The city has an edge.

I love Portland's attention to urban form. In 1973, Oregon became a national leader in statewide land use planning with the passage of Senate Bill 100. In 1975, 1000 Friends of Oregon was formed as a public watchdog and advocate for good land use planning. Oregon's land use laws require urban areas to establish growth boundaries in order to protect agricultural and timber lands. The picture above is an aerial photograph of a development that is at the edge of the urban growth boundary, with farm fields to the north. A history of Oregon's statewide planning can be found at the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Oregon's land use laws are not perfect. They don't require minimum density development inside the boundary, for example, so there are still low density suburban areas on the fringes of the region. And now our system is under pressure from a new law that was passed by voter initiative (Measure 37) requiring local governments to pay landowners if development regulations reduce the value of their land.

But what began as a protection of agriculture from development pressure has borne sweet fruit in the Portland region. We have a compact, livable city with transportation options. And from the central city, it's maybe a half hour drive to countryside and farms where you can get your Halloween pumpkin.

Our regional government, Metro, undertook a landmark fifty-year planning effort in 1990. The Region 2040 plan emphasized putting resources into development in the central city and in other regional centers, and developing a transit system that serves those areas. There are 24 cities and 3 counties within the Metro boundary. Metro handles regional land use and transportation planning, solid waste, and also manages the Oregon Zoo. Our Metro Council is elected to office.
Portland is famous for being forward-thinking when it comes to transportation. We were the first U.S. city to build modern light rail. The transit agency for the region, TriMet, has now embarked on our fourth line, which will also put light rail for the first time on our signature Portland Mall, as shown in the rendering at right.

The City of Portland has answered the call to provide more places to live in the central city. Whole new neighborhoods have been created out of nothing. The picture at left shows Portland's Pearl District, still under construction. When Scott and I moved to Portland in the '70s, this area was an underutilized industrial area just to the north of downtown. As far back as the '80s some farsighted folks recognized the potential for redevelopment in what was first called the River District, but now has become known as the Pearl.

Today the area is extremely successful on almost every level. Jamison Park (right) with it's beach-like atmosphere draws kids from all over the city on a hot summer day. The Portland Streetcar runs through the Pearl, connecting it to downtown, Portland State University, and now to Portland's new tram.

There is some affordable housing in the Pearl, but if you had to level one criticism, it would be that the Pearl is too high end.