“The City that Works” should trade in its motto for “The City that Plans.” For decades now urban areas have been preached to and seduced by the utopian direhards of Portland, Oregon, the pioneers of “Smart Growth” whose collegiate School of Urban Studies and Planning sets the bar for great ways to spend other peoples’ money, and whose own Planning and Sustainability Commission simply can’t stop coming up with solutions to the unintended consequences of their own last big idea.
One of the commission’s latest proposals is to force new private buildings downtown to “include spaces where houseless Portlanders can ‘rest,’ which could include sleeping and pitching tents,” reports Willamette Week. Apparently they never got the message that companies have been moving out of downtown to avoid the inescapable realities of doing business in a homeless-friendly city.
In what fever dream does a multi-million dollar downtown construction project pencil out with the street level dedicated to homelessness?
Even the ultra-liberal Willamette Week seems to want to give Portland planners a hint: “For many years, developers have complained Portland’s design review process often adds unnecessary time and expense to construction. Those complaints gained traction as housing prices and rents soared.”
This is the same city that banned an entire design of single family dwelling back in the late ’90s. The “snout house” was deemed to make the city less “livable” by putting a garage in a prominent street-facing position. Builders complained that these houses were both economical to produce and popular among buyers who valued their own privacy over this rabidly anti-auto city’s quest for connectedness, but to no avail.
This is the city that chose to limit new road construction and promote congestion to force people to give up their cars, only to wrestle now with the reality that all these idling cars add to greenhouse gas emissions. It’s the city that now suggests electric bicycles are the way to “kill cars” in this rainy climate, with baskets to carry groceries and one special model suggested, I kid you not, to replace the minivan for your 1.5 children.
This is the city that went all-in on light rail construction, no matter the price tag, because wealthier people were more likely to ride trains than buses, even if buses do provide better actual transportation for regular commuters. As the poster child for light rail, Portland has had the benefit of vast federal dollars to allocate, but that hasn’t stopped property taxes from soaring, even while Antifa stages tantrum-protests to demand “No Fare” transportation. And despite more than $3.6 billion to build a light rail system, between 1997 and 2016, its public transit market share fell.
It’s the city that indulged a Portland State University dream to close a lane of its busy waterfront traffic each summer for a pedestrian thoroughfare that kills business. The city that just launched an “equitable mobility taskforce” to evaluate how steep fees on driving could reduce congestion, even though most peak drivers are medium to low income.
This is the city that would cry in its beer if new technology made cars completely and utterly guilt-free avenues to personal freedom and mobility with zero environmental impact. They Would Cry.
Yes, this is also the city that led the state in a move to zone every last inch of land to combat urban sprawl. In one stunning move the state artificially increased the price of all land zoned inside their precious “urban growth boundaries,” while artificially deflating the cost of all farmland, and took one option after another off the table for those struggling to keep the century farm in business in our 21st Century economy.
Does anyone seriously question whether Portland’s planning visionaries have added to the cost of living in the city, and thereby the level of homelessness? Does anyone wonder whether their efforts to be “welcoming” to the homeless might drive working families farther out of the city, increasing congestion and sprawl, while decreasing employment opportunities for those urbanites who can’t get out?
After watching this city wage war so fervently against drivers and developers, it is nothing short of unnerving to see it embrace homelessness as a permanent feature of the city. Rather than trying to end homelessness, this is the city that will seek to ignore it, accomodate it, legislate it, and finally glorify it.
The City that Plans (To Ruin Everything) is desperately seeking some virtue-signaling corporations who want to dedicate some of their most valuable real estate — their street level real estate — to provide a safe space for the houseless — not the homeless, mind you, for that bleeding heart corporation will become “home.”
Let them put a street cam out, for security of course, but also to track this grand social experiment so we can all see what wonderful things can happen in a person’s life when a city forces its new real estate developers to prioritize the homeless over the employee, the customer, the rent-paying tenant, or the bottom line of profitability.
Good people of America, I cannot stress this strongly enough: Do not take urban planning advice from Portland, Oregon. Millions of people making their own independent decisions cannot possibly get things as wrong as the intellectual elite know-it-alls of this City That Doesn’t Work.