Posted by Michael Andersen (Contributor) on March 20th, 2015 at 3:16 pm
Total comments this week: 883
We can see change happening. We can accept that change has to happen. We can even appreciate parts of it.
But that doesn’t always make change feel good, and it doesn’t mean that change is good.
Responding to other readers’ pro-housing-supply comments beneath Tuesday’s post about low-impact infill projects, BikePortland reader rachel b (who is, according to other posts, a Portlander since childhood) shared a take on the city’s development that was deeply personal, charmingly self-deprecating and a little bit heartbreaking, too.
Here’s Rachel’s first comment, a reply to another reader who had been dismissive of people who object to housing infill.
“Cranky, ill-informed older residents?” How very black and white of you! This irritable dimwit just happens to be with you on making people pay for parking—as much as possible. I’m also completely behind the ideas discussed in this article. I can feel that way and also tell you that it’s the opposite of irrational to be attached to your home/community. It’s human. It’s even cat, fern and slug. We like home. Maybe you’re a nomad and you don’t, though you seem to be very much behind making Portland a home in a way that satisfies you. I can understand that, though I don’t agree with your vision of Portland-home. Can you imagine anyone ever wanted to move here before you, to our dumpy bungalow wasteland? Try. I can appreciate your seeing A New Portland as a great thing—I can put myself in your shoes. But I don’t feel the same way about all the change, at this point. 2008 was the tipping point for me. I was your model citizen Welcome Wagon up to then. From where I sit, locals have been pretty decent overall about all the change happening—it’s been happening for a long time now, at an ever-accelerating pace. We’re a pretty welcoming bunch, overall. Feeling the strain and saying something about it should be something anyone here feels free to express without threat of insults or condescension. It’s part of the picture, part of the story of what’s happening in Portland. We probably agree on a number of things but it’s no fun to talk to someone seemingly intent on making you into a cartoon.
After replies from three other readers, rachel b shared some more perspective:
“I’ve watched and mostly cheered the enlivening of old neighborhoods, while at the same time feeling increasingly ill-at-ease on my native ground as newcomers with an unfamiliar and sometimes alienating concept of Portland pour in.”
Thanks for your post, Anne—much appreciated, and very well said. I get a lot out of your posts generally. I miss the old unhip Portland more than you, perhaps, but then I am an enemy of hipness.
“That’s what I don’t completely get. Many people who proclaim to love the city and that they moved here for what it is/was want to change it, which would likely diminish (at least at some level) a lot of the things they liked about it. I’m not against change, but I find this stance a little strange. And the shock and anger some of them seem to express that others who live here wouldn’t agree with them is just odd.”
That really says it, davemess. I find the anger at anyone who’s not elated over the constant rapid-fire change oppressive and perplexing. I’ve noticed it even in the tone of WW these days—never in a million years would I have foreseen them publishing “Here’s What Makes Portland the Bestest EVER!” kind of articles, and so many of them. And if a commenter dares dissent (and snark used to be the WW commenters’ stock in trade) a dozen peppy “Yay, Portland!” newbies will clobber them to death. It is a huge sea change in the people, and I think that answers your question. I think the attractors have changed here, and hence those attracted. To me, it feels like Portland was an introvert and now it’s adamantly an extrovert.
And maccoinnich–Yes—we—most of the locals here on this site, I suspect, supported this UGB you speak of. We were integral to making this the place you wanted to be, where seemingly everyone and their dog now want to be. I, along with so many Portlanders going way back, am as green as they come. You’re inheriting what people who lived here before you made. You’re reaping the benefits of the work of the people you and several others here excoriate. This place became the place everyone wants to be because people who’ve been here a long while valued quality of life issues and voted our priorities and did the work. What’s the problem? Why’s it so reprehensible that we’re reacting naturally to external stressors–in ways that scientists, sociologists, anthropologists have all noted and that we witness in species other than ours when abrupt habitat change occurs? Why is it wrong to express it? We’ve been making and making and making room. Can’t we say “ow” at some point when it hurts? It doesn’t make us not tough enough or generous enough or pragmatic enough. I will arm wrestle you any day. 😉
I don’t expect you or anyone else to agree with me but quality of life is worsening here, in my view. If I could move from Portland right now, I would. And I never thought I’d say that. There is such a thing as too many, too much, too crowded, too polluted, and a tipping point. I happen to think we passed it in 2008. I know more people are coming (and I think prognosticators are seriously underestimating how hard we’re going to be hit by climate refugees. The only thing that’ll stem that tide is our own drought). We are going to struggle to accommodate them. I agree more housing is necessary. I am not an enemy of all change. I’m just saying what it’s felt like, what it feels like. That’s all.
As someone who happened to fall for Portland in 2007, it always makes me sad when I hear someone else express sorrow about changes since, because I mostly believe them. I know that I’m part of those changes, and I know the Portland I decided to call home was built on the work and choices of generations of Portlanders before us, native and non. The only thing I know how to do is keep doing my best to make things good for the Portlanders who’ll be here next.
Rachel makes a powerful point. We can throw our backs into shaping the future, but it’ll always be the present that we feel in our bones.
Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be mailing a $5 bill to rachel in thanks for this great one. Watch your email!