Illustration by Scott Mcpherson

PORTLANDERS ARE ABOUT to get a little closer. In a recent report, regional land-use agency Metro predicted that over the next 40 years, between 1.1 and 1.69 million new people will move into Portland and its suburbs.

In September, Metro did something it hadn't done in 30 years: Rather than allow the city to sprawl outward, the agency recommended that Portland's Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) should stay where it is, forcing the city to build denser to accommodate new residents.

The report includes some alarming predictions. In Metro's low-ball estimate, the region will have 1.1 million newcomers by 2050 and only 497,200 new jobs—that's twice as many new residents as employment possibilities. A more optimistic scenario shows 1.47 new people for every new job. Those new people will all need places to live and Metro predicts Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties will build between 405,400 and 441,000 new apartments, condos, and houses over the next 40 years.

There was not a seat left in the Metro Council chambers last Thursday, October 15, as over 70 people signed up to give their two cents on the regional growth plan. The Metro council will make a final decision on the UGB in December.

"We need to avoid the damage of mammoth so-called 'infill projects' that are threatening to overwhelm our neighborhoods," said Cathy Galbraith, who found new developments in historic neighborhoods to be the biggest concern of Portlanders she surveyed last year with a historic preservation group. "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."

Portland and Multnomah County promote dense growth with tax subsidies to high-density, transit-oriented developments. Last year the city gave $1.37 million in tax breaks to housing projects that built mostly within special urban renewal areas—like the Pearl District and along N Interstate—where public transit use is likely.

But while smart-growth advocates applaud Metro keeping urban growth in check, not everyone is pleased with the idea. The national Lincoln Institute of Land Policy made a short video about the current debate over Portland's growth. In the video, a couple, Tom and Gloria Gilbert, expressed anger that they are not allowed to turn their seven rural acres into a subdivision.

"Why let the land sit here because some city folk want to come out and see open spaces?" says Tom Gilbert.