What really is sprawl?

What really is sprawl?
By Jim Karlock
of Debunking Portland

We all know that Portland planners just hate sprawl. But just what is sprawl and what does it look like?

An online search turned up several definitions of sprawl, all centered around the idea that if it is low density or you have to have a car, it is sprawl. Additional criteria included: located away from employment zones, lack of centralized planning, lack of centralized land use control, not within walking distance of retail.

The problem with most of these definitions are that they do not stand up to the fact that sprawl started as early as ancient Rome according to Bruegmann’s “Sprawl, A Compact History”. The common characteristics seem to be low density, large lots, away from the high density core.

Armed with this definition, I went in search of sprawl. Surprisingly, I didn’t even have to go to Hillsboro or Beaverton – I found that the dreaded sprawl exists right here in Portland! Where? Dunthorpe!

See if you agree – I posted some pictures at http://www.debunkingportland.com/Smart/sprawl/sprawl.htm

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 06:13 | Posted in Measure 37 | 12 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post

    Spawl = takes 1 hour to drive from 20 miles away to get to work.

    Portland land use planning = takes 1.5 hours to drive 5 miles to work.

    Granted the use of so much of the road money on MAX hasn’t helped any either and MAX it’s self sure hasn’t.

  • Jerry

    We done got that urban sprawl,
    Despite the best efforts of city hall.
    We’s crowded so tight it might be Japan,
    Yet the government keeps doing what it can.
    To tighten things up and move us closer together,
    Whatever the consequence for worse or for better.
    And worse I would say is just what we got,
    The fool politicos should all have to rot.
    In a crowded little city with nowhere to go,
    Cause we tightened the strings and took it real slow.
    So thanks to them all for their hard, hard work,
    I wonder just why they govern with whim and a quirk.
    Maybe it’s because they don’t live this way,
    If you have enough money you can escape the day.
    Where you are all crowded in with nowhere to go,
    So tightly packed everything is ready to blow.
    But alas and alack, what more can I say?
    These idiot flacks have gotten away.
    With destroying our city, our state, and our town,
    for the senseless high density urban planning abound.
    So I bid you farewell, you tightly packed sardine,
    I am heading out where the grass is so green.
    To another state where silly Dems do not rule,
    Where I can breathe some fresh air and not break a rule.
    Somewhere I hope that I will surely find,
    politicos who have not lost their mind.
    Like we have in the Rose City and elsewhere abound,
    So stupid without talking they make quite a sound.
    Hapless. luckless, losers away
    Get me outta here before I might stay.

  • Chris

    Can I get some more sprawl, please? Bigger house lots, cheaper cost of living, and more choice. Why do people oppose this? The more Portland city planners try to make the city “perfect”, the more they mess it up. They have turned Portland into an expensive, crowded, dirty place to live. Congratulations.

  • Ken

    Peak oil will be doing away with urban sprawl — in 30 years it won’t exist. Problem solved. Next?

    • jim karlock

      *Ken:* Peak oil will be doing away with urban sprawl — in 30 years it won’t exist. Problem solved. Next?
      *JK:* It appears that we need a lesson how the world works. I’ll rely on what a CPA recently wrote about this subject:

      The world will NEVER “run out of oil.”

      It is possible that future intersections of the supply and demand curves for oil will lead to higher prices for oil. At some point – a point that has not been reached yet, despite what people perceive as large increases in the price for oil products such as gasoline – reactions set in.

      Some of these have to do with using oil more efficiently, such as smaller and hybrid vehicles.

      Others will involve going after oil sources that, without a oil price increase, were not economical.

      Others will involve shifts to non-oil energy resources, such as plug-in hybrids and, possibly, fuel cells, among others.

      BUT, we will NEVER run out of oil. You will always be able to buy oil – although the price will be higher and there may be other products that can do the job better, which will mean less oil being used.

      *Another wise person observed:*
      The Stone Age is not over for lack of stones — the oil age will not be over for lack of oil.

