A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Touring a neighborhood while we still can

Written February 28th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

It was almost like spring on the last day of February, a fine day to take a look at one of Albany’s neighborhoods.

Not that there’s anything sensational to see. Just people going about their business on a quiet Sunday in late winter of a year that was in many ways ruined by the pandemic. Taking a walk. Doing a little yard work. Maybe washing the truck. Otherwise, staying inside and off the streets.

Blue sky and green grass: A sunny Sunday in South Albany.

This is Albany’s Oak Neighborhood. Oak School is in there. So is South Albany High School.

The houses were built about half a century ago. The ones I checked were built in 1965 and 1970. They all look fine, peaceful, in good shape. They look like people like living here.

This is not, unfortunately, the kind of living arrangement the majority in the legislature wants to encourage from now on. They want housing to be more dense, more people living closer together. They are forcing Albany and other cities to get away from single-family neighborhoods over time.

The majority in the legislature wants “middle housing” instead. On any lot where cities allow a single family house to be built, they will soon have to permit at least a duplex, and something bigger if there’s room.

Whether Oregon towns will still look and feel pleasant like the Oak Neighborhood in South Albany, who knows? Probably not. So let’s enjoy these places, and the life they encourage and permit, while we can.

That includes, when the sun comes out, cruising these mostly empty streets on a bike as the video shows. (hh)

Posted in: Bicycling, Commentary

32 responses to “Touring a neighborhood while we still can”

  1. William Ayers says:

    Those are some pretty incendiary words Hasso! And there’s only one way out of this mess…and for that matter any other mess you care to point to…More gov’t !!!
    That’s the ticket! More regulations would be helpful also…and more centralized control from afar because the Nanny State knows what’s best…Lord knows that common citizens should never make these decisions!
    It’s just comforting to know that the State Gov is looking out for us this way!
    Also please remember that the denser the neighborhoods the more important it is to observe social distancing…and less police. So glad ..so glad….State authority is best!

  2. Albany YIMBY says:

    Hi Hasso,

    Can you please show me in which ways living with more density is going to negatively affect the community?

    I think you just threw there some appeals to emotion without any substance whatsoever.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Your tone sounds wreaks of fear and speculation.

    So correct me if I’m wrong, but loosening zoning restrictions imposed by government doesn’t prevent single family houses and developments from being built.

    If the private marketplace demands single family homes, developers can continue to satisfy that demand.

    But the developers will be allowed to build other types and mixes of housing (ex: middle housing) on a private property if the market demands other types and mixes of housing.

    What is not to like about less restrictive zoning imposed by government?

    If I had my way, there would be zero government imposed zoning restrictions.

    Private property owners and buyers should be totally free to respond to market demand, and if that response includes voluntary contractual restrictions on buildings and land use within a neighborhood so be it.

    Loosening government control of a private market is a good thing.

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      I don’t agree that government deregulation is always good for everything. We’ve seen, for example, the situation with the electric market in Texas, or how rivers were literally burning before the creation of the EPA in 1970 by Richard Nixon (he would be labeled a socialist nowadays).

      But in this case I agree 100%. There is absolutely no reason for cities micromanaging zoning. Just regulate basic guidelines, green areas and basic aesthetics, safety and/or quality of materials and let the market decide the rest.

  4. centrist says:

    I was born in the East Megalopolis. Row houses (currently sold as town homes) 1/8 miles per block. The ‘burbs were just blooming on former farmland.
    Fast forward to Oregon. Land use planning gets into gear under Tom McCall. Protect agricultural land is the base tenet.
    IMO, having lived in dense housing, it’s not particularly healthy ( mentally or physically)

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Do you think your personal experience may be different from someone else? would you back up your claim with some scientific evidence on how density affects physical , environmental, and psychological health?

  5. William Ayers says:

    May be mistaken but I isn’t the State mandating Oregon towns to increase housing density…So I agree with Gordon about allowing the market to do it’s thing but I believe there’s more to it than that….?

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      This article is misleading. It appears as if Hasso wants us to believe that state government is mandating a consumer behavior. No, it looks instead like a loosening of some regulations that allow for more local discretion on the part of developers.

