Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, September 26, 2014

Reality Check

If you repeat a mantra often enough and long enough, people will believe it.  This is true especially when the facts are difficult to find and harder to comprehend.  The simple theory currently in vogue is that if you put a lot of people in one place, shops will follow, and vibrancy will result.  Better still, if the dwellings are high-end, the new inhabitants will be well-haved and spend large sums of disposible income on local retail and entertainment.

Reality check for Block 137 and Kessi's claims:  
  • Small apartments command more rent per square foot and are more desirable for investors and landlords.  How easily will these units convert to "high-end" condos later on? 
  • How much of anyone's income will be easily spent on apartments (or condos) that must command very high rents to justify extremely high development costs? ($98 million?)
  • If the developer misses his target market, the owners still need to fill the units to pay the debt and operating costs so rents and/or standards must be lowered to attract tenants  High-end may be the target, but the market determines reality.
  • Given the mix of studio and one-bedroom units to two or more bedrooms, who are the apartments being built for?  Is Lake Oswego poised to be another "Pearl District" for young professionals?  There will be plenty of compitition for the same pool of tenants:  Lloyd District, Pearl District, South Waterfront, North Pearl, NW Portland, East Burnside - all with plans for hig-end apartments and condos in close-in, desirable locations.  Why would these Millennials move to Lake Oswego unless it was to buy a house and raise kids?
  • If you build it, and if they come, will they spend?  Will people behave in the way the planners say they will?  Planners contend people won't need cars if they live near a bus stop so parking can be reduced.  But that doesn't work in Portland or Lake Grove where it's led to disastrous conditions.  People living downtown will likely do their major shopping at Bridgeport, Costco or Washington Square, just like people do now, especially when The Safeway block is redeveloped.  So much for planning theory. 
  • The 24-hour neighborhoods that planners like are based on a model from Greenwich Village in NYC from the 60s and from European cities.  We are not NYC nor do we live in Europe - very few places have the kind of density to support rail transport or shops on every block, and most don't stay open all night.  Who do you want to see out walking at 3:00-4:00 am in your neighborhood?  I don't know about you, but the notion doesn't make me feel very safe.   Suburban family neighborhoods are the safest places to live.  Why would we willingly give that up?
  • Mixed use developments are a transplanted development theory that is spreading the country and beyond, but where are they working as planned?  And are people really putting down roots in these instant communities, or is that even one of the goals? 
Of all the Town Centers and TODs that have been developed in the last 20 years, how many are successful at attracting people who aren't just passing through?  How many mixed-use retail shops and restaurants are full and operating to capacity?  How many developments are functioning as the original planners had predicted?  

Somebody is benefiting from all this redesign and government land use planning and control.  We should know who these people are and where their power and money comes from.   We should  know exactly who and what we are up against when we say we want to control our own neighborhood or town.

We should know the answers to these questions before we throw away our city to plans based on theories of how we should live.  Are you curious about where this all started and why?  I know I am, and answering these questions is one of my goals for doing this blog - to get at the reality behind the curtain of propaganda in land use and societal planning and manipulation.  

The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.
                                                   ----   Tom Clancy

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