Hales: Let’s avoid Atlanta- and D.C.-style planning

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, in touting Portland’s growth and development acumen, said Wednesday the region needs to continue to avoid the kind of sprawl that has plagued other American cities.

Take Atlanta, for instance.

“Atlanta’s a mess,” Hales said during Wednesday’s Portland Business Journal Power Breakfast. “Sorry, but Atlanta’s planned so poorly, it’ll take generations to change the shape of the place.”

Hales was responding to a question about whether Portland’s penchant for transit-oriented development would translate to other places, including, hypothetically, Atlanta.

Hales also wasn’t kind to the Washington, D.C. region, where he grew up.

“I’ve seen the Washington, D.C. suburbs blow it, lose their quality of life and choke on their sprawl, not adding parks as new neighborhoods were created,” he said. Cities and regions are now “seeing the errors of their way. In Portland, those things came together, and we learned we can shape our quality of life as we grow.”

Having made those points, Hales added that the Portland area has benefited from ideas such as the urban growth boundary, which essentially regulates development around the region, because it’s become, at the very least, tolerable to developers over time.

“You might be able to transplant some policies: Streetcar might work here, more public transportation might work there, and good transit projects might work in every city,” Hales said. “But you can’t put an urban growth boundary around Kansas City. That’s unique to us in our time.”

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