Portland Also Fears Becoming Another San Francisco


Potestio would like to see Portland housing organized around local "commons," made up of a school, playground, or park."

I live down the street from playground, park (including a dogwalk) and a school.

There is a common pool, and greenspaces within the complex.

There are commercial strips within walking distance.

These can be easily built.

They should be built.

And interconnected with heavy rail.

But you do not do this.

Portland's situation is slightly different from that of Seattle in that, the geography of the city covers a significantly larger footprint. Whereas central Seattle is hemmed in by large bodies of water on its western and eastern borders (an attribute it shares with San Francisco), Portland (and its suburbs) sits on a wide, flat alluvial plain, thus providing a fairly substantial amount of space for development. Basically, the City of Seattle has about 40% less land area than Portland, but 1.65 times the population (again, not counting contiguous municipalities), so it only makes sense that land values here are going to be affected by trying to cram more people into a smaller amount of space.

In short, Portland has plenty of room to grow, which, with prudent regulation of development, could go a long ways toward them avoiding becoming another San Francisco. Seattle OTOH, being more physically similar to SF, and with apparently little in the way of such regulation (at least at present) doesn't.

My point exactly.

We can't grow Seattle in Seattle.

But we can make more "Seattle" in other parts of Washington State...and hook them up with fast Heavy Rail.

"Sustainable Agrarian Urbanism: The Low-Density Cities of the Mayas and Aztecs"

The residential areas of Maya and Aztec cities resembled modern peri-urbanzones and informal settlements. Because of the beneļ¬ts of smallholder intensive urban agriculture, citiesthrived for many centuries, and some were successful for millennia.

On the basis of this longevity, weargue that these were sustainable cities, and their form and dynamics may hold lessons for understanding contemporary urbanization processes.

Look around downtown Portland and you'll see that more of their big buildings in the downtown core are offices and hotels vs our many apartment buildings in our urban core. This would explain the lack of housing density in Portland's downtown vs ours. Go a few blocks outside the very center and there are a lot more apartments in Portland. Not sure how they're counting them, but Portland isn't even as bad as a lot of cities in this country.
Go downtown in a place like Hartford Connecticut on a Sunday and it is literally deserted. Nobody is there. You could film your post apocalyptic last man on earth movie. Come back on Monday morning and it's traffic clogged and full of people working.
Charles, how do you hate development so much and love densisty so much?
@4, Yeah. If your only industry and occupation is farming then you're going to wind up living on a farm. Even in a "city". Derp! The modern world doesn't work like that. Social people like to live near other people. They like to have resources and opportunities within a reasonable distance.
The problem with too many of our modern environments is that financial standing determines where you can live and thus your ability to take advantage of the resources and opportunities.
I'm not arguing that everyone deserves to live in a mansion with a ocean view that also is walkable and has great schools and jobs. BUT, there should be a reasonable choice for people who wish to live near the opportunities that a city provides. An efficient and affordable fast commute is the minimum alternative.
Portland will never be San Francisco, or even Seattle. An economy can't be fueled by just beer, books and donuts. There's a reason the Timbers are sponsored by a Seattle company.

On the other hand, Portland's broad-based small-to-medium scale economic diversity could be viewed as something of an advantage: not putting all your eggs in one or maybe two baskets (e.g. tech, aerospace) means you don't suffer as much from the roller-coaster effects of periodic economic downturns. Granted, they got hit pretty hard by the 2008 recession, but the effects, though severe (Portland's unemployment rate spiked from 4.6% in October 2007 to 11.9% in June of 2009, which sounds bad on the surface until you consider Los Angeles' UR by comparison went from 5.8% to 12.9% during the same period in time and continued to climb for a another full year to a high of 14.5% in July 2010) also tended to bounce back just as quickly, and is now at a comfortable 5.3%, slightly better than the national average.
in addition to @2 geographical analysis, there just aren't enough people in Portland to San Francisanize.
Portland probably will become more expensive over time, but it would need to experience an impossible number of economic and cultural changes if it were ever in danger of becoming another San Francisco, not to mention the lack of geographic constraints mentioned @2, i.e. not being surrounded by water on 3 sides.
Those who change their investments to government bonds after the 2008 crash, didn't do as well as those that just let it stay put and ride it out.
Portland also doesn't have a major university to draw high-wage talent from. In fact the entire state of Oregon doesn't have a single Top 100 school, while San Francisco has two Top 20 universities less than 30 miles away.
"Lastly, Seattle is denser than Oakland, almost twice as dense as Portland, almost as dense as Los Angeles, and nowhere near as dense as San Francisco."

None of which are as dense as *Queens* County, New York. San Fransico is the closest at ~17,000 per square mile (Queens is roughly 20,000). If San Fransico was as dense as Brooklyn (~34,000), twice as many people could live there. Which would "probably" lower housing costs by doubling the supply,

In fact, no American city other than NYC is as dense as Queens.

Why do you hate Mesoamerican people?


I grew up in Queens. It's a Borough of great diversity. There are neighborhoods of dense apartments that would rival any single city's urbanity.

There are the narrow row houses, made famous by the intro of All In The Family.

There are the sweeping plazas like in Kew Gardens, and the wide, swift highways, built by Robert Moses..Van Wyck, Grand Central, Long Island Expressway.

And the jewel in the crown, the city forever in the future, Flushing Meadows home of the '64 World's Fair.

Then there is the part I grew up in, South Ozone Park, which has many free standing brick homes.

Ozone Park, by the way, boasts many notables, including John Gotti, Cyndi Lauper and Bernadette Peters.

If you've never read Richard Brugman's book, "A Compact History of Sprawl," it's worth checking out: http://www.amazon.com/Sprawl-Compact-His…

The guy is a defender of sprawl, but It nevertheless has some interesting things to say that are worth thinking about. He's got some stuff about PDX's growth management limitations and how that has affected property values.

He also correctly points out that there is more than one way to think about density. It's true that the city of San Francisco proper is probably the only American city on the west coast that comes close to matching some east coast cities in density (Vancouver is also pretty dense; its population is lower than Seattle, but it feels a lot more urban to me, because it is almost twice as dense as Seattle).

In any case, Brugman points out that if you look at the density of urban areas instead of the core city or cities within an urban area, then Los Angeles is the densest urban area in America, followed by San Francisco/Oakland, and San Jose. The Seattle urban area is 18th on that list. FWIW, Portland is 13th, probably because its suburbs are more dense that are many of Seattle's.

In essence, a higher number on this metric means that higher density is spread over a larger geographic area.

"..[O]nly one Northeastern city ranks in the top ten (New York) and none are from the Midwest. Seven of the top ten are in the West, with five in California and two more from the Intermountain West. Two more are from the South. However, two western cities that have among the strongest urban containment policies (densification policies), Seattle and Portland are not among the top ten in density." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendell-co…

Even though the city of Boston is around 13,000 people per square mile (similar to Vancouver) compared to LA's density of around 8000 people per square mile, the suburbs of LA are much more dense than the Boston suburbs. The Boston urban area is less than 1/3 as dense as the LA urban area. Boston is the 35th most dense urban area in America. So significantly less dense than either Portland or Seattle.

It's interesting to think about this sort of stuff as it relates to things like improving mass transit. Many of the densest urban areas in America are on the west coast or in the south, and they achieve this higher density, because their suburbs are more dense, and also probably because they sprawl out further at a higher level of density.

The LA, San Diego, and Riverside urban areas are all in the top 12 for density. In many ways, you could view these three areas as one singular area. There are plenty of people who commute into LA from places like Riverside, Ontario, etc. I bet plenty of people commute north from Oceanside and Carlsbad to the southern part of the LA urban area as well.

So in a way, this seems to be a form of high density that is supported by the automobile, rather than supporting transit, although to be fair, they are building rail connections east out to Ontario, San Bernadino, etc., and the San Diego urban has built out rail too. It seems to be significantly ahead of Seattle in that regard. You can take the train all the way from San Diego to Oceanside.

But it does seem like many of the classic rail transit system in the US are in places where density is over 10,000 people per square mile inside the center cities of those urban areas.

But to the extent that LA and San Diego have been building rail the last 20 years, perhaps there is an urban area density inflection point over which car traffic becomes so bad and commutes so long that rail starts looking like a more appealing option.

To the extent that downtown Bellevue is now more dense than most of Seattle (22,000 people per square mile), maybe increased density of the Seattle urban area as whole will be driven both by the density increases happening in Seattle and also by further urbanization/densification of some of the eastern suburbs. And if there is an urban area density inflection point for a regional increase in the adoption of rail and other mass transit options, perhaps we will cross that threshold in the next 10-15 years. It'll be interesting to see what happens.