things into my posts that aren't there, then criticize me. There are condo towers going up in lots of places other than downtown. And most of the people who live in them don't have children.

Did you see that? I said "most"? Most. Not all. Of course there are some families. Some. A few. Relatively few.

We have enough condo towers. They're being built to fleece people who think they're going to make a fortune "flipping" them. They're in for a rude surprise.

I hoped that you might rise above the continual stereotyping of folks that choose to live downtown.

BTW, the next time I have to ban you from coming at me like that, you're not coming back, ever.


Thanks for chiming in. I'm curious as to your position on growth in Portland proper. Is it:

1. Build no new structures, effectively capping the population and putting further upward pressure on housing values
2. Use existing structures more efficiently (more people renting out rooms, etc.)
3. Infill tastfully - no 15' wide "double-highs"
4. Build anywhere but where Jack lives, shops, and works.
5. Cap retail footprints, attempting to preserve "independent Portland"
6. Build more track housing and strip malls on the perimeter of the UGB

Good natured ribbing aside, what's the Bog plan for Portland?

BTW, my girlfriend thinks you're cute...

Another thank you to TK.

I live in the Pearl and you know what, I don’t fit the “wine-and-cheese trustfunders” profile so many on this blog want to label us. And neither do most of the people who live here. I am self employed, have worked hard for years, and have earned what I have. And like the greater majority of people in the Pearl, I don’t get any property tax abatements. I pay the same percentage as most everyone else in Portland. And the tax abatements that do exist are for a limited time, they don’t last forever. My understanding is that our property taxes pay off the bonds and a percentage, yes it is small, goes into the general fund for the city. When cities do this kind of planning and development they are looking at the long term, 50 years or more.

The tax abatements were used as incentives to preserve old buildings so that the character of the area was preserved. If they didn’t do that then all the old buildings would have been torn down because it’s more expensive to retrofit and strengthen an old building. If that happened then everyone would complain that there was no attempt to preserve the history of the area. Also, given that this area was a rail yard the soil was loaded with toxic waste and had to be removed before any building could occur. That fact alone made it economically unfeasible for developers to develop the Pearl on their own.

Jon M., have you spent much time getting to know the people who live here as opposed to those you see walking around? There is a big difference. The condos down here are not a refuge for “wine-n-cheese trustfunders”. The people are quite a diverse group, the vast majority of which have WORKED VERY HARD for what they have. Somehow you have the impression that everyone gets everything for free down here. Nothing could be further from the truth. You’re trashing us using baseless stereotypes.

If you’re angry at the way Portland chose to develop what used to be a rail yard with abandon warehouses and crack dealers, then be angry at the city. But too many people on this blog choose to vent their anger at, and trash, the people who live in urban neighborhoods rather than the City; which does nothing other than perpetuate baseless stereotypes and drive the two sides further apart.


Thanks for the reply. I'm certainly not anti-Pearl. In fact, I would like to see further high-density development in order to drive down prices and make downtown living more affordable.

A livable 2 bedroom condo downtown will set one back about $400K + condo fees. This is within the realm of affordability for upper-income earners, but few others. That's too bad. It appears to me to be a function of land values and not construction costs.

I love living downtown, but the idea that consumerism is a suburban phenomenon isn't necessarily accurate. I don't see many beater cars downtown, nor people wearing clothes from Target. In my building, many, many people DO NOT WORK. God bless 'em, they got lucky in life in some way. This is a general observation about downtown living, not an inditement of downtown residents.

I agree that it's easy to stereotype based on visitors vs. residents. Guilty. Much upscale shopping and entertainment is located downtown and the hoards are drawn in every weekend. That's fine and I agree it's unfair to judge the area accordingly.

I suppose the bubble (pun intended) that I'm trying to pop is the fallacy of the enlightened urbanite vs. the consumerist Beaverton snob. Narcissus is everywhere.

Oh and Jack, some of us prefer condo living to flatland. It's harder to get lonely, there's food nearby, places to walk to, no yard to keep up, etc. Sure, there are the inane pre-construction flippers, with are more annoying that single-family speculators, even if they're of the same ilk.

