Land Use Initiatives

Cody Hoesly

Well everybody's in the game for 2006.  The Oregonian reports today that both 1000 Friends of Oregon and Oregonians in Action are planning multiple ballot measures related to land use planning.

The good folks plan initiatives that would ban developers from utilizing Measure 37 and allow property owners to build one additional home on their land.  The bad guys plan to expand Measure 37 to allow for transferability of development rights, development in the Gorge and other federally protected areas, and further reaching back in time to defy land use laws.

This will be a real showdown over the future of Oregon.  As is, 1000 Friends might not actually place their initiatives on the ballot.  If they don't we're all in trouble.  It's time they went on the offensive.  Dave Hunnicut sure won't be shying away from a fight.  But above all, if ever there were going to be a battle not over policy but over framing, this is it.  It's time we reconnect Oregonians with the values behind land use planning.  It's time we find our own Dorothy English.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    David Hunnicutt, Nov 4, 2004, describing Measure 37 (Oregonian): "we dotted our i's and crossed our t's, and we think it will survive any challenge."

    OIA, October, 2005: "sore losers have kept Measure 37 from working properly."

    What is it, Dave? Did you draft it well, or not?

    I think you drafted it so poorly that you're having to run more initiatives to fix your mistakes, because it's not working how you thought it would.

    Luckily for you, the O won't call you on it.

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    My hope has always been that M37 will encourage development some place OTHER THAN NEXT DOOR TO ME. IE: out West where there is a lot of un-used land, or land used only to grow potted plants and lawns.

    Developing out West would relieve the pressure for more density increases in Portland and traffic congestion increases. It would slow the increase of pollution in Portland. It might even take away the excuse to keep feeding money to local developers. Are these bad things?

    One last detail: Who OPPOSED M37? ONE winery down South was the largest single doner (presumable he didn't want any riff raff moving into the neighborhood), the second largest class of donar was OUT OF STATE ENVIRONMENTAL CORPORATIONS who apparently want Oregon to continue being their little social engineering experiment.

    Metro wants to emulate Los Angeles right here in Portland. Do You?

    JK

  • polemarchus (unverified)
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    OH NO! the out of state environmental corporations are coming to take over Oregon!

    But what's really impressive are your NIMBY arguments. First you want development to occur in someone else's backyard (1st paragraph), then you chide the "winery down south" for not wanting "riff-raff" moving into their neighborhood. Talk about fair and balanced.

    Polemarchus

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    Polemarchus: But what's really impressive are your NIMBY arguments. First you want development to occur in someone else's backyard (1st paragraph), then you chide the "winery down south" for not wanting "riff-raff" moving into their neighborhood. Talk about fair and balanced.

    JK: Get back to me when that winery's neighborhood is populated with even 10,000 sq ft lots, while they are building 4 story apartments all over Portland.

    PS: I take it you are looking forward to Portland becoming LA North, since you didn't comment on that.

    Thanks JK

  • Chris McMullen (unverified)
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    I know Jim, Portland's becoming so lovely with all those 15-foot wide "houses" crammed on 25-foot wide lots. Thank goodness no one can build those "ugly" snout houses anymore.

    And, I can't wait until a 4-story condo tower goes into my suburban neighborhood -- talk about "livability!!"

  • Michael (unverified)
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    Some years ago Dorothy Day, of the Catholic Worker fame, had an idea that everyone should have the right to own a plot of land and that they should be able to exercise that right. Folks don't seem to have that idea anymore. Progress seems to have moved in the direction of limiting that right. I don't think many "enviros" really care that much for the average worker who's trying to put food on the table. M.

  • LT (unverified)
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    I grew up in a Michigan suburb where the lots in our neighborhood were about 13,000 square feet, narrow and deep. A college friend of mine grew up in San Francisco in a house with a nice kitchen, bedrooms for the 3 daughters, and a "postage stamp yard". But it was on top of a SF hill and BOY did they have a view!

    Jim Karlock mentions " out West where there is a lot of un-used land, or land used only to grow potted plants and lawns."

    I thought one of the major products of Oregon was agriculture: grass seed, nursery stock, and other products . Trees, grain, and fish are pictured in the design of carpets in the capitol.

    During my teen years I lived in a small town where tourism was a major industry. The charm of the area was enhanced by the treelined streets, and the quaint older homes which wouldn't look nearly so charming without the trees around them. And this was taken very seriously--people learned to drive on streets where there might be a tree as a road divider on one block (driver training instructors made sure to direct student drivers down those streets at some point). Inside the city limits, city council permission was necessary to cut down a tree. So the concern about "strict land use laws" in this state tends to amuse me.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    It's nice to see that right wing whackos read blueoregon and we can have something of a dialogue with them. Perhaps a few of the regulars could help them get their facts straight.

