Despite The Best Intentions, Sprawl Continues In Oregon

<p>Though the state is considered a model for smart planning, Oregon's sprawling landscape shows that the state has much the same problems as the rest of the country.</p>
May 1, 2008, 2pm PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"His uncle was a big-time civil engineer, traveling the world, leaving his fingerprints on projects across several continents.

But Leonard Rydell's engineering career kept him closer to his Oregon roots. And after 36 years laying out the road and service grids for projects throughout suburban Portland -- including much of Wilsonville's Charbonneau development -- he says he's come to realize the region's glowing reputation in urban planning is increasingly an illusion.

He smiled when 1000 Friends of Oregon and two other conservation groups recently called on state planners to change suburban sprawl patterns that, despite light rail and urban growth boundaries, have left 71 percent of Oregonians driving to work alone.

The "up, not out" idea of high-density mixed-use development is a great theory, Rydell said. But the development reality on the ground is that we're heading toward a destination that, in the end, will look and function almost exactly like most places across the country.

To make his point, Rydell jumps up from the chair in his office on the second floor of his Newberg home and rattles down the steps, out the front door, directly into the middle of the street in front of his home.

"What do you see?"

The shoulder-to-shoulder jumble of ranch homes, the cars jammed into the little driveways and lining much of the absurdly wide street is a scene from any city in America.

"Tell me," he continues, as a Chevy Suburban whizzes by us at a good 10 mph above the speed limit, "does it make you feel good?"

"Exactly," he says, guessing my answer, "and yet, this is still what pretty much every city's code is encouraging us to design and build."

Cookie-cutter subdivisions. Shopping clusters. Industrial and business clusters."

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Published on Friday, August 1, 2008 in The Oregonian
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