Detail, east Portland photo, courtesy Miles Hochstein / Portland Ground.



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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 17, 2006 8:56 AM. The previous post in this blog was The Wal-Mart card. The next post in this blog is More PDC math: $48K per apartment. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Portland's future?

How awful.

Comments (1)

I dunno. If you are looking for a starter home and consider a yard more of a chore than a benefit those might not be too bad. Much cuter than a single sprawling split-level...

Posted by: gene at August 17, 2006 09:12 AM

Awful? That' reality Jack. Would you rather have them remove the urban growth boundry and begin building more subdivisions in places like Banks, Woodburn..ect?

Posted by: Jim at August 17, 2006 09:13 AM

I don't mind skinny "row" houses, but those are pretty bad, as they are also the garage-takes-up-3/4-of-the-ground-floor variety.

Posted by: Dave J. at August 17, 2006 09:14 AM

Yuck. I keep hearing "for people who don't want a yard." We're already bankrupting the city building condo towers for people like that -- do we have to wreck the old residential neighborhoods for them, too?

I love the part about how this is saving farmland, too. If you don't want a yard, I don't think you'd live in farm country.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 17, 2006 09:15 AM

Oh my stars and garters. That's hideous. Why not just put in row houses and have done with it?

(What ever happened to Portland's prohibition on "snout houses", anyway?)

Posted by: Alan DeWitt at August 17, 2006 09:23 AM

Would you rather have them remove the urban growth boundry and begin building more subdivisions in places like Banks, Woodburn..ect?

False dichotomy, fueled by the fallacy "There's a million more people coming here next week -- it's inevitable." It's not inevitable.

We're wrecking the place to save it.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 17, 2006 09:34 AM

Sometimes you have to burn the village to save the village.

Posted by: tom at August 17, 2006 09:47 AM

I love the part about how this is saving farmland, too. If you don't want a yard, I don't think you'd live in farm country.

What I think the original poster meant was that prohibiting this kind of building in Portland will only lead to more farmland out in Banks being turned into developments that look just like this.

The sad truth is that people these days want to spend time inside in their AC and in front of their 54" plasma screens. They don't want a big yard. Heck, drive out to Bend and drive through the new subdivisions. Here are people living in a truly spectacularly beautiful natural setting, and they've got houses that take up 90-95% of the lot. No yards--and these houses are on HUGE lots.

People who move out to "farm country" do so because they want to live in a big house, not because they want a big yard.

Posted by: Dave J. at August 17, 2006 09:54 AM

all kinds of things come to mind, looking at those. "Company" housing (for mill workers, potato processing plant employees, etc), the tiny beach cottages of southern california (now plowed under for.. um.. condos), the proverbial shotgun shack, but with 2 stories... But the one thing that sticks is, "oh boy. I could move to Portland and live in a shack (granted, a brand new one) half the size of the one i'm in and pay 3x what i'm currently paying".

Posted by: pril at August 17, 2006 10:00 AM

Wow, 4 little houses in a row...No wait, one's an SUV.

Posted by: Bill McDonald at August 17, 2006 10:08 AM

Are those Trolly Wires?

Posted by: Abe at August 17, 2006 10:36 AM

What *is* inevitable is this happening here and in the boundaries of every other major city worth living in at all. My experience has been that Portland is actually a little behind the curve in this sort of development, so there will likely be much more to come.

Portland Ground is right, this can be done better or worse. We need to figure out how to regulate 'better'.

Posted by: Sebastian at August 17, 2006 10:39 AM

those are pretty bad, as they are also the garage-takes-up-3/4-of-the-ground-floor variety.

My buddy's "house", out in Hillsboro is like that, except the whole bottom floor is the garage, and his whole lot is only 20' wide! The place is just wide enough for a single garage door. You park 2 cars in there end-to-end.
Then the house is the 3 stories above. Only about 1300 sq ft, 3 bedroom. Paid $200k.

This is why I still rent. Thats all they are building any more...under $300k anyway.
Whats so evil about a single-level home? I have lived in a townhouse for the last dozen years...Im tired of climbing freakin' stairs.

Posted by: Jon at August 17, 2006 10:40 AM

I think they look pretty good. Half the charm of a house is the folks inside of it.

There's only so many neat old portland homes to go around, and to be realistic, not many people can afford them. My wife and i couldn't, so we got a row house in the neighborhood we want to live in. Our next house will be a "real" house, but we're greatful to be where we are at.

If that makes folks disgusted, that's not really our problem.

Posted by: Mark at August 17, 2006 11:00 AM

That's happening all over on Bend's westside. People with decent size (like 1/8th of an acre) and people are buying 'em up, dividing them to the minimum lot size, and plopping three story homes in there.

Posted by: Jake at August 17, 2006 11:09 AM

In my comment on my post on Portland Ground I only meant to point out that saving farmland and rural land is possible if we allow greater density in urban areas and these houses as a practical matter are one face of increased urban density.

I'm guessing that these are "relatively affordable houses" (around 57th in Cully), and while I understand people's objections to the fact that they look different from the original houses on the street, they don't look that different and they do probably make home ownership possible for lots of people within Portland... 3 houses where 2 were before.

I don't get what is considered to be so awful about them. They're new, they're different, they create change, they open new opportunities, they represent in-city investment. A young family with children might stand a better chance of affording one. Or is Portland suffering from too many families with young children? No, I don't think it is. Quite the reverse.

