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Publication Date

Summer 2010


City planning -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Land use -- Planning -- Oregon -- Portland, Urban policy -- Oregon -- Portland Metropolitan Area, Land use, Urban -- Oregon -- Portland -- History


We of the 21st century often congratulate ourselves on policies that have led to greater density and diversity in our urban settings, as remedies to the sprawl, ghettoization, and poverty that became the bane of planners and activists during the last half of the previous one hundred years. But the maps on this and following pages, generated by the Teaching American History Project of the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, suggest that there was plenty of density in various parts of the city at times in the twentieth century and a lot of diversity in certain neighborhoods. Often, these outcomes were the result of intentional policies of the city government and its business allies, especially those in real estate, transportation, and finance. Frequently, these policies perpetuated or accelerated poverty and decline in the neighborhoods--although those who made them said they were designed to ensure the greater good, or to conform to consensus values, or that they were promulgated because there were more pressing matters to address. Today, we have replaced these policies with different and (we think) more humane, forward looking ones where urban planning is concerned. But perhaps we have only proved that, as the proverb has it, 'There is nothing new under the sun,' or maybe that as the great historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. put it, we have yet to learn "what is necessary and what is merely the product of our contingent arrangements."


Originally appeared in the Summer 2010 edition of Metroscape, published by the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, Portland State University.

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