Thursday, January 22, 2009
Yet another planning failure
In the Washington County section of The Funny Paper today there's a great article about another high profile planning failure - the "Washington Square Regional Center."
For ten years, Metro has wanted the area around Washington Square to turn into one of their mixed-use transit-oriented development fantasies. The fantasy involved a "greenbelt of trails, mixed-use development featuring 200-foot office buildings and compact residential communities near the shopping center."
Metro got Tigard to re-zone their part of the land to "regional center" designation. Beaverton lagged, and didn't do it for their territory. They were too busy with their own high profile failure- the Beaverton Round.
So now, ten years after Metro designated the area to be a regional center, NONE of the type of development they fantasize about has happened. Oh they have all the excuses.... there wasn't the money to pay for the $200 million in infrastructure, city foot dragging - but nowhere no how do they ever suggest that perhaps one small reason why nobody has stepped up to build what Metro wants is because no enough people want to live in their little urban utopias.
Never, ever question the ideology. Despite the fact that NOT ONE of Metro's regional centers has worked out as planned. Despite the fact of several expensive and high profile failures where the planners expensive dreams were completely jettisoned - such as Cascade Station, the Beaverton Round, South Waterfront, Downtown Hillsboro. No, failure never causes these folks to question their assumptions.
More ironic still was the fact that the nation's largest used car dealer, CarMax, wanted to develop a part of the Washington Square area to build a dealership. Nothing sends planners into a bigger tizzy than to see an automobile-oriented business try to use some of their precious regional center/transit-oriented land for a profit making enterprise.
Since Beaverton had never gotten around to re-zoning their part of the territory as "regional center," the existing zoning allowed a car lot. The application had to move forward.
Which is another great illustration of how our land-use policies hurt the economy. Imagine! Here our economy is in tatters, and an out of state company wants to expand in Oregon. But all the planners can do is whine that the proposed enterprise doesn't fit the planners' goals for that real-estate. The fact that nobody is interested in building what the planners want doesn't seem to matter to them.
Well, the planners are getting a respite, it appears. CarMax withdrew the application because of the economy. Now you can bet that Metro will pressure Beaverton to re-zone that land to "regional center" designation, so we can rest assured that the land will be underutilized for years longer.
Will our local governments ever get out of the way? Don't count on it - the problem, you see, is NOT their ideology, it's that all of us regular folk aren't enlightened enough to live like they think we should.