Posted by: Miles Hochstein at August 17, 2006 11:11 AM

Wow.

My boyfriend forwarded this to me because, well, we live in one of these "rowhouses." Granted, ours is in between two older homes where there aren't others in the area, but still I'm shocked at some of the responses here. For us, first-time homeowners, our main need was to not feel tied down to a home--either financially or workwise. Therefore, a cheaper, brand-new house with a small yard is just perfect for our needs right now.

While we do have an a.c. and a big-screen t.v. (because our house payments are so reasonable, we can afford these things), we didn't choose a house with a small yard just to sit in front of them as one poster suggested. Instead, we'd prefer to spend our weekends backpacking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and traveling, just to mention a few ways we've spent our weekends since buying our house in April.

Is it our dream, forever-and-ever home? No, but for the forseeable future it's everything we need. Not all of us can afford a Victorian house or sprawling bungalo for their first home which shouldn't really be a surprise for those who live in Portland (and no, we're not potato processing plant employees either as another poster suggested, not that there would be anything wrong with that).

Shame on those who judge these houses and the people who live inside them!

Yuck is my response to this blog!

Megan

Posted by: Megan at August 17, 2006 11:22 AM

Some comments from a city planning perspective (in case anyone is interested ...:)

These houses are the importation of the notion from the suburbs that streets are nothing more than "traffic sewers."

The City is remiss in not requiring frontage sidewalks along these new houses. Even retrograde suburbs are now requiring such sidewalks along "infill" development in older neighborhoods.

These kind of houses would actually work aesthetically and from a street traffic perspective if they had an alley in the back onto which the garage could go. Unfortunately, there aren't many alleys in the City of Portland other than the Ladd Addition. Go through that neighborhood some time and realize that most of the lots are only 40 feet wide. Putting the garage in the back on an alley makes a BIG difference in the streetscape and the look of a neighborhood. That's one of the reasons why Ladd's Addition will remain a classy, pricey neighborhood while these house will only contribute to the continued slummification of Cully.

If the City is going to allow this, it might as well allow rowhouses up to the lot line.

It's this kind of crap that gives needed infill housing a bad name. And, being a city planner, and being unable to amend the United States Constitution to prohibit the free movement of individuals among the fifty states, we definitely need GOOD infill housing if we're going to keep this Metro area livable.

Posted by: Gordon at August 17, 2006 11:22 AM

Yeah, they're not the prettiest or most inviting. (And this from someone who owns a house in an Arbor development on a postage-stamp lot, albeit with sidewalks and trees.) But have you looked at the cost of a house on a large lot in Portland recently? Way out of the reach for someone with six figures of student loans or a new family starting out (or both).

Posted by: Shelley at August 17, 2006 11:50 AM

This is what's planned for the area east of 82nd. Mow down existing houses and put in three for every two. Put in some nice street cars and a couple of Flex Car stops and there you go!

Didn't the city try wiping out those prominent garages a couple of years back? Gragg and his crew called them ugly and decreed they had to go. And wither the sidewalk? Or do Flexcars not kill when they hit pedestrians?

Posted by: Chris Snethen at August 17, 2006 11:57 AM

What I find ridiculous is this notion we're going to chew up most of our precious farmland without the UGB. About 3% of Oregon's land is developed. 3%. That leaves 97% of Oregon agricultural or natural land. How can developing another 1% to 2% of Oregon spell disaster for the ecosystem? Christ, farmland is responsible for most wildlife habitat destruction in the valley.

And packing more houses on less land just leads to more congestion, less permeable areas (increased runoff) and more expensive housing. Our zoning should require a minimum of 8,000 Sq Ft. lots, not 2500. We need less density, not more.

Posted by: Chris McMullen at August 17, 2006 12:00 PM

You guys are wasting your time on your rebuttal comments, Mr. Bojack will always have a comeback no matter what you say.....

Posted by: Brad at August 17, 2006 01:00 PM

About 3% of Oregon's land is developed. 3%. That leaves 97% of Oregon agricultural or natural land.

That's very misleading, as what people are concerned about is the prime farmland in the Willamette Valley, which is exactly the area where most of that 3% developed land is located. A shift of 1-2%, if concentrated in the right (or wrong, as it were) spots, could really do in the farming industry in Oregon.

Posted by: Dave J. at August 17, 2006 01:09 PM

Other than the totally subjective opinion that I do not like houises where the garage is the most prominent aspect fo the house facing the street, I, like many others here, fail to see the evil in that kind of construction.

I am one of the ones who has drank the Portland Kool-aid, at least in concept if not execution, and beleive in increasing density, believe in trying to restrict automobile-based sprawl development.

Come on Jack, you hate the condos, how else can someone with a middle income afford to live intown?

To me , those look like starter houses for newlyweds or aspiring families, just the kind of people you want to incent to live in Portland proper.

By the way, my wife and I (and 3 kids) are planning to move to portland in a year or so, we're not from CA but we will be some of the newcomers so many longtime Portanders gnash their teeth at.

Posted by: scott at August 17, 2006 01:14 PM

Gordon,

I don't think we should even WANT to amend the US Constitution to prohibit the free movement of individuals among the states, and I agree we need GOOD infill housing. What worries me, from a planning perspective, is the boosterism and speculation that have been going on to PROMOTE Portland as a domicile when we aren't looking out for the infrastructure needs of existing residents. As you probably know, that ain't really planning. We are going to see growth. So let's manage it instead of doing backflips for the construction industry.

