In this 2012 session of the Oregon legislature, haters of our land use system once again are trying to kill it through a thousand cuts (HB 4095 being a prime example).
I urge each of these "pave it over" advocates to do what my wife and I did last Friday and today: take an Alaska Airlines flight into Burbank, California, then return to Portland, Oregon.
(Instead of Burbank, Phoenix would be an even better bad example of non-planning.)
From the air, it's obvious why Oregon's pioneering approach to protecting irreplaceable farm and forest land needs to be strengthened, not weakened. Those in the know say, it works.
Through property tax incentives, transferable development rights, and limited use requirements, the program protects and conserves farm and forest lands for agricultural and timber production. At the same time, the state establishes locally designated urban boundaries to both accommodate population and business growth while preventing urban sprawl onto rural lands. As a result, Oregon reports a high level of food and timber production. Its urban planning strategy incorporates public facility and public transportation plans, which the state notes are providing environmental benefits and cost savings by reducing reliance on automobiles.
A vision-picture, though, is worth all those words.
Flying into Burbank, on the other side of the Hollywood Hills from Los Angeles proper, I watched subdivisions slide by for many miles under our airplane's wings before we landed. The LA metropolitan area appears limited only by geography and designated state/national forests.
I grew up in California from age six to twenty-one, when I moved to Oregon to attend graduate school at Portland State University. In the late 50's and early 60's my mother regularly drove me from central to southern California to visit relatives.
I remember lots of orange groves and other farmland close-in to the Los Angeles metro area. Not now. It's solid sprawling urbanization, ever-so-obvious from our flight.
Contrast this with flying into Portland.
Arriving at noon today, the mostly sunny day allowed Mt. Hood's snow covered heights to sparkle above drifting clouds. Clear cuts, many made obvious by their snowy whiteness, showed that Oregon's forests produce lots of timber as well as bountiful recreational opportunities.
After the pilot announced, "We're beginning our descent into Portland," I concentrated on the view from the airplane window. Forests and farms passed by for quite a while, with small communities dotting the landscape.
Mt. Hood remained directly to the east, straight out the window, with a beautiful stretch of almost completely natural landscape leading from beneath the plane to the slopes of the mountain.
Then our plane banked to head toward the Portland International Airport. Briefly all I could see from the window was clouds and sky. When the plane went level again, now on a new heading...
Bingo! Suddenly city! Instant urbanity!
Oregon's land use system requires urban growth boundaries. That's why Oregon cities don't sprawl like those in other states do. There's city. And then there's country. Farm and forest land can reach right up to the city limits, as was evident from today's flight into Portland.
The beauty of Oregon blows me away every time I fly somewhere else, and return to Portland. That beauty is partly natural, and partly a result of our state's pioneering efforts to protect what we have from unnecessary and unwise over-development.
It's easy to see how successful our land use system is. Just fly into Burbank, then into Portland.