Jon M
Thanks for the reply and clarification. I understand your price concerns having moved from...the dreaded California (waiting for things to be thrown at my post). The stereotyping issue is big with a lot of people down here as too many in the suburbs believe them, and even our illustrious newspapers fall into the trap. We really would like to soften the image that has been bestowed upon us.

There really are that many people in your building who don’t work, and they’re not of standard retirement age? We have retired people but most everyone works or at least worked.

About the condo flipping, yes it does happen but developers are starting to put restrictions in place to prevent that. The latest building to go into presale in the Pearl had restrictions in the purchase agreement stating that you must reside in the unit for at least a year (I think) and they only allow a small percentage of units to be investment properties for leasing. They really want to prevent mass flipping and have the properties used as intended.

The latest building to go into presale in the Pearl had restrictions in the purchase agreement stating that you must reside in the unit for at least a year (I think)

And the developer guys will enforce that if it means turning away money and the unit sits unsold? Sure, and I've got a tram I want to sell you...

In my building, many, many people DO NOT WORK.

Which means they pay no taxes around here. Especially if their units are property-tax-abated. That's not what Portland needs.

"what's the Bog plan for Portland"


I'd also like to know how you'd like to see Portland handle population growth and increasing demand for housing. So far in reading your blog, I don't see any implied solution that comes out of your complaints. You seem to be anti-sprawl (or at least I thought your remarks on McMinnville indicated that), anti-density in the urban core, anti-expansion of the urban core to SoWa, anti-infill in the residential urban neighborhoods, anti-density on major commercial streets. Are you simply saying that you liked Portland better the way it was 20 years ago?

If so, I'm not surprised; that seems to be a common sentiment among people who've lived here a long time. I don't happen to share it, but I hear it quite a lot. I suspect, though, that this has more to do with nostalgia for one's youth and the simple distress of seeing things change than with any more objective evaluation. I mean, there was a lot of crummy stuff in Portland 20 years ago, even if some young people were having so much fun at the time that they didn't pay much attention to it, and even if it's easy to forget the bad stuff when looking back.

Anyway, to return to the question: how should Portland grow?

Richard -

Are you kidding? Who doesn't long for the days of Frank that was a real great time. Go here - - for a great remembrance of things past. Anyone who says the current crew of politicians is objectionable has a high bar to clear - thanks to Mr. Ivancie.

Yes, I was just in short pants, but I'm old enough to remember that Portland didn't need no stinkin' light rail during that time. Darn it, we all drove to our jobs in the Central City in the morning and drove home in the evening - and we liked it!

And there wasn't any internet to get in our way either - we had 5 TV stations (2, 6, 8, 10 and 12) and that was all we needed, consarn it!

And Dr. Jack Ramsay was THE ONLY coach the Blazers needed. None of this Mike Schuler or Rick Adelman b.s.

Actually, I think Portland really went to heck when that darn volcano blew. Next thing you knew our favorite watering holes were crawling with them nerdy geologists. They stole all our women and wouldn't give them back.

Thank you, tip your waitress...

how should Portland grow?

Family-friendly. Middle-class. As low-rise as possible. With new buildings that at least attempt a connection with their surroundings. It's difficult, but for all the hundreds of people we pay to "plan" around here, nobody even tries.

Jack -

Forgive me, it's out of genuine curiosity - can you go into more detail?

"Family friendly" - what does that mean? More affordability? More services? Low tax? High tax?

"Middle class" - How do you stop poor people from moving into the city limits and requiring more services? How do you stop rich people from moving into the city limits and raising property values and prices for everyone else?

"As low rise as possible" - Does that mean height limits? Doesn't that mean limiting the amount of potential construction, thereby capping the amount of people that can fit into the city limits, thereby pushing up land prices, thereby reducing affordability, thereby reducing the potential for the middle class to live here?

"New buildings that at least attempt a connection with their surroundings" - Isn't this in the eye of the beholder? How do we come up with common standards for that? Public vote? Architect death match?

This comment is written in all seriousness and with real hope for some good replies - because I think this is the kind of debate Portland needs to have and often doesn't because it devolves into "wine and cheese" type insults. Thank you.

Good thing Vera banned snout houses.