      The only mandate appears to be a loosening of local rules imposed by local government. Consumers (house buyers and renters) are still free to choose their housing preference. That is not a bad thing in my book.

      Hasso, do us a public service and clear up the confusion. Facts, please, less speculation and emotion.

      • Hasso Hering says:

        I said nothing about requiring builders to build or buyers to buy anything. What I said was that the legislature is requiring cities to allow more middle housing. What conclusions you draw from that is up to you.

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          The state “forcing” Albany to “deregulate” single-family zoning “restrictions” is an odd way to put it.

          Conservatives who claim support for freedom and markets, but not in their neighborhood, is NIMBYism at its worst.

          Don’t be a “but” head.

      • William Ayers says:

        Quote (Hasso) “the legislature is requiring cities to allow more middle housing”
        I don’t know about you Gordon but I would say that qualifies as a “mandate”
        …as in being required to allow more of something than previously was the case!
        And to my point, it is the State running cities and towns like their own personal hand puppets. Not a good thing…but that’s just me!

  6. William Ayers says:

    The great reset plan is to create densely packed mega cities. Here’s a link to a Norwegian author who is speaking directly to this issue…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jXqBI4CW0k&feature=push-u-sub&attr_tag=MCgiZVju8CF2-cXd%3A6

  7. Rick Staggenborg says:

    I keep reading here from people who seem to want to put up a “stay out” sign to new residents if it means allowing more housing density. Where are new residents supposed to go? Most can’t afford to live many places north of here, and people have to go where jobs are. Are only the wealthy going to be allowed to move in? That’s great if you want to flip houses but our young people won’t be able to afford housing (which also drives up rental costs).

    This is the natural consequence of population growth. Unless we seal the state borders you can expect it to get worse.

    • William Ayers says:

      I believe much of the growth we are experiencing is due to people moving out of more densely packed city zones for an improvement in quality life and a better place to raise their kids and not because they can’t afford to live there…
      They want to live here because they get more bang for their buck and they’re willing sacrifice with long commutes, but if we pack ourselves like sardines we’ll be no different….We’ll have the same rates of depression, drugs and crime.

      • Albany YIMBY says:

        What more densely packed cities are people moving from and commuting too?

        First of all, all cities in the Willamette Valley have a similar or even lower density than Albany. Eugene/Springfield are definitely not packed, same for Salem. You’ll find very few examples of families moving from the Portland metro and commuting every day there, that would be a living nightmare. And regardless, it has a density of 4800 pp/sq mile, not much more than Albany.

        Even Corvallis has a slightly smaller population density than Albany, 4100 vs 4400 pp/sq mile.

  8. Mae says:

    Living in dense housing does negatively affect people. I’ve done it and don’t feel the need to validate my feelings with scientific evidence.
    If the planning and building of dwellings is not done with current and future needs equally considered, we could be looking at a real mess in in years to come. Our current road system, first responder availability, and even our water/sewage system have limits. Putting thirty apartments versus three houses on a lot is going to affect our resource capabilities. I know there is a need for more affordable housing, but building as much as we can just because we can doesn’t need to be the answer.

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      “don’t feel the need to validate my feelings with scientific evidence.”

      Do you expect a debate in good faith with others when you’re not willing to move an inch from your long-held beliefs?

  9. Jeff says:

    I need to mow my yard

    • William Ayers says:

      Jeff you’re funny! Maybe if enough high rises go up we can start a cottage industry (no pun) “Come see what it was like to have a yard to walk around and maintain, For only $148.50 we supply the lawnmower, implements, gas and an overgrown lawn in need of mowing”

  10. Lindell Johnson says:

    I enjoyed your tour through the Oak area. As a retired Albany teacher, I taught my last ten years at Oak Elementary. We had great kids, and great support from the parents and folks in the surrounding area. A very nice neighborhood.