      *I’ll add:* Europeans pay several times what we pay. Say its up to $8/gal now. They pay that and drive almost as much as we do: 78% of person-miles is by CAR! So we can say that if gas hit $8 here, 320% of what we pay with oil around $70 / barrel, we really won’t drive much less. A tripling of gas price would result from MORE than a tripling of oil price. That put oils at well over $200/barrel. At that price we can be assured that oil will come oozing our of tar sands, shale, coal and maybe even thin air (with the help of nuclear power) unless the politicians stop it.


  • Jerry

    But how about my poem?

  • Jason W.

    The poem has some good and bad mixed. Shoot me an email about it. I have some follow-up for you.

    • Jerry

      I would say it is all good!

  • Captain_Anon

    In my mind, disliking sprawl isn’t about limiting choices, it’s about getting more bang for your buck from government services. running a sewer trunk 1 mile for 80 homes (5280 feet less 25% for steets with 5 foot wide lots) costs more than running sewer a quarter mile for 80 homes. same with water, sewer, stormwater etc. also, its less road that needs to be built and maintained.

    while its a personal preference, i think the huge carlots are pretty ugly in suburbia as well. i would personally rather walk to the local supermarket, or bar, or restaurant or even ride the streetcar or max to it or the sporting event.

    there are still large lots out there to purchase, and large homes, there are also townhomes, condos etc. i see portlands way of doing things as providing choice. i don’t beleive the market would provide such a varied choice of housing styles and lifestyles on its own. the banks like to loan to builders who make huge subdivisions of ranch homes or ‘traditional’ that only have 4 or 5 variations. mass production has made it much cheaper, and thus more profit for builders to construct that way, regardless of buyers desires. i think most people would rather have a home with distinguised character and charm. that is why such homes go for so much more money (total and per square foot) than the current homes being built.

    Regarding Dunthorpe. I certainly would say that that is not the best way to develop. the roads in that area are beyond narrow, cause all kinds of problems for drivers (especially emergency services), have homes that actually are built into the right of way, have terrible blind corners etc. the homes were teh estates of teh extremely wealthy from the turn of the century when horses and wagons were the main mode of transportation. Additionally, a street car line (YES! The streetcar) went through the area to connect portland with lake oswego. i think most would agree the homes are beautiful treasures. however, how they are organized is chaos at best. and honestly, very few people could ever afford to live there. its sad beautiful looking homes aren’t available to everyone – even at a smaller scale.

  • Bad Man

    News Flash Capt. Anon! Most of those “choices” you mention are unaffordable for most people. Try and find a ranch home on a 10,000 square foot lot that’s under 300K in Portland. Unless it’s in some horrid area it doesn’t exist!
    And if you like to take the bus or Max, that’s YOUR CHOICE. But don’t shove it down everyone else’s throat and worst of all make us pay for that CRAP.

    • Captain_anon

      chill out bad man. the article above was talking about sprawl and how dunthorpe is sprawl. i don’t think 95% of the people can’t afford that. but there are homes out there under 300K. lots of them. many different types. what you’re experiencing is really the west coast price accelleration. you won’t find many ranch homes on 10k lots in any majoy city on the west coast under 300K. even in spoaken, a medium city, such a home is escalating in price. its the region we live in for one. seattle, anywhere in california, southern oregon, tri-cities in washington, spokane, everett, bellingham. its just plan expensive. the fact that california and washington also have expensive homes would indicate oregon’s land use requirements aren’t solely to blame. heck, even in boise lots and homes are sky rocketing in price. if you want a ranch on 10k sf lots, you’re better off looking in vancouver or a state to the east of us. meanwhile, in portland, there are still many choices. large lots, small lots, medium lots. different sized homes. different styles. so, you have tons of choices. its just a matter of can you afford what’s out there. i’m not shoving anything down your throat. the market is just expensive here. again, go to most any major city. housing is expensive especially on the west and east coasts.

  • Marvin McConoughey

    Sprawl means so many things it is difficult to discuss. As used to describe non-compact extensions of city boundaries, it seems very benign because cities grow in non-symmetrical ways that fill in as time passes.

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)