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Thread: Smart growth: Atlanta vs Portland

  1. #1

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    Smart growth: Atlanta vs Portland

    Without providing a forum merely for Wendell Cox to advertise his work, what are some reactions to the news item posted on today's Cyburbia (Planetizen) comparing Portland and Atlanta?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    Wendell Cox is very convincing as long as you WANT to believe him. A stats professor once told me on the first and last day of class that "You can make stats say anything that you want them to." I believe this is the case here and am willing to bet that the Sierra Club could be given the exact same data and come up with totally contrasting views and be just as convinving.

    Mr. Cox is simply a lobbyist that is currently being "employed" by groups that favor highways and oppose mass transit and groups that favor new development instead of infill or rehab of built areas. If the Sierra Club could offer him more money, I bet his report would be drastically different.
    "You can measure the health of a city by the vitality and energy of its streets and public open spaces.”-- William H. Whyte..

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    I have worked near both cities, though quite a bit more around Portland. I am not a city person so I really have no desire to live in either, but there is no comparison in the quality of life from what I have seen. Rain and all, Portland is an interesting city with abundant character and a relationship to its surroundings. I understand Atlanta is trying to address some of its issues, but the slice I've seen is unlivable, and there seems to be no effort to halt the spread of the dysfunctional city and its suburbs into the countryside.

    I don't doubt that the cost of housing is more in Portland. But when you buy into Portland you are buying into a truly great urban park system and a host of amenities, as well as a place where there is obvious attention to community and the quality of life. So, naturally, the house is worth more! The comparisons that Cox and others use when trying to pillory Portland and Oregon omit the dimension of quality.

    My basic refutation is that growth management in Oregon has not "artificially" driven up the cost of housing. Just as we would expect from the laws of supply and demand, if things in a community, the homes are worth more! Its not a communist plot, its the market at work!

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    I would be highly interested to see how many acres each city has annexed in the last 10 years. When I lived in South Carolina, cities were annexing land like crazy, which accounted for a large part of their population growth.

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    I agree with many of these comments. Fundamentally, it all comes down to a question of values. If you want maximum square footage in a gated community, Atlanta's the place! If you want more of a sense of community, more attention to "liberal" things like urban design, and a recognition that maybe growth is not endless, well, Portland is it.

    I'm sure Wendell Cox would find Phoenix heaven on earth! (prAna: Did you catch the Atlantic Magazine article on Sherrif Joe in April? It only confirms your comments elsewhere on the boards (and my prejudices)).

  6. #6
    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    Nope, I missed that article. Is it on the net somewhere? Sheriff Joe is certainly a unique SOB. He would eat his own crap if he could get publicity for it!
    "You can measure the health of a city by the vitality and energy of its streets and public open spaces.”-- William H. Whyte..

  7. #7
    Originally posted by Dan
    Originally posted by prAna

    Wendell Cox is very convincing as long as you WANT to believe him. A stats professor once told me on the first and last day of class that "You can make stats say anything that you want them to." I believe this is the case here and am willing to bet that the Sierra Club could be given the exact same data and come up with totally contrasting views and be just as convinving.

    Mr. Cox is simply a lobbyist that is currently being "employed" by groups that favor highways and oppose mass transit and groups that favor new development instead of infill or rehab of built areas. If the Sierra Club could offer him more money, I bet his report would be drastically different.
    my personal opinion and professional judgement on Wendell Cox is that he is full of it. his motivations are so obvious. he's a joke. he is so un-objective and non-partism even though he comes accross other wise. I think he is very pious. YUCK!!!!!

  8. #8
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    I've been to both cities and I would much rather live in Portland. Its greener, cleaner, much more character, more interesting neighborhoods, a much better downtown for shopping and entertainment and far less crime. Atlanta is suburban sprawl at its worst. Why is this area one of the fastest growing in the U.S., yet the city of Atlanta barely broke 400,000? The most overrated city in the U.S. in my opinion.

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    Just curious, pwright (Not a flame), but in another post you describe Houston, Texas as your first choice for cities. I know Texans, and Houston is described to me by these Texans as the most godawful example of sprawl and characterless gigantic-billboards-next-to-gigantic-mirrored-glass freeway commerce in the State. If you don't like Atlanta, how can you like Houston?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Cox is shady, no doubt.

    I haven't been to Portland but I have been to Atlanta. If half of what people say about Portland is true then it's better than Atlanta. West Coast cities are expensive. From what I know Portland is comparable in terms of housing values to it's peer cities with or without UGB's

    My pet Cox peeve is how he's always saying that rail transit doesn't get people out of their cars. If he were correct than park&ride lots would be empty and rail systems wouldn't be scrambling to expand parking. But he's right in the fact that in the long run there will be no measurable difference in traffic.

    He's not looking at it as a multi-modal system. He's looking at it piecemeal - which works for his conclusions. Any addition, highway or transit, adds capacity to the network. If your economy is growing at all then that new capacity quickly gets eaten up.

