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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Portland: Vancouver's Guadalajara?

I got an e-mail this morning reminding me about an upcoming conference here in town entitled "Sustainability in the Urban Built Environment." Greenies from all over are being invited to Portland to "explore a living laboratory," namely, our city.

Alas, the deadline to apply to attend this confab was two weeks ago, and so we guess we won't be making the cut. But scrolling through the late sales pitch was interesting. We noted with interest that the City of Portland's "sustainable development" office (formerly known as "Sanitation," I think, back in the day when these bureaus had less comical names) has brought on a "sustainable economic development director," directly from Vancouver, B.C., where he was head of the Canada Carbon Trust.

Ooooo, Vancouver, B.C. The source of so much arousal in Portland's already engorged planning bureaucracy.

Anyway, this guy Tom Osdoba has been at it here in the Rose City for around a year, I believe, helping Big Pipe and Sustainable Susan make things not just sustainable, but super-duper-sustainable. Oh, and helping to keep the tax money pumping into the coffers of the likes of Gerding and Edlen, apparently.

Some of Osdoba's writings are kind of intriguing. Here's a piece he wrote a year ago while still in B.C., wherein he pretty much sums up the tenets of "eco-density":

[I]f people need to live in a denser city, we need to make the lifestyle attractive. We must design buildings and neighbourhoods to provide comfortable, pleasurable living environments, and combine that with childcare centres, libraries, community centres, and businesses for day-to-day goods and services. This challenge demands that we help people break from the traditional notion that a house on a big lot is the pinnacle of living.
Most interestingly, Osdoba was highlighted as an "urban legend" in something called Best Life magazine. He was interviewed about his then-place of employment north of the border. There's no date on the article, but it looks to have come out in the spring of 2007.

It's eerily familiar stuff. Osdoba's comments include these:

the world’s longest automated light-rail system.... It’s also quite green, owing to the fact that 90 percent of the energy comes from hydroelectric power plants.... This downtown high-rise district of modern apartments and condos... currently boasts one of the highest population densities in the world. Much of it is also a greenway (a car-free zone), which really makes it pleasant for bikers and pedestrians.... The technology here is pretty simple: Using heat-exchange principles, the city will literally suck the heat out of the main sewer line that passes nearby and use it to create a heat-and-hot-water-generating grid underneath the entire development.... This former industrial waterfront and warehouse district was rebuilt into a thriving downtown neighborhood that exemplifies what urban planners now call Vancouverism -- downtown living that fuses modern glass-and-concrete high-rise condos with recreation centers, parks, and entertainment.... [E]ven nonresidents flock here for the restaurants, microbreweries, galleries, and boutiques.
O.k., all to be expected, given the man's job description. But check out what the article said about Portland!
When a city out west doubles in population in just more than a decade, it usually leads to tract housing on hillsides, traffic jams and road rage, skyrocketing asthma rates, and, on windless, rainless days, an apocalyptic haze. Unless, that is, you’re talking about Vancouver, British Columbia. Unlike its nearby neighbors Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, it has avoided sprawl by building up, not out, and by luring residents downtown with attractive housing options (see “The West End,” below).

Portland isn't "avoiding sprawl by building up, not out"? Isn't that what Opie, Fireman Randy, Sam the Tram, and Big Pipe himself have been doing for us (or to us) for a half dozen years or more?

How dare this magazine say such awful things about our green, progressive city! Instead of hiring this guy, we should have sued him for being an accomplice to libel. The nerve!

Comments (23)

So in this "living laboratory," who are the rats?

From Examiner: " Dealing with building code barriers is a huge challenge to (water) conservation," Tom Osdoba, economic development manager for the Portland Office of Sustainability, said. We have to figure out how to get out of the way of innovation." This in regards to the June 20 meeting to change plumbing codes to allow gray water into our houses to be used over...next drinking water from the sewer, while chip factories get the pure stuff.
Another clone of Richard Florida, who dreams up the loonyness that Portland swallows.

Why did you delete the paragraph about raccoons?

Meanwhile, Sam the Tram is just back from a fact-finding mission to "Stockholm (and other places)" researching bike-sharing systems across the globe (according to BikePortland.org). I wonder how much we paid for that summer vacation.

Oh give me some boots to where.
This sewage gets deeper every day.
The Portland region has poured billions into the mixed use-Transit Oriented development push for over 20 years.

And here we are watching countless millions more from Metro, TriMet, Gresham and CoP, pumped into where it all started on the Eastside MAX line.

Supposedly to do what all the planners and prior millions could not do?

Airport MAX and the BIG plan for a Cascade Station mini city devoured some $220 million only to produce a BIG BOX strip mall that never would have needed any tax money.

The PDC borrows millions to pay themselves first and the beat goes on.

One farce after another ushered along with planner's rhetoric and the war on sprawl.

And today we have a cluster of absolute racketeered failure at SoWa with the public and basic services on the hook for 100s of millions borrowed, spent and awaiting to be diverted.

It's all so very stupid.

"downtown living that fuses modern glass-and-concrete high-rise condos with recreation centers, parks, and entertainment"

I'll grant them Stanlye Park and the waterfront (which even they can't screw up.) Otherwise, its an outdoor mall, so what?

