The Antiplanner spent yesterday in the Portland, visiting the neighborhood where I grew up and seeing the new homes springing up in people’s backyards, sideyards, frontyards, and just about anywhere where there is a little open space. Portland planners say that 55 percent of new homes built in the next two decades will be multifamily or single-family attached homes (row houses). If the single-family homes being built in my old neighborhood are good examples of the kind of single-family planners want for the remaining 45 percent, they won’t be any more attractive than the 55 percent.
Economist Bill Reid argues that Metro planners are greatly overestimating the desire for multifamily housing. Based on a survey published by Metro itself, Reid predicts that Metro’s plans will result in a shortfall of more than 40,000 single-family detached homes. Unfortunately, Reid’s study doesn’t seem to be available on line, but it is described in this Portland Tribune article.
Predictably, one of the comments on the Portland Tribune article lauds Metro and urban-growth boundaries for protecting Oregon from becoming like “overcrowded California.” In fact, these policies are deliberately designed to turn Portland into another overcrowded California urban area.
Back in 1994, when Metro’s densification policies were still being debated, planners put together a booklet called Metro Measured that compared data from the nation’s fifty largest urban areas. The booklet revealed what planners called a “disparity between perception and measurement.” Specially, it found that Los Angeles had “high densities and low per capita road and freeway mileage” (in fact, the highest densities and the lowest per capita freeway miles of any urban area in the report). Yet “common perceptions of Los Angeles suggest low density, high per capita road mileage and intolerable congestion.
“In public discussions we gather the general impression that Los Angeles represents a future to be avoided,” the report continued. “By the same token, with respect to density and road per capita mileage it displays an investment pattern we desire to replicate” in Portland. It apparently never occurred to planners that this “disparity” suggested a flaw in their plans.