October 31, 2006
RTP Exercise - Challenges - Compact Development
The next phase of the RTP exercise is to look at challenges.
[By the way, Jim and Adron, I'm still waiting for your outcome sets to examine in parallel with this one.]
As a reminder, my selected outcomes are below. The question for this post is what challenges are getting in the way of making these happen?
"Compact Development" scenario outcomes:
- A seven-year-old on a bike should be able to safely and comfortably travel from his/her home to an elementary school, a park and a grocery store. (Chris)
- When moving about from place to place, citizens have the opportunity to make eye contact and communicate with each other in normal speaking voices. (Clay)
- 90% of households and 100% of businesses with employees in Metro area are a 10 minute walk from frequent, reliable, useful public transportation. (djk)
- Most qualified graduates from local colleges and universities will be able to find sustainable employment in their field within 6 months of graduation, and are able to live within walking, biking, or a 15 minutes or less single-seat transit ride of their employment. (Garlynn, Chris)
- Increasingly efficient use of existing roadway capacity through expanded transportation options will allow the region to continue to shift public resources away from transportation and toward education in order to "grow" and attact talent essential to a 21st century economcy based on adding value and innovation as opposed to the movement of cheap commodities. (Lenny)
- Outside of peak commute times, freight flows freely past areas of SOV congestion through tools like queue-jump lanes, differential pricing or truck-only lanes. (Chris)
- Run-off from transportation facilities is eliminated (that is, fully absorbed) through "green street" techniques. (djk)
- Air pollution from transportation facilities is at or below the absorbtion capacity of vegetation in the Metro area. (djk)
- 90% of Oregon children regularly travel self-powered to and from school safely without parental assistance. (mykle)
- The quarter of the region's residents who cannot drive have a substantially similar quality of transportation choices as those who can. (Evan)
- Traffic deaths are no longer the leading cause of death among ages 1-34 years old. (Evan)
- Roads and other infrastructure receive the regular maintenance that will prolong their life in the most cost-effective manner. (Ross)
Again, the question for this phase: What are some challenges to achieving the outcomes?
October 31, 2006 7:27 AM
Chris Smith Says:
It seems to me that the two largest challenges to a more compact pattern of development (and the transportation changes that go along with it) are money, and habits.
Money, because during the period when we built out our suburban infrastructure we had Federal and State revenue sharing to local municipalities and 9:1 Federal to local matches on freeway projects.
Today revenue sharing is long gone, the highway trust fund can't support the current level of appropriations (which are general 50:50 or at best 60:40 matches) and local governments have been constrained by tax revolts. So we have few funds to build out more compact infrastructure, even though it's more efficient.
Habits, because we have institutions and enterprises that have several decades of organizational momentum building at the edge. We have to overcome that momentum (which also exists in citizens's minds) to shift gears to the direction we need to move in.
October 31, 2006 8:34 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Lack of money actually works in favor of compact development as there is little or no money to fund more road projects...which are fundamentally destructive of communities. In effect we are forced to "look inward" if you will and develop/redevelop existing communities, neighborhoods that already have most of the expensive infrastructure...roads, water, sewer.
Habit on the other hand lives on in institutions such as PDOT which has for years talked "the multi-modal" talk, but when push comes to shove tends to shy away from "walking" it. PDOT engineers continue to be governed by the doctrine of "traffic must move" rather than "neighborhoods and Main Streets must be safe for all." Hawthorne still has four lanes, not two with bikelanes, etc. The greatest challenge is forcing the rebalancing of public use of Main Streets and transit streets so that they better and more safely serve area residents and businesses, and not defer to the demands of those who just want a quick trip to somewhere else.
October 31, 2006 4:16 PM
Terry Parker Says:
High density development adds to the gentrification of families helping to drive them to live the suburbs where single family housing offers more amenities for children.
Explanation: The last figures I heard had less then 30 school age children living in the Pearl District. There is no place for that seven year old to ride a bike close to home on densely built up streets. Furthermore, with the City Council continues to hand out tax abatements like candy. Other taxpayers must then make up the difference to support schools and other government services. The property taxes on increased development in urban renewal districts also does not support schools and other government services. Property owners outside of urban renewal districts subsidize urban renewal development with charges on their property taxes to help pay off the bonds. Add to that Portland’s excessive storm run off fees assessed homeowners and the costs of home ownership in the city is far more expensive than similar housing in the suburbs. All this makes the suburbs a more attractive place to raise a family than in Portland.
October 31, 2006 6:44 PM
Current zoning & regulations make it difficult to construct 3-6 story buildings filled with 3-6 bedroom flats in most Portland neighborhoods, even though this was the building type originally envisioned for the build-out of Portland as the "Paris of the West."
Explanation: Portland was planned to be a city the size and scale of Paris. Its boulevards and avenues were supposed to support a population of over a million people, within a footprint that is actually smaller than what we call the city of Portland today. The difference, however, is that rather than building a city of 3-6 story building filled with 3-6 bedroom flats, the city was built out with single-famiy residences, with generous yards and nice garages. While this makes for very pleasant living, I would like to see a considerably higher number of 3-6 story buildings consisting of 3-6 bedroom flats built out as infill development turns over old building stock that has not stood the test of time. The challenge is that existing zoning often precludes private developers from putting up buildings that are above 30 feet in height in existing neighborhoods. Sure, new buildings that are higher than 30 feet have the ability to overwhelm the scale of existing single-family neighborhoods, but they also do have their place, and can be done right such that they scale back from the street and fit in with neighborhoods, not just on commercial streets. I think the challenge here is to create a process to allow these buildings to be built within a larger share of Portland's neighborhoods and commercial strips, both to help accommodate regional growth and to help flesh out the original vision for the build-out of the city. Also, these 3-6 bedroom flats will help provide affordable living spaces for whole familes.
October 31, 2006 10:37 PM
Terry Parker Says:
Protect and rethink the zoning of single family home neighborhoods into densely packed neighborhoods.
Explanation: I attended a design commission review hearing on October 19th for the purpose of testifying on the third agenda item. However I heard the entire debate on the second agenda item. It involved a developer who had purchased a single family home in the middle of the block on property that backed up to an alley parallel to I-5. The area is between Interstate Avenue and I-5. All the properties on this particular block and street are single family homes as are much of the properties located between I-5 and Interstate Avenue. Prior to the alignment decision for North Portland Max, either Interstate Avenue or next to I-5, the entire strip of land in between was up zoned for higher density. This decision was supposed to be revisited after the alignment choice was made, but was not. However it is currently under study. So now the developer wants to demolish the home (not outwardly run down) and build a seven story building right in the middle of the block on a street of houses. To demonstrate how out of scale this building would be is that the closest building of equal or greater height is in downtown Portland. Personally I saw little difference between Measure 37 and what the City is doing here with zoning by allowing a seven story building in a single family home neighborhood. The catch is that the developer purchased the property after the up zone and measure 37 would apply even if the property was down zoned. This building will be horribly out of scale and place, and per zoning will not have enough parking for those living there so parked cars owned by those living in th building will blanket this quiet residential street. This building should not be built, at least at this location, but probably will.
November 1, 2006 9:43 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Six unit condos have already been built in Overlook between I-5 and Interstate...they are affordable home ownership opportunities in a neighborhood where home prices are high quick a bit. This relatively small area in North Portland has already begun to change.
Actually, good schools tend to increase density, as families with children are attracted to the area. I would guess that Portland is less dense than it was in the 50's. More investment in schools would attract families, the market would respond and density would go up.