    I live in Yamhill County and ALL the wineries and vinyards here opposed M37, which threatens their economic viability. You can't have subdivisions of McMansions and condos checkerboarding with vinyards and other farmland. Since the wine industry is one of the few legitimate growth sectors of Oregon's economy, the passage of M37 is pretty much shooting ourselves in the foot.

    So I don't know about that "one winery down south" that contributed to the defeat of M37, but a lot of wineries here made contributions.

    By the way, I don't have a direct conflict of interest, as I'm a beer drinker.

    All these people whining about their lost or threatened property rights strike me as being full fledge members of the "Me Me Me and only Me" generation. I suppose there aren't enough islands in the world for all these people to live on.

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    LT | Oct 5, 2005 10:47:39 PM: Jim Karlock mentions " out West where there is a lot of un-used land, or land used only to grow potted plants and lawns." JK: Sorry for being imprecise, I meant the West Portland region as in West of Beaverton.

    LT | Oct 5, 2005 10:47:39 PM: The charm of the area was enhanced by the treelined streets, and the quaint older homes which wouldn't look nearly so charming without the trees around them. And this was taken very seriously--people learned to drive on streets where there might be a tree as a road divider on one block (driver training instructors made sure to direct student drivers down those streets at some point). JK: Portland has lots of tree lined streets. But what do tree lined streets have to do with this discussion? Streets are public property and not relevant to M37.

    LT | Oct 5, 2005 10:47:39 PM: Inside the city limits, city council permission was necessary to cut down a tree. So the concern about "strict land use laws" in this state tends to amuse me. JK:In Portland, if someone wants to build a 4 story apartment building next to a single family home (or just about any place) then the trees just seem to fall away. Tree laws only apply to the little guy, not to favored developers carrying out Metro’s density mandates.

    Thanks JK

  • Becky (unverified)
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    I'm confused about the angst over transferral of development rights. I thought that was a good thing - keep a property owner from filing a Measure 37 claim by allowing them to sell their development rights, the potential developable units doesn't decrease, and the buildable areas are then developed to a higher level. Why do liberals find this a bad idea? I really don't get it.

    And I still maintain that the extreme anti-property rights views revealed in a lot of the anti-Measure 37 commentary is outside of the mainstream view of Oregonians. Ordinary Oregonians respect the environment, but also respect each other's investments and property rights. They want to be fair. If the environmental extremists who have taken over Oregon's regulatory bodies had been more reasonable in the exceptions process or more willing to find ways for the community to cushion or even absorb the financial costs of their regulatory takings, rather than slapping it all on the backs of a few individuals, there would not have been a need for Measures 7/37. Too many everyday property owners for too long have been disrespected in the name of the environment, and it was a wrong that needed correcting. You all could have avoided what you now see as a nightmarish initiative if you had recognized and tried to assuage the pain you were causing.

  • blue (unverified)
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    I don't think many "enviros" really care that much for the average worker who's trying to put food on the table.

    Ironically, it's family farmers concerned about what will happen to their water tables and access roads, who are concerned about the impact of M37 -- not "enviros".

    Having lived in two of the sprawled cities in America, I can tell you that Oregon has something special. Distinctive local communities surrounded by farmland. It's what we used to have in Colorado before the "hate a good quality of life first if it will allow out-of-state developers to make a buck" crowd turned the front range into a single city 200 miles long and 100 miles wide stretching from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins.

    Is that really what we want for Oregon? A big megapolis stretching from Portland to Eugene and Corvallis?

  • LT (unverified)
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    Becky, It seems to me it is about accountability of inititative sponsors: I'm confused about the angst over transferral of development rights. I thought that was a good thing - keep a property owner from filing a Measure 37 claim by allowing them to sell their development rights, the potential developable units doesn't decrease, and the buildable areas are then developed to a higher level. Why do liberals find this a bad idea? I really don't get it.

    My sense of the whole transferability question was this: in a year when "the voters have spoken" was such a mantra, it seemed OIA wouldn't even admit transferability wasn't in the wording of Measure 37 as passed. It was like "OK, we messed up, but we will just push the change through the legislature". Who knows if the measure would have passed with transferability?

    Either the people who write initiatives are responsible for the content of initiatives or they are not. Does that statement make me a "liberal" when "conservatives" have been talking about "personal responsibility" for so long? There are lots of folks who try to seriously study all measures, and 2000's overload made that impossible.

