Uneven development of the sustainable City: Shifting Capital in Portland, Oregon
At long last, our article -- which was accepted back in October! -- has finally made it through the slow process of academic publishing and is now online. I worked with PhD students Erin Goodling and Jamaal Green to trace the history of Portland's uneven socioeconomic landscape, to draw connections between low-income, diverse East Portland and the rise of affluent, white Portlandia, capital of Sustainability.
Portland, Oregon is renowned as a paradigmatic “sustainable city”. Yet, despite popular conceptions of the city as a progressive ecotopia and the accolades of planners seeking to emulate its innovations, Portland’s sustainability successes are inequitably distributed. Drawing on census data, popular media, newspaper archives, city planning documents, and secondary-source histories, we attempt to elucidate the structural origins of Portland’s “uneven development”, exploring how and why the urban core of this paragon of sustainability has become more White and affluent while its outer eastside has become more diverse and poor. We explain how a “sustainability fix” – in this case, green investment in the city’s core – ultimately contributed to the demarcation of racialized poverty along 82nd Avenue, a major north-south arterial marking the boundary of East Portland. Our account of structural processes taking place at multiple scales contributes to a growing body of literature on eco-gentrification and displacement and inner-ring suburban change while empirically demonstrating how Portland’s advances in sustainability have come at the cost of East Portland’s devaluation. Our “30,000 foot” perspective reveals systemic patterns that might then guide more fine-grained analyses of particular political-socio-cultural processes, while providing cautionary insights into current efforts to extend the city’s sustainability initiatives using the same green development model.
if you have institutional access, you can download it directly from the journal website. Otherwise, you can click here for a post-print version (ie, the final draft that I'm allowed to post w/out infringing copyright laws) or just email me for a PDF copy of the real thing!
To illustrate the realities of gentrification and displacement in ecotopia, we include as an epigraph some lines from Portland (now NYC) rapper Luck-One:
and the people I was raised with can’t afford the raised rent
so the neighborhood shifted and faded out of existence