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If Houston is so nice, why doesn't he live there?


Its Ironic that OTool would put so much faith on the US highway system. It is the largest government subsidized public works project ever built. Its entire existence is owed to government completely at odds with the privately built rail system which lost its competitive edge directly because of the Governments choice of road building.


Houston already has an operational light-rail line.


I think most Portlanders like the general direction of this town, but it's expensive and difficult to build here. It's so much easier to build outside Portland, and even easier to build outside Metro boundaries. It's not just the fees and SDCs - the people are friendlier, too. The development staff in other cities actually want your business. I wince at the thought of Portland's long, unpleasant development process. I gave up developing projects in Portland for now, and I'm a lot happier.


I can see why the O covered O'Toole, but I'm afraid this is typical PBS NewsHour style coverage: if a whole lotta people / scientists/ planners / thinkers have a fact-based belief in a certain proposition (e.g. global warming), but a few right-wingers from a think tank funded by big money interests oppose that proposition out of self interest rather than facts, they get equal time and the implication of equal validity. Portlanders have been voting for compact growth for decades; who does O'Toole represent?

If Vancouver BC-Portland - San Francisco style compact development is so unpopular, why do so many people want to live in these cities, as evidenced by housing prices and growth? It's not just constrained supply -- demand plays the major role. Answer: a whole lot of folks like the benefits of near Euro-style urban living.

I've spent time in Houston, and I just got back from a visit to a sprawly Southern city. Those development patterns actually restrict your choices -- if you want to bike or walk or take transit, it's too inconvenient or dangerous to do so, because of their choices to develop out instead of up.

Even if the massively government '50s suburban sprawl model were otherwise desirable, it's neither economically nor environmentally sustainable in an era of climate change, peak oil, etc. (Not to mention the usually hidden costs of extending roads, power, water and sewer infrastructure out to the boonies.) And it's taken a huge toll on community life.

Whenever my friends and family visit Portland or European cities, they marvel at the walkable, vibrant downtown and neighborhood life, and wish they could have it too, even if it means living in smaller spaces. At least here, we have that choice.


I think it's important to profile people like O'Toole so that when we see his name pop up we can say to ourselves while rolling our eyes, "Oh, it's *that* guy..."


A guy from Bandon telling Portland to look more like Houston? It's hard to believe anything good could come of that.


maybe someone could tell him highways are a government program

and that exclusionary zoning, minimum lot sizes, required off street parking, low density zoning are "social engineering."


I just would like to say that the overused word "European" works poorly as a prescription for how a city like Portland can be expected to develop. "European" is something we can probably never have, no matter how we redecorate (maybe because Americans so passionately hate spending their "hard-earned tax dollars" on anything that other people can benefit from.)

The pedestrian and public-transit utility of Euro cities exists because the people who live there are used to, and indeed enjoy, living with far more commonality and far less convenience than Americans can tolerate. Their age-old tradition includes paying taxes, not minding paying taxes, routinely using government services paid for by taxes, and living well and fruitfully because of it. When it comes to the urban environment, theirs has been a continuous commitment to mass transit lasting a century or more. The streetcar network that we might hope to see in Portland's future, by contrast, existed and was destroyed years ago. We can build a streetcar line, but we can't magically build a town - or a culture - that spent five decades perfecting and enhancing streetcar systems. Loss of institutional memory, on that scale, was a mortal blow, plain and simple, and we should admit it and move on.

I'm not saying we should ignore mass transit; I'm saying we're now living with the result of having become ignorant OF it. And we might in fact make better progress with transit if we could do something OTHER than looking at Europe as a "model." Don't forget, those people are different from us: Those people LIKE EACH OTHER.

Steve Casburn

Brian: I moved to Portland after living in Houston for five years. Houston does have a more vibrant economy than Portland, but Portland is a great place to live. And healthier, too -- better air, better water, better parks, better walks. In my calculus, life and health trump money.

