Growing Oregon

By Rob Zako
August 20, 2022

OPB senior political reporter Jeff Mapes spent more than a year researching, reporting and producing “Growing Oregon,” a six-part podcast and web series looking at the evolution of Oregon’s unique approach to growth and the impact it has on our lives today.

Source: OPB

OPB has launched a new multimedia series that explores how Oregon ended up with the strictest land-use policies in the country, and how those laws dictate almost every aspect of our daily lives.

“Growing Oregon” features a six-part podcast that is written and produced by veteran OPB political reporter Jeff Mapes and presented by OPB Politics Now. It also includes accompanying longform web features on

Oregon’s land use laws govern where developers can build — and, in the process, how we live, work, and commute.

A half-century ago, Oregon’s population was booming and developers had their eyes on the verdant Willamette Valley, which was also home to about two-thirds of the state’s population.

The fight to preserve the valley led to Oregon’s unique land-use system — one that eventually produced what are arguably the toughest statewide growth management controls in the country. These restrictions put urban growth boundaries around every city; restricted the building of rural homes, especially on prime farmland; and they make Oregon what it is.

However, many Oregonians don’t know much about the laws governing the land.

In “Growing Oregon,” Mapes digs into the history behind how all this happened and the effects on Oregon today.


Episode 1: Oregon does it differently (7/15/22): Mapes explains the precarious state Oregon leaders found themselves in during the 1960s and ‘70s. The population was booming, and Americans had fallen in love with the idea of bigger homes, bigger cars and more land – suburbia. But a group of Oregon leaders, including Governor Tom McCall, wanted a new approach.

Episode 2: The battle over Senate Bill 100 (7/22/22): In the early 1970s, a bipartisan coalition of Oregon politicians fought to create the nation’s toughest land-use law over steep objections from builders and property owners. This is the story of how they won.

Episode 3: But how will it actually work? (7/29/22): Chronicling the story of two surprising advocates who took Oregon’s new land use system and fought to make sure local governments actually stuck to it. This installment tells the story of a Eugene homemaker and a Connecticut reporter and the pivotal roles they played in making the system real.

Episode 4: The Westside Bypass (8/5/22): Oregon’s land use laws govern where developers can build – and