Save the Stafford Triangle!



The Apple War (Äppelkriget), a 1971 Swedish comedy-drama about the battle between preservation and development, made a lasting impression on me. What comes back, with increasing frequency, are the pastoral settings, seen through the window of a Mercedes-Benz sedan, that change to a German version of Disney World as the window rolls down.

Try it yourself. Drive to an idyllic rural panorama and slowly roll your window down, all the while, in your mind's eye, filling the widening gap with dense development. Or better, drive to your own personal worst nightmare --- somewhere in Beaverton, perhaps --- pull over, close your eyes, imagine rolling hills, grasslands and woodlots . . . then open your eyes to the stark-raving reality.

Think Urban Density Development. If you live in the countryside around Portland, it's coming fast -- and not to "a theater near you." It's coming because the Growth Monster has lots of money to spend on politicians, and wants to keep on making money, more and more money, by paving over paradise.

When I moved to the Rosemont hills of rural West Linn in 1974, I heard assurances from politicians that the Tualatin Valley between I-5, on the west, and West Linn, on the east, would be preserved in perpetuity as a rural buffer between West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin. This was to allay fears that the newly built I-205, which slices through the valley, would encourage the kinds of unsightly growth found along other freeways.

Now the official mantra is, "Growth is inevitable." Hear it enough times, and you start to believe it --- if you're one of the uncritical, unthinking multitudes moving with the herd. Too many people accept, as fact, the proposition that 1.25 million more people will swarm to the region in the next 25 years, and we need to plan every square foot of habitable land to accommodate them


We the people are in charge of our destiny, and will do what is best for our children's grandchildren. Won't we? Unfortunately, for this to happen, we the people need to shake off our collective ignorance, and with it, our stupidity.

A million and a quarter new people won't come here unless we let them. The Growth Monster wants them. Big-box retailers and grocery chains want them. Politicians who rake in campaign contributions hand over fist want them. Everyone who profits from growth, who thinks only of money-money-money, wants them. But what if the people of Metropolitan Portland were to rise up and say, "Enough!"

Granted, a certain amount of growth is inevitable, but we're talking greed-driven growth. Build bigger freeways, and cars will fill them. Build dense-packed subdivisions, and people will fill them. Advertise that the door is wide open to one and all --- and throw in a boast about the beautiful views, the environmental consciousness, and proximity to mountains and ocean beaches --- and people will swarm.

In the eyes of the Growth Monster, we're not people, we're consumers. Gridlock, air and water pollution, and all the other unpopular consequences of so-called "smart growth," are glossed over or swept under the rug. Hey folks, don't worry, the urban planners will take care of those things. Yeah, like they've done to date.

Visualize a sustainable future, with a stable economy, a stable population, and honest politicians who put the needs of people ahead of all other interests. Sounds utopian, and it is. But unless we aim for that future, we'll be forced to accept whatever the Growth Monster, and corrupt politicians, thrust down our throats.

What will it be, people? Do you want to saddle your grandchildren with an urbanized Stafford Triangle broken here and there with token "greenspaces" purchased by Metro and the three surrounding communities to demonstrate their "foresight"? Oh, and throw in Wilsonville, Sherwood and Tigard, because all six communities ultimately will meld into one, and thus into Beaverton, with Tigard as the gateway.

When this happens ("Growth is inevitable!"), it won't matter if your car window is up or down, the same dismal cityscape will greet your eyes. Of course, you'll want to keep your windows up, and your air conditioner on, so you won't breathe toxic fumes as you wait out the inevitable traffic standstills.

And, inevitably, you'll play the game where you point to a walled-in subdivision, cookie-cutter strip mall or oxymoronic industrial park and say, "Remember the way it was, back in the good old days?"

My Turn column in The Oregonian's SW Weekly [September 29, 2005]

The Oregon Court of Appeals this month affirmed what most folks in West Linn have believed since day one: Area 37's inclusion in the urban growth boundary was without foundation, a Christmas present to West Linn developer Herb Koss from David Bragdon and other Metro councilors who operate out of the growth industry's hip pocket.

Not that Koss and Bragdon won't go ahead and build a rationale, a house of cards on shifting sand, whatever it takes to realize Koss' dream: The other half of the "town center" he promised Safeway, the anchor of his Cascade Summit strip mall.

Here is the step-by-step progression that got Area 37 past land-use watchdogs in 2002. Follow the bouncing ball:

1) Koss lobbies Metro to bring his proposed 373-acre Rosemont Ridge (Area 37) high-density development inside the urban growth boundary.

2) Clackamas County commissioners Mike Jordan, Bill Kennemer and Larry Sowa slip a red herring into UGB discussions, a proposed industrial park at Wankers Corner.

3) Metro Executive Mike Burton leaves Rosemont Ridge and Wankers Corner out of his expansion recommendations. As a result, no public hearings are held.

4) On Oct. 31, Jordan, Kennemer and Sowa spring a Halloween surprise, urging Burton to include the entire Stafford Triangle in his recommendations. The public record closes the following day, Nov. 1.

5) Burton does not announce the county's proposal to the Metro Council until Nov. 5, Election Day, at which time he includes it in his recommendation.

6) After public outcry, Jordan, Kennemer and Sowa withdraw their Stafford Triangle proposal, setting the stage for the end game:

7) On Nov. 20, the day before Metro's final hearing on UGB expansion, Metro Councilor and President-elect David Bragdon introduces a surprise resolution to add Koss' Rosemont Ridge.

8) At the Nov. 21 hearing, facts are presented that should eliminate Area 37 from further consideration. Example: It's one of the six most difficult areas to develop, out of more than 80 on the list. Bragdon's resolution carries anyway, with only councilors Bill Atherton and Carl Hosticka voting no.

9) Bragdon, Jordan, Kennemer, Sowa and other players in this little drama rake in campaign cash from Herb Koss and the growth industry.

Then the plot thickens:

10) Bragdon hires Jordan, with council approval, for the new post of Metro administrator, with a considerable boost in salary.

11) Atherton loses his Metro Council seat to Brian Newman, whose expensive campaign is financed in large part by Koss and his friends in the industry.

12) West Linn Mayor David Dodds and associates on the city council are bumped by Councilor Norm King and associates, including Mike Gates, who rides in on a flood of money from the growth industry, and Scott Burgess, the city manager fired by the Dodds council for his reluctance to adjust to a slow-growth agenda.

[Gates took $7,860 from an industry political action committee, ClackPac, which in turn took $14,500 from Koss' business interests; $10,500 from Burton Weast of Western Advocates, whose offices adjoin West Linn City Hall; $10,000 from Randy Sebastian of Renaissance Homes, and lesser amounts from other developers with strong financial ties to the city.]

Ironies surfaced in the wake of the Appeals Court decision:

In 1999, Koss' Rosemont Ridge was steadily working its way to the ballot under Mayor Jill Thorn and City Manager Scott Burgess. Here the developers' friends are back in charge, and kaboom! --- Mayor King, Councilor Gates and Council President Burgess are unable to rubber-stamp the annexation.

Saving the best for last, it was Dodds who initiated the law, before he was mayor, that requires voter approval of annexations. And it was Dodds, with his council's nod, who sent Metro's decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals!

The ball is back in Metro's court. Citizens who oppose West Linn's expansion into rural Rosemont would do well to keep an eye on it.

[Update: The Court of Appeals opinion was affirmed by the Oregon Supreme Court.]

My Turn column in The Oregonian's SW Weekly [June 22, 2006]

I tore into Lisa Grace Lednicer's June 8 article, "City Council tips hand on strategy for Stafford Triangle," hoping beyond hope that West Linn councilors would affirm their campaign promise to honor and protect this beautiful, and essential, buffer against Beavertonization.

Alas, Mayor Norm King exposed himself as just another spineless politician: "My own personal preference is that there wouldn't be any growth out there, but that may not be realistic, and development is going on anyway."

If King genuinely believes Stafford should be preserved, he should stand up and fight for his belief.

I expect Councilor Mike Gates, whose campaign was financed by developers, and Councilor Scott Burgess, who was brought to West Linn as city manager to expedite growth, to nod and solemnly agree with King, as if the fate of Stafford is beyond their poor powers.

Have people forgotten the tactics employed by Mayor Jill Thorn and her council to push Herb Koss's Rosemont Ridge urban density development into Stafford?

Six years ago, Lake Oswego Mayor Judy Hammerstad wrote a letter supporting Rosemont Ridge, Rosemont Village and an industrial site at Wanker's Corner --- developments that would have chopped up Stafford, and turned the remaining sections into plump chickens waiting to be plucked.

We can't trust Metro councilors, or Clackamas County commissioners, to do what’s best for the people. Mayor Hammerstad has done an about-face on Stafford, but seems more interested in solving infrastructure problems than in preserving the area's rural character.

Why did the growth industry throw its considerable muscle, and tons of money, behind Metro Councilor Brian Newman’s election? They needed to remove Bill Atherton, an advocate of rational growth, and replace him with an advocate of growth accommodation.

Atherton tried to warn people about growth accommodation, which essentially says, “We stand ready and able to shoehorn half a million more people into the area, despite the impact on people already living here.”

He warned that Metro’s in-house population projection was grossly inflated -- that the State of Oregon’s economist, Tom Potiowsky, and others, forecast growth at a rate that precluded bringing even one acre inside the urban growth boundary in 2002. As a result of this manipulation, 18,867 acres were added, including the new City of Damascus.

When pressed by Atherton for an explanation, Metro’s economist, Dennis Yee, termed his flawed prediction “optimistic,” as in, “The more people the merrier.”

Finally, Atherton, a self-described “numbers-cruncher” and “policy wonk,” tried to educate people about the concept of carrying capacity --- how many people, and how much development, the land can support before infrastructure implodes.

Think traffic is bad now? Think classrooms are overcrowded? Think water comes from a faucet?

Wake up, people! The growth industry --- aided by Metro councilors and conniving local politicians --- intends to turn the Stafford Triangle into one big urban density development, packed with tens of thousands of additional residents.

Only an informed citizenry can prevent this from happening. If we fail, we might just as well move to Beaverton.

Letter to the Editor, The Oregonian's SW Weekly [July 13, 2006], in response to the growth industry's response to the above op-ed article.

The Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland (My Turn, June 29) is a mouthpiece for the Growth Monster. Its members are interested solely in maximizing profit, and to blazes with the impact of urban density development in the Stafford Triangle.

When they talk about a process involving the public, they mean a process rigged in their favor by politicians they pay to elect. They sidestep any discussion of how much growth the land can handle before traffic grinds to a halt, and classrooms become packed to the rafters.

The notion of citizens deciding for themselves when growth should be reined in is heresy to those who seek to squeeze a million more warm bodies and their air-fouling automobiles into the Portland area. Where will the clean water come from? The Willamette? The Tualatin?

People, if you care about your community, and your children, you won't let them get away with it.



Funny how you mention Gates’ only taking campaign money from builders, when he publicly stated he would take it from everybody so as not to take sides, yet no anti-growth groups offered contributions to counter the Builders, other than to the “slate”. But then you also misspoke when you called me a “red herring” when I ran against Dodds and Zagone, implying I was in the Builder’s pocket. Boy, were you wrong. You should really get to know people before you try to label them as black or white. Vitriol is not your strong point, nor do you “make the sparks fly”.
Posted by: David Banash | Email | October 09, 2006

Funny how nobody but builders responded to Gates’ request. Funny how everybody else knew enough not to give him a red cent. Talk about misspeaking –- you wrote for the public record that there is no love in my home (!) and that the one neighbor you interviewed called me unfriendly (!). I won’t honor the first tasteless statement with a response, but let me tell you about the neighbor: He believes there are 30-foot-tall extraterrestrials living in caverns deep in the Earth, waiting for the day when they can take over. I could go on and on about the strange stuff he spilled on me during our one and only conversation, but I think you get the drift. (As you say, “You should really get to know people before you label them as black or white.”) On a brighter note, thank you for mentioning that vitriol is not my strong point. Actually, I write love (that word again!) poems that are are published in national periodicals. As for my ability to “make the sparks fly,” may I remind you that you felt compelled to fly into my net.
Posted by: David Hedges | October 09, 2006

Give ‘em hell, David.
Your poetry buddy from Florence, OR.
Good to see you at East meets West in La Grande.
I enjoyed our visits and conversation.
Keep up the good fight!
C.A. Gilbert
p.s. here’s a recent, quick poem to inspire:


These flowers
at season’s end. The last
ones still blooming.

Pearly everlasting, yarrow,
mallow; past usual summer
favorites that ring chorus.

Give me flowers early and
late, hardcases braving cold.
Extremists living on the edge.

C.A. Gilbert
Posted by: C.A. Gilbert | Email | March 07, 2007