1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: lifsey@lclark.edu
Date: Mon, 1 Nov 1999 11:50:58 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: [CPEO-BIF] Urban Growth Boundaries
Hi Tony,

I live in Portland, Oregon, and I would like to respond to the Reason
Public Policy Institute article regarding Portland's land use laws.

Yes, there is a need for low-income housing in Portland, like other urban
areas in the US.  And, yes, I agree that Portland has some of the
strictist land use laws in the country.  However, Portland's land use laws
do not restrict developers from building low-income housing.  In fact,
Portland's land use laws are designed to encourage developers to build in
urban areas, where the housing is needed, and not in over-developed suburban

Like Alan, I have doubts about the source of RPPI's information. These are
quotes from the Oregonian article published 10/13/99 regarding
developers and housing availability in Portland [Metro is Portland's
elected regional government that makes land use decisions for the Portland
Metro area:]

"Metro Executive Officer Mike Burton said he has no evidence that 
Portland will fail to meet its housing goals, which are critical to 
the region's success in containing growth. But he said tensions are 

"Metro's land inventory shows more than 13,000 vacant acres inside 
the urban growth boundary, enough in theory to last 15 years and hold 
187,000 new homes."

Portland, like many cities in the US, has plenty of room for
development--there are vacant lots, brownfields, and old buildings that
need to be remodled.  The issue is not whether Portland's land use laws
are over-restrictive to the point that housing is not available.  Rather,
the issue is whether developers are willing to invest their money urban
areas, and whether the federal, state, and local governments are willing
to provide incentives for developers to do so. 

This is clearly an environmental and social justice problem.  Developers
should not be able to evade the question of why low-income areas in
Portland are not being redeveloped by pointing their fingers at the local
government.  Portland was one of the first cities in the nation to
recognize the problem of urban sprawl and the importance of urban renewal.  
Developers in Portland need to aknowledge that we cannot continue to build
in suburban areas without adversely affecting the urban area it surrounds.  
Portland's land use laws and its unique regional government are an
effective means of controlling surburban sprawl, and are only a starting
point to addressing the social justice and environmental justice issues in
downtown Portland.

Margi Lifsey
Lewis & Clark College, Northwestern School of Law

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