    And as I recall from another topic, there is murkiness in the 37 wording on whether people could rebuild if the place they built burned down. Is that really the fault of an individual or group challenging the measure, or is that the responsibility of the sponsors to have a measure written in a way it could be implemented? If there was not technical advice to the writers of the measure (lawyers, real estate appraisers, bankers, etc. on what the language actually would mean in practice) I think that is the responsibility of the sponsors. I have supported the concept of measures but worried about the wording and thus refused to support the specific measure. Did that mean I opposed the general idea? Did OIA have such conversations before the measure got on the ballot, or are they the great OIA and if there are problems in the wording they can blame someone else?

    I suspect since 2000 there has been more animosity towards initiativemeisters (a term of scorn for those who have organizationally sponsored measures and sometimes a rerun measure like OIA-- as opposed to the adult adoptee measure, for instance, which was a group of citizens who had a concern, organized to pass a ballot measure, and then disbanded after the election) meaning that ordinary citizens are not likely to give initiative sponsors any slack. Some of the sponsors invite that attitude by acting like an unelected branch of government.

    And there are politicians who reinforce that attitude.

    If you take the number of people who voted in Feb. on the prevailing side of Measure 30, and match it up with the number of people who voted in Nov. 2004, you will find that the people on the winning side of Measure 30 were about 37% of the number of people voting in November.

    There were some districts in the Oregon House and Senate which were Republican previously but went Democratic in Nov. 2004. Did the "voters speak" in those elections? If you listened closely to some of the rhetoric last session, there were Republicans who acted as if that had not happened. "The voters have spoken on Measure 30" was supposed to mean that Democrats elected in previously Republican districts were not even supposed to mention changing tax cuts or increasing school funding, or even use the taboo word tax because "the voters had spoken on Measure 30". Oh, so only ballot measure elections count and not the election of candidates? Is that really their message?

    As a friend of someone who once worked for a national coalition to help family farmers, and as someone who admires 2 generations of the Macpherson family, I don't think any political organization will get very far saying family farmers (which includes some/ most wineries, by the way) are not average working people.

    There was a time when groups like OIA were pushing to develop "secondary lands". When people want to make fun of groups like OIA, they mention that in Yamhill County the areas which used to be called "secondary lands" are often now called wineries.

    That said, my guess is that most people have other concerns, and if 20% of the general population (the folks who don't think about politics every day esp. in an odd numbered non-election year) could even tell you which measure 37 was and what the debates on both sides are/were, I would be very surprised.

    My guess is that "mainstream" Oregonians care about a lot of things with work and family at the top of that list. If this debate doesn't touch their own work and family (the average manufacturing, healthcare, or service worker is unlikely to be affected, for instance) they may not even know the debate is going on.

  • Becky (unverified)
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    LT -

    Yes, absolutely ballot measure authors should be held responsible for the language in their measures. I wasn't entirely happy with Measure 37 myself, but I figured as it wasn't a constitutional amendment, we'd have a chance to work those problems out later and that the main thrust was important, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's decision on Measure 7 (which I thought was a whole lot of politically-motivated BS, but that's another story).

    Politicians will always pull out the "voters have spoken" argument when it suits them. I've seen both sides do it. The debates continue on, and really only the die hards at either end of the spectrum are ever satisfied by this rhetoric. Of course, some people do get disheartened when asked to vote repeatedly on the same issue. The argument can tap into their feelings as well.

    Regarding ballot measure language, I would like to point out why a really well-written ballot measure is so hard to find: because it can so easily violate the Oregon Supreme Court's intrepretation of the single subject rule. Caveats and exceptions and clarifications must be left out under our anti-initiative Court's application of the law. Additionally, in the never-ending quest for the all-important ballot title, sometimes comprehensive language must be sacrificed, else it will provide the AG's office with an excuse to confuse the ballot title and thus confuse the voters and weaken the measure's chances of passage. In short, our ballot title process and our current approach to the single subject rule are huge impediments to quality initiative language, regardless of how you feel about who is writing initiatives and on what topics.

  • Chris McMullen (unverified)
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    Blue, it's all a matter of what you consider a "good quality of life."

    I, for instance, consider living in a single family house on a 10,000 square foot lot in a suburb a "good quality of life." You, OTOH, may consider living in a condo tower in the Pearl a "good quality of life."

    The problem is, Metro and other state agencies believe density = "good quality of life." And they deny people their property rights to further their agenda.

    The people of Oregon fought back with the passage of M37. It may be a flawed measure (maybe), but it sets a strong precedent.

  • (Show?)

    Land use laws really get down to a major problem of collective action.

