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It seems that the problem we face here is this - expansion lowers the cost of home-ownership since these homes can be built more cheaply, whereas infill is just more expensive to build, no matter how we slice it. Being a contractor myself, I don't believe there is any more profit in building new homes, but I remodel and don't build new so I can't say this for certain. New home builders actually have slimmer margains and bank on doing higher volume whereas remodelers have lower volume and much higher markup, since their overhead is higher in relation to the volume of work and there are just more unknowns when working with existing conditions.

I love Portland for the reason that it focuses on sustainability, but I also believe that the dream of home-ownership should remain alive and accessable to anyone who wants to work for it. Since the urban-growth boundary is such an integral piece to sustainability, I think that all options should be exhausted before even opening the conversation to its expansion. Since infill is more expensive to build, I think it is necessary to partially subsidize some of it for the purpose of creating low-income housing.


I am definitely in favor of keeping the boundary as is. Even if its until 2030. Otherwise what good is it to have at all. Correct me if I am wrong but wasn't there an expansion in 1998 near Pleasant Valley. With another expansion, it would be no time at all till its filled in with single family, cheap roll-out models.

We need to start focusing on building with density. In the whole Tualatin Valley (Hillsboro-Beaverton-Tigard-etc.) there are few buildings over four stories. Areas like the Beaverton Round need to be filled in, and create livable centers, with grocery and entertainment along with mass transit. Clackamas Town center and Lents could be expanded on the east side. already dense areas of the inner east side could become more dense.

Simply adding density won't solve it though, we need some serious infrastructure improvements. I'm not confident new MAX and Streetcar lines will do.

These are my $0.02


One of the biggest things I like about the urban growth boundary in Portland is that it means there is farmland really close to the city. That means I can get extremely fresh produce, meats, dairy, etc all year round from farms that I could easily drive to if I wanted. I don't want that to change because someone thought it would be great to build generic housing developments over the farmland. There is a huge amount of land inside the urban growth boundary we currently have that could be more densely developed, before moving the boundary out again.


I agree with the previous commenters that we need to do all we can to avoid expanding the UGB. The UGB is what makes the Portland Metro area so different from every other mega-sprawl metro area in the county. At the end of the day, it comes down to political will.


Here's a question for discussion - and by throwing it out there I'm not saying I agree with the concept, but why is it that we "must" accommodate expected growth? I mean, isn't it possible for a city or metropolitan area to thrive and not continually expand? Wouldn't that make Portland different than most places? Especially in this age when people seem to move from place to place more easily than at any time in our history. Certainly it's possible that thousands of people could move to the Portland area in the coming decades, but isn't it equally possible that thousands could move away?


If the UGB can be expanded each time land upon which to build more free standing single family housing runs out, where is the incentive to build infill? In providing for housing needs, there needs to be greater use of multi-story structures, including towers.

Robert Nobles, the resident Brian Libby quotes in his article above seems to make a very good point that providing variety in type of housing people prefer is important. Not everyone dreams of living in a suburban style tract house, yet developers have proven track record of being able to cover square miles at a time with them. When this type of housing becomes the only economically affordable housing available to home buyers, logically, this is what they'll buy.

Some towers mixed in amongst such developments could help to more efficiently use the land.

I think Blair is right to mention subsidizing more expensive infill. People have to be able to afford to live in it in order to realistically choose housing that shares ground with many other residences over housing that sits on its own bit of ground.


I own a rental house in an area where there are thousands of single-family homes, on property zoned for multiple residences, and within a mile of the existing red/blue line & the new green line.

Before we extend development to the outskirts away from transportation and existing businesses, let's first focus our attention on these transitional opportunities.

Otherwise we might find ourselves repeating the mistakes of other cities in which the center dies in favor of new development on the edges.


I have to agree with everyone else in here, it is too soon since the last time the boundary has been expanded. It would be more important for the Metro to focus on their target urban centers plan before expanding.

In the theory that expanding the UGB lowers housing costs, using urban renewal funds to help fund denser housing projects and more mixed use within the city should also do the same.

Cities like Atlanta, Tampa, SF, and Las Vegas are seeing more dramatic drops because their growth has spread too far out, thus making those homes on the outskirts of the metro harder to sell...but I am sure that it is hard for someone looking for cheap housing to find a house on the outskirts of those cities and still be able to rely on the city's public transportation.

Portland should focus inward more, so that it is better for people to afford to buy a home and not need a car or two to get around in the city. When one thinks of removing the cost of owning a car, that can often times reduce the overall cost of a house.

eric cantona

it should be noted that the notion of standard suburban single family development being cheaper is a little misguided if you factor in the real costs associated with developing the infrastructure necessary to service them. the suburbs receive and enormous hidden subsidy in the development of roads, sewer/water/electrical/etc., fire and police, and other needed services that all of our taxes pay for.

if those hidden costs were assessed at their real costs per house i'm guessing that the relative prices of urban vs. suburban housing would be comparable.


"...why is it that we "must" accommodate expected growth?" val

That's a good question that I don't think we hear addressed or people attempting to provide answers to often enough. Is there anyone that doesn't believe world population will continue to grow?