    The point is, you can't continue to grow mobility in a region by adding capacity only to the highway end. It eventually becomes unmanageable (gridlock) and even places like LA and Houston have to break down and start adding a spine and some ribs to their transit system skeleton.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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    Originally posted by BKM
    Just curious, pwright (Not a flame), but in another post you describe Houston, Texas as your first choice for cities. I know Texans, and Houston is described to me by these Texans as the most godawful example of sprawl and characterless gigantic-billboards-next-to-gigantic-mirrored-glass freeway commerce in the State. If you don't like Atlanta, how can you like Houston?
    I guess what attracted me was the fact that I can live downtown or inside the loop with all the amenities so close. I couldn't do that in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. or San Francisco. I like what downtown Houston is doing, converting old buildings into lofts, apartments and condos. Brand new aquarium, with professional baseball and soon to be basketball, all downtown. Great restaurants and nightlife too. I couldn't see this kind of excitement in downtown Atlanta. Plus being close to the Gulf is nice. Also I like the theater district being downtown. Hey I'll take billboards any day over mounds of garbage 10 stories high with millions of seagulls attacking them which I saw everyday on my daily commute each day in a city I will not mention. So sprawl or high density, it doesnt matter to me. Just give me a place in the city with all the amenities and where I can live comfortably without costing an arm and a leg.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Originally posted by pwright1
    Atlanta is suburban sprawl at its worst.

    Why is this area one of the fastest growing in the U.S., yet the city of Atlanta barely broke 400,000? The most overrated city in the U.S. in my opinion.
    The key word here is “area”. The metro area has grown at tremendous rates in the recent decades and is now around 4.5 million.

    Hence the sprawl thing.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

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    Originally posted by pwright1
    Atlanta is suburban sprawl at its worst.

    Why is this area one of the fastest growing in the U.S., yet the city of Atlanta barely broke 400,000? The most overrated city in the U.S. in my opinion.
    I saw this statement in another forum, but I couldn't have said it any better.

    "The sprawl of Atlanta isn't what you classically think of as sprawl. It's mostly made of already established towns/cities that are all growing outward simultaneously. Atlanta itself is pretty much done expanding. Don't blame Atlanta, blame all the little towns around it growing pell mell."

  14. #14
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Originally posted by lakelander
    Originally posted by pwright1


    I saw this statement in another forum, but I couldn't have said it any better.

    "The sprawl of Atlanta isn't what you classically think of as sprawl. It's mostly made of already established towns/cities that are all growing outward simultaneously. Atlanta itself is pretty much done expanding. Don't blame Atlanta, blame all the little towns around it growing pell mell."
    Good point, and well said. However, one correction, most of the “sprawl” is not even the small towns, but the unincorporated counties (13 counties considered in metro area last I heard, but thinks that number is bigger now) that was rural pine or farmland 25 or 30 years ago. This growth was spawned by Atlanta, though. People just don’t normally up and move from New Jersey and say I think I will relocate to Snellville Georgia. But they end up living in Gwinnett, Cobb, Forsyth counties because they find that they can get more bang for there buck in regards to the housing stock, property taxes are lower, school systems are perceived as better and when they moved there it was semi-rural with “lots of pretty trees and horses” – not anymore.

    Because these sub-divisions popped up literally overnight in unincorporated ‘rural’ southern counties, you can imagine the unprepared ness from a planning standpoint. However, I have noticed that many of the counties have recently been hiring on and building their planning depts.

    We will see what is done, but the sprawl has already happened.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  15. #15
         
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    There are 28 counties in Atlanta's MSA now.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Originally posted by lakelander
    There are 28 counties in Atlanta's MSA now.
    DAMN!

    That’s a lot of local governments working against / competing with each other in the name of “economic development”.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  17. #17
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    Originally posted by Huston
    Good point, and well said. However, one correction, most of the “sprawl” is not even the small towns, but the unincorporated counties (13 counties considered in metro area last I heard, but thinks that number is bigger now) that was rural pine or farmland 25 or 30 years ago. This growth was spawned by Atlanta, though. People just don’t normally up and move from New Jersey and say I think I will relocate to Snellville Georgia. But they end up living in Gwinnett, Cobb, Forsyth counties because they find that they can get more bang for there buck in regards to the housing stock, property taxes are lower, school systems are perceived as better and when they moved there it was semi-rural with “lots of pretty trees and horses” – not anymore.

    Because these sub-divisions popped up literally overnight in unincorporated ‘rural’ southern counties, you can imagine the unprepared ness from a planning standpoint. However, I have noticed that many of the counties have recently been hiring on and building their planning depts.

    We will see what is done, but the sprawl has already happened.
    I agree. Many of these small, one-horse, railroad-stop towns, like Decatur, Chamblee, Lithonia, Riverdale and Morrow (among so many others) just got engulfed by sprawl. The big house with the big lawn has been, and still is, one of the draws of the Atlanta metro area. I've never been to Portland, but from what I've heard, from an urban planning standpoint, Portland seems to be a better city. It's all subjective to me as to which city, overall, is better. It depends on who you are, where you come from and what you're looking for as to which city you'll like better.

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