Portland Provides a Lesson in the Dangers of Densification

The Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood of Portland, OR has seen a wave of new development over the past two decades. But without the expansion of basic services and amenities, the area is struggling to integrate newcomers. Is poor planning to blame?

"The Outer Southeast Community Plan was supposed to make east Portland a better place," writes Brad Schmidt. To accommodate the smart growth necessitated by the city's pioneering growth boundary, "[l]arge lots would be divided into small blocks with cozy streetscapes. Roads would be paved, sidewalks built, trees planted, transit service improved, the entire area cleaner and safer, according to the 'perfect vision' that accompanied the plan."

"Today, Powellhurst-Gilbert is the land of cheap, dense housing crammed into a community that still lacks basic public improvements such as paved streets, sidewalks and nearby parks," notes Schmidt. "In a city nationally renowned for smart urban planning, Powellhurst-Gilbert represents all that Portland leaders got wrong – and the legacy of problems that will haunt generations of residents for decades to come."

Full Story: East Portland's housing explosion tied to city plan without basic services


Brand new! Urban Grid City Collection

Each city has its own unique story. Commemorate where you came from or where you want to go.
Grids and Guide Red book cover

Grids & Guides

A notebook for visual thinkers. Available in red and black.
Book cover of Where Things Are from Near to Far

Where Things Are From Near to Far

This engaging children's book about planning illustrates that "every building has its place."
building block set

Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.