We all have our points of view; you gotta give Bojack credit for opening up a forum to air them.

Posted by: Cynthia at August 17, 2006 01:23 PM

"About 3% of Oregon's land is developed. 3%. That leaves 97% of Oregon agricultural or natural land."

As Dave J points out, that is misleading, since 90% of that is infertile land east of the Cascades and its the fertile Willamette valley that is in the sights of developers wanting to subdivide ad infinitum to Portland's east and south.

As someone who currently lives in sprawl central, Atlanta, GA, I can tell you what a difference builidng in the exurbs and city outskirts makes.

--You now have to drive almost an hour to even get to undeveloped land to go hiking, or have a picnic, etc...

--the suburbanites who buy the huge and cheap houses way out yonder depend on the city itself for their jobs and their entertainment and use the city's roads and other public resources every day but get away with paying no taxes for that use. They fight public transporation efforts to prevent the "bad element" ( in the ATL, that means blacks) from being able to take a bus or a train out to their pristine lily white suburbs.

--the constant development and placing of impervious surfaces ( like say mall parking lots) on the ground results in the degradation of local water sources as topsoil and oil and grime all get washed right into the streams without the filtering of the undeveloped ground.

--You have over 100 bad air days a year as the resulting auto-centric clusterf*ck smogs up and ozones out the entire region's air.

Anyone who beleives that open space and growth boundaries are bogus, you are welcome to move to Atlanta, GA any day you want. You don't have to worry about those elitist, intrusive concepts in Atlanta. the developers and road contractors finance the local government and you can build whatever you want wherever you want. If that is your diea of freedom, come on down you canchoose from hundreds of 4000 sq ft, poorly built houses built on old farmland.

Posted by: scott at August 17, 2006 01:33 PM

Much of that farm land that is being "protected" grows, grass seed, turf, hay, nursery stock for those that can afford a decent lot and a whole lot of non food agriculture and which uses a lot of pesticides, herbicides and a host of other not to healthy chemicals. Land inside the UGB goes for about $400K an acre while land outside is a tenth of that if that much. As a result the house price goes up and since most people pay their mortgage to an out of state lender that results in money that might stay in the local economy being tranferred out of state. 'Course that doesn't help Oregon much when money leaves town. And people complain about out of state companies that send their profits elsewhere when this goes on.

Posted by: M. Wilson at August 17, 2006 02:36 PM

Scott, the Atlanta metro population is 4.7 million. Portland Metro (including Vancouver) is barely 2 million. Please keep that in mind when comparing the two.

Atlanta may be less dense than portland with 3161 people per (Portland has 3932). However, Atlanta saw a 39% jump on population in the past 6 years. Portland: 24%.

Even though comparing a large city (like Atlanta), to a relatively small city (like Portland) is stupid, it looks like Atlanta has done a pretty good job placing their huge influx of residents.

And if you want talk density, LA has 7876 people per square mile -- you don't think they have sprawl and traffic problems?

Posted by: Chris McMullen at August 17, 2006 02:55 PM

Correction: "3161 people per square mile..."

Posted by: Chris McMullen at August 17, 2006 02:58 PM

Ugh. I wish I could take a busload of commenters on this blog on a tour of cities around the country. I think you'd come to realize most of our land-use laws have served us well.

If some people had their way, our civic centers would look like freeway frontage roads, with the same restaurants, stores, and general slap-dash stripmall blight/sameness that plagues virtually every development younger than 30 years.

If you want to build cities that are built to last, you take your cues from anyone but the developer or his/her talking points. They're understandably concerned with their own bottom line, which usually never 'jives' with the extra effort needed to plan a city that lasts. It doesn't incorporate cul-de-sacs, acres of parking lots, and a general dismissal of an area's natural beauty. Why is this so hard to understand?

Posted by: TKrueg at August 17, 2006 03:53 PM

Yeah TK, those condos in the Pearl and SoWa look like they're really built to last. I'll give 'em 15 years before facades are leaking and foundations are cracking.

My suburban neighborhood was built in 1960. It's still standing close to 50 years later. Just how are the suburbs "not built to last."

And just how does density encourage an area's natural beauty? If anything, it ruins it by destroying green spaces.

Posted by: Chris McMullen at August 17, 2006 04:14 PM

I was in the city of Portland planning office a while back, and saw a brochure about a skinny house design competition the city held. There were some awesome ideas. Many of the designs disguised the inevitable garage door so the houses didn't show their snout to the street.

I'm all in favor of infill, and I've got no problem with skinny houses, but the all garage facade is so lame and so unnecessary in light of the great ideas out there. Skinnyhouse buyers need to demand better design.

And whatever did happen with that 'snouthouse' ordinance?

Posted by: Houston at August 17, 2006 04:19 PM

Are you saying the trac homes built in the 70's or 80's are in better shape than the 90 year-old Portland homes? That's funny for many reasons, but 'LP Siding' comes to mind first. Many subdivisions built in the 60's-80's have become the new suburban ghettos in the real estate world...

Personally, I wish there were more apt towers than condos, but building a structure out of brick and concrete isn't exactly cutting corners. You make it sound like it's balsa wood and prairie mud...

