Category Archives: Master Plan

What Are We Willing to Sacrifice to Find New Industrial Lands?

12-3-13  Guest blog by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director, Audubon Society of Portland; first printed in Audubon’s newsletter the Warbler, Dec. 2013

The City of Portland has reached a major decision point that will define whether it retains its reputation as a “green” city in the coming decades. Over the next year, the City will complete work on its Comprehensive Plan Update. The Comprehenisive Plan is the land use plan for the City that guides future growth and development. Among the most difficult issues to be addressed in this process is the challenge of finding new industrial lands. Under Statewide Land Use Planning Goal 9, cities are supposed to maintain a 20-year supply of industrial land.

However, Portland is a landlocked city surrounded by other cities and has run out of undeveloped industrial parcels on which to expand. Analysis conducted by the City and Metro, based in large part on information provided by self-interested industrial landowners, has determined that Portland needs approximately 670 acres of new industrial land. As a result much of the Comprehensive Plan Update process has focused on a desperate search to find these 670 acres. Proposals to meet this demand for new industrial land include developing 300 acres of irreplaceable wildlife habitat on West Hayden Island, converting significant portions of 4 golf courses in North Portland to industrial use, limiting environmental regulations on industrial lands, integrating industrial development into neighborhoods, and cleaning up brownfields and restoring them to productive use. In short, the City is considering sacrificing the health of our environment, our valuable greenspaces, and the livability of our neighborhoods in order to meet this arbitrary target. However, there are some important things to understand that are often left out of the discussion.

First, it is critical to understand that the land use system does allow the City to inform the State that it has run out of land and is unable to meet industrial land targets. State land use planning goals do not require the City to sacrifice our environment or our neighborhoods in order to meet industrial land goals. In fact Goal 9 explicitly states that industrial land objectives “should consider as a major determinant, the carrying capacity of the air, land and water resources of the planning area.” Instead, Portland should inform the State that it will meet job targets through strategies other than creation of new industrial lands.

Second, the City has over 900 acres of brownfields — contaminated industrial sites that have either limited or no productive use. In short there are more than enough brownfield sites to meet the industrial land deficit. The problem has been that owners of these sites have been reticent to invest the capital to clean them up and put them back into productive use generic cialis overnight shipping. It is absolutely critical that the City develop an aggressive strategy to hold polluters accountable for these sites through a combination of enforcement actions and incentives.

Finally, to the degree an industrial land crisis exists at all, it is a self-inflicted crisis. Although City forecasts predict a surplus of commercial and residential property, the City and industrial stakeholders have spent the last 15 years rapidly converting industrial lands to residential and commercial uses. Today the City brags about the transformation of the Pearl District and South Waterfront from “industrial wasteland” to high-end development. The Port of Portland, one of the loudest advocates for more industrial land, sold its property at Terminal One to make way for low-rise condos and it converted industrial land next to Portland International Airport for a big-box shopping center. Whether intentional or not, the strategy pursued by both industrial interests and the City over the past 15 years has been one of allowing industrial land owners to cash out by upzoning their industrial land to more profitable use and then backfilling the industrial land deficit through conversion of greenspace.

Audubon is participating in the Comprehensive Plan Update Process and will be advocating for the following strategy:

  • The City should inform the State that it has run out of adequate undeveloped land to meet industrial land forecasts and therefore will develop other strategies to meet jobs supply objectives. This does not mean that the City will never add new industrial land to the inventory, but it does mean that the City will not be held hostage to an artificial target that would necessitate destruction of natural areas, open space, and neighborhoods.
  • The City should develop an aggressive strategy to force industrial polluters to clean up brownfields. This should include a combination of enforcement actions as well as non-subsidy-based incentives.
  • The City should put in place regulatory and non- regulatory programs to increase use intensification on the existing industrial landbase, something that is already occurring in cities in Europe and Asia that have a limited land supply.
  • The City should put in place strong protections to prevent the rezoning of existing industrial lands except in extraordinary cases.
  • The City and State should take a hard look at strategies to promote real collaboration and cooperation and potentially unification of the Columbia River Ports in order to maximize efficient use of land, promote a sustainable regional Port economy, and stabilize our Port system, which is on the brink of system failure. This is something which has been in the Port of Portland’s Marine Terminals Master Plan since 1991 but which has never been seriously pursued.

We will keep you updated about opportunities to comment on the Comprehensive Plan Update during the coming year.

You can leave comments for Bob below and write him at bsallinger@audubonportland.org to get on his list re: the Comp Plan.

Camas Council: Consider Trends Before You Decide!

Below is the Draft Testimony of Mary Vogel,CNU-A, principal of PlanGreen, regarding the Lacamas Northshore proposal that Carolyn Foster covered in her blog earlier in August.

