Saturday, January 17, 2009

Learning the wrong lesson

In 2002, Metro decided that the best place to expand the urban growth boundary in order to meet its statutorily required 20 year inventory of housing land, was as far away from the major job center as possible. So they brought thousands of acres in and around Damascus into the boundary.

They were so excited. Finally, they had a blank slate upon which they could draw their urban village utopia. They started plans for 50,000 new residents, fully in their blueprint of "new-urbanism:" bike paths, mixed use commercial centers, small lots crammed with townhouses - we've all seen the drill.

Some folks in Damascus went along, seeing a big payday ahead when they sold their land. But most of the good folks in Damascus saw it for what it was: a pig in a poke. Not only was there no way in Hell that there would ever be enough money to build out the necessary infrastructure for a new city of 50,000 people (which means all their plans would sit idle, much like the Beaverton Round, the Cascade Station, and other new-urbanist wet dreams) but the folks in Damascus didn't want their little burgh to be turned into what the Metro planners wanted in the first place.

So they passed a couple local initiatives which pretty much stopped Metro in its tracks. Now, seven years later, Metro has finally admitted defeat.

But predictably, they are taking precisely the wrong lesson from that defeat.

The lesson they SHOULD learn is that people don't share their new-urban vision. For the most part, people don't want to live that way. They want back yards and cul-de-sacs, and they want to use their car to move around as they please.

But why would Metro learn that lesson now? It's not as if this is the first spectacular failure of one of their new urbanist projects. After all, when others don't share your religion, it is only because they haven't had sufficient exposure to your gospel. The fault isn't with the religion.

David Bragdon, Metro council president, had this to say about the fiasco in Damascus:

"I think this council will look very skeptically at further urban growth boundary expansions. The reality is that we need to be more efficient with land already inside the boundary."

In other words: "Fine. If you don't bend over and let us force our plans on you when we expand the boundary, we are just gunna pile everyone inside the current boundary."

It would be too much to hope for, I guess, that one of these dolts might think:

"Hey, maybe this model we all think is so cool isn't what the folks we are elected to represent actually want. Maybe we should learn from our many expensive failures, because it seems every time we try to build one of these new urban villages, it ends up a financial disaster. Perhaps what we should do is expand the urban growth boundary, and allow the local areas to decide how they want to allow growth on it."

No, don't worry. I am NOT that naive. I know that people like Peter Bragdon and Carl Hosticka and all the other central planning social engineer utopians do not consider it their job to represent the people who elected them. Their job is to establish their religion, and force it on their subjects regardless of whether they want it.

So it was absolutely predictable that the takeaway from the Peter Bragdon types would be that we can't expand the urban growth boundary. That lesson serves his agenda.

An agenda that is increasingly being exposed as one that is ruining what was once a terrifically functioning metropolitan area.


jk said...

What do you expect from an agency that based its philosophy on this kind of stuff. Notice the high proportion of garbage like Al Gore’s book:

Abolish the Suburbs, Casco Bay Weekly, July 1993.

Can Selfishness Save the Environment, Matt Ridley and Bobbi Low, Atlantic. Mnnthly, September 1993.

Choices for Oregon's Future. Part 1: A Handbook on Alternative Scenarios for Oregon Planners, March 1988.

Citistates, Neil Pierce, 1993.

Design With Nature, Ian McHarg, 1971.

Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Al Gore, 1993.

Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, Joel Garreau, 1991.

The Experience of Place, Tony Hiss, 1990.

Growth Management: Keeping on Target, Douglas R . Porter, ed., 1986.

Land Use in Transition: Emerging Forces and Issues Shaping the Rea/ Estate Environment, The Urban Land Institute, 1993 .

Land Use Strategies for More Livable Places, The Local Government Commission, June 1992.

New Theory of Urban Design, Christopher Alexander, et. al.

No Exit, Barbara Vobejda, The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, March 1993.

Post Capitalist Society, Peter Drucker, 1993.

Strategic Growth: Taking Charge of the Future . A Blueprint for California, Office of Planning and Research, State of California, January 1993.

The Middle Path for the Future of Thailand: Technology in harmony with Culture and the
Environment, Sippanonhda Ketudat, 1990.

US Melting Pot Starts to Brew a Bitter Taste, Jonathan Tilove and Joe Halliman, The Oregonian, August 1993.

Whites Flee Immigrants for 'whiter' States, Jonathan Tilove and Joe Halliman, The Oregonian, August 1993.

Winning the War on Smog, Gregg Easterbrook, Newsweek, August 1993.

This is a partial bibliography from Metro’s Future Vision Report one of the reports required buy its charter. Available from :

Sieg Hiel!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah as if Bragdon learned a damn thing from yet another failure of the planning class. Those assholes consider us mere citizens to be simply subjects of their experiments.

I am so fucking sick of these people pretending we all want what they are shoving down our throats.

Anonymous said...

Oh, for crying out the windo....clean it up! Can't you write without the foul language? There's a place for such venom, but this blog ain't it.

Matt Evans said...

The lesson of Damascus is also that communities - even communities with city councils that are in Metro's hip pocket - do not have to go along with the central planners' vision. Citizens in local communities can band together and fight back. AskBeaverton. AskHillsboro. AskOregonCity. AskClackamas. AskNorthPlains.

TownBuilder said...

The problem is not with New Urbanism; the problem is context. Far to often planners and developers with questionable motives are using New Urbanism to achieve enhanced densities in the suburbs or urban fringe.

Anonymous said...

A "Smart Growth" conference for Realtors, Community Leaders and Citizens in Damascus

Thursday May 7th, 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Gymnasium, Damascus Christian School

There's a bunch of big-wigs from around the country speaking.

Registration is required. $25, dinner included. Call Karen 503.667.1211,

This is sponsored by the Association of Realtors, City of Damascus & the Oregon Transportation & Growth Management Program