Monday, August 17, 2009

Oregon, Day 8b - Portland!

OK...this is actually Salem the first pic. This is that state capital complex, where typically the spotted owl-huggers and the chainsaw-humpers would be slugging it out for grand supremacy of the Cascade Range. We must have gone through on an off day, as only tattooed nose-ringers were visible.

On to Portland...first off, let me say that Portland is surrounded by 740 miles of elevated limited access highway and interstates. OK, I'm exaggerating a bit, but still. For a city with the reputation in the planning community that Portland has, I was surprised by the number of interstates and limited access highways. Remember when looking at this map, that area-wise, Portland is dinky!

Downtown Portland. This is a multi-modal rail corridor (non-APA translation: cable car), through the downtown area. Portland was hosting a Micro-Brewery Festival along the banks of the Willamette River, so the good clean people of Portland were all in hiding for the weekend, I guess. Most people were in hiding actually. It's unfortunate that American downtowns empty out on weekends the way they do.

Looking the other way. Same desolate views. We could hear the music and people at the festival, but there wasn't much going on elsewhere.

This picture is relevant for two reasons...first, there are people in it. Second, that has to be the last remaining Ford Escort GT still in service!

One way to get downtown restaurateurs to open up in the urban center...let them bring their own kitchens!

A funky old building, now housing a restaurant. The architecture was pretty nifty in Portland. Very eclectic.

A five-points intersection. There were lots of business in the downtown area, open for business too. That was nice to see. Most of these shops wouldn't have anything special to offer a Micro-Brew Festival I would have to assume they are always open on Saturdays.

"Jane's Vanity"...some thinly veiled rip off of Victoria's Secret...and possibly some attempt at polluting my daughters mind with PacNW, Hairy-pitted, Pot-puffing, Oregonian filth! Woot!

It was a good visit! We stayed at the Historic Vintage Hotel, which was a little pimpy...animal print bathrobes for guest use (for a fee), stuffed animals on the beds, (fee), stocked bar, (fee), digital cable, (fee) and a nice overpriced Italian restaurant downstairs for my daughter to scream in. The only thing missing was a "crawl-under" style pay toilet! Did I mention there's a Hampton Inn by the airport for a third the price? There, I just did.
All in all, visit Portland for a refreshingly eye opening visit into the world of exaggerated planning success. Much like my former adopted hometown of Boulder, Portland (and most of the other Oregon cities I visited on this trip) doesn't offer much in the way of visible, advanced planning successes over what many cities in the US that I'm familiar with do. They just package it differently, and promote it better. I witnessed selective annexation in my home town of Tampa, and in Boulder, and I know how the resulting cooked-books municipal boundaries can be used to doctor up a good many statistics used for evaluating the overall health of a city, and the success of it's policies in shaping that health. I would wager, however, that much like Boulder County, If one were to do an evaluation of Portland using some hard, solid, county-wide numbers as a baseline, I think the real story would be pretty obvious.

From the air, the tell-tale story is pretty evident, and no amount of bike lanes and hanging flowers can hide it. All because you claim to not be able to control the endless march of sprawl, and contain it within your own artificially truncated municipal borders, doesn't mean that the K-mart (first pic, center) right next door in unincorporated Multnumah County isn't your responsibility. And those Cul-de-Sacs? (pic number dos!) I think that's an APA no-no too. While we're at it...what's with the hundreds of homes permitted in the shadow of the airport, right under the belly of my 737? Isn't there a noise component to your airport's master plan?

Sorry, but I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I wasn't terribly impressed with the city either. For all the planning, the streets sucked. We drove over the river three times trying to get to a whole in the wall restaraunt the day we arrived.