This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 5, 2005 3:27 PM. The previous post in this blog was Dear Sal Kadri. The next post in this blog is It's on our list. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2005

A million of 'em

Now that Randy Gragg's leaving town for a while, the skyscraper peddlers who are wrecking Portland with their condo towers and other high-rise "strip malls on their sides" need a new outlet for their spew. So they've started a blog. Charlie Hales should be running the PDC! The condo buildings are all sleek and beautiful! How about some more $3 million "urban renewal" units? Bleh.

Not to be outdone, the apologists for the streetcar had to start a blog, too. It's here. The streetcar led to $3 billion of new development! And it pays for itself! Aerial tram! Feh.

Bookmark those sites in case you're ever in need of propaganda. For your one-stop dose of the truth, however, you can always check back here.

Comments (32)

I write one of the blogs you mentioned, Portland Architecture. We try to have intelligent conversations about design, planning and construction in Portland. I fully confess to being left of center and biased accordingly. And while I don't want to get into a shouting match, I find most of your comments about myself and many others in this post to be unfounded and generally a rant.

You're of course entitled to your opinion, Jack, but I really don't see how a condo tower is a strip mall on its side. What would you prefer: sprawl? Aside from the architecture itself, these buildings comprise high-density development that has proven to make livable, well working cities for centuries.

Secondly, I would never argue that most of these towers are beautiful. Most of them are mediocre at best. That said, I think taller and thinner buildings are better than bulky ones. They let more light onto the street and are sculpturally more compelling.

PortlandArchitecture.com is not propaganda. It's opinion, which you're welcome to share or to challenge on the merits of the issues. With all due respect, you certainly have no monopoly on the so-called truth.

The Pearl, the Merrick, that hideous thing at 16th and Weidler, those god-awful monstrosities in North Macadam, the aerial freakin' tram -- you guys should be too embarrassed to blog about it.

A crappy apartment building with a Subway and a Starbucks on the ground floor is just a strip mall on its side. Maybe worse. If you make a living off that, you are part of the problem here in Portland.

OK, Jack, I think your point is pretty clear at this point. You don't like the condos that have been built. I'm with you to a degree. But the more important question is, what do you think we should be doing instead?

Portland is continually growing. And although an urban growth boundary is a difficult sacrifice considering how it drives up the cost of living for all of us. But the alternative, sprawl like they have in Houston and Atlanta and Phoenix, is something very, very few of us in Portland want. If you feel differently, that's fine, but acknowledge the fact that you're in the minority.

If it's the architecture of buildings themselves you take issue with, and not the boundary, I think plenty of us agree the architecture of this era has been mixed in its success. But compare Portland's new architecture to that of virtually any other American city, and you'll see there are those same hits and misses.

If it's the taller height allowances themselves that you allow, do you dispute the fact that this allows more slender and elegant buildings (given the right architect of course) and fights the bulkiness that many Portlanders lament about their buildings?

Now that you've opened this argument, I think you've got more explaining to do.

compare Portland's new architecture to that of virtually any other American city

You see, that's where we differ. That's not my standard.

As for the sprawl, look around. It's happening. It's happened. Meanwhile, the population of Portland proper is actually shrinking, according to the most recent study. The city's economy is in the tank, and we're spending tens of millions of tax dollars on junk real estate speculation, just to keep the "Portland Architecture" crowd employed for a little while longer.

We simply don't need any more of your precious "infill" right now. Especially given how ugly 99% of it is.

The "slender and elegant" b.s. line was used for North Macadam, and look at the three boxes that are going up now. Anything but. They're going to make South Auditorium look good by comparison. Sorry, I ain't buying.

Welcome to the blogosphere, but you will get nothing but crap from me. And when you start in ragging on the neighborhood activists, I'll be there to jump right down your throat.

Regards to Mr. Gragg.

Easy now.