However, before we breach some more dams, we might want to heed how green hydroelectric is.


Exactly how much hydroelectric power has been lost?

Just curious, you seem to believe that it's a huge amount.


Vancouver's Guadalajara?

Personally, I prefer "The Branson, Missouri of Indie Rock"

It is true the "City of Vancouver" has built up. They had to; there is ocean on one side and mountains on the other. The transplanted populations from China, India and other former colonies, came with plenty of money to buy in.
However, the burbs of Richmond, Delta, Burnaby, Langly, and on and on, all the way to White Rock at the border are sprawl at its worst! The rich delta farm land has been covered with houses, low rise apartments mini and maxi malls, Wal-Marts and Ikea stores.
This is where those who couldn't afford the downtown or to stay there went.
There is no infrastructure to support this growth and NO plans either. The traffic is just awful any time of day. Public transport in the burbs is just terrible. The commute under the river through that little tiny tunnel at any time of days is so slow that at 15 miles an hour one feels as though you are going really fast!
This guy didn't keep the sprawl out of the city, geography did, and the sprawl went someplace else. I think everyone up here was glad to see some other city have to pay his salary.


You criticize this stuff, and rightfully so, however you support Obama who is all about bringing this to a national level. While I am not a republican, and never voted for one in my life, I cannot support Obama. This lunacy would go on at a much larger scale should he win. And even though everyone in the Portland bubble thinks he has it in the bag, I don't think it will work out quite so well for Obama. The rest of America is more middle of the road, and thinks quite differently than parochial Portland.

I can't vote for the no-can-do Democrats either. If you want to be herded around in railcars and told to freeze for lack of energy and the environment, vote democrat. Representative Blumenhauer said so as much yesterday saying how he wants to subsidize mass transit so that riders get the same subsidies as automobile drivers. I don't know what he's smoking but its sure making him delusional. Mass transit riders don't even pay 20% of the cost of their transport at the farebox, and on the Max they have no idea how many aren't paying anything.

Representative Blumenhauer delusional or dementia? He's been light-headed for years and still has a horrible driving record. Some people were meant to ride a bike.

What is your real point with this piece? It seems like you are trolling on your own blog, and lots of whining posts followed. Unfortunately, no concrete criticism of that which you purport to despise is offered, and no data-supported alternatives are given the light of day.

So, really, what is your point with this?

"This challenge demands that we help people break from the traditional notion that a house on a big lot is the pinnacle of living."

"help people break" = tell people what they are allowed to have

This is the new Democratic policy, and we are getting a clearer vision of it.

Father to Son:

"Son, I realize I had everything easy in my life. We had washer machines to do all our cloths. When those clothes were done, we'd simply dry them. We had dish washers. I drove a car to work. In the winter, my car was 70 degrees inside. In the summer, the car was also 70 degrees inside. Yes son, I led a pampered life. A life that my parent's generation strived for and got us. Well now son, I am sorry. You can't have it so easy. You need to manually wash your clothes, hang them to dry. You need to ride a bicycle to work. We can't build nuclear power, because, well I am just scared of it because I didn't study any science and know anything about it. We can't have dams anymore, because they hurt fish. Solar will only go so far here in Oregon, and wind farms are out because they are ugly and hurt birds. Sorry son. You're going to live like they did 200 years ago."

And what a winning policy it is!

It seems like you are trolling on your own blog, and lots of whining posts followed.

Ah, "Lou," we hardly knew ye.

Obama who is all about bringing this to a national level

No he isn't. He's as corporate as the next guy, you watch.

"This challenge demands that we help people break from the traditional notion that a house on a big lot is the pinnacle of living"

These people beg to differ:




You forgot one.

Hey Lou,

What kind of "concrete, supportive data" are you looking for? The kind cooked up by planners that preceeds all the Transit Oriented Developments like SoWa?


Is that some kind of a joke?

a UGB does not stop development--it only concentrates it, while simultaneously hoping for things to pile up vertically out of impatience with land supply.

do folks not realize that the UGB is not really a firm boundary, but a slow-moving line that simply trades one set of problems (sprawl) for another (environmental degradation and cities that can't live without stripping an ever increasing part of the planet to operate)?

"Exactly how much hydroelectric power has been lost?"

Considering that energy demand is going up and building new dams is impossible, I think any loss of hydro-electric needs to be taken seriously.

The funny thing about all these sustainability whack jobs is that they don't seem to understand that the debt load they're creating is unsustainable. In their rush to create "green" everything they have larded up on debt and someday in the not too distant future the bill will need to be paid.

I was at a talk by a Vancouver BC planner last winter. She told of all the neat projects to increase density without a word about cost.

At Q&A, I asked about the cost of housing.

She unloaded!
Spent several minutes explaining that it was the worst problem they have. They don’t know what to do about it!

Afterwards, I approached her and suggested it was the growth controls and she just shook her head in that classic response that true believers give instead of admitting the obvious - she knew, but would not admit it to herself.

PS: I finally met an ethical planner:
It was at the last American Dream Conference and this guy told the story of how he explained, to an older person, that the land he had invested in for his retirement was going to become worthless because of the new plan. That was when he decided to leave planning. Too bad Oregon doesn’t have any of his type.


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