Resonate

I think Jennifer almost always has insightful things to say about Bend (and is a fine writer to boot), but last night’s post was really remarkable, I think. She points to the Bend 2030 website (the project of which I was only really tangentially aware of until the past few days), and drops the bomb on a couple of the hard questions:

What’s the most significant issue facing Bend?

Well, an increase in growth threatens two of the three things I value most about living here. So Bend’s biggest issue is limiting growth or, if that’s impossible, limiting the damage.

Also: this town has a severe divide between rich and poor with almost no middle class. That gives my kids a wacky sense of how the world works. First, it’s not a reflection of most of the United States; and second, they don’t see a model for success — except, of course, in real estate. People grow up here and disappear for awhile, then come back as doctors and lawyers. Or they grow up wealthy and never work for keeps. Unless Bend changes, my kids won’t have much opportunity to watch someone start out on a low rung and work their way up.

So, to answer question four:

What is your personal vision for the future of Bend?

I want growth in Bend to slow way, way down, so that we can get a psychic grasp on what’s happening here. And then I would like Bend to work toward becoming not a resort town or a retirement mecca but a normal city, where people work and go to school — and just happen to climb mountains or ski or run rivers whenever they get a chance.

Dead on. I really couldn’t have said it better myself, and I find myself nodding in nearly perfect agreement with this.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bend and its growth and what it’s been turning into lately. In light of my rant yesterday, I think it’s safe to expect more rants and thoughts on this topic from me. In the meantime, keep watching Jennifer. She’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.

11 thoughts on “Resonate”

  1. I moved away from Bend a year ago this month. The last time I visited was March, and even in those two months I was absolutely floored by how much it had grown, how much things had changed. There were vast swaths of the town that I didn’t even recognize. In the span of two months.

    I love Bend. I really enjoyed the time I spent living there, and if it’s in the cards, I wouldn’t mind moving back. It’s all a question of what I’d be moving back to, I suppose, as change is certainly inevitable.

  2. Well gee, thanks. I’m blushing. I really wanted to go to the deal they had at the Tower Theater last night, but forces (that is, kids) conspired against me.

    Now I’m going to go read your post about burgeoning Bend.

  3. Watched much of the Tower Theatre deal live on COTV – pretty full house, too. But I’m tired of folks who want growth to slow down. I call that naive. HOW do you make folks not develop their property as they see fit? I grow tired of the whining about greedy developers. Supply and demand, folks. And until you find a legal way to say "stay the hell out," or "we’ll buy your land to keep it pure," we WILL keep growing. Now growing SMARTER, I’m all for it. Growing slower, that’s a foolish thing to wish for, except in one’s wistful dreams of days gone by. IMHO;-)

  4. Barney, I think your concept of "growth slowing down" is different than what we’re talking about. Let’s be honest, the growth isn’t going away, but if it can be managed smartly–as you point out–then it *can be* slowed. Tighten up the urban growth boundary and development review process are two ways that come to mind.

    And there’s *always* ways to impose limits on folks who want to "develop their property as they see fit"; one such way that comes to mind is through the permits process, which amounts to tying them up with red tape. Believe me, I’ve seen this in action–my day job is for a developer, and nothing slows down development quite like the city of Bend not issuing permits in a timely fashion.

    As for greedy developers, well, they *are* greedy (first hand experience here again) and, supply and demand be damned, their reach is exceeding their grasp as they eagerly drive up the price of the homes and over-inflate the housing market bubble we’re now in. That’s why the under-$200K house bought back in 2002 now sells for well over $300K (and I’ve seen similar homes now even up to $500K). That’s just untenable; what’s going to happen when this bubble bursts and people are left holding the bag with huge mortgages on suddenly-undervalued homes? It won’t be pretty, I promise you that.

    So no, I don’t think slowing growth is a foolish thing to wish for, considering. Wishing for the growth to stop–*that’s* foolish. All growth is not bad, but we need to address the growth issues that Jennifer precisely states that I quoted (among others): the enormous disparity in economic class, and how to keep Bend from turning into a resort/retirement community instead of the normal town that we all want.

    IMHO, of course. 😉

  5. As someone who answers the phone at a health and human service agency, I hope that Bend 2030 can come up with smart and reasonable soltions. A lady called Friday saying her family was being evicted from a double wide they were leasing in DRW. They have no place to go or family in town. She works at a local resort (she didn’t say which) and her ex -husband hasn’t paid the child support in months. All I could do was refer her to FRC for a referral. It’s heart breaking when you can’t do anything.

    Hearing stories like this day in and day out are really frustrating. It makes me not want to buy a house and rent another year because now realtors are saying "Do it now because we will only have one more jump in prices." I feel like buying a house this spring will be a gamble for my finances. If we have a group of folks stuck with houses they can’t sell, then our city will be in a whole crap load of trouble.

  6. Jon, we can argue all we want about what’s the right question to ask, and how to phrase it. But how to come up with sound, legally defensible answers, that’s another matter entirely. You may think it’s developers and not California refugees who ‘drive up’ the cost of housing – but how do you stop it? I mean, how can you be sure it’s a bubble? What goes up must come down? There are markets in this country where that’s NEVER really happened, to any large degree.

  7. Barney, you’re hedging, aren’t you?

    "There are markets in this country where [a downturn] has NEVER really happened, to any large degree." If you felt strongly about it, you’d come right out and say "Bend is one of those places where property values never fall." Although the fact is, they have, back in the late ’70s/early ’80s. But not many who live in Bend now were around for that.

    Problem is, what happens in Bend if prices even stop appreciating, let alone drop a "small degree"? Everyone’s got a finger in the constant-growth, constant-property-value-increase pie. When you take away the real estate industry (including: speculators, developers and contractors, real estate agents, appraisers, home improvement stores, and even city building inspectors), all that Bend has is tourism and 3 or 4 small (

  8. Uh, all rich and poor with no middle class? I think its more like all rich and middle class with few poor. Do people in Bend even know what poverty is?

  9. I’m living in Eastern Washington near Spokane and we too are experiencing massive growth in a short amount of time. The folks coming in are paying an enormous price for something they could have gotten for a lot less. Some of this is lack of education on property value for an area versus supply and demand. I’ve seen a 20 acre piece of land with a house and shop that weren’t too impressive go for close to $400,000 dollars when other comparable homes and land in the area were going for the more acceptable rate of close to $100,000. This creates problems of it’s own because it immediately raises land values in the governments eyes in order to get more taxes. People already living there find their land re-assessed at much higher values and can no longer afford the cost. Forcing them to find less desirable places to live, do in part to much higher income people moving into an area. It’s a major quandary.

  10. Realty party over?

    Bend home prices flatten – see http://www.ktvz.com/printstory.cfm?storyID=4756

    Bend economy in trouble if inflow of people slows down?

    County planning commission member sounds alarm: "Central Oregon’s major industry is growth. If you have no growth, the industry will collapse and there will be a huge loss of family-wage jobs. The main commodity sold here is livability." See http://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060301/OPIN01/603010336/1032&nav_category=&template=print

Comments are closed.