I actually agree there's some need for a healthy skepticism when it comes to the gangbusters pace of real estate speculation in this city. But you can't get around the fact that practically every time they build a condo in the Pearl it sells out fast. If you're a conservative, certainly you can't fault people for stepping up to meet that demand. And if you're going to bitch about the architecture itself, I'd be curious to hear what you propose instead. More like Vegas? Dallas?

As for your assertion that Portland is sprawling despite the UGB, to an extent that is indeed true. But certainly the UGB slows the hemorrhaging.

As for the architecture, you may have misunderstood what I said. I don't think other cities should be a barometer for what we should aspire to. Rather, I was trying to put the mixed results of Portland's contemporary buildings in a valid national context.

It's too bad you're so hostile to someone who happens to think a little differently from you. You're obviously a very smart guy. I say there's enough corrosive partisan bickering out there. Let's be grownups, what do you say?

Nope. The "Portland Architecture" crowd has already done too much damage. I'm smart enough to not start down the slippery slope with you Pearlies. I'm going to rant and rave and tell you that you're wrong. Because I think you are. So go stick that in your patronizing little beret.

Okay, Jack. I'm just gonna calmly, slowly step away. They're doing wonderful things with decaf now, by the way. But keep shootin', Tex, and I'll see you at sundown.

Jack. I agree with you on many, many topics, but your tone throughout these comments is really embarassing.

"you will get nothing but crap from me"

"I'm going to rant and rave"

-- Jack Bogdanski, July 5, 2005.


Bog indeed....

Sorry, I must side with Mr Bog. The one solution to our problems seems to be stacking people up on top of one another. If this is creative, then I guess I'll go back to watching the Lindsey Lohan retrospective for inspiration.

A lot of these projects are intended to isolate people from their environment. I mean what type of neighborhood associations in the Pearl do you have? Row on row of bad view condos, which when the fad passes (a la NW 23rd) will go back to being what they are - expensive apartments.

I must know a half-dozen Pearl residents who do not know who lives on their floor. As soon as the next cool neighborhood pops up, they will move or sell and take what little personal investment they have in their block.

What you call sprawl is people who live in neighborhoods, invest in lawns and raising kids and want to stay in their neighborhood - trendy or not. (Sidebar - I never hear people applauding WalMart for conserving space by allowing people to buy things in one place that they would otherwise have to run all over the place to find.)

Sorry, I am sure the boring idea of families living in town doesn't fit the approved Harvard reading list you subscribe to. However, this is where stability of families and the ability of an area to generate personality come from. I can only ask you be open-minded and tolerate of others' lifestyles.

I understand Mr Bog's anger. It seems we have one approved design philosophy - like it or not. I'd be interested if Mr Libby could address my points instead of repeated the tired mantra of the new urbanism.

"Jack. I agree with you on many, many topics, but your tone throughout these comments is really embarassing."

Oh, I would have paid for it. But I couldn't afford what it is worth.

Poor Mr. Libby walked into this band of old cranks like the new employee at the nursing home sent in to interrupt Matlock hour.

Sorry, I am not a crank and really don't appreciate demeaning a valid viewpoint with ad hominem attacks if you cannot logicaly confront it.

This crowd of geniuses has never:
1) Designed a house you would raise a family in, much less have a dog in.
2) Addressed anything outside of a small percentage of Portland's total sq mileage, denying the rest of us (viz, the lower income [i.e cannot qual for a $400K condo] workers) affordable housing.

Gawd, you have no idea how badly I want something creative/new out of this bunch instead of recycled ideas for the same cookie-cutter "creative" workers, who surprising enough want to live in the same cell blocks.

Steve said: What you call sprawl is people who live in neighborhoods, invest in lawns and raising kids and want to stay in their neighborhood - trendy or not.

This is way overboard. Sprawl is not simply a synonym for "neighborhoods".

Steve also said: Sorry, I am not a crank and really don't appreciate demeaning a valid viewpoint with ad hominem attacks if you cannot logicaly confront it.

You mean like the comments made about Brian by Jack, who you said you "side with"?