On a moral basis alone, people accept that housing must be provided for those making up that growth.

The U.S. has been very successful at using its population growth to become a dominant economic engine of the world. Keeping all of the people that make up that growth happily housed and employed is vital to that success. So, I suppose because it's the only way modern civilization knows how to do it anymore, we let suburbia keep on spreading "...so far and wide..." instead of "...that countryside".


I am glad this is being discussed here, but lets remember, the important thing is to let Malu Wilkinson and Metro know what you think:

[email protected]

Please take a little time to write to Metro encouraging them not to expand the UBG!


With Eric, I agree. It actually isn't "cheaper" to build outward. If you watch "The Corporation", externalization of costs is well explained. This is why I believe the additional costs to the developers and/or homeowners should be subsidized since the hidden costs of outward development are thwarted.


I am glad that Blair amended his original post. I'll add to that too: Homes built on an expanded fringe may be built cheaper than if they were infill, but they do not encourage home ownership.

From what I've seen of Happey Valley, it was a lot of McMansions. That housing type does not contribute to affordability for first time home buyers.

Greg Moore

Quite frankly, I think if anything we should be SHRINKING the UGB. We've already seen that urban sprawl is bad business (has anyone driven through Not-So-Happy Valley lately?)

How about restoring farmland on the outskirts that were encroached on?

The value of land in Portland has weathered well in this recession as of late. It seems like Portland has a unique opportunity to increase inner city density and restore farmland and wildlife. This is good for everyone except the DR Hortons of the world. I'm okay with that.

Lets not forget that Portland has a strong culture of being different. Expanding the UGB would effectively be giving into pressure to drive profit for a very small number of very large companies. How is that sustainable? Small business is King in Portland.

Marie Jacquinet

Dear representative of PortlandArchitecture,

We are organizing the 3rd Advanced Architecture Contest under the topic THE SELF-SUFFICIENT CITY, envisioning the habitat of the future.
The aim of this international competition is to promote online discussion and research through which to generate insights and visions, ideas and proposals that help us envisage what the city and the habitat of the 21st century will be like.
The competition is open to architects, planners, designers and artists who want to contribute to progress in making the world more habitable by developing a proposal capable of responding to emerging challenges in areas such as ecology, information technology, socialization and globalization, with a view to enhancing the connected self-sufficiency of our cities.
We would appreciate if you could provide this information to your users, as we think this project is an opportunity to exchange ideas with the rest of our international architecture community.

We would also like to send you a physical poster of the event; for this purpose could you please send us your postal address.

We have also enclosed a copy of the poster in two different definitions, print and web.

Thank you and Best regards

Marie Jacquinet
Communication Manager
3rd Advanced Architecture Contest
[email protected]

Organized by
Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia


I am suspicious of the forecast growth numbers and with the current economy and housing supply I think we can take a 5 year break in expanding the boundary. It would be a great opportunity to develop a locavore-oriented farm strategy with a detailed inventory of farm land at the boundary edge.

The proposed development in Vancouver is interesting. With 3000 units, it's welcome density for Vancouver and a great argument for light rail. (However developing West Hayden Island into a port could be made more difficult due to the NIMBY factor. A Hayden Island port is one of the arguments for dedicated bridge lanes to Hayden Island) The point is that there is still room for density and an aging population is not going to live in the suburbs on quarter acre lots.

Good article/interview opportunity: http://www.columbian.com/article/20090610/NEWS02/706119991


I heartily agree with Jimbo.... why is accommodation of future growth a give? Isn't 'sustainability' the opposite of growth? Isn't it time to reassess and consider that eternal 'growth' is impossible and is nothing more than this nation's most enduring Ponzi scheme?


Is the actual proposal available somewhere online? Can you link to it? Seems to me people's comments on the proposal will be more effective if they've actually read it (not that that usually stops anyone).


Also, Jimbo and CascadianPDX: accommodation of future growth is required by state law. I believe the requirement is for a 20-year supply of buildable land within the UGB. Whether or not that's a sensible/sustainable position is another question, but it's not one that Metro can unilaterally change.

Eric Cantona

eenie: does the state require raw land? what is the definition of "buildable"?

my choice would be that metro outline how they can accommodate the estimated 20 yr. growth through existing raw land, brownfield redevelopment, adapting/expanding existing structures/sites, and other similar measures before expanding the UGB. if through that analysis it becomes apparent that we need more land, THEN we can talk about where and how to expand.


The answer is pretty obvious - no. More infill and height is needed in the core areas, MAX/bus needs to have some time to continue to provide density around it and we should also continue to build a better base of public transit service to outlying areas before making those areas even further out.

As someone who is slightly priced out of the current home/condo buying market - it sucks as I'd love to buy a house. Keeping the city tight and pushing economic vitality in existing areas is for the best, in the end.

Farmland is vital to so much of the current PDX economic activity, lets keep it close and untouched. Re-approach in ten years.


Eric C:
I didn't mean to imply that I thought the UGB should be expanded. I'm with you all the way on accommodating growth through higher density, brownfield development, etc. I just wanted to point out that for the moment Metro is required to make buildable land available.

I don't know how the state defines "buildable," it's a good question.

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