Making the Case for Density in Portland

We’re pleased to have Tim DuBois as a guest here to share his presentation and his experience taking on the task of explaining the benefits of density to his local neighborhood group. Tim got in touch back in March and in an email he said, “I am hoping to start a grassroots movement to end zoning in Portland. I am a board member for a neighborhood association here and am frustrated with the constant desire of residents putting up roadblocks to development that could possibly ease our housing crunch.” 

My neighborhood in Portland (Sellwood, Moreland also known as SMILE for Sellwood Moreland Improvement League) is a classic streetcar suburb filled mainly with small bungalows. If this neighborhood was dropped on the small town in Michigan I grew up in these houses would be close to $150,000. Yet here in Portland they are worth $500,000 or more. I see this as failure of land use policy.

Yet for current homeowners land use policy would not be called a failure but rather very beneficial. The convergence of this disconnect, my move to the world of urban planning, and a trip to Paris all told me I need to do something more active about the problems associated with our restrictive land use policies. I decided to present to my neighborhood. Fortunately our neighborhood association has monthly meetings and are open to differing opinions (also I am on the board). The President was more than happy to get me on the schedule and give me the appropriate time, for which I went over anyways.

Being able to have these conversations can be extremely helpful. I would encourage anyone to try and do a similar thing with their neighborhood group as I did. Although helping to change minds proved to be difficult, at the minimum they were very respectful and clearly appreciated my opinion. By the end you may feel the same rewarding feeling I did.

If you watch the video start at 1:30 and please be patient with me.

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