In a recent front-page story, titled Density as a good thing, The Oregonian presents us with some provocative quotes about the goodness of increased urban density. We are told by a city of Portland senior planner that “Cradle to grave is the new goal.” In other words, the goal is for denizens of the city to live and die in Portland – hopefully without a car. As one Portland planning commissioner says, “It becomes a place where you don’t have to get in a car every day.”
Other academic researchers have investigated this density as pathology hypothesis, and the research supports it. A major nationwide study done by professors from Dublin City University and the University of California,[ii] of some 15,000 individuals in average urbanized-area and metropolitan statistical area populations, finds that:
· “The frequency of interaction with neighbors is lower in high-density census tracts.
· That residents living in dense census tracts have fewer confidants.
· High tract density reduces the number of friends.
· Interactive individuals sacrifice something by locating in dense tracts.
· Membership in hobby-oriented club is less likely [in low-density tracts].
· Group involvement tends to be weaker [in low-density tracts].”
Richard Carson is the former planning director for METRO (the regional government responsible for planning the three-county area of 1.5 million people), was featured in the 2009 documentary “Making Sense of Place Portland” [iv]and is currently is a doctorate student of public policy. He can be reached at his website at www.richcarson.org.