Oregon has had a state growth management plan since 1973. At that time Oregon was growing at about twice the rate of the United States as a whole, with much concern about the consequences of such rapid growth. The state, considered as a whole, was not and is not densely populated, but growth was highly visible because most of it was occurring in one area, the Willamette Valley south of Portland. The phrase "Don't Californicate Oregon" appeared on bumper stickers at about this time. The state's then governor, Thomas McCall, was a strong environmentalist and a proponent of limiting population growth. Under the plan, all cities and counties are required to make their own land-use plans conform to the goals of the state plan. Although the state plan has 19 separate goals, the core elements in the plan are closely related ones of preservation of natural resources and containment of urban growth. The State Department of Land Conservation and Development is required to certify that local plans are in conformity.
An important feature of the plan is the use of Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs). Land-use controls and public capital investment are designed to encourage growth within the UGBs and to discourage it outside. Local governments are encouraged to promote fairly dense development within the UGBs to minimize sprawl. By increasing the amount of development proximate to central areas, growth boundaries contribute to the revitalization of central-city areas.14
The effects on housing prices may be a problem. Ordinary economic theory would suggest that increasing the demand for land inside the UGB (by making development outside the UGB more difficult) should push up housing costs. At the same time, reducing the amount of development outside the UGB might push up land and housing prices there too.
The 19 goals include, in addition to the items mentioned earlier, a variety of provisions connected with shoreline preservation, estuary preservation, economic development, air quality, energy conservation, and citizen participation, among others. The goals themselves were evolved in a public process involving many thousands of citizens, thus gaining some support for the inevitable political and legal battles over limiting growth. The plan also receives considerable political support from a nonprofit organization, the 1000 Friends of Oregon, an organization that came into being in 1975, partly founded by Governor McCall. More generally, the plan gains support from the strong pro-environmental ethos that characterizes the Pacific Northwest in general.