Posted by: TKrueg at August 17, 2006 04:27 PM

We heard from the planner - now from someone who works on this (and lots of other types of construction), in the opinion of those who work on these houses (and I use that term loosely) they are CRAP. They look like crap, and they are built that way, in general they are EXACTLY what the the Portland city council wants. So please don't be surprised or shocked, it's the FUTURE that all those who voted for the mayor, for Sten, Leonard and Adams wanted and now they are getting it.

Yes, the homes look like they suck ... because they do!!!!

Posted by: mmmarvel at August 17, 2006 05:49 PM

Chris.

I am not sure I follow your point about relative sizes of ATL and PDX. yes ATL is bigger than PDX, and LA is bigger than both. Regardless, LA and ATL have allowed development to the horizon based on the hope of cheap fuel and endless happy driving on interstates built with public funds, and I choose not to live in a community planned that way.

As far as Atlanta doing a good job of handling the influx of new residents, if you think that a 33 minute AVERAGE commute and an air quality score of 6 (US MSA avg is 45, Portland's is 59) represents a job well done, well we disagree.

FYI, LA's air quality rating is 2.

In the last year, the wealthier suburban neighborhoods of the City of Atlanta, Sandy Springs and St. Johns, formally voted to leave the City and create their own local governments, leaving the poorer sections of Atlanta to carry their own weight, so Atlanta as a political community is failing as well...oh yeah, and our former mayor just got convicted of embezzlement and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Posted by: scott at August 17, 2006 06:12 PM

At least they aren't snout houses.
Thanks Vera.

Time to re-puke

Posted by: Steve Schopp at August 17, 2006 06:51 PM

scott: Regardless, LA and ATL have allowed development to the horizon based on the hope of cheap fuel and endless happy driving on interstates built with public funds,
JK: What "hope of cheap fuel"? Fuel is cheap as shown by people still using lots of it. But if it doubles to $6.00 per gallon we will do what Europeans do at $6.00 per gallon: drive smaller cars, which will conserve fuel and force the price down. Basic supply and demand.. (We will not waste our time on mass transit. Neither do most Europeans, who drive only a bit less than us.) (You didn't get sucked in by the Peak Oil garbage, did you?)

scott: and I choose not to live in a community planned that way.
JK: I thought you said you lived in Atlanta. In any case don't come tp Portland and try to change it to your vision of high density ghettos as far as the eye can see.

scott: As far as Atlanta doing a good job of handling the influx of new residents, if you think that a 33 minute AVERAGE commute and an air quality score of 6 (US MSA avg is 45, Portland's is 59) represents a job well done, well we disagree.
JK: Sounds like they have too much stop and go on the freeways - that is a primary contributor to pollution. They probably just need to increase freeway capacity, like Portland also needs to.

scott: FYI, LA's air quality rating is 2.
JK: Did you happen to notice that high density contributes to higher air pollution, longer commute times and less affordable homes? Just for the record, Portland planners just love to point out Houston's and Atlanta's problems, but never seem to mention that both Houston and Atlanta both have housing that is much more affordable than Portland's And they both have lower unemployment rates than Portland. Of course these things really aren't part of the planner's world as they sponge off of the taxpayers.

scott: In the last year, the wealthier suburban neighborhoods of the City of Atlanta, Sandy Springs and St. Johns, formally voted to leave the City and create their own local governments, leaving the poorer sections of Atlanta to carry their own weight, so Atlanta as a political community is failing as well
JK: That can be a good sign, as cities around 50,000 population tend to be more efficient. Beyond that size, the efficiency of lobbying increases and we start to get things like developer welfare. Portland should split up a bit and let the central city come up with its own money for the Peqrl, the tram, the streetcar, the toy trains and Homer's hole on its own, without stealing from the other parts of town to support those insanities.

scott: ..oh yeah, and our former mayor just got convicted of embezzlement and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
JK: Too bad Portland doesn't have better prosecutors.

Thanks
JK

Posted by: jim karlock at August 17, 2006 06:57 PM

Do they have sliders for when company comes over?

Maybe some of you could live in 15-20 foot wide world. I can't.

I don't normally feel claustrophobic: but that house would defintely do it for me.

Posted by: Mister Tee at August 17, 2006 07:10 PM

With the exception of aethetics, is there really anything wrong with skinny houses, row houses, or town houses? More importantly they are affordable for families who actually want to live in Portland. Heaven forbid we have families in Portland. With the mediun family of four's income hovering around 65K and the home prices around 260k+ what other choice does a first time home buyer, single parent, lower income person have?

Now you can debate the cause of accelerating home prices and wage stagnation until you are blue (or red) in the face, but the home and its occupents should not necessarly ridiculed because it doesn't fit someone's Norman Rockefeller image of what a classic Portland home should look like. It goes to show you that you don't necessarily have to live in a Pearl penthouse condo or a sprawling mansion in Lake Oswego to be an elitist.

Posted by: Todd at August 17, 2006 07:14 PM

Heh... I'm trying to reimagine the classic paintings as produced by the great master, Norman "Rockefeller"... :-D

But regarding the skinny houses... Personally, I couldn't stand to live in a house like that. Even for a one-car garage, that's an awfully narrow door. How do you get out of your vehicle once it's in the garage? I have a narrow one car garage in my apartment and with my Explorer (an SUV, granted, but one of the smaller ones) I have to park as close as possible to the right wall in order to open the driver side door. Fortunately (in this particular case, anyhow) I live alone so that's not much of an issue, but it's still a pain.

Still, it's true that for some people, simple home ownership of any kind is more important than the aesthetics of their first house. Hey, more power to 'em.

