More on the inevitable growth crowd

by Steve, May 8th, 2008

I’ve written some recently about gentrification and certain candidates’ fixation on the idea that 300,000 new residents will be shortly arriving in Portland. Sam Adams, Chris Smith and Jim Middaugh have all thrown this number around as the gospel truth, to the delight of big real estate developers who are looking forward to Sam Adams as mayor.

These guys aren’t all that thrilled with the prospect of Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz on the council, both of whom have questioned the wisdom of continuing city subsidies to a high-end condo market that’s starting to slump so badly they’ve stopped work on some and converted others to rentals.

Despite the casual way some candidates are tossing around the 300,000 figure, which represents a doubling of our current growth rate, Metro has put the figure at less than half that: 148,000. (The Portland Mercury points this out in its analysis of Chris Smith’s campaign literature.

This puts the damper on the mad dash to gentrify all of our close-in neighborhoods, but the mythology still lingers. Yesterday a new blogger on Metblogs wrote a defensive post titled Growth is here to stay, get over it.

The post makes some good points about Oregonians’ provincialism, but misses the greater point about the city government’s role in managing growth. Yes, some growth is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we need to a) encourage it or b) bankrupt the city giving infrastructure subsidies to condo developers in the guise of preparing for it.

The fact is that we can accommodate the growth that is expected without building an east-side Pearl, and without building nine-story condo bunkers on Interstate Avenue. At some point the environmentalists who have been placated by real estate developers with buzzwords like “sustainable,” “green” and “smart growth” will realize that what we’ve done in the Pearl is none of the above.

3 Responses to “More on the inevitable growth crowd”

  1. Comment from Portland Gentrification:

    That Metblog post is puerility and nothing more. The phrase “get over it” is what people say who don’t have what it takes to examine things.

  2. Comment from Jesse:

    I don’t think that the city’s given all that many subsidies to condos. In fact, the majority of “subsidy” in the pearl for condos is actually state historic tax credits–a program available to any historic building being renovated anywhere in the state approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.

    You also don’t speak about three issues that are important to the conversation:

    1. The source of these infrastructure dollars are tax increment financing that is generated by the properties in the urban renewal area that the properties are in. The original mission of PDC was to use these dollars to increase property taxes by revitalizing these neighborhoods.

    2. Since the passage of Measure 5 & 50, this has made this mission have to focus almost entirely on the creation of new units–office, industrial or residential. In other words, densify. This is why urban renewal areas in neighborhoods (Gateway, Interstate, Lents) generate much fewer dollars.

    3. The pearl has a greater percentage of permanently (non profit) affordable units than any other neighborhood in Portland.

  3. Comment from Steve:

    For the Pearl, I believe the city subsidy was about $80 million, including removing and rebuilding the Lovejoy ramps, the streetcar, and two new parks. This does not include the ongoing operational expenses for the streetcar (at least $1 million a year) or maintenance on the parks.

    That’s a lot of simoleons in my book.

    I’ll leave it to others to debunk the myth of affordable housing in the Pearl.