I know that you are concerned with the city’s economy—in the long term, not just today.  I suspect that you believe that the proposed master LN Concept Plan Mapplan will help the city’s economy.  But I want you to consider some future trends before you make up your minds.

Maureen McAvey, Senior Resident Fellow for the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Washington, DC  was in Portland last year to discuss the ULI publication “What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy“.  The event notice read: A paradigm shift is unfolding over the course of this decade, driven by an extraordinary convergence of demographic, financial, technological and environmental trends. Taken together, these trends will dramatically change development through 2020. My notes indicate that McAvey said:

  • More single-family homes are being occupied by renters, changing the feel and politics of suburban communities
  • Seventy-five percent of households in the Portland area do not have children under 18
  • 47 percent are non-families
  • Twenty-somethings on tight budgets prefer places to congregate with friends — in parks, bars, restaurant clusters and building common areas — and can tolerate smaller living spaces.

Arthur C. Nelson, one of the nation’s most prescient housing market researchers, says declining homeownership, tighter lending standards, a sell-off of single-family houses by the nation’s fastest growing demographic — senior citizens—and even rising household sizes due to more multigenerational living will have an impact on the market you may be trying to attract with the single family home portion of the plan.

Nelson, professor of city and regional planning at the University of Utah, reports that the US faces a massive oversupply of large-lot single family houses and an undersupply of multifamily units. By 2020, Nelson sees 1.5 to 2 million homes from seniors coming on the market, and between 2020 and 2030, there will be a national net surplus of 4 million homes that they cannot sell. And Nelson believes those are conservative figures for what has been dubbed “The Great Senior Sell-Off.”

The 2009 American Housing Survey (AHS) found that 28 percent of houses are attached, 29 percent are detached on small lots, and 43 percent are detached on large lots. Three studies — by National Association of Realtors, the Robert Charles Lesser & Co. (RCLCo),USPreferencevSupplyHouseType and Nelson — all found a nearly identical, imbalance in US housing supply and demand.  Only 24 to 25 percent of Americans would prefer to live in large-lot single-family houses (see graph “Housing preference versus supply”).

Consequently, there’s an oversupply of approximately 28 million units in what developer, professor and author Christopher Lineberger calls “the drivable suburbs.”  Attached housing and small-lot housing, on the other hand, are undersupplied — by about 12 million and 13.5 million units, respectively.

Millennial Renters Survey

Source: RCLCo Consumer Survey

This imbalance is likely to grow in the years to come, reports Nelson. The generation that is currently moving into the housing market — Millennials — is the most urban-oriented cohort since World War II.  Melina Druggall with RCLCo reported at a National Association of Home Builders conference in January 2011 that 81 percent of Gen Y renters want to live in an urban setting.  (Wall Street Journal reported that number as 88% at that time and they were quoted in numerous sources such as Better Cities & Towns and Grist).

Ninety percent of the increase in the demand for new housing will be households without children, and 47 percent will be senior citizens (the latter resulting from the rising tide of Baby Boomers who started turning 65 last year). Both of these demographic groups—the Millennials and the Boomers—lean toward multifamily and away from large-lot SFH.

Referring to a recent National Association of Realtors (NAR) finding on percentage of households that prefer to live downtown or in mixed-use city or suburban neighborhoods, Nelson says “Back in ‘70s or ‘80s, people wanted drivable suburbs. Now 70 percent want to walk to discernable destinations, from transit to grocery stores. This wasn’t the case until recently.”  Nelson believes the most popular locations will be mixed-use, walkable, transit-friendly neighborhoods.

This Lacamas Northshore master plan is being portrayed as both walkable and mixed-use, but the concept plan I’ve seen so far indicates to me that it is not.  The zoning proposal shows a segregation of uses. Business parks, by their very nature, are drive-to!  The single-family and the multi-family seem quite segregated from each other and all are segregated from the shopping area.

Amazon Headquarters image

Rendering courtesy of NBBJ. Amazon Headquarters adjacent downtown Seattle, WA

As far as economic development is concerned, there is increasing evidence that the kind of high tech, light industrial firms that you hope to attract are choosing to locate near where their employees want to live.  Consider the choice of Amazon to locate adjacent to downtown Seattle and Adobe Systems to locate in downtown San Jose.

I hope you will take into account the “extraordinary convergence of demographic, financial, technological and environmental trends” that ULI talks about before making your decision on this zoning change and the future development that it presages.  I agree that a master plan with changed zoning is what is now most desirable for this area–but NOT the kind of segregation of uses we see in this plan. I urge you to delay approval of a zoning change–until you can get it right!