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Planning Paradise

By Peter A. Walker and Patrick T. Hurley

Publication Year: 2011

“Sprawl” is one of the ugliest words in the American political lexicon. Virtually no one wants America’s rural landscapes, farmland, and natural areas to be lost to bland, placeless malls, freeways, and subdivisions. Yet few of America’s fast-growing rural areas have effective rules to limit or contain sprawl.

Oregon is one of the nation’s most celebrated exceptions. In the early 1970s Oregon established the nation’s first and only comprehensive statewide system of land-use planning and largely succeeded in confining residential and commercial growth to urban areas while preserving the state’s rural farmland, forests, and natural areas. Despite repeated political attacks, the state’s planning system remained essentially politically unscathed for three decades. In the early- and mid-2000s, however, the Oregon public appeared disenchanted, voting repeatedly in favor of statewide ballot initiatives that undermined the ability of the state to regulate growth. One of America’s most celebrated “success stories” in the war against sprawl appeared to crumble, inspiring property rights activists in numerous other western states to launch copycat ballot initiatives against land-use regulation.

This is the first book to tell the story of Oregon’s unique land-use planning system from its rise in the early 1970s to its near-death experience in the first decade of the 2000s. Using participant observation and extensive original interviews with key figures on both sides of the state’s land use wars past and present, this book examines the question of how and why a planning system that was once the nation’s most visible and successful example of a comprehensive regulatory approach to preventing runaway sprawl nearly collapsed.

Planning Paradise is tough love for Oregon planning. While admiring much of what the state’s planning system has accomplished, Walker and Hurley believe that scholars, professionals, activists, and citizens engaged in the battle against sprawl would be well advised to think long and deeply about the lessons that the recent struggles of one of America’s most celebrated planning systems may hold for the future of land-use planning in Oregon and beyond.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

The politics of land use planning is a subject of especially intense passions in Oregon. Not surprisingly, one of the questions we sometimes got when doing research for this book was, what point of view do we take? Whose perspectives do we represent? What do we want our book to “do”? ...


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pp. xiii

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1. Introduction

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pp. 3-21

On May 18, 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama stood before 75,000 wildly cheering, dancing, and waving Oregonians at Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park and declared the overwhelming sentiment of the largest rally of the campaign to that date: “Wow! Wow! Wow!” said Obama. ...

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2. Planning for Growth

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pp. 22-41

In this chapter, we begin by placing the Oregon land use planning system in the context of other planning systems and growth management efforts in the United States and the American West.3 Our discussion touches on the system’s relationship, first, to the emergence during the early 1970s of new land use controls ...

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3. A Star Is Born

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pp. 42-75

The story in Oregon goes like this: One day in the late 1960s, Linn County dairy farmer Hector Macpherson Jr. drove past a neighbor’s farm and noticed a Caterpillar tractor moving soil. Macpherson shouted, “What ya plannin’ to grow here?” The tractor driver replied, “Houses” (Rusk 1999: 156). ...

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4. Falling Star

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pp. 76-110

Three decades after Tom McCall helped to launch Oregon’s unique land use planning system by memorably inveighing against “the grasping wastrels of the land,” a very different person became, arguably, the best known and most effective voice since McCall on the subject of Oregon’s land use planning system. ...

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5. “What Were People Thinking?

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pp. 111-155

As mentioned in chapter 1, we wrote this book in part because of a particular event: in the summer of 2005, half a year after Oregon’s Ballot Measure 37 passed, one of us (Walker) was in Colorado to interview the director of a land trust on an unrelated topic. The director changed subjects and posed a question about Oregon and Measure 37: ...

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6. Metro Visions

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pp. 156-179

When flying into Portland International Airport on a clear day (they do happen), a visitor is likely to be struck by the majestic natural beauty of snow-covered Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens (the nearest in the chain of volcanic peaks that forms the Cascades Mountains in Oregon and Washington). ...

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7. Central Destinations

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pp. 180-203

In this chapter, we turn our attention to Central Oregon — specifically Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties — and the intersection of political and economic forces that have characterized the so-called New West, namely, the replacement of natural resource–based economies and cultures by a booming real estate market centered on natural amenities. ...

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8. Southern Discomforts

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pp. 204-229

When Oregon’s statewide planning system was created in 1973, southern Oregon6 was immediately vocal in its discomfort with this system. In the ensuing decades the relationship between southern Oregon and planners in Salem did not improve greatly (locally, “Salem” is often a “four-letter” word for centralized state power). ...

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9. Paradise Lost?

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pp. 230-254

Much American social theory can be found on bumper stickers (and much silliness, of course). Or, if you happen to live in Africa or Asia, similar expressions can be found painted on the cabs or tailgates of trucks. One particularly profound automotive-philosophical statement is popular in Ghana: “No condition is permanent” (Berry 1993). ...


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pp. 255-276


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pp. 277-282


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pp. 283-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780816504787
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816528837

Publication Year: 2011