Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Portland Blogging

Woke up in the middle of the night in a strange city. Couldn't sleep; might as well blog.

We're settled into a splendid, shady neighborhood near Laurelhurst Park, staying with dear friends from the previous century. We spent a bit of time before sunset walking the streets and getting the lay of the land. It's a nice, walkable area with lots of shops and restaurants nearby, including a cluster of food carts.

It's far from the densest city in the US; ranked about 200th based on the 2000 census . The 2010 data shows density went up from just under 4000/square mile to about 4300. There are two and a quarter million people in the metro area.

Tucson , by contrast, has a density around 2800. And though both cities have about half a million inside the city limits, Tucson is about 230 square miles, compared to Portland's 145. And Tucson's metro area continues to sprawl out to the northwest and the southeast, with just about a million people scattered across it.

There are tradeoffs involved, of course. Like most cities not named Tucson, Portland is pretty expensive. Consequently, diversity has diminished since the last census. Grappling with affordable housing issues isn't unique to Portland, of course, but I'm interested in how this plots out over the next few decades . There's a lot of beautiful old housing stock here, too, but as land gets pricier, you're seeing more vertical development to compensate. You can see that back in my home turf of Silicon Valley, where I'll visit next week; along the transit routes in particular, land is too dear for one or two stories these days.

It's easy enough to offer cheap housing if you just tear up the desert and spread out. In my view, density needs to increase everywhere to make this country work more efficiently, because sprawl is a luxury we can no longer afford. But as a laboratory for urban development, Portland points to some of the challenges that will have to be balanced out to make that work.

No comments:

Post a Comment