Not that jack needs a critique of his urban planning approach, since he's not required to have one, but I think this is one of the few places where his viewpoint doesn't have much traction.
Family-friendly; middle-class; low-rise; integrated...
Those are all very good ideas, and all very impractical. It totally reminds me of the engineering (or pick-your-favorite-trade joke): you can have this project 1) fast, 2) cheap, 3) high quality. Pick two.
In other words, Jack, you can have all that you want, but you can't also have more people. If people keep moving here, and everyone gets their little family-friendly parcel, then the city won't be family friendly because mom and dad will spend all day commuting, or some other complication will arise.
I think you just need to embrace the condo towers and direct your energies toward the fact that the towers, per se, are not bad for Portland. What's bad for Portland is that they're free-riding on the economics of urban redevelopment.


Good comments. It really is a pickle. There isn't much space to put new detached houses within Portland proper, even on postage stamp lots. Pulling up Google Maps shows pretty solid development within a wide radius of downtown. We've elected not to build more freeways to alleviate congestion in outlying areas.

Unfortunately in a highly specialized 21st century economy, people aren't likely to always live near their place of employment. So buying a house by the office isn't workable for many.

I agree that _almost_ all of the present infill is nausiating. Purely a $$$ per sq ft of land equation. Just vile "architecture".

On the "edge", most new developments are less than 100 homes and lack cohesivness and community.

Personally, I happen to like the Northwest Portland layout. 3-4 story buildings w/varied architecture. Commercial strips, etc. Hard to imagine anything like this being built again, though.

Housing prices are a cancer. It's not healthy for an community to overspend valuable purchasing power on interest payments to finance someone else's land profit. True, that's capitalism, but Portland isn't Portland if we're all working 60 hours a week until we're 70 years old to afford our 5000 sq ft. slice of the Earth. Geez, that sounds whiney.

The best solution I can think of is to keep prices down by overbuilding. Eventually, we will have build one more house than there are people willing to move here. Then prices will fall and Portland will retain it's status as a West coast city where real people can actually live. The trick is how to do this without destroying Portland. Density downtown and in very-close in SE seems as good a way as any. One city block can hold 250 condo units, as opposed to 10 single family homes.


Welcome to Oregon. If one is employed full-time, the suburbs are more appealing. Many people are tired at the end of the day and the lack of amenities is less bothersome. If I was able to not work, it would drive me crazy to live in Beaverton/Gresham.

My building is actually all rentals, so the stories here are different. We do have a lot of retired people, but also some who don't have an obvious way to support their lifestyle. I'm not really one to pry, but the math is inconsistent.

It's not black and white between trust-funder and working-stiff. In between are the people who get help from parents for down payments, vacations, tuition, trips to the mall, furniture, etc. If someone works 30 hours a week at Starbucks, drives a MiniCooper, has $150 jeans and a nice apartment, something's amiss.

Sure, some of it is sour grapes on my part. I've worked to make a career for myself, save, be responsible, etc. It doesn't sit right to live in a neighborhood where $100 is being dropped for dinner or drinks every hour of every day. Is it discrimination to think that the 25-35 year olds we see doing this maybe can't afford it?

One has to make a staggering amount of money to afford a $750K condo + upkeep, save for retirement, take vacations, drive late-model cars, etc. Perhaps there are more >$200K jobs in Portland than I realize. Perhaps not.

When values level, the flippers will go away. It'll happen sooner rather than later. The economic fundamentals in Portland barely support current prices.

The underlying issue facing our cities is following/adjusting to the ameoba-like New Economy. It's not just tech, every sector is undergoing change at a clip that no society before us has experienced. It's changing faster than we can properly adjust to it. It's in front of our eyes in the news every day... Mergers and aquisitions creating centralized management... or the neo-con vision of free-market expansion into new biz centers like Dubai and India. We're not just talking call centers, sweatshops, or OEM manufacturing. These are the new global centers of commerce, banking, medicine, law, lawsuit-free and tax-lax havens, taking with them our white collar jobs. Simply put, the traditional make-up of our economic engine has been turned on its head. Don't think for a moment this doesn't make planning a city more precarious.

The skinny vs. sprawling debate ignores obvious solutions that should (ideally) make everyone happy. New developments shouldn't be built in such as way they become ghettos in 30 yrs. If you require a block-format street pattern, you build continuity and the ability to connect with future expansion. It eliminates 'islands' of developments, reduces traffic, creates neighborhood pride and common ground. You can have decievingly dense development with modest-to generous lot sizes and house sizes. I don't think requiring something as fundemental as this is asking too much of our home builders and developers. I mean, would we justify building a new Sellwood bridge with a disposable 30 year life or make sure it's gonna be useful in 60?

Any politician wanna step up to the plate?

Jon M,
Thanks for not throwing something after I said I was from CA. I have to disagree on the employed full time = suburbs more appealing. I don't think full or part or no employment has that much to do with urban vs suburbs. In San Fran many part or unemployed live in the burbs and many full time employed live in the city. My experience here has been the same. I think it has a lot more to do with what you want in lifestyle, and of course what you can afford.

Do you have any numbers/percentages of just how many condo developments get tax abatements? In my ‘hood no new buildings have it, and even the old buildings when say a penthouse has been added to the top, the penthouse doesn’t get the abatement because its “new” rather than the restored building. I’m really curious on how wide spread the abatements are, but want hard numbers not just impressions.

Ken at March 6, 2006 01:46 PM: I pay the same percentage as most everyone else in Portland. And the tax abatements that do exist are for a limited time, they don’t last forever. My understanding is that our property taxes pay off the bonds
JK: Those bonds were used to build the streets, and street lights, water lines, sewer lines and other bricks and mortar items. Those are the things that developers of other projects paid for themselves, then passed the cost on to the buyer. You are paying for these items through you property tax TIF in the UR district. In effect, instead of paying property taxes, your “property tax” payment is really paying part of your mortgage payment because that cost SHOULD HAVE been on the cost of your unit. In this view, you are NOT PAYING property taxes (except that little amount that is not part of the TIF).

Ken at March 6, 2006 01:46 PM: When cities do this kind of planning and development they are looking at the long term, 50 years or more.
JK: And will the eventual tax receipts ever make up for the abated tax collections? Especially since the bond payments can last 20 years AFTER the UR district is closed AND are made with future money with a present value of pennies on the . I suspect that your grand children will still be making up for the Pearl’s TIF.

Jon M. at March 6, 2006 02:50 PM In fact, I would like to see further high-density development in order to drive down prices and make downtown living more affordable.
JK: Huh?? You do not make more affordable housing by using the most expensive construction techniques on the most expensive land in the state. Each additional floor of height makes the per square foot cost of the building greater. The lowest cost construction is single story wood frame. Adding a second floor requires a stronger and more expensive ground floor. When you get to a certain height you have to have an elevator (big bucks). When you put parking under, you have to dig a hole (expensive) or add an extra floor to make up for the ground floor being used for parking. When you go above 4 (5?) floors you have to get into steel which is very expensive. You usually add the cost of the raw land and look at the per square foot cost of various heights to decide on the most economic height. That is why you find single story buildings where land is cheap and multi story where the land is expensive. (Unless government is distorting the economics.)

Jon M. at March 6, 2006 02:50 PM It appears to me to be a function of land values and not construction costs.
JK: There used to be two classes of affordable housing: small on cheap land and older, perhaps fixer uppers. Metro has banned the first and PDC tears down the second to build subsidized high density. It is government policy that is mostly responsible for the lack of affordable housing.



Thanks for the reply. I'm curious as to the construction cost of a 1200 sq ft condo as opposed to a 1200 sq ft single family home. I agree that elevators are ungodly expensive to build and service. There's also additional planning cost. People get worked up (rightly so) about what happens to a downtown block, which incurs additional cost.

Some of the additional cost is probably finishes, etc. Buyers of a $600K condo are going to want bamboo floors or whatever is hip these days. Low end suburban townhome buyers get to pick a carpet color.

There is additional public cost in road construction, gas, parks (you need to create more as use is a function of distance), etc. to single family homes.

One could probably pretty easily get the total construction cost of various condo towers and divide by the number of units. I admit I have not done this. The cost is probably a bit inflated right now, since those who specialize in elevators, vertical architecture, bedrock analysis, etc. are in higher demand than they've been in a while. Not to mention building materials that are unique to vertical design.

I'm not an urban snob who decries detached living. It's just not for me. There are some who want more single family homes built to drive down the cost. Others want more condo units built to drive down the cost. Maybe we're both right.