My concern is not over the choice such people make -- it's about the idea that this is the "future of housing". So the rest of us don't get a choice, eh?

By the way, while I wouldn't necessarily want to live on farmland per se, I certainly would at some point like to live on a large enough lot to provide plenty of buffer space between me and the next house over. The very idea of owning a building 6 feet from the next guy makes my skin crawl. So I'm one of those people who might move out to "farm country" for a big yard, not a big house.

Finally, on the point about these types of homes being useful for "young families"... who else would really need a nice big yard? I'm thinking it's the young families that want the space for the kids to play in a safe, secure environment. True, they can't afford anything like that in Portland proper. So, they move to where such houses can be found at a more reasonable price. The idea that these skinny houses encourage young families to move into Portland is really laughable...

Posted by: David Wright at August 17, 2006 09:25 PM

Todd: With the exception of aethetics, is there really anything wrong with skinny houses, row houses, or town houses? More importantly they are affordable for families who actually want to live in Portland.
JK: You are forgetting the importance of a back yard, especially to children. The kids can play in back while a parent watches through a window. You can't do this when the only choice is playing in the street or the park. That is part of why families are leaving Portland.

Todd: Heaven forbid we have families in Portland. With the mediun family of four's income hovering around 65K and the home prices around 260k+ what other choice does a first time home buyer, single parent, lower income person have?
JK: Gresham, Hillsboro, Tigard etc. Of course these are rapidly getting expensive too.

Todd: Now you can debate the cause of accelerating home prices ...
JK:: Not really, it is the price we pay for Metro's artificial shortage of land. First year econ: tight supply + demand = high prices. That is what turned Portland from one of the most affordable cities to one of the least. And before some planning twit points to California, they had urban growth boundaries before Portland. Look at a city that planners love to hate: Atlanta has much more affordable housing than we do. Less un-employment too. But most planners are too stupid to see the relationship.

Thanks
JK

Posted by: jim karlock at August 18, 2006 04:01 AM

David Wright By the way, while I wouldn't necessarily want to live on farmland per se, I certainly would at some point like to live on a large enough lot to provide plenty of buffer space between me and the next house over. The very idea of owning a building 6 feet from the next guy makes my skin crawl. So I'm one of those people who might move out to "farm country" for a big yard, not a big house.
JK: It is Metro policy to create a "compact city". That means that there will be fewer and fewer houses more than 6 feet apart. Eventually we will all have to move into four story apartments as the single family houses are torn down and replaced by the planners mecca: the mixed use, four story condo building.

It is all about having enough farmland to let us eat as the world's population careens out of control (see: the Population Bomb) and conserving scarce natural resources (see: Limits to Growth). Both of these totally discredited books were actually cited by Metro as foundations to its current policies.

Thanks
JK

Posted by: jim karlock at August 18, 2006 04:10 AM

Skinny houses work fine. Ours (built in 1896) is on a 30X100' plot. Granted, there's no garage, but there is off-street space in front for two cars and a small back yard, and 2,500 sq ft of living space on three floors. Stairs? Horrors! They offer exercise (and some challenge moving large objects in and out). There are at least a couple of paradigms for social development around cities: one model is exemplified by L.A. and Atlanta, based on the car. The other puts work, shopping and housing close together. Portland has done this with considerable success -- enough success that the use and misuse of public funds seems, over all, to be worth the cost. (I'm not more offended by developers taking public subsidies than by developers monetizing the loss of prime farmland and nature.) It's sad to see our land use successes discarded and dismantled, when it would be so easy for the folks favoring the other model to find it elsewhere, even nearby.

Posted by: Allan L. at August 18, 2006 08:11 AM

Chris M.,

I moved to Portland from Atlanta after living in the Capital of the New South for several years. I'm not sure what you're basing your assumptions about Atlanta on, but you shouldn't call Scott "stupid" when you're the one saying that Atlanta's done a pretty good job handling its growth. Atlanta has done a terrible job, which is one of the reasons why we left.

Atlanta "handles" its rising population by letting anybody build a new subdivision virtually anywhere. The tactic seems to be just go another half-mile down the highway (one of the city's three interstates), bulldoze whatever might be growing there and slap together more slip-shod construction. As a result, Atlanta drivers put more miles on Atlanta's roads every day than any other metropolitan area in the country. When I arrived in Atlanta, you didn't notice the smog. Now, when you climb nearby Stone Mountain and look back at the city, you see the brown haze running through the entire skyline.

Most of the professionals I worked with (full disclosure - I'm a lawyer) lived well outside the Perimeter (I-285) that rings Atlanta, and had well over 35-40 minutes of highway driving each way every day. They lived in suburban "paradises" like Alpharetta and never spent any time in Atlanta itself. Is that better than SoWhat and the Pearl? Not to my mind.

Portland may not do everything correctly. But after living for years in a city with very little zoning, that spends only the bare minimum on mass transit, that encourages sprawl, and that exalts growth over other civic virtues, Portland's take on in-fill, an aggressive urban growth boundary, and other anti-sprawl measures is inspirational.

Atlanta wasn't always the sprawling nightmare it has become. But it lacked the will to oppose the business interests that favored pro-sprawl policies (sprawl generally being the result of a relentless focus on short-term profits at the expense of long-term costs). Portland is right to try to avoid the sprawl now - you have to fight it before it arrives.

Posted by: Sheef at August 18, 2006 09:02 AM

I see this thread has been infested by Karlockian libertarian contrarian caca.