    If too many people live on a 10,000 square foot lot in the suburbs, you have no city and no farms, you have too much commute, you have a crappy environment, you have health and safety problems, you have less recreation, in short: you have a crappy quality of life as in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Denver.

    Oregonians are very proud not to be those places. We're different because we realize that we must restrict the number of 10,000 square foot lots in the suburbs. That means many people will have to choose between really living in the country or really living in the city. Only so many can have both (in the suburbs). And not all city living is the Pearl, just as not all rural living is the farm.

    When we all take a bit of responsibility and recognize that our actions affect others just as their actions affect us, when we limit suburbanization, then we all can enjoy clean air, plenty of parks and hikes, cheaper infrastructure services, reduced commute times, and more time with our families, in short: a better quality of life.

    That's the bottom line. Oregonians recognize we must temper our individualism with pragmatic responsibility and care for our fellow Oregonians. No one is an island. You may expand your house today, but you'll be sitting next to Wal-Mart tomorrow. When it comes to property rights, an old adage comes to mind: The pigs get fat and the hogs get slaughtered.

  • Adam (unverified)
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    "Metro wants to emulate Los Angeles right here in Portland. Do You?" -JK

    Nice to see that Randall O'Toole's ancient talking points are still being regurgitated by the faithful.

    Y'all should stick to what you do best: propping up little old ladies in the service of developmnet/forestry interests. Anybody with a cursory knowledge of Metro would know that this statement is patently false.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)
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    Cody wrote:

    "Land use laws really get down to a major problem of collective action."

    And once a collectivist (look in the mirror Cody) identifies "a major problem" every individual should expect the cost of "solving" it may fall inordinately upon his back.

    Cody also asserted:

    "Oregonians are very proud not to be those [Denver, LA, Las Vegas] places."

    I'm stunned, even Cody's arguments are framed in the collective opinions of others.

    I've never heard any individual express pride in not being a place, but who knows what someone might say if you asked him, "Are you very proud to not be Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Denver?"

    He might just say "yes."

    Of course, he'd be just as likely to answer "yes" to this question:

    Are you very proud to not have Cody attributing collectivist opinions to you?

  • Chris McMullen (unverified)
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    Pretty specious arguments there, Cody.

    Answer this: If the suburbs are so bad, why do so many people want to live there? Why do we have to subsidize condo development downtown and elsewhere -- of which only the rich can afford? The UGB has artificially increased housing costs, effectively pricing low and middle-class folks out of the market. Is that conducive to "livability?"

    I guess smart-growthers can adopt to the James Kunstler attitude toward the poor by saying; "Well, you can't have everything..."

    There's acres and acres of developable land in Oregon. And as Portland's land-use and transportation policies exclude more and more people, many will be living and working in the suburbs.

    Your version of sprawl is another person's panacea.

  • Elon (unverified)
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    Transferability is a Misnomer

    OIA's initiative makes property PERMANTANTLY exempt from regulations, FOREVER. This means that anyone (including out-of-state developers or corporations) could buy your neighbor’s property, which would be permanently immune from the land use laws on which we all rely for our quality of life.

    BTW, Becky, Transfer Development Credits are not a bad idea at all. These new measures simply don't get at that idea. Lets hope Oregon can have those productive conversations.

    In contrast, 1000 Friends of Oregon's initiatives protect people's financial and emotional investments in their home and property in two ways.

    First, 1000 Friends’ initiatives prevent development under Measure 37 that hurts a neighbor’s property value. If your neighbor’s gravel pit will sink your neighbor’s property value, the government won't permit the use.

    Second, it prevents poorly planned large-scale development by corporations or developers. The initiative, simply, prevents government from allowing corporations and developers to violate land use laws. Violation of land use laws is another way of saying “waive” land use laws.

    A majority of Oregon voters believe in fairness, protection of our landscapes, and protection of private property rights.

    The Home Owner and Family Farmer Bill of Rights achieves those goals.

  • (Show?)

    Elon, I'm a supporter of 1000 Friends, but I am also concerned that even I don't feel jazzed up about either of those measures. Don't we need something that will really hit people and say "This needs to be passed", as Measure 37 did? Those measures, certainly the latter, seem so wonky, as opposed to emotional and inspiring. Again, no hard feelings, but maybe something stronger would have a better chance of passing?

