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).What???
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!