is very difficult for most people to conceptualize
what impact one million new residents will have
on the region. I believe that the best way to conceptualize
the magnitude of the challenge in front of us is
to observe how this region changed as we absorbed
the most recent million residents.
To do this we need to go back to 1968,
because during the period between 1968 and 2006
we grew by one million residents. This journey of
38 years wonít necessarily give us any insights
into how to prepare for the future, but it will
give us a sense of scale for the changes and the
challenges that we are going to face over the next
In 1968, the median sale price of a single family
home was $16,200. This was pretty affordable to
someone with the median household income of $7,700.
A loaf of bread at Freddies cost 25-cents and gasoline
was just 34-cents per gallon. In fact, an entire
barrel of gasoline in 1968 cost a little more than
what two gallons cost today ($6.23).
Traffic congestion was not a problem in 1968. There
was no rush hour traffic on the only two freeways
in town: the Banfield Freeway and Interstate Five
which opened two years prior with the completion
of the Marquam Bridge. While the cheap gas and empty
freeways represented a driversí paradise, there
were few other options for residents to get around.
TriMet didnít even exist in 1968 and a private bus
company called Rose City Transit teetered on the
edge of insolvency.
Back then, the local economy was dominated by forest
products, transportation and public utilities. Not
one of the top ten employers in 1968 is among the
top 10 in 2006. Intel, our largest employer today,
didnít operate in Oregon in 1968. They opened their
first plant in Aloha in 1976. Nike didnít exist
in 1968. Phil Knight was an Assistant Professor
of Business Administration at Portland State. He
ran a small shoe company named Blue Ribbon Sports
out of the trunk of his car. The company wouldnít
be renamed Nike for another ten years.
When it came to the commercial life of the region,
the world still revolved around central Portland.
Lloyd Center Mall had just opened, but in the suburbs
there was no Washington Square, Clackamas Town Center,
or Mall 205. Kruse Way was still the Kruse family
farm. The large employment areas of Washington County
and Rivergate were still farms and marsh lands respectively.
In the area of higher education, Portland State
University was then called Portland State College
and annual tuition was just over $400. Community
education was all the rage in 1968. Both Mt. Hood
and Portland Community Colleges were established
by public vote that year. Clackamas Community College
was created just two years prior. It would be several
years before any of these schools opened a campus.
OHSU was still the University of Oregon Medical
School. The three schools of medicine, dentistry
and nursing werenít merged to form OHSU until 1974.
As far as the built environment, the region has
changed dramatically as we absorbed one million
residents. In 1968, the tallest building in downtown
Portland was the 25-story Harrison Condominium tower
in the South Auditorium area near PSU. Today, it
is the 20th tallest building in Portland.
The change in the suburban landscape has been no
less dramatic. There were farms and open spaces
between most communities 38 years ago and it was
probably unthinkable to the residents of Hillsboro
that one day there would be continuous urbanization
between their city and Beaverton, just as that notion
of continuous urbanization between Hillsboro and
North Plains is unthinkable today.
Simply put, one million new residents will have
a transformative impact on our region. Preparing
for that future will take more than a few tweaks
to height limits in our centers or designating a
few thousand acres of urban reserves on the edge.
We canít predict the future, but we are not powerless.
Confronted by rapid growth, our predecessors demonstrated
uncommon leadership by creating statewide land use
planning laws, the urban growth boundary, Metro
and TriMet. They built new roads and light rail
lines, community colleges and hospitals. They created
entirely new neighborhoods and cities, and they
protected historic neighborhoods from destruction.
They revitalized downtown Portland and adopted the
[Metro] 2040 Plan to curb suburban sprawl. They
taxed themselves to purchase over 8,000 acres of
In Portland and Oregon, we have inherited a legacy
of innovation and progress in the face of rapid
growth. Today is our turn to write the next chapter
and I am confident that we can step up to the challenge.
Metro Councilor Brian Newman