Thanks for your recent detailed account of the way that the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission gave its collective finger to residents of Northeast Portland neighborhoods by refusing to consider changes to rules that permit the construction of apartment buildings with inadequate off-street parking (or more commonly none at all). I happen to live on a block where the predictable effect of such construction practices is obvious: on-street parking for folks who actually live on this block, and for visitors, is now a scarce commodity, soon to be become even scarcer when two more apartment buildings are completed and occupied.
The Planning and Sustainability Commission members have all seen the results of surveys showing that most apartment-building occupants actually own cars. The Commission members don’t deny the data; instead they make ideological pronouncements: people have no legitimate need for automobiles and therefore nothing should be done about providing parking. They behave like the physician who insists the patient with chronic pain is a fraud who doesn’t actually need a prescription.
Before moving to the Hollywood District in 1992, I lived for 3-1/2 years in what was then a barely developed part of Clark County, Washington. My spouse and I had moved from Seattle and bought a charming old farmhouse on an acre plot relatively near my Vancouver workplace. Within a year, everything around us began to be subdivided.
The Clark County idea of planning and development does not include building a rational street grid: instead, subdivisions are built with only a single way in or out. All traffic is therefore funneled onto whatever happens to be the nearest existing old county road. That charming old farmhouse of ours was on one of those old county roads, and the traffic became awful. That’s the Clark County way: the quality of life of folks who happened to live on those on old roads was quite knowingly sacrificed to satisfy contractors building flimsy new houses. My spouse and I opted to move to an established neighborhood in the city.
Imagine my surprise, then, when it turns out that in the rush to facilitate permits for more apartment buildings, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission is just as happy as the Clark County “planners” to sacrifice—or perhaps just ignore—the quality of life of established neighbor residents. The commissioners greenwashed their decision, of course, with support from various community scolds. The “progressives” on the Commission have also co-opted a standard right-wing political gambit by cultivating people’s resentments, specifically, the resentments of non-homeowners.
In closing, I’d like to ask: Why the rush to approve a lot of shoddy looking apartment buildings in the first place? Allegedly vacancy rates are low, but that claim is hard to square with Portland State University demographic data (http://bojack.org/2013/01/portland_population_growth_slo_2.html) that indicates a tiny rate of population growth in Portland.
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