Heh, that was supposed to be "overbroad" not "overboard" but that applies as well.

Sorry, folks. It's time to stop suffering fools gladly.

Brian Libby,
I love your "easy now" speak.

It's sort of like the reassurances given to those boarding the Nazi trains.

"Easy now, everyone. Keep moving. There's only showers at the end of the line. Everyone on board the train. Stay calm and cooperate."

Your delusion that skimming tax dollars for big high density development and infilling is making our livability better deserves far worse that Jack has offered up so far.

Someone might even go so far as to welcome you [censored -- JB], lying schemers out of your comfort zones at TriMet, Metro, PDC and into the world real world where your BS will get what it deserves.

Perhaps not but don't be surprised.

I can't wait to hear your justification for tearing up the full length of downtown for a new light rail transit mall, without a vote and without public permission.

The fresh sampling of your trash which has no resemblance to what so many have been eyewitness to, for at least two decades, is just more of the same destructive nonsense you expect us all to pay for forever.
Based solely on your decrees and declarations that don't line up with what we have been witnessing or the real numbers support.

If you think people prefer living in an overcrowded infilled neighborhood you screwed up just because you tell them it's better then you are nuts.
When you take their money to do it and lie repeatedly you are a scoundrel.
Someone might even call you and your agenda far worse.

I love it that we are so passionate about this place we call home.
And I agree with Jack, once you give an inch it is way too easy to give another inch and then you're living next door to a house without heart.
Hold the Line.

Whoah, Steve Schopp made a quick and unexpected jump on Godwin's Law. I didn't see that coming at all!

You're a bizarre man, Mr. Schopp.

I happen to like both Brian and Jack's blog. I read blogs primarily to be entertained, and they both do that. I will say that Jack is sounding more and more like Lars Larson, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it makes for an entertaining blog. But I do discount a lot more of what Jack says.

South Auditorium! Crap! You hit the nail on the head! Unfortunately this era can't be judged until a) the real estate bubble bursts (I heard a story yesterday about how fast and loose this game is being played that should make anyone buying today think twice and then twice again about buying right now) and b) fashion changes. Although a good comparison will be those low income apartment buildings at Broadway and Burnside with their revolving doors of retail tenants. The second the folks in South Waterfront pack up their hybrids and move back to Petaluma, Starbucks and Subway will be replaced by Dotty's and Tom's Title Loans. Unfortunately Brian won't be here to see it. Like Marshall Glickman's habit of lining his own pockets while simultaniously running a sports franchise into the ground, Brian'll be up the road convincing someone else he did it right in Portland. And he'll have the Prius to prove it.

If you'd like to see the present and future in cartoon form, wander on down to Walmart and pick-up The Simpson's Season 4 and pop "Marge vs The Monorail" into your dvd player.

"Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
Bona fide,


Steve said: What you call sprawl is people who live in neighborhoods, invest in lawns and raising kids and want to stay in their neighborhood - trendy or not.

This is way overboard. Sprawl is not simply a synonym for "neighborhoods".

*** I am open to your definition of sprawl, so enlighten me. Most of the time, this has been code for anything but high density housing.

Steve also said: Sorry, I am not a crank and really don't appreciate demeaning a valid viewpoint with ad hominem attacks if you cannot logicaly confront it.

You mean like the comments made about Brian by Jack, who you said you "side with"?

*** I don't agree with his approach, but I think his underlying message is valid.

I just like the whole "Mr. Bog" thing.

Go get 'em, Jack. What's passing for "creativity" is a money grab, with Homer and the boys laughing all the way to the bank about how they've gotten over on Portland's naive greenhorns. Sprawl? Yeah, that's not happening here. And if it is, so what? At least my children might then be able to afford housing in Portland, and not have to move to the midwest to find a four-bedroom house.

Jack doesn't run an architecture blog, or a planning blog, though he hits both topics. He runs a Jersey-boy, Motown-lovin', cranky I-want-the-Portland-back-that-I-moved-to-twenty-five-years -ago blog. So it's a mistake for Brian Libby or any other earnest New Urbanist to take him on on any other basis.

That said, Jack, it's your blog, and you can make the tent as big or as small as you want. Libby walked in to start a dialogue. I don't expect that will happen again.

PS He's right about Houston and Atlanta, and no comparison of Portland to cities with REAL sprawl holds up.

YOu know, there are people in Houston and Atlanta who would laugh pretty hard at anyone suggesting Portland is a better place to live than their home. Seriously -- part of the "Portland way" is to act as if we're so right and everyone else is wrong. Well, we do some things right, but we ought to at least be aware that we're not ALWAYS right, and that over the last several years we've allowed ourselves to be yanked dangerously toward the "weird" category. If you don't believe that, ask around. In Houston or Atlanta.

In fairness to Brian, he's a writer with an interest in architecture, not an architect. So I think my nastiest venom should have been directed at his sponsor and readership. He is preaching the Homer Williams gospel, however, and I am sure that the transit blog will be doing the same soon, since it's authored by the prime apologist for the Trolley That's Slower Than Walking.

I do discount a lot more of what Jack says.

Me too, some days.

Well, how many people can say they lost a fingertip to an Eastern black rhino? (waving hand)

So, now that I'm done sleeping 10-14 hours a day, I can get back down to business.

For me, that has included watching Jack Bogdanski https://bojack.org/ duking it out with the Portland Architecture http://chatterbox.typepad.com/portlandarchitecture/ blogger. In this, I must confess total ignorance: I had no idea that there was such a thing as "Portland Architecture".

Years ago, I used to enjoy taking visiting friends on a ride down the Sunset Highway from the top of Sylvan hill. Why? Because the experience was just so breath-taking: cruising down a freeway in a forested canyon, entering the tunnel - and upon exit from the tunnel, there was the city all of a sudden, with Mount Hood looming in the background. It was amazing!

Then the "Portland Architects" built the monstrous KOIN tower, obliterating that view. And the "Portland Architects" have never looked back, nor even slowed down.

It's my view that architects in general tend to build monuments to themselves, and have little appreciation for the things that make a city truly unique.

Me, I work in a zoo. So what the heck do I know?

Well, I can say this: the most dangerous animal in the zoo is the architect.

Actually, I know quite a few people in both Houston and Atlanta, and all of them think Portland is a much nicer place to live.

So why are they in Houston or Atlanta? They have good, stable, well-paying jobs.

It isn't the climate or the condos or the Pearl that's keeping people away, it's the lack of good jobs at Fortune 500 corps and major research universities (outside of OHSU), plain and simple.

As to whether the "new urbanism" is just a fad and a sham or the wave of the future, I don't pretend to know. It might be that exurbia is also just a fad. New urbanism has been around for a good 20 years, though (timing it to the second half of the 80s), so I don't think it's a bad gamble on the part of Portland.

Actually, the lack of jobs isn't keeping people away either. The Portland metro area is still growing. (I know the city itself isn't growing, but the cities of Vancouver, Beaverton and Hillsboro are all getting larger.)

Beaverton, Hillsboro and Vancouver offer cheaper housing alternatives than those in Portland (many with thier own yards, no less). Moreover, the aformentioned are much more business friendly than Puddle-town.

I find it profoundly ironic that we've spent billions on funneling commuters into Portland (via MAX), when people, businesses and jobs are amassing in the suburbs.

Can any one say west-side bypass?

I'm glad I took a moment to read some of your past blog entries. I was ready to disregard your comments because of the negativity, but then went back and read "Oh my God! You're kidding!" (Thurs. July 7)entry.

I love Portland because of the feeling of community here. I don't feel comfortable or welcome walking through the Pearl District, much less living or shopping there. I'm sad to say that I'm certain South Waterfront will be another unwelcoming part of pdx for my thrift store sneakers.

Oh yes, and Brian keep up the good work. It's an important dialogue..

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