by Ed Jones, Linnton Neighborhood Association President
Our focus should be on land use for businesses needing less land for more workers. The message in the proposed Central City 2035 plan for all neighborhoods in or near industrial zones is that economic prosperity trumps livability and even safety. And when it comes to a balancing of community and environmental needs with the potential for job growth, the community and the environment get the short end of the stick.
The history of investment in traded-sector businesses in Portland (as elsewhere) has been about job elimination rather than job creation. To improve the prospect of additional stable living-wage jobs, we need to discourage large acreage, low-employment projects and reserve land for businesses that use less land and more workers.
We should not offer protected zoning or other subsidies to businesses that do not meet a job-per-acre threshold sufficient to achieve our prosperity goals. An assessment of all businesses currently occupying industrial land in Portland regarding their land-use efficiency (i.e, how much of the property is in use) and intensity (how many living wage jobs per acre) would provide a benchmark upon which a rational subsidy/incentive program might be based.
The emphasis on industrial development is an old habit rather than a clear vision. Portland has a history of spending to encourage industrial job growth. There have been few successes, and nothing in the current economic situation encourages a belief that giving away additional incentives will succeed where it has failed in the past.
The kind of businesses that will contribute to the community in the long term are those that come here for good schools, good government and a clean environment. Many such businesses will not bring with them the environmental risks associated with historically “industrial” businesses. The plan notes, many potential redevelopment (brownfield) sites within Portland are constrained by high clean-up costs and greater risks relative to greenfield sites, which are easier to find outside the city. The plan seeks to solve this problem by annexing new “virgin” areas into industrial use. But as long as the city makes cheaper “shovel ready” land available, no investment in brownfield remediation will occur.
Editors Note: The above excerpt is from comments the Linnton Neighborhood Association submitted on the Portland Plan, Dec 2011. Find the document at the Linnton Neighborhood website. All articles are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and policies of Neighbors West-Northwest.