2018 growth management decision
Greater Portland is growing. How do we want to grow?
More information about the process, including proposals from four cities on where and how their communities would expand into new areas if the urban growth boundary is expanded, can be found here.
With Tuesday's release of the 2018 Urban Growth Report, greater Portland is getting a clear look at what it can expect growth to look like in 20 years – and whether urban growth boundary expansions are necessary.
State law requires Metro to keep enough land in the urban growth boundary for 20 years of increased population and employment. The Urban Growth Report is a first step – it assesses where the region’s population and employment are at, and has the conclusions of demographers, economists and other experts on where the region’s growth is headed.
Here are 10 things to know about the report, and what happens next:
1. By 2038, greater Portland will be about the size that Denver or Tampa are today.
The population and job growth boom of the past decade are almost unprecedented in greater Portland. The rate of growth is expected to slow, the urban growth report says, but the seven-county metropolitan area will have between 2.8 million and 3.1 million people, up from today’s 2.45 million. That’s about the size of the Denver or Tampa Bay metropolitan areas today.
Most of that growth will happen because of people moving to the greater Portland area and they’ll need places to live.
With job growth expected to slow as the region approaches full employment, most of the jobs added will come from sectors that serve the public, such as education, health, professional and business services and financial services. From a growth management perspective, this means that the needs of these sectors will be best met in existing urban locations either on vacant land or through increased redevelopment and infill.
The forecast calls for 135,000 to 258,000 additional jobs in the seven-county region between 2018 and 2038. The midpoint in the range, or best estimate, is for 209,000 more jobs. There are estimated to be about 1,193,000 jobs in the seven-county-region today.
2. Metro’s forecasts have proven fairly accurate.
By 2015, the 2010 growth forecast was within three percent of actual estimates for population and employment, less than a one percent annual difference. That’s on par with past estimates.
3. Land does not automatically equal homes.
With a few notable exceptions, areas that have been added to the urban growth boundary have been slow to develop because of challenges that include a lack of money for pipes, roads, parks and schools, opposition from property owners or neighbors and uncertainty in the permitting processes. Of the 27,000 acres that have been added to the UGB since 1998, those areas have only produced 16 percent of the planned housing (fewer than 11,000 approved or pending permits out of the expected 67,000).
This year, the Metro Council will only be considering expanding the UGB into urban reserves that have been concept planned to ensure that the expansions get developed as intended.
In their proposals, cities had to make the case that the expansions would result in housing production and that they have a viable plan for paying for needed pipes, streets, parks and other public facilities. Cities were also asked to show what they're doing to support construction of affordable housing in its already-urbanized areas and whether diverse communities were engaged in the planning process.
4. Four cities have plans to add housing through UGB expansion.
For the 2018 decision, four cities – Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville – have submitted proposals that together would expand the UGB by about 2,200 gross acres, of which roughly 1,270 are buildable. The cities are proposing a total of about 9,200 homes at full build-out.
5. The 2014 land use deal has met the region’s employment needs.
The report says there’s no need to add employment land to the greater Portland UGB. There are a couple of reasons for that.
First, most job growth in the coming decades is expected to be in industries that are geared toward existing urban areas – education, retail, medical care. Manufacturing is expected to fare better here than in most of the U.S. But nevertheless, because of bigger trends like automation, the employment forecast projects a net decrease of about 9,000 industrial jobs during the 2018 to 2038 time period, pointing to no need for additional industrial land.
Second, the 2014 “land use grand bargain” added hundreds of industrial acres to the urban growth boundary north of Hillsboro and in Forest Grove.
For the 2018 decision, no cities have proposed UGB expansions for industrial uses.
6. Equity is a key part of planning for growth.
Since most growth will happen in existing urban areas through redevelopment and infill, growth management decisions are an opportunity to gauge whether more could be done to remove barriers to housing and job creation.
The Metro Council is expecting to hear from cities on how they have incorporated the voices of communities of color – groups that historically haven’t had a lot of say in urban planning – into their long-term plans. It’s part of a concerted effort by Metro to diversify the voices at the planning table. For too long, the growth and change of the region has had disproportionate impacts on communities of color, who have been pushed to less central areas of the region where housing is cheaper but jobs, amenities and transit are further away.
7. Land use planning is a key part of greater Portland’s social compact.
Let’s not forget how we got here. In the 1970s, as sprawl and strip malls gobbled up farms in other Western states, Oregon charted a different path. Oregonians decided to be careful about what areas would see future development, and encourage developers to make the most of the land we already have in our urban area. It’s why the drive to the coast or the mountains passes through farms. It’s why the drive from Portland to Salem looks so different compared to the drive from Seattle to Olympia, or Los Angeles to Riverside.
8. Urban reserves make this year’s UGB review easier.
In the past, any effort to expand the urban growth boundary was contingent on a decision by the Metro Council to urbanize the areas with the poorest soil for farms and forests. This generally included rocky hillsides and ravines that were hard to serve with pipes and roads. From 2008-14, Metro, regional leaders, developers and land conservation advocates hashed out a long-term deal that opened up “urban reserves” on some flat, easy-to-serve farmland to development over 50 years, in exchange for preservation of tens of thousands of acres as “rural reserves” that would be protected from urbanization for half a century.
9. Spillover growth is a concern for policymakers.
There are a few reasons why policymakers keep a watchful eye on the “capture rate,” which is how many families who work in greater Portland also choose to live within the Metro UGB. If too many families are choosing to move to Clark, Yamhill or Columbia counties, or to the Clackamas County communities of Sandy, Molalla and Canby, which are outside the UGB, then something is amiss.
Excessive spillover growth to outer-ring communities means more people are getting in Portland-area traffic jams and spending a lot on transportation. Obviously, some spillover growth will occur. There are families who need to work in Hillsboro but live in Vancouver; other families might commute in to Gresham from Sandy, and that’s not a long drive. But too much could be an indication that there isn’t enough housing in the greater Portland area for all the people who live here.
The report says that a decision not to expand the UGB would not be expected to cause excessive spillover growth into neighboring cities. That way, homes in McMinnville can be for people who work in Yamhill County, not people who are commuting to Portland.
10. The UGB review is both a science and an art. The art part is next.
Remember back at the top, where we said the report predicts that the seven-county Portland metropolitan area will have between 2.8 million and 3.1 million people by 2038? That’s a range of 300,000 residents. Planners offer the Metro Council a “range forecast,” saying slow growth will lead to 365,000 new residents, and fast growth will lead to 659,000 new residents.
Likewise, despite extensive technical review of redevelopment and infill potential inside the UGB, there's room for debate about whether the cities’ expansion proposals would provide needed housing choices.
The Metro Council's decision is based on historic patterns, the forecasts, intuition, political realities and what can survive inevitable legal challenges. The main point is this – if the urban growth review was completely technical, a computer could spit it out. The Metro Council provides a human reality check to the technical data.
The public comment period on the four cities' expansion proposals is open through July 9, and is aimed at providing the councilors with feedback about where they should expand the boundary if they decide that more land is needed.
The Metro chief operating officer is set to make her recommendations on the 2018 growth management decision later this summer, and the Metro Council vote is scheduled for this fall. Members of the public will also have an opportunity to share their thoughts with the Metro Council at two public hearings on Sept. 20 and 27.
Nick Christensen also contributed to this story.