There have been some experiments with building density further out. Unfortunately, it requires a large master plan and big tracks of land to avoid seeming underdeveloped. On the flip side, property values in Orenco Station are quite high for what one gets. It's also more risky for a developer to do something like this as opposed to the low risk route of traditional detached development.


My main point was that, in my experience, close-in areas draw people from a wider variety of backgrounds. The personal stories are more varied - generally on the positive, as close-in living is expensive. The idea that close-in Portland is "hip" in the sense of other cities (SF, Vancouver, etc.) being hip is relatively new. It'll be interesting to see how this jives with economic reality going forward.


Good point about the grid pattern. Manhattan imposed a grid pattern on the entire island when only about a fifth of the island was developed. I agree that the stubborn dependence on a handful of artierials is a problem.

Jon M. at March 7, 2006 11:04 AM Thanks for the reply. I'm curious as to the construction cost of a 1200 sq ft condo as opposed to a 1200 sq ft single family home. I agree that elevators are ungodly expensive to build and service. There's also additional planning cost. People get worked up (rightly so) about what happens to a downtown block, which incurs additional cost.
JK: I was only speaking of structural construction costs. The lower floors have to be built strong enough to support the upper floors. As you add more upper floors, the lower floors have to be built stronger which is more expensive. Basic physics and economics. I have seen John Charles of Cascade Policy give some numbers that her got from real world local construction. I have also seen data from Metro. The Metro example was a 3-4 story over parking that cost $36,000 more PER UNIT compared to conventional construction. Add, maybe a $25,000 UGB premium for land cost, a bunch of silly city regulations and you get unaffordable before you even build.

Jon M. at March 7, 2006 11:04 AM My main point was that, in my experience, close-in areas draw people from a wider variety of backgrounds. The personal stories are more varied - generally on the positive, as close-in living is expensive.
JK: Some people are now claiming that the suburbs are more racially integrated than the central city, nationally.



As a lawyer/blogger, I get
to be a member of:

In Vino Veritas

Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
Kiona, Lemberger 2014
Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris 2015
Aix, Rosé de Provence 2016
MarchigĂĽe, Cabernet 2013
Inazío Irruzola, Getariako Txakolina Rosé 2015
Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio 2015
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Kirkland, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016
Cantele, Salice Salentino Reserva 2013
Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Avissi, Prosecco
Cleto Charli, Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco, Vecchia Modena
Pique Poul, Rosé 2016
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
Stoller, Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
GascĂłn, Colosal Red 2013
Cardwell Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
Della Terra, Anonymus
Willamette Valley, Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2013
Wraith, Cabernet, Eidolon Estate 2012
Januik, Red 2015
Tomassi, Valpolicella, Rafaél, 2014
Sharecropper's Pinot Noir 2013
Helix, Pomatia Red Blend 2013
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2013
Locations, Spanish Red Wine
Locations, Argentinian Red Wine
La Antigua Clásico, Rioja 2011
Shatter, Grenache, Maury 2012
Argyle, Vintage Brut 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16 Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2014
Benton Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
Primarius, Pinot Gris 2015
Januik, Merlot 2013
Napa Cellars, Cabernet 2013
J. Bookwalter, Protagonist 2012
LAN, Rioja Edicion Limitada 2011
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 2009
Denada Cellars, Cabernet, Maipo Valley 2014
MarchigĂĽe, Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2013
Oberon, Cabernet 2014
Hedges, Red Mountain 2012
Balboa, Rose of Grenache 2015
Ontañón, Rioja Reserva 2015
Three Horse Ranch, Pinot Gris 2014
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
Nelms Road, Merlot 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris 2014
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2012
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2013
Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
G3, Cabernet 2013
Chateau Smith, Cabernet, Washington State 2014
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16
Willamette Valley, Rose of Pinot Noir, Whole Clusters 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande 2012
Goodfellow, Reserve Pinot Gris, Clover 2014
Lugana, San Benedetto 2014
Wente, Cabernet, Charles Wetmore 2011
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
King Estate, Pinot Gris 2015
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2015
Trader Joe's, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley 2015
La Vite Lucente, Toscana Red 2013
St. Francis, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Marc Maron - Waiting for the Punch
Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria DermoČ—t - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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