3 Articles that Get at the Zeitgeist of Portland
I’ve read 3 different articles lately that I think all help us put together a bit of a picture of what is going on in Portland right now.
The first, Will Portland Always Be a Retirement Community for the Young?, was published a bit back on the NYTimes and discusses the cultural force for why young, educated people move to Portland even though it does not have a great job market. Of note are the draws to urban planning, the amenities, the “weirdness,” and the cost of living. Fascinatingly, all of those things will continue to change as people are drawn for those reasons - regardless of employment, that draw will make amenities, and cost of living go up, and slowly domesticate some of the weirdness.
The influx of new young, educated people leads to the second article, Repacking Portlandia, discusses the wave of new buildings being built in inner Portland that will be coming up in the next 5 years, and makes the argument that many neighborhoods in Portland will be unrecognizable by the end of those 5 years. The argument offered for these tall apartment buildings? An argument that we need all this new housing to keep prices on rents from skyrocketing. While this is certainly true, I find myself a little mistrusting of this narrative when all of the buildings planned are being aimed at the upper class, luxury market. Regardless, these forces are at work.
In the third article, it discusses east Portland, The Forgotten Portland, much of the article discusses the lack or representation of east Portland (Portland beyond 82nd) within the Portland council and some of the history of why east Portland is different. But here’s the part that I found most enlightening from the article:
Portland has a problem with inclusivity. Unlike every other state in the US except Texas, Oregon lacks inclusionary zoning laws, which benefit low-income and minority populations.
"Inclusionary zoning," says Vivian Satterfield, an advocate with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, "is a land-use policy that says that, for either homeownership or rentals, any time a new development is being built a certain percentage of those units have to be set aside for a diversity of options."
Inclusionary zoning was banned in Oregon in 1999, and without it the “invisible hand” of the market determines the costs of housing throughout the state.
So put this information in context with the urban renewal we see in the other articles, and you see exactly why what’s going on becomes harmful - we don’t end up with neighborhoods of mixed people of race and economic class, we build up neighborhoods that get inhabited by upper and upper-middle class folks and force the poorer neighbors out, usually landing in east Portland, because it’s affordable - east Portland, which is vastly underrepresented in city government. I think this development when it makes no place for inclusionary zoning is short sighted and potentially troublesome long term for our city. It creates inequitable distribution of folks and is surprisingly libertarian in its housing policies for a city that prides itself on its progressivism.