Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Shining Example of How to Limit Sprawl ... Salt Lake Metro?

This bit of news is a little old, but every time I look at this study, I am so amazed that I just thought it would be fun to share with you all.

Seems like we here in Utah (particularly the Salt Lake metro area) are constantly being criticised for how much we sprawl, how poorly we manage growth, how auto-oriented we are, etc, etc. How if we could only be more like Portland, Oregon, we could have less sprawl and a better quality of life.

Well, there's an interesting little study that was released in October 2004 by a group called Northwest Environment Watch in Seattle. The study is called "The Portland Exception: A Comparison of Sprawl, Smart Growth, and Rural Land Loss in 15 U.S. Cities."

The study makes some interesting statements, like "NEW's analysis...quite clearly demonstrate that greater Portland's urban growth policies -- particularly Oregon's 30-year-old land use laws but also Washington's more recent Growth Management Act -- have helped protect rural lands and open space on the urban fringe, and prevent the spread of low-density, sprawling development. "

"For every 100 new residents added to metropolitan Portland's cities and suburbs between 1990 and 2000, about 10 acres of rural land or open space were converted to suburban or urban development. In contrast, new residential development in Charlotte, North Carolina, consumed 49 acres...for every 100 new residents."

So the tone of the study is that Portland's growth policies have done a great job of reigning in the spread of new growth across the landscape. No wonder we keep hearing that we should all try to be like Portland.

The interesting part of the report is that of the 15 cities studied, Portland is in 3rd place. Two cities sprawled even less, by consuming only 9 acres for every 100 new residents. Want to guess who one of those two metro areas is? Yup, good ole' Salt Lake!

So...shouldn't we be out there telling everyone that they should be like us? That we're better than Portland?

How can this be, given what we all seem to believe about the way our area is developing? Maybe it has something to do with our desert environment, sandwiched between a couple of "natural" urban growth boundaries, the mountains and the Great Salt Lake. I don't know, but if this study is accurate, we must be doing something right!


At 8:13 AM, Blogger Planner Perplexed said...

I'd sure like to see the parameters of the study. If it really is true that we ranked ahead of Portland, good for us. Certainly the data from the GOPB and Census would indicate that we are highly urbanized. (9th nationally) Assuming that is true, why is it that we are so reluctant to build walkable communities, town centers and Transit Oriented Developments?

Wilf's comments on the geographic barriers inherent here in Utah should signal to us that we need to speed up our change from suburban to urban. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels and believe that we need not do anything more to stop the sprawling that we have here. There is still plenty of it going on and given our specific demographics and high internal growth and limited buildable land, we must plan for the generations to come and make spaces for them.

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