I do encourage Randal O'Toole to move to Houston, and take the anti-Measure 49 folks with him.


Great post...had an additional thought, I recently watched the history of NYC documentary where they talked about the first expanded roads to relieve congestion and traffic...they expanded a freeway or bridge, that just pushed the traffic bottle neck to the next place where lanes were limited...so they moved there and expanded, it never solves the problem just pushes it somewhere else...to the point where you have Houston...a giant sprawl where everything is just gets pushed further out.

On a related note, I do wish more businesses could open their HQ's in portland, I hate that Columbia and Nike are outside of portland...Beaverton is like that big sprawl...could you imagine if those big companies (among others) were still in portland, everyone could take the max, walk, or ride their bikes to work...that would be nice. House prices would go up more, but the cost of transportation would go down...seems this should be mentioned more often.

O'tool should just move...all that money he would save on the cost of housing in Houston would be spent on the gas to get anywhere... go for it, its a wash


Paul - I wanted to address your characterization of good ol' Beav, my current town of residence. Agreed that the Nike campus itself turns its back to the city and the surrounding area is dead as a result. However, Beaverton itself has a pretty lively core that I'm increasingly proud of. As suburbs go, the city is pretty dense - using square mileage figures I found on their website, they have approx. 4500 people per square mile. The most recent area figures I found for PDX (145 square miles, please correct me if I'm wrong) coupled with preliminary 2007 population figures of 568,368 result in a density of less than 4000 people per square mile in Portland.

Of course, the form of the city is an important complement to density, and Beaverton does suffer from a lot of suburban style structure. But from my home in the old-town area (Beaverton does have a walkable downtown - most people just don't know it when they breeze through on the highways), I'm a five minute walk to the beautiful library and fountain park (and Saturday Market), about a 10 to 15 minute walk to a MAX station at the Round & then maybe another five minutes to get to New Season and the development at Cedar Hills Crossing (which I have mixed feelings on). The city also seems intent on continuing to bring more density to this core area, while most subdivisions outside the core are built on smallish lots.

Anyway, for a suburb...not half bad.


"If Houston is so nice, why doesn't he live there?" Mike

He has to have been asked that question before. I wonder what his answer is.

It's important to keep tabs on guys like O'Toole. People can get frustrated to the point that simple solutions become very attractive, even when the solutions offered by people such as O'Toole are bad. The means to avert that from happening lie in sustaining a focus on ideas that will provide the present and future needs of a population growing within an area of limited resources.

"The Big Look", Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning is one effort that will be seeking those kinds of ideas. Everybody residing in Oregon is going to have become more consciously aware of the need to come up with great ideas that will keep Oregon a healthy place for everyone to live.

O'Toole talks as though he imagines that as Oregon's population grows, Oregon's land area expands accordingly. That's just not happening.

It's kind of ironic that Washington County would work so hard to bring industrial companies within its boundaries only to allow them to build in ways that waste so much land. Nike doesn't have any skyscrapers, but it has oceans of parking lots for the cars of its employees, many of whom likely have their sights set on just the kind of 5000 sq ft suburban lot O'Toole seems to imagine is the answer to humanity's quest for satisfaction in life.


Found this response to O'Toole:



The Libertarian approach and free-market approach merely means something is self sustainable.

If we left rail, public transit, and autos back to that market, you can bet your ass they'd be much closer to what the US had in the teens, twenties, and thirties all the way through to the fifties. I'd bet good money they'd be much faster, and FAR more efficeintly operated than the current "public" operations.

In addition to all that, they'd be sustainable - financially, power wise, and in other ways.

...So both of your arguments are most likely folly. The pro-public transit vs. the pro-public roadways have the same problem, a financially unfeasible mode of transportation that encourages overuse, abuse, and wasteful inefficiencies.

...so really, what you're looking for a desiring IS a Libertarian transportation choice.

For some reason people think that the Government Coffers are the solution, the irony is its just adding to our debt inducing monetary system.