Bye.

Posted by: Matilda at August 18, 2006 09:37 AM

Sorry Sheef, but it IS stupid to compare Portland to a city twice its size. Not to mention a city with a much higher population growth rate.

Moreover, if the 'professionals' you worked with hated driving so much (Atlanta's average commute time is 27 mins. Portland's is 25.5 -- so your "Atlanta's long commute time" argument doesn't really hold water) why didn't they move into an apartment or condo in the central city? Was it because they chose a suburban life over a dense urban nightmare?

The population of Atlanta proper is actually shrinking, as their suburbs are expanding. It's obvious most people would rather not live in the city.

Posted by: Chris McMullen at August 18, 2006 10:09 AM


JK Said: I thought you said you lived in Atlanta. In any case don't come tp Portland and try to change it to your vision of high density ghettos as far as the eye can see.

Scott: "High density ghettos"....? I admire your use of language to try and load the dice in your favor without making any actual substantive argument for lower density...


JK Said: Did you happen to notice that high density contributes to higher air pollution, longer commute times and less affordable homes?

Scott...No it doesn't. Go check Manhattan's air quality and commute times...

JK Said: Did you happen to notice that high density contributes to higher air pollution, longer commute times and less affordable homes? Just for the record, Portland planners just love to point out Houston's and Atlanta's problems, but never seem to mention that both Houston and Atlanta both have housing that is much more affordable than Portland's And they both have lower unemployment rates than Portland. Of course these things really aren't part of the planner's world as they sponge off of the taxpayers.


Scott Says: ATL and Houston do have lower priced homes,not only because they allow development to the horizon, but also because Atlanta or Houstoan are not as atractive places to live as Portland..or San Francisco,etc...

Don't blame everything on the planners, there is also this little thing called the FREE MARKET and more people want to live on the West Coast...

The problem with allowing endless development in the Atlanta or any other Sunbelt city model is that the prices are artifically low, they rely on Federal highway subsidies to build the road out to the houses 30 and 40 miles away, and the developers do not have to build the costs of extending sewer lines or other city infrastructure out there, that cost is borne by the existing city taxpeyers...

furthermore,when you have no public transit, the cost to the entire region for poor air quality and degraded water quality due to the exorbitant miles driven and the excessive paved sufaces is paid for by the region,not only the intangible costs of lowered quality of life, but the real costs of having to remove the excess particulate matter and hydrocarbons from your drinking water caused by the loss of natural filtration provided by undeveloped land,not to mention the need to oversize your entire storm water sewersystem because 90% of the precipitation finds its way into your pipes when you have allowed impervious sufaces such as roads and parking lots to cover the surface.

JK: In any case don't come tp Portland and try to change it to your vision of high density ghettos as far as the eye can see.

Scott says: I am coming to Portland, and if the thought of another starry eyed liberal believer in progressive planning gets to you, all the better.


Posted by: scott at August 18, 2006 10:33 AM

Chris,

You obviously have never been to Atlanta if you cannot see how much better the traffic situation is in Portland. Bubbula, you are basing your arguments on statistical data so skewed it brings to mind Groucho Marx's old line, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

I can attest from personal experience that traffic in Atlanta is infinitely worse than Portland. My wife will back me up - she had a six-mile commute from Buckhead to the Virginia Highlands that would take her over 45 minutes if she left at any time between 3:30 pm and 7:30. Atlanta's rush hour starts at 5 am and continues through 8 pm - it does not stop during the day. I could watch the traffic snail from my office window. Portland on its worst day does not have the traffic that Atlanta has on an average day, and a lot of that has to do with our policies because Atlanta has none of the natural traffic barriers that Portland has to deal with - plus it's got three freaking major interstates to move all those people.

So your little "average commute time" stat just doesn't reflect the daily life of real people. I can say flat-out that it is wrong. I'm not sure where you get your data, but it reeks of the same slime that Atlanta used when it put together its IOC proposal to get the '96 Olympics - it claimed that Atlanta's average July-August temperature was 84 degrees. Sure was a shock to everyone with a window.

Long story short - there is absolutely no way that the average commute time in Atlanta is 25 minutes. Anybody who has ever tried to get through GA 400 or through the Perimeter on I-75 and I-85 at rush hour would laugh at that suggestion. And again, Atlanta is a city with three major interstates and a new commuter-oriented toll road, along with the Perimeter.

People didn't live in the city of Atlanta for a variety of reasons, as anyone who lived there knows. When I was there, Atlanta was in the running for the Murder Capital of the Country, and it wasn't much better for other violent crime. Atlanta's civic government is a nightmare - corruption abounds. Atlanta's public schools are a joke - Portlanders have no idea how good they have it. And yes, the legacy of racism was still there - to too many Atlantans, the city of Atlanta was "black," and the suburbs were "white." While the schools were the usual reason given for living in the 'burbs, people were also afraid of getting shot or being the victim of other violent crime.

Atlanta is an apt comparison to what Portland could easily become if our city does not aggressively pursue anti-sprawl policies such as in-fill and a strict UGB. And again, you can't get rid of the sprawl once it's there. So now's the time to fight it.

Posted by: Sheef at August 18, 2006 10:38 AM

Chris M Said:

"Sorry Sheef, but it IS stupid to compare Portland to a city twice its size. Not to mention a city with a much higher population growth rate."