  11. Therese Waterhous says:

    The deregulation of zoning came from the real estate industry. Even if we build more middle housing, there are no constraints on who buys it or how it will be priced. So, as we have seen in Bend, one can buy a 700 SQ FT condo for close to 300K. So much for affordability. I want choice. If I bought my home in a single family zoned neighborhood, which is still dense by many standards, why am I not allowed the choice to have it stay that way? People want peace and quiet. Meanwhile, the quest for “more room” and “peace and quiet” is happening in the form of hobby farms. I have seen many move here from very dense SO CAL and want to buy in the countryside. How much does that cost taxpayers to extend services? Is that a good use of land?

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Hi Therese,

      Do you think that Albany has the same demand Bend has?

      How is a single-family zone dense? What are you comparing it to?

      Who will be forcing you to sell your house if you don’t want to?

      What is more important? your right to have a neighborhood that conforms to your aesthetic ideals, or the rights for others (including a whole generation of young people, probably your children or grandchildren) to afford a dwelling?

      “People want peace and quiet” Do you mean you? How do you know your opinion represents a majority of the people?

      • Sharon Konopa says:

        Albany YIMBY, maybe you should be asking yourself the last question you just asked: “How do you know your opinion represents a majority of the people?”

        • Albany NIMBY says:

          Albany YIMBY, many/most of us that live in single family neighborhoods choose to live there so we’re not living in densely packed housing arrangements. If you prefer to live in a densely packed housing arrangement, perhaps you should consider moving to an area that already has that situation rather than expect a suburban city adjust it’s standards to suit your preference?

          • Albany YIMBY says:

            You can also try Albany BANANA

            Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

        • Albany YIMBY says:

          Ms. Konopa, I don’t know.

          Ignorance is daring, that’s why I usually don’t pass my opinions pretending they are by a “majority of people”.

          What I usually do is to base my opinions in scientific evidence, urban studies, research, and the experience of other cities in America around the world.

          And I also think that if I would have been Albany’s mayor for more than 20 years I would have made sure to gather opinions from its residents, from different social and economic backgrounds and not only the middle and upper class white people that usually show up in planning and city council meetings.

          Also, remember that potential residents that would benefit from having more housing choice can’t voice their opinions and won’t vote, because they don’t live here yet!

          What I can say is that I am very glad that you’re not leading this town in the deployment of Housing Choices Bill. (HB2001 2019) because you don’t seem to be in the fight for equity and housing.

          • Sharon Konopa says:

            Albany YIMBY, your last comment sure makes me wonder if you even live in Albany or just moved here? I was not mayor for 20 years. You are making false assertions towards me and I do not appreciate your comments. I will just state one last point to you. You base your statements off of scientific evidence! I guess it depends on what scientific study you are following. This world can not even get scientists to agree on global warming or even COVID. I base my decisions over housing by being a native Oregonian and seeing the trends in housing over my lifetime. I would love to sit down and have an in person chat with you. At least I don’t hide behind my name!

  12. Hasso Hering says:

    In the interest of not going on and on ad infinitum, the comments on this story are now closed. Housing will continue to be a topic of public debate, and there will be more stories on this. So there will be more chances to air everybody’s views.


HH Today: A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley
Albany Albany City Council Albany council Albany downtown Albany Fire Department Albany housing Albany parks Albany Planning Commission Albany police Albany Post Office Albany Public Works Albany riverfront Albany Station Albany streets Albany traffic Albany urban renewal Andy Olson Benton County Benton County parks bicycling bike lanes Bowman Park Bryant Park Calapooia River CARA City of Albany climate change coronavirus COVID-19 Cox Creek path Crocker Lane cumberland church cycling Dave Clark Path Daylight saving time DEQ downtown Albany Edgewater Village global warming gun control Highway 20 Interstate 5 Kitzhaber Linn County marijuana medical marijuana Millersburg North Albany North Albany Road Obama ODOT Oregon coast Oregon legislature Pacific Power Portland & Western Republic Services Riverside Drive Santiam Canal Talking Water Gardens The Banks Tom Cordier Union Pacific urban renewal Water Avenue Willamette River

Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved. Hasso Hering.
Website Serviced by Santiam Communications
Hasso Hering