Agustin Enriquez V

"For some reason people think that the Government Coffers are the solution, the irony is its just adding to our debt inducing monetary system."

Can you describe what the Government Coffers are intended for?


Gerry makes a great point regarding Portland's obsession with being USAmerica's 'most European' city. Europe is, in many fundamental ways, a lousy model for those of located in the Pacific Basin. I believe this bears repeating, as, for some very abstract reason, most (white) people in Portland think of themselves as living within the geography of Europe when, in fact, if you look at a map, you'll find that we are in the geography of the Pacific, not the Atlantic. But that's not really my point.
I wanted to touch on another problem that Gerry alludes to, the notion that "those people [Europeans] like each other" as opposed to 'us.' I think, unfortunately and increasingly, that this is a mischaracterization of Europeans, who are (and actually have always been) near experts at exclusion. It didn't get created with colonialism, only exacerbated (i.e. South Africa, the U.S. South). Remember the Paris riots of a couple of years ago? My point is that Portlanders, proud citizens of USAmerica's whitest city, need to be tuned in to the implications of the constant referent back to Europe as the preferred model: It is inherently racialized. Studies may already exist to this extent, but I think it would be interesting to see to what extent the UGB is acting as a new color line (we already know the problems it has drawing lines between economic classes), with gentrification happening at its quickest clip within that line, and new 'ghettos' arising outside of it. Actually, put this way, it sounds like a very European model indeed. It's called a fiefdom.


Aren't you being slightly extreme? Ghettos arising outside the urban growth barrier? Ghettos with huge minimum lot sizes? If anything, the system is set up to go the other way, but thankfully the real rich don't like being that far from the city.
The system works, and that is why we and other cities talk about it so much. With all the densification and gentrification, we have come to a bigger mix. Sure we aren't the most integrated city in the Nation, but that will change with time. We have huge immigrant populations of Russians, Vietnamese, and Mexican origin. They are all within the UGB, and when lands become denser, areas that may be slanted towards one group or another are likely to be shaken up and redistributed. If anything, our city keeps the slums on the move, and continues to improve its urban core.
I could care less if we are the most European city. I think that we are one of the best small metropolises in the US, and that is good enough for me, no matter what country we are taking our lessons from. At least we are learning from somewhere. At least we learn.

Chris Kevlin

Hey I live in Houston and the biggest reason for sprawl in houston is that for some dumb reason they had some land use regulation that restricted density. Since it was done away with denisty has been shooting up. Plus alot of people that have been through houston really have been from the airport to downtown and have not spent anytime in the culture center which is just slitly west. I am glad that they are building rail but the bus system is prety good inside and west of the loop. I do not drive anywhere i take public transportation and walk. Plus are housing is alot more affordible too. Exetremly affordible for a metro area of 5.5 million people and growing. I like the fact that not all of are buildings do not look alike. And i am glad that i live in a city where people from all over the world come to live for part of the reason that it is affordible. Plus there are some great places to live in houston for biking. The heights montrose. And they just got down adding bike trails where old rail use to be in the east end and in old chinatown. There are plenty of places in houston where there is nice areas you can walk around and we do it without pricing the the working and middle class families out of the city. It is definitly not a utiopa that is upsurd. But do not judge houston from it's downton and highways. I am all about urban growth but i will take with a little freedom and be glad that I am not living in some city that where every thing has to fit a certian code are be in the right place, and i am also glad that I live in a diverse thriving city that is not so lillie white!

government foreclosure

Fourth, where to find industry trends. In our market, there are a couple of useful trade journals- Catholic Marketing Network and Christian Retailing. There are also several ecommerce journals that have some useful information including Practical Ecommerce and Website Magazine. Because we program our website in ColdFusion , I also subscribe to the Fusion Authority magazine. If you subscribe to these publications, you would have known five years ago that the Christian retail market was going soft and that the...

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