Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Bit More on Portland

I missed Friday cat blogging last week, so I'll save that for this Friday unless there's overwhelming interest in the story of Emma and the Plastic Bag.

Other things about Portland. For those of us in California, Portland is an incredibly white place. That doesn't mean that there aren't people of color there, but they are much fewer in number and percentage than in California. It's not awful, but it is a little strange. Portland also has the same urban ills as California cities--gentrification, homelessness and so on. The City Parents of Portland twice passed anti-homeless legislation, but the court there ruled it unconstitutional, so the homeless have re-established themselves at the waterfront. The now- being-discussed latest incarnation of this is legislation to keep doorways clear and prevent the blocking of thoroughfares. Now any urban street is going to have blocked thoroughfares as large numbers of people more from place to place, so the enforcement of that legislation would necessarily be selective. The solution would be to provide housing, but that costs money and requires an allocation of space to poor people. And that's not what Portland's "sustainability" is all about.

This isn't Portland's problem alone. This month's Sunset Magazine ran a piece on communities where people could live without having to use the car too much. Davis, California, was featured. (Davis is about 20 minutes west of Sacramento.) Now Davis is a really nice place to live. It features a university, walkable streets (except on the hottest days), and lots of recycling and composting. But it's also very expensive, so much so that many of the people who work there can't participate in the sustainability because the housing there is far more expensive than janitors, baristas and clerical workers can afford. Communities should not be rewarded for providing sustainability to the well-to-do, while requiring that the majority of the workforce live elsewhere--and drive to work, as public transit serves the residents rather than those who have to commute to work.

1 comment:

wburg said...

That's the big lie of what is sometimes called "traditional neighborhood development": traditional neighborhoods had housing for poor people, while modern copies are a Disneyland-sanitized version of the past, and poor people are simply supposed to not exist. Thus, homelessness is far worse than ever because we pretend that poor people don't need houses, and "homelessness" is some sort of disease they have instead of the state of not having a place to live.