Portland backlash against utopian visioning, transportation problemsI really don't mean to be a Portland-basher. It's actually a very nice town. But because it's held up as a model so often for its aggressive visioning, planning, and 'smart growth', I feel it's important to point out the downsides to move the discussion beyond, "Portland's nice - let's be like them." I've accumulated a few links on those downsides over the last couple months, and thought I'd go ahead and compile them into a post to pass along now.
- Their lack of investment in transportation infrastructure - specifically roads - is starting to seriously catch up with them. Heading towards $1.7 billion a year in lost productivity and 16,000 fewer jobs by 2025.
- Citizens are starting to backlash against some of the Utopian and heavy-handed visioning and planning by local government:
In Portland, Oregon, results of a survey about the mayor's long-term planning vision reveal that many in the city feel development is pricing out the poor, and that policies cater more to encouraging economic development than to resident's interests.
"The vision statements currently being drafted by the project — officially known as VisionPDX — are filled with such language, including numerous calls for a clean, green, diverse city where everyone is valued."
"But the project also has unearthed information that suggests many Portlanders are deeply worried the city is moving backward. Among other things, a significant number of the approximately 13,000 questionnaires collected last summer and fall reveal fears that Portland is becoming unaffordable."
"This is in part because of large-scale urban renewal projects approved by the City Council and carried out by the Portland Development Commission over the past decade."
But many are skeptical of the plan's utopian goals, and its lack of specific implementation strategies. ...
'People are very distrustful of government right now...'
- The Cato Institute has released a report titled "Debunking Portland - The City That Doesn't Work". It contains some interesting lists, which I'll repeat here, but if you want the details behind the items, check out the report here.
The Portland Myths
- Investments in transit and land-use changes promoted by planning rules have significantly reduced auto use;
- Transit-oriented developments have proven commercially successful and have moved many people out of their cars;
- Rail transit has, in turn, stimulated billions of dollars of land-use developments;
- The urban-growth boundary and other planning rules have significantly reduced sprawl; and
- Portlanders love their plans.
Problems with Portland's Plans
- Increasingly unaffordable housing prices.
- Increased traffic congestion.
- Higher taxes or reduced urban services as tax revenues are diverted to rail transit and transit-oriented development.
- A reputation for having an unfriendly business environment, leading to higher unemployment.
Recommendations for Portland
- Portland-area voters should dissolve Metro, the regional planning agency, and return planning functions to local governments.
- The state legislature should repeal the land-use planning laws that are driving up housing prices and immobilizing the region’s transportation systems.
- As an intermediate step, the state should pass legislation requiring Metro or local governments to make enough land available for development at marketable densities to maintain a 20-year supply of land. Similar legislation is currently being considered
by the California legislature.
- As suggested by University of Maryland public policy professor Robert Nelson, the state could also pass legislation giving groups of homeowners and landowners the ability to opt out of local land-use planning and zoning by creating a homeowners’ or landowners’ association that writes its own plans and protective covenants.
- The state should also create a regional tollroads authority that can sell bonds backed to tolls to build highways to meet the demand as measured by motorists’ willingness to pay tolls that are priced to minimize congestion.
- The region should halt construction of rail transit lines and other transportation projects that are not cost effective in relieving congestion.
- The legislature should eliminate or strictly limit the ability of local governments use tax-increment financing. At the very least, such financial support should be provided to developers only if an area is so blighted that no development would take place without initial financial support.
Finally, Randal O' Toole, the author of the Cato report, had the good humor to mock himself on his own blog: "Right-Wing Think Tank Releases Report on Portland" Very amusing.