Having recently attended the 7th International Conference of the Academic Association on Planning, Law, and Property Rights in Portland, Oregon, we offer this irreverent view of that city's culture, "Insufferable Portland," by Mark Hemingway at the Weekly Standard. The landscape he portrays should be familiar to anyone who knows Portland, Berkeley, the Upper West Side, Santa Monica, Boulder, Chapel Hill, or Ann Arbor. Some highlights:
Case in point: One of the most commented-on sketches from the show [Portlandia] is a scene from the first episode in which Armisen and Brownstein are sitting in a restaurant. After asking their waitress a series of absurd questions about whether the chicken they are about to eat is local—"the chicken is a heritage breed, woodland raised chicken that’s been fed a diet of sheep’s milk, soy, and hazelnuts. . . . His name was Colin, here are his papers"—the couple ends up leaving the restaurant and driving to the farm to see the environment where the chicken was raised in order to assuage their guilt about eating it.
Hemingway's piece is not limited to skewering Portland's culture, but includes a look at the city's (and the state's) vaunted land use planning:
Things began to unravel in 1973, when the Oregon legislature required cities in the state to set development boundaries with the goal of preserving farmland from "leapfrog development"—that is, new subdivisions not adjacent to established developments. Portland became the first major city with an "urban growth boundary."
This fact opened up a world of possibilities that are still being inflicted upon us. "Urban planners have long believed in a land-use-transportation connection that would allow them to manipulate one through the other," writes Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O’Toole in a damning policy paper on the failure of Portland’s growth policies. "So Portland plans land uses to try to reduce the amount of driving people do while it plans transportation to try to slow the conversion of rural land to urban purposes."
In the same vein, at the conference, John Charles from the Cascade Policy Institute gave an eye-opening presentation on "Transit-Oriented Development as a Growth Management Tool in Portland: Comparing the Vision with Reality," about whether TOD has lived up to its promise. We won't attempt to paraphrase his findings, but let's just say that in some cases it has not, and "TOD" and "smart growth" are not the be-all-end-all solution to traffic and population issues.
For a view less tongue-in-cheek's than Hemingway's of Oregon's land use planning program, see The Quiet Revolution Goes West: The Oregon Planning Program 1961-2011, 45 John Marshall L. Rev. 357 (2012), authored by our ABA colleague Edward Sullivan.