If Seattle Had A Brain…It Would Be Portland






34 Responses to “If Seattle Had A Brain…It Would Be Portland”

  1. Spencer

    where are all the Porlanders?

  2. Mike

    I’m not quite sure what this post refers to, but I am sure that all of those pictures you posted of Portland could easily be taken in Seattle as well. Seattle has several trolleys as well as farmers markets and merchants selling their art on tree lined streets. What’s your point

  3. Dave

    I think aiming for Portland is aiming low. If Seattle had a brain it would be Vancouver, BC.

  4. gw

    #2- I think Dan may be referring to Portland’s mostly 2-lane street grid that seems to encourage people to walk from one block-sized city park over to a pedestrian friendly loading-dock fronted retail block, without feeling like they are trespassing down the shoulder of any one of Seattle’s 4-lane freeways, like 1st ave, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, Stewart, Pike, Pine, Westlake, Eastlake, Alaskan, James….

  5. cjh

    Yes, a picture of First Thursday is highly representative of Portland (also, every damn picture that you posted is of Disneyland err… the Pearl).

    Fuck Portland, it’s a boutique city. It wants to be a bourgeois 19th century city like Vienna or Paris (though smaller scale and less dense). I’d rather our heroes be New York, London, Tokyo, Berlin and Rome and all their pulsing, ugly, beautiful, teeming, wonderful life.

  6. Brian

    Pulsing? Teeming? CJH, maybe you’re just referring to the unwritten “If Seattle Had A Heart…” post? And as long as I’m abusing this metaphor, don’t forget Courage too.

  7. cjh

    I’m sorry, but adding two sorta dense neighborhoods at the edge of the CBD and the rest of the city being almost exclusively single family homes (after twenty years of high capacity transit!) isn’t brainy either. And this blog pretends to be concerned about global warming and the promotion of dense urban living but then cites a Potemkin village like Portland.

    Portland lags Seattle on density, transit ownership, land devoted to multi-family dwellings. Gee, who has the brain here? That it is more haphazard and messier is just one more sign of a healthy, more balanced mind.

    I wish all those who pine for Portland would actually try to live there (be sure to give up your cushy government supported job).

  8. Frank and Beans

    cjh – I think you best look at gw’s comment to understand the post. It would seem you’re reacting to “other” issues. I don’t think danb or WB or whatever is pressing a Portland utopia upon society (or Seattle)

  9. dan bertolet

    I was into Portland way before everyone else was. Now I hate Portland because so many other people like it. Lately though, I sense a growing backlash against Portland, so maybe I’ll start liking it again pretty soon.

  10. Tony

    I grew up in a small town in North Idaho (think Medfield with more hunting and fishing). My whole like, I had always wanted to move to Seattle. After I finished graduate school I finally made it here this last fall. While everyone who knew me growing up (and my love of urban planning, transit, bicycling, liberal politics, etc.) clearly understood why I wanted to move to a big city on the coast, they always asked “Why Seattle? Why not Portland?” Everyone knew that Portland had it figured out as far as progressive land use went, so why Seattle?

    For the longest time I couldn’t say why. All the arguments as to why Portland was a better city made perfectly logical sense, but for some reason I just couldn’t articulate, I never for a moment wanted to move there over Seattle. After living here for a year I finally have an answer:

    Portland, culturally, economically, politically, is a very big town. Seattle is a city. Seattle (combined with Tacoma) has the third largest container port in the United States (behind #1, LA and #2, NYC). We are a global city with a global presence, heavily connected to the global economy.

    Microsoft and Boeing are the hubs of two major high tech industries that concentrate here in Seattle. Portland’s major multinationals (Nike etc.) are fewer and are far less influential on a global scale.

    Seattle has the University of Washington, which is an institution of global significance as well. Portland doesn’t even have the flagship of Oregon’s university system (U of O is in Eugene). Portland State is a well dressed community college in comparison.

    Anyone in this country can pick the Seattle skyline out of a photo lineup (owing to our iconic monument), Portland looks like any of several dozen river cities.

    Finally, I will add something which we can take little credit for, but is ours nonetheless. In case you haven’t looked out your window recently, we live in one of the most incredible natural settings of any city on earth, with snowcapped mountains to the east and the west and surrounded on three sides by water (if you count the ship canal and lake union). Portland has the river and you can see the Cascades in the distance, but it’s a far cry from Seattle.

    So I agree with the comments made by cjh (with a little less vitriol), but I also agree with the sentiment of this blog post. Given our assets as a city (industry, university, Space Needle, port, natural environment, etc.) How is it that we are even in the same league as Portland? Or, more appropriately, how is it that Portland is in our League?

    The simple answer is that in a number of ways, Portland has done better with their relatively meager endowment and we have in many ways squandered ours. The progressive pro-urban policies have made their town very livable, enough so to win them some national attention that really should have been ours.

    But I believe that we will, in a short time rise up and reclaim the fame and glory that we have allowed to pass us by due to a lack of vision, ambition and courage. We’ve had thirty years to watch Portland and Vancouver experiment with progressive urban policy. We are in a position now to pick up their best practices and leave their mistakes.

    Perhaps I am being optimistic. Perhaps it’s because I’m relatively new and haven’t yet had the hope beaten out of me by the cynicism of Seattle politics, but I think something is changing under our feet right at this very moment, and that the Seattle of 2028 will look very different from what we see today. Portland in 2028 will likely look very much the same.

  11. gw

    Sorry Dan, I didn’t notice you had a guest over.
    I just can’t get behind roller derby for the same reason you can’t get behind Portland- too trendy

  12. rb

    Tony, very well put.

  13. Sir Learnsalot


    I lived in Portland for a year and a half and I agree with your sentiment. I found it so damn hard to find a job that paid well, and I found it even harder to find people who wanted to work hard. I love to go back and visit often and I do miss the cyclist, walker and transit friendliness of the city. But deep down I like to work hard and have purpose in my life. Seattle for me thanks.

  14. dwhiting

    Tony – Your reference to Seattle/Tacoma combined makes the 3rd largest shipping port in the U.S. is misleading. The maritime shipping lines, railroads, truckers and trade associations does not combine these as a regional port, they are competitors. Just like Los Angeles and Long Beach ports that reside side by side on San Pedro Bay but are two separate entities.

    Port of Seattle ranks as 5th or 6th in terms of volume of containers handled annually, trading places with Tacoma, and following NY/NJ, LA, Long Beach, and Oakland.

    Oh, and your whole “economic might” diatribe is pointless. The issue was if Seattle had a brain it would make better decisions regarding land use, which you yourself acknowledge Portland excels at improving their livability. And for the hope that Seattle will follow and learn from our neighbors to the north and south… yeah, don’t hold your breath

  15. joshuadf

    Nice post for generating comments!

    Having lived in other parts of the country I think you’re missing the big picture. Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver are in the same league because they broadly have weather and a little eco-culture in common. That’s all random people in Dallas or Philadelphia know or care. My extended family can’t even keep straight which city is in which state.

  16. joshuadf

    Just published today is an article with a great summary of the current state of Portland’s growth planning:


  17. Nate Cole-Daum

    Without reviving the anti-PDX discussion, can I ask: has anybody been down to Portland recently? I’m going this weekend and I’d love to study the “HAC guide to Multnomahpolis,” to make sure I don’t miss the coolest new places…

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  19. Filomena Stick

    There is obviously sooo much more to look up about this. I think you made some pretty neat points in Features also.

  20. Brayden Sanchez

    The effects of Global Warming is getting much stronger these days. We should concentrate more on alternative energy to reduce carbon emissions.

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