Filed under:It's My Life,Not Cool,Priorities,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on September 20, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

I live in Portland, where we have an insidious governmental interference called the Urban Growth Boundary. It’s a line drawn around the city to prevent urban development outside its borders. When it was first drawn, there was much land inside it still undeveloped, so that development could continue on a pretty ordinary schedule without running up against the line. But now the suburbs are pushed slap up against the boundary. I can literally drive down the line and observe the “house farms” on one side and the actual farms, open land, on the other.

It’s no surprise, then, that the house I live in is built on a development plan of about seven houses to the acre. There is a plot of grass the size of a postage stamp that, surprise, doesn’t entice any of us to hang out outside, though I do maintain some rosebushes and herbs in the half-postage-stamp front yard. The price of houses with yards rises exponentially to the amount of land they sit on, and these houses are likely to be much older and thus require a larger investment in renovation and repair. And because most of us live on the postage-stamp patches, going outside for any amount of time requires us to … drive somewhere, often upwards of 20 minutes, to find a nice outdoor area. That’s right–in a city that prides itself on its greenness and its obnoxious mania for outdoor sports and demonizes auto traffic to the point where our traffic congestion rivals that of much bigger cities because the highway system is not big enough to support the population properly, we have to drive to play outside comfortably.

The UGB is frequently touted as helpful to farmers–you know, so they won’t have to make those hard choices when the dirty developers come knocking on their doors with their fistfuls of cash, because the poor dears just couldn’t handle such a thing. But if they find farming unprofitable, woe to them since they can’t even pay developers to take the land off their hands, since most rural land is zoned in such a way that it can’t be divided into lots smaller than five acres. Even worse, some owners find that when the UGB is moved back, as it periodically is, Metro will thoughtfully tell them their land will be “preserved” instead of rezoned “suburban” with the rest of their neighbors, meaning it will still be worthless to developers.

Today I walked down a street I’ve walked many times before. I’ve always admired how the homeowners there have managed to hang on to their acre-plus plots with houses in the middle, surrounded by a sea of seven-to-the-acres. There was one house in particular that sat in the middle of an acre–a barren acre. Nobody was doing anything with it; it wasn’t even lawn. I used to daydream about what I’d put in there if I could live there. No chance of that–the going price was close to a million the last time it was sold–and though the house looks nice and probably a bit bigger than mine, it’s not a million-dollar house. Today when I walked by, however, the house was jacked off its foundations. A woman I met in the course of the walk told me she heard that the house was to be moved to the back of the lot and eight more would be built on the acre. Oh, did I forget to mention that some of suburbia is zoned nine houses to the acre?

Portland is reaching the point where the density is so high that people will not want to live here. I’m reaching the point myself of wanting to find, um, greener pastures. Metro will not take it into its head that for people who don’t live the hiker/biker lifestyle, a little bit of green to call their own is more important than the finest scenery in the world–especially when Metro doesn’t even want them to drive to see it.


  1. There’s still room in Kansas! Wichita sprawls in every direction, considering the lack of natural and government barriers. And, oy, are there a lot of churches…

    Comment by Chuck Bell — September 21, 2007 @ 5:35 am

  2. You could move to Wyoming… ;-)

    Comment by Bumble — September 21, 2007 @ 8:40 am

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace