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Oregon's Cities 40 Years After Land Use Laws

The Urban Growth Boundary surrounding the Portland metropolitan area

The Urban Growth Boundary surrounding the Portland metropolitan area


The upcoming issue of Oregon Humanities magazine is focused on the theme of “Cities.” It takes an in-depth look at the land use regulations signed into law 40 years ago with SB 100. That law regulated how Oregon cities are allowed to grow. It was intended to protect farmland, particularly in the Willamette Valley. The law mandated that every city define an Urban Growth Boundary to encourage density and reduce sprawl. Through some critics say those boundaries artificially inflate land and property prices in Oregon cities.

In passing the bill, Oregon became the second state, after California, to require local comprehensive planning of its incorporated cities. The cities must pay attention to air and water quality, transportation, energy conservation, and other issues.

In championing the bill, then-Governor Tom McCall said:

“There is a shameless threat to our environment and to the whole quality of life — the unfettered despoiling of the land. Sage brush subdivisions, coastal condomania, and the ravenous rampage of suburbia in the Willamette Valley all threaten to mock Oregon’s status as the environmental model for the nation…The interests of Oregon for today and for the future must be protected from grasping wastrels of the land.”

OPB’s Oregon Field Guide recently took a look back at Oregon’s land use law:

How have Oregon’s land use laws affected you? What changes would you make to these laws? What effect will they have on Oregon’s cities in the next 40 years?

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