Chris, Your original post both (1) says its stupid to compare cities of different sizes, and (2) brings Los Angeles into the argument when you think it suits your argument.

if using ATL as an example in an argument on Portland planning is stupid, that makes using LA...?

You also respond to Sheef that:

"Moreover, if the 'professionals' you worked with hated driving so much (Atlanta's average commute time is 27 mins. Portland's is 25.5 -- so your "Atlanta's long commute time" argument doesn't really hold water) why didn't they move into an apartment or condo in the central city? Was it because they chose a suburban life over a dense urban nightmare?

The population of Atlanta proper is actually shrinking, as their suburbs are expanding. It's obvious most people would rather not live in the city."

You are wrong. Atlanta just showed its highest population growth in the last year as people are getting sick of the commutes and the traffic, and the City actually added more people than 5 of its 8 outlying counties.

http://www.ajc.com/search/content/metro/stories/metgrow0811a.html

Regardless, Atlanta is a great place for people who desire big, new houses for as cheap as possible, and are willing to put up with the long commutes and the lack of nearby cultural options, more power to them.

Portland offers less house for the money but many intown cultural options and the opportunity to use foot, bike, train or streetcar to get to them if you locate wisely. People like me are willing to pay for that, and that is just what I and my family are going to do.

Just as I am moving to Portland because its public planning goals match my personal ones, places like Phoenix or Houston or Atlanta match up with your view that less density is better and that any public intrusion into the development of land for maximum private gain is wrong.

I am sure there is a 4500 sq ft house in a low density subdivision 40-50 minutes outside of Phoenix that would suit you to a T.

Posted by: scott at August 18, 2006 11:09 AM

Sheef, upon closer inspection, I was using travel time data from 1990. However, the most recent 2002 census doesn't show much a difference.

http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Products/Ranking/2002/R04T160.htm

Atlanta: 26.5 mins.
Portland: 21.9

I'm not willing to argue with US Census Bureau stats, but you can take them for what they're worth to suite your argument. Furthermore, I have no doubts Atlanta's traffic is a little worse than Portland's, but it's more than twice its size.

BTW, my coworker's 15-mile commute time is over an hour at 5:00PM.

And Scott, according to your article, Atlanta proper added 9500, but the suburbs added 102,200 (and there's evidence many of those in the city are Katrina evacuees). So, you're being a tad disingenuous about Atlanta city's big population boom.

Moreover, if people want to move to the city, I'm all for it. I just don't like big gummint lining condo developer's pockets and dictating how large my house/lot can be in the 'burbs.

P.S. I used LA as a density example, they have way more than twice the density of Portland, and massive suburban sprawl. It was also used to illustrate how pointless it is to compare vastly different sized cities.

Posted by: chris McMullen at August 18, 2006 11:58 AM

Chris M.,

Words fail me. You call someone else out for making a "stupid" comparison when you base your assessment of Atlanta's handling of its rampant growth solely on U.S. Census Bureau commute-time data. Yeesh. By your rationale, the Bush Administration is handling its budgetary policies "pretty well" because the deficit is only a quarter of a trillion dollars, but "much less than anticipated." How you can go from a dry, macro-level, context-free stat from the U.S. Census Bureau to validating Atlanta's handling of its growth is beyond me. Have you ever read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution? You'll be hard-pressed finding articles praising the city's handling of growth issues. Have you ever talked to anyone who lived in Atlanta? I guess not.

And so what if your friend has a traffic issue when leaving work at 5 pm? Sleepy Chapel Hill, North Carolina is tough to navigate at 5 pm! It can take you ten minutes to get out of some of the downtown parking garages at 5 here! But what is it like at 6 or 7 pm in Portland? Smooth sailing getting out of downtown almost every day. Unlike Atlanta, where rush hour is still in full swing.

And I defy you to find a major U.S. city where real estate developers, condo or otherwise, aren't making money directly from civic planning choices. So condo developers make money in Portland? (You know, it rains here, too.) But I'd rather have developers make money from progressive, anti-sprawl measures than make it from a laissez-faire, pro-sprawl set of policies that ruin the quality of life in a city.

And I don't live in the Pearl, and I'm not a developer, but I do think that Portland's pro-Pearl policies add considerably to my enjoyment of the city when I watch my daughter splash around in Jamison Square fountain while I munch on pizza I bought across the street. If a few condo developers made some money off that, well, I am not losing any sleep over it.

Hie thee hence to Gwinnett County, Georgia, my good man, and enjoy your generic house on your slightly-larger slice of heaven as you watch the bulldozers file by.

Posted by: Sheef at August 18, 2006 02:35 PM

Speaking of average commute times, it would be awfully helpful if we could see average commute distances as well.

When I lived in Aloha and worked in Portland, I drove approximately 10 miles each way. Morning commute was generally 30-45 minutes depending on traffic conditions. Evening commute was pretty reliably 45-60 minutes (though rarely, with accidents, up to 2 hours -- and very rarely, with extraordinary luck, only about 25-30 minutes).

I'd have taken a pay cut to get a job outside of Portland so I'd never have to drive into the city. As it is, I took a large raise to move out of state (where my commute of about 7 miles takes 10-15 minutes each way). Of course, your mileage may vary... ;-)

Posted by: David Wright at August 18, 2006 02:42 PM

"if a few condo developers made some money off that, well, I am not losing any sleep over it...."

That's to bad. Your condo tower comes at the expense of schools, public safety and infrastructure.

