I live very near Portland, Ore. I live close enough that I can hop on the newly minted Orange Line and be in downtown Portland in around 25 minutes (depending on how TriMet is running that day). I can walk to the station in 30 minutes or bike to it at around 15. I can also bike to Portland proper in about 20 minutes.
I like to think that I’m like Alvar Aalto in the sense that my home is nestled among trees, near nature but also close to a major city. (If you squint real hard our home looks kind of cool, modern and Scandinavian. Real hard.)
We’ve been taking walks around the neighborhood lately after dinner now that the sun sets later as we near summer. The neighborhood still has many of the older farmhouse homes that were scattered on large plots of land back in the day (mostly surrounded by trees and shrubs) which makes for a pleasant walk and connects us to the neighborhood. The downsize: no sidewalks, lots of shitty architecture (the style could be called “modern mobile home”) and a busy street that runs through town where cars speed all day long. It’s a street that you must take to get anywhere – whether that’s driving, walking or biking. There are no sidewalks and it’s dangerous. There’s no city council to lobby (our local representatives are commissioners that cover the whole county and think that adding more lanes to the local freeway will lower emission and pollution.) And the local conservatives (that live out in the country and like the country lifestyle but don’t want to pay for infrastructure) pushed a law a couple years back that forces all towns and hamlets in the county to a county-wide vote for any of those darn “urban renewal” measures (“No new sidewalks with MY tax dollars!”).
Anyhow, that means we get streets without sidewalks, unchecked traffic and speeds, and bike lanes that just end. It also means the unchecked lifestyle lets you keep 50 chickens, probably build a deck under the radar – basically let your freak flag fly. It’s a tradeoff. Being unincorporated also means lots of ripe land for new housing – which is being constructed with a vengeance, without any check. I’m not against new homes but amy missing-middle housing? Town homes? Mixed-use projects in the dusty, dying “downtown”? Not a chance. The next 10 years ? Five years? They’re going to be interesting.