As expected, the Metro meeting on the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) last Thursday was packed to the gills with people who wanted to talk about the plan for how Portland and its suburbs can accommodate millions of new residents without sprawling. Over 70 people signed up to talk and there honestly wasn't a seat left in the Metro council chambers, until audience members starting wandering off as public testimony progressed into its second hour. I had to cut out, too, for the Washington High meeting, but here's an interesting (if not entirely surprising) stat from Metro's lengthy evaluation of the region's projected growth.
And we'll need places to put all those people, whether they're employed or not. Metro estimates at least 405,400 new housing units need to be built in our area over the next 40 years.
Metro's chief operating officer recommended not expanding the UGB, which means the vast majority of those new houses and apartments will need to be built within the existing urban areas. That means higher density across Portland and its closer-in suburbs. A couple neighbors last night addressed issues that arise with density, but none so eloquently as historic preservationist Cathy Galbraith. Last year, Galbraith helped host a series of public meetings around town that addressed development issues (pdf of results here).
"The single biggest issue raised was concern over inappropriate new development in historic neighborhoods," said Galbraith. "We need to avoid the damage of mammoth so-called 'infill projects' that are threatening to overwhelm our neighborhoods." She added, "We need to get a handle on design of new buildings so we don't get things that look like the Star Wars mothership has landed in your neighborhood." IRONICALLY Galbraith was standing in the building that most resembles a Star Wars ship out of all of Portland's numerous hideous buildings:
- Metro HQ
And what would an urban growth meeting be without some testimony of at least one A+ whacko? A true gem came in hour two of testimony, when a man launched far past the two-minute testimony buzzer into a rant that began with describing streetcars as "hobbyrail playthings!", reaching a climax with a demand the region stop building bike lanes because cyclists are "irresponsible freeloading deadbeats who act like spoiled little children!" and, finally, concluding that promoting density is socialism.
I heard from a credible source that later in the night a woman yodeled on the public testimony stand. Yodeled to save a farm. Good day to you.