Sleep well and goodnight.

Posted by: chris McMullen at August 18, 2006 02:47 PM

Yep, Chris M., Portland sure is a terrible place because of a few condominium towers . . . I wonder why I even bother to love living here . . . couldn't be that my daughter goes to a great school, or the fantastic library system I enjoy and support, or the great mass transit that gets me to work quickly, cheaply and safely, or that my drinking water tastes great, or that the police and fire department take good care of my family, or we get to spend time in wonderfully-maintained parks . . . nope. I must love it because condo developers are doing booming business.

Relax and see the great things that Portland actually has to offer, Mrs. Lovejoy.

Posted by: Sheef at August 18, 2006 04:32 PM

Sheef, you're way out of line. That sort of talk is not for this blog. At least not until nice week.

Posted by: Sebastian at August 18, 2006 05:48 PM

Scott Says: ATL and Houston do have lower priced homes, not only because they allow development to the horizon, but also because Atlanta or Houstoan are not as atractive places to live as Portland..or San Francisco,etc...
JK: "not as atractive places to live" is a standard planner's line that they feed to every place throughout the country as an excuse for their botched planning driving up prices.

Scott Says: The problem with allowing endless development in the Atlanta or any other Sunbelt city model is that the prices are artifically low, they rely on Federal highway subsidies
JK: There are no Federal highway subsidies - just highway user fees, some of which go to subsidize mass transit.

Scott Says: furthermore,when you have no public transit, the cost to the entire region for poor air quality
JK: Mass transit has too low a market share to improve air quality. If every transit rider suddenly started driving, you would not notice the difference.

Scott Says: and degraded water quality due to the exorbitant miles driven and the excessive paved sufaces ....but the real costs of having to remove the excess particulate matter and hydrocarbons from your drinking water caused by the loss of natural filtration provided by undeveloped land,
JK: Actually, sprawl has little paved surface compared to high density. Look for unpaved surfaces in the Pearl or downtown and compare that to a residential neighborhood of 100x100 lots (outer Southeast). Sprawl leaves most of the land undeveloped in the form of "back yards" and "side yards". It is only high density, like the Pearl and soon the SoWhat, that has NO natural filtration

Scott Says: is paid for by the region,not only the intangible costs of lowered quality of life,
JK: Most people consider high density a lower quality of life and the suburbs (sprawl) better - that is why people have been de-populating the big cities for the last 100 years.

Scott Says: not to mention the need to oversize your entire storm water sewer system because 90% of the precipitation finds its way into your pipes when you have allowed impervious sufaces such as roads and parking lots to cover the surface.
JK: Again you made the case for sprawl - 100 x 100 lots don't usually require storm water sewer systems. Heck when you get to an acre or five, you don't even need sewers at all. It is high denisty that causes those problems that you complain about.

A few acres even have enough space to make your own electricity and some food. With satellite internet you really don't have to go anyplace - kinda like 100 years ago on the farm. On the other hand, in high density you are dependant on others for you food, water, electricity and just about everything. (If you fell for the peak oil hysteria, you should support five acre homes for everyone, so that thy can be completely self sufficient when the only travel will be on foot (no bikes because there will be no oil to pave bike paths.)

Scott Says: I am coming to Portland, and if the thought of another starry eyed liberal believer in progressive planning
JK: What is progressive about restricting peoples freedom? What is progressive about driving up the cost of housing. What is progressive about land use patterns that require massive sewer systems? What is progressive about basing public policy on witchcraft instead of science?

Thanks
JK

Posted by: jim karlock at August 19, 2006 12:23 AM

JK

When you actually find science instead of your theories and unsubstantiated "facts" let us know. In the meantime there are plenty of people here (even native portlanders) who like the changes. You want democracy? Well democracy elected the people who are making these changes. You say that it's all a sham? Well, we are not rising up in the streets, are we? No, of us like it here and the direction that things are going.

Maybe it's time to move on?

Thanks.

Posted by: JKjr at August 19, 2006 02:39 AM

JKjr: When you actually find science instead of your theories and unsubstantiated "facts" let us know.
JK: Let me ask you where you get your information? Can you disprove any of my main points:
High density construction costs more than low density construction.
High density central cities have been losing population for around 100 years. This demonstrates people's living preferences for less dense areas.
High density causes more traffic congestion.
High density causes more pollution where people live.
Portland's mass transit does not save energy compared to modern cars
Portland's mass transit is not cheaper than modern cars
Light rail costs much more than buses. (It costs too much and does to little.)
Europeans drive almost as much as we do (~5 points less) in spite of gas being about double our cost.
Cities that build light rail tend to have higher traffic congestion.
You can build your way out of congestion.
Los Angeles is the densest region in the country. Metro desires to replicate Los Angeles.
The National Academy of Sciences re-affirmed the existence of the "little ice age" (roughly from 150 to 500 years ago.)
The National Academy of Sciences confirmed that North America is warmer than it was 400 years ago.
The National Academy of Sciences said that the claim that "the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium" is unsupported by the evidence.
The National Academy of Sciences said that there is no sign of peak oil before 2010. A later report by the consultatory that did the former report said oil production capacity will grow significantly through at least 2015.And that "the specter of ‘peal oil' is not imminent."

Please note that we are dealing with real data, not lobbying group or political party handouts.
Have fun.

Thanks
JK

Posted by: jim karlock at August 19, 2006 04:55 AM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]


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