Archive | Land Use Planning

Costco, Buy Local and the Carbon Footprint of my Light Fixture

The hint of a Costco in Rose Quarter had alternative transportation activists up in arms last week. Perhaps the sentiment was best expressed by this tweet:

Or, as my husband put it this morning, “once you’ve bought a gallon jar of mayonnaise, you don’t walk it home.” [from @jessicaroberts]

I honestly don’t know if this proposal is serious or even viable on a number of fronts, and since it could conceivably result in a zoning question coming before the Planning and Sustainability Commission I serve on, it would not be appropriate for me to render a judgment. But it once again calls the question of big box retail in the central city, and I think that merits some reflection.

I’m going to start by relating a story. A few years ago I replaced a vintage 1970’s light fixture in my upstairs hallway. Being energy conscious I installed a fluorescent light. On the evening of December 30th, it went dark.

So on New Year’s Eve day, I opened it up, removed the rather uniquely shaped bulb and trooped down to the local hardware store, which did not stock that bulb. I’m fortunate that my neighborhood also sports a specialty lighting supplier (Globe Lighting) and I headed down there to find that they had closed 10 minutes earlier for the holiday.

Since the fixture lights the stairway, it was a safety issue to get it working again, so on New Year’s Day I made a purpose-specific auto trip to Home Depot, only to find that they did not stock it either.

On Monday (after having strung a utility light in my hallway) I walked back to Globe Lighting. They did not have the bulb either, but referred me to sunlan Lighting, a wonderful shop on N. Mississippi that appears to have every lightbulb known to man, and a resource I won’t forget! I purchased two bulbs (so I would have one on hand the next time it burned out).

For the record, my trip to Mississippi was a transit trip-chain that included a visit to Kaiser on Interstate for a blood test.

As I was buying the bulbs, the proprietor suggested “keep the packaging in case it’s the ballast, not the bulb.” This was prophetic, and today I took another purpose-specific auto trip to Home Depot to buy another fixture (which will use CFL bulbs that I can purchase at my local grocery store).

So what’s the lesson here? Resolving this took six trips, four of which were accomplished or could have been accomplished by transit, walking or biking. But despite my preference for local shopping there were two auto trips to a big box store. Why? One was the only opportunity on a holiday, the other was for selection (my local hardware store had maybe 3 fixtures, Home Depot had 20+ in the category I was looking at). So my VMT and carbon emissions would clearly have been reduced if there were a Home Depot in the central city. And all the items I was considering purchasing could have been transported via a bike, walking or transit trip.

So is big box appropriate for the central city? At various times I have heard arguments against it ranging from the local businesses it would displace (a principal argument against a Home Depot at the Burnside Bridgehead), to induced auto travel, to opposition to a business because of its labor and other business practices (Walmart).

But on the other side of the argument, a lot of people in our society (including yours truly – we won’t talk about my relationship with Fry’s – the local Radio Shack will never come close) shop at these establishments occasionally or more frequently. How much VMT is being created by trips from inner Portland to Hayden Island, east county or Washington County?

That’s certainly something I’d want modeled if we were considering a serious proposal for a big box site in the central city…

UPDATED: LCDC rejects Forest Grove, Council Creek plots, accepts remainder of urban reserves

While it isn’t official, the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Condition is set to issue a ruling accepting all of Metro’s recent designations of urban and rural reserves, without amendment, according to Metro councilor Robert Liberty.


Councilor Liberty’s report of the Oregon LCDC affirming all Metro urban/rural reserves designations was in error. Today, the LCDC issued their recommendations, and many environmentalists are happy–whereas the mayors of Cornelius and Forest Grove, both of which were looking to add industrial tracts within their respective city limits, are not. The Council Creek parcel–a 624-acre plot north of Cornelius was rejected outright, and a plot north of Forest Grove was remanded for further consideration. The list of rural reserves was also remanded for further investigation, with metro permitted to add these plots to rural reserves if it deems appropriate, and find other parcels (including those currently designated as rural, but less suitable for agriculture) to add to urban reserves instead.

The remainder of the Metro’s recommendations, including all designations in Multnomah and Clackamas Counties, were accepted.

Due to the delays involved in the partial remand of the designations, Metro stated that it was unlikely any UGB expansions would occur until next year.

(The remainder of the post below the line is the original content, which is preserved–but is now largely superseded.)

While it isn’t official, the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Condition is set to issue a ruling accepting all of Metro’s recent designations of urban and rural reserves, without amendment, according to Metro councilor Robert Liberty. The decision, which was set to be announced last Friday and delayed, is expected this Friday (the 29th). Quite a few objections and amendments were raised to the LCDC, which rejected the lot of them. The LCDC only has authority to rule on legal objections, not technical objections.

While the LCDC is expected to approve the designations, it did have a few sharp words for the process–suggesting that Senate Bill 1011, the 2007 legislation which created the urban/rural reserves designations, results in a more politicized process than the prior method. This claim drew a rebuke from Mr. Liberty, who articulated the opposite opinion–that the UR/RR process involves more technical analysis, and less horsetrading, then before.

One example of that, of course, is the Stafford Basin. The basin, an area which is surrounded by urbanization on three sides, bisected by I-205, and is too hilly to be useful for agriculture, had nonetheless resisted any urban designations for years–unsurprising given that its full of wealthy homeowners living on large lots. The three cities bordering the basin–West Linn, Lake Oswego, and Tualatin, all oppose its inclusion, and were busy trying to convince the LCDC to overrule Metro on its inclusion.

Other parties bound to be disappointed by the upcoming ruling include 1000 Friends of Oregon, who were hoping that LDCD would overturn the inclusion of Washington County farmland in the Cornelius area into the urban reserves. It would be interesting to see how Bob Stacey, should he win next Tuesday, goes about implementing a decision he disagrees with.