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    Adam | Oct 6, 2005 1:45:21 PM: "Metro wants to emulate Los Angeles right here in Portland. Do You?" -JK

    Nice to see that Randall O'Toole's ancient talking points are still being regurgitated by the faithful. Anybody with a cursory knowledge of Metro would know that this statement is patently false. JK: It is straight out of a Metro publication that laid the foundation for their current direction. Here is the full paragraph:

    We could not depart Figures 12 through 14 without pointing out some apparent disparities between perception and measurement, namely, Los Angeles. When we measure the LA region, we find high densities and low per capita road and freeway mileage and travel times only slightly higher than average. By way of contrast, common perceptions of Los Angeles suggest low density, high per capita road mileage and intolerable congestion. In public discussions we gather the general impression that Los Angeles represents a future to be avoided. By the same token, with respect to density and road per capita mileage it displays an investment pattern we desire to replicate.̊

    Note the phrase that I referred to: with respect to density and road per capita mileage it displays an investment pattern we desire to replicate. ( That is a machine translation from a scan of the document.)

    In view of the above, how can you say “Anybody with a cursory knowledge of Metro would know that this statement is patently false.” It is not false. IT IS PROVEN TRUE by the above.

    If you really care about keeping informed you can download Metro Measured and other early Metro documents from PortlandDocs.com.

    Thanks JK

  • jim karlock (unverified)
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    Cody | Oct 6, 2005 12:40:30 PM: If too many people live on a 10,000 square foot lot in the suburbs, you have no city and no farms, JK: So it is up to you to tell us how to live? Who appointed you god?

    Cody | Oct 6, 2005 12:40:30 PM: you have too much commute, JK: The jobs center is no longer the center city, so there is now little difference in commute distance whether people live in the city or the burbs. However, commute times tend to be longer in high density. Hong Kong has some of the longest around. (Mass transit is slow)

    Cody | Oct 6, 2005 12:40:30 PM: you have a crappy environment JK: Crappier that all that paved over impervious surface with little bare earth in high density compared to a ½ acre lot (22,000 sq ft) with one 2-3000 sq foot (roof area) home with a decent sized back yard that is completely pervious to rain fall and requires no run off to city sewer? Of course when you get to lot sizes of a few acres, you don’t even need city sewer for toilets and you don’t need city water - you live in complete harmony with nature (more or less<g>)

    Cody | Oct 6, 2005 12:40:30 PM: you have health and safety problems, JK: People living in high density are more prone to communicable diseases because of close proximity. If smells travel between units, so do diseases. Small pox did little spreading in single family neighborhoods, it was mostly in the tentiments. Of which Portland is building many.

    Cody | Oct 6, 2005 12:40:30 PM: you have less recreation JK: Primary recreation is a decent sized back yard. That is where the kids can play outdoors and still be supervised as the parents are doing house work etc. Can’t do that at the park.

    Cody | Oct 6, 2005 12:40:30 PM: in short: you have a crappy quality of life as in Las Vegas, Los Angeles JK: Look what the planners are doing to Portland - they are trying to replicate Los Angeles. For those that don’t know, Los Angeles is the MOST DENSE CITY IN THE COUNTRY. Portland’s planners are increasing our density towards Los Angeles densities.

    • Los Angeles has low per capita freeway milage. Like LA, we quit expanding freeways. That is why LA has horrid traffic congestion and why we are heading that way and why we had the nation’s WORST INCREASE IN TRAFFIC CONGESTION. Along with congestion comes pollution as cars least polluting at higher speeds.

    • Los Angeles has a crappy quality of life partly because of density, which is the feature that Metro is shoving down our throats. See Metro Measured (left column on page 7), downloadable from PortlandDocs.com

    Thanks JK

  • Becky (unverified)
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    Elon - Thanks for the clarification. I have to agree that it's inappropriate to transfer the rollback of land use regulations offered by Measure 37 on to subsequent owners where the development has not yet occurred. My husband and I had property that was taken through regulation, and was the genesis of our support for Measure 7, for which my husband was Chief Petitioner. In our case we had property which was parcelable for development until Portland placed an environmental overlay on the property. Had Measure 7 been in effect, we would have appealed and (hopefully) been allowed to build two more houses on the property, which we could then have sold - and that was our plan when we purchased the property. The question is, would the homes we built suddenly have become nonconforming? If so, that could interfere with insurability and create a whole host of other problems. In that case, I would think the zoning should match the development - is this what is meant by transferability? On the other hand, if we never parceled the property or built on it ourselves and then sold it, I don't believe the development rights should be transferred to the new owners, nor would they have under Measure 7. That was never the intent of Measure 7 - it was only intended to draw a line at the point of purchase. The tricky question in my mind is what would have happened if we had merely parceled the land and sold the lots to others to develop - would they have been allowed to build houses there? The issue is certainly a tough one and I don't really know the answer. But I do believe Measure 7 was far superior to Measure 37 and the subsequent work coming from OIA in this area.

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