Comparing Smart Growth In 15 Cities

A new analysis of growth compares Portland's attempt to curb sprawl and protect rural land with 14 other US cities, including Seattle and Boise.
October 26, 2004, 7am PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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A new analysis of growth in 15 similar US cities shows that Oregon’s land-use policies excel in protecting rural land. Person for person in the last decade, new development in metropolitan Portland consumed less than half as much land as the average city in the study. From 1990 to 2000, if greater Portland had sprawled like Charlotte, North Carolina—the city in the study with the worst record—it would have lost an additional 279 square miles of farmland and open space, an area more than twice as large as the city of Portland itself.

The study, part of the regional monitoring project called the Cascadia Scorecard, used digital mapping of US Census data to track patterns of growth from 1990 to 2000 in the metropolitan areas of 15 cities across the United States with comparable features, including the Northwest cities of Portland, Seattle, and Boise. The Portland metropolitan area analyzed includes seven counties in Oregon—Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Marion, Polk, Yamhill, and Columbia—and Clark County in Washington State.

Overall, greater Portland ranked third among the 15 cities studied at limiting the loss of rural land and open space in the 1990s, just behind Salt Lake City and Sacramento. (Seattle and Boise ranked eighth and ninth, respectively.) For every 100 new residents added to the greater Portland area between 1990 and 2000, about 10 acres of rural land or open space were converted to housing. In contrast, new residential development in Charlotte, North Carolina—which ranked last—consumed 49 acres of land for every 100 new residents.

Thanks to Elisa Murray

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Published on Monday, October 25, 2004 in Northwest Environment Watch

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