Portland's Skyline Debate
Your recent article on building heights missed a crucial point: The current system is delivering the worst of both worlds. The new housing in taller buildings is not addressing the affordability crisis, because the price of the new units is inherently more expensive. The number of units being built in the core is also a small fraction of regional demand, so is doing little to address the shortage of units. The loss of iconic views—as well as sunlight, skyview, scale, massing, wind and other impacts on livability—affects not only private condo owners, but all of us who share the city's public realm, including Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Pioneer Square, the Rose Garden, and other treasures of our urban commons.
Building heights are going up under Central City 2035, and expensive properties are only being made more expensive by neighborhoods who are protesting the degradation of their livability—as they have every right to do in a democracy. Instead of throwing them under the bus, what we need is to seek a more rational, win-win approach, less likely to put up expensive eyesores and "space invaders," and more likely to build on the heritage, beauty and livability of the city. Unfortunately the current simplistic "build, baby, build" thinking (and NIMBYs be damned) takes us far from that goal.
Michael Mehaffy, President of Goose Hollow Foothills League, Senior Researcher at KTH University, Stockholm
Saving Salmon and Clean Air
Contrary to Nigel Jaquiss's claims in his column, efforts to restore salmon and to have clean, affordable electricity are not on a collision course.
Blessed with hydropower resources that provide over 50 percent of the region's electricity, the Northwest can easily improve on the mere 15 percent of power that we currently get from renewable resources like wind and solar.
Iowa replaced more than a quarter of its electric generation with renewables in the last 10 years—they are now generating almost 40 percent from non-hydro renewables. And Oklahoma and Kansas have replaced more than 10 percent of their generation with renewables in just three years.
In the Pacific Northwest, renewable resources can easily fill the small reduction in hydropower generation that will occur during the spring—when we have the most hydropower available already.
Will there be challenges in making the transition? Sure. Electricity markets are complicated; a slight increase in natural gas generation for a year or two as we make the adjustment is possible. Although that depends on many factors, including hydro run-off levels, the pace of energy efficiency and storage, electricity market variations, and the diversity of renewable development to name a few.
Making the transition will also require utilities to adapt to an electric system that's more dynamic and in which hydropower resources may be used differently. But the shift will reward us with an electric system that's more flexible, more reliable, and that will help us save the salmon and advance climate change solutions.
Wendy Gerlitz, Policy Director, NW Energy Coalition