LandWatch.org

The Next 25 Years

Remarks By Robert Liberty
At The Celebration of the 25th Anniversary
of Senate Bill 100

Portland Art Museum Grand Ballroom
7:00 PM Friday May 1, 1998

Because of the difference Senate Bill 100 has made in our quality of life, we have much to celebrate tonight.After 25 years we have reason for congratulation.

But anyone who has walked along the beach, gotten stuck in traffic in Bend or Tigard or Seaside or noticed the houses going up in the Willamette, Wallowa or Rogue Valleys, knows that Oregon's planning effort is far from perfect and our work if far from being done.Our planning program is good but it needs to be better, for our cities and towns and in the country.

Our urban growth boundaries have done much to prevent the kind of urban sprawl, to save taxpayers money and to encourage reinvestment in downtowns and older neighborhoods.But we have not yet begun to build, on a consistent basis, the kind of new urban neighborhoods that are not only compact, but beautiful and affordable.

Increasing the supply of land will not solve the problem of housing affordability. If abundant land supplies assured affordable housing, then why do houses in Orange County cost $75,000 more than in Portland?And even if the cost of land is reduced by increasing the supply, there is no guarantee these cost savings will ever be passed on to consumers during a period of high demand.

To increase the supply of affordable housing we must chip away at the zoning and regulatory barriers to lower cost types of housing and to supplement these efforts with programs like inclusionary zoning, community land trusts and mandating affordable housing for development in areas where urban growth boundaries are expanded.

In our cities, big and small, we are still much too dependent on the automobile.We need to design our communities so that an automobile is a choice not a necessity.Just imagine the difference it would make if we insisted that our communities were planned and built so that it was possible to get a pint of milk without burning a pint of gas and every child could walk or bicycle, safely and conveniently to their school.

At the state level, we need to break the outmoded restriction in our state constitution that prevent gas taxes from being spent on the best possible transportation solutions.Oregon's diverse communities need a variety of transportation approaches; we should abandon the "one size fits all" solution of building more roads and highways everywhere.

Our urban neighborhoods must have greenspaces inside of them, both parks for recreation and natural areas to give us daily contact with nature.

Outside our cities, we need to create a stable fund that will allow Oregonians to buy the special places of great beauty or which are important for water quality and maintain fish and wildlife.

I am pleased to say, that such a measure should be on our ballots this November.

We need to change both the law and out attitudes toward Oregon's farm, range and forest lands.We must stop regarding them as "undeveloped" land just waiting to be cut into low density homesites and as a dumping ground for airports, gravel pits, prisons and landfills.In the Willamette Valley there are already 5 to 15 times as many homes in the farm zones as there are commercial family farms. Each year hundreds of new houses are authorized and hundreds of new parcels created all over Oregon, in the Hood River, Rogue and Willamette Valleys, in Central Oregon and the states most productive forest lands.At some point, and some point soon, we must recognize there is a stopping point.Otherwise the farm, range and forest lands that provide 100,000 jobs for Oregonians will have been carved up into rural residential homesites that are too big to mow and too small to farm.

In addition to changes to planning laws and programs we need some institutional changes.We know that the problems of growth do not fit neatly into existing city and county boundaries; factories built in one city lead to growth and commuting in another.But we continue to try to address these problems using units of government designed for the age of the buggy whip, not the silicon chip.We need new institutions that reflect regional realities.

We need to sharply increase funding for planning efforts at the state, regional and local level.The entire biennial budget for the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development is less than the cost of a single freeway interchange.Money for planning needs to be accompanied by funding for enforcement.A law that is not enforced might as well have been repealed.

But even as we increase funding for planning, we need a public accounting of the costs of growth.That is why Oregonians are eager to hear the conclusions of the Governor's Task Force.They deserve to know who is receiving the benefits of new roads, schools, sewers and water systems and who is bearing the costs.It is time to require taxpayer impact statements for big urban growth boundary expansions and for annual public hearings on systems development charges.

There is much to be done over the next 25 years.

Fortunately there is much that is being done, by many Oregonians all across the state.Many of you are with us tonight.

They are working to make sure that Oregon remains a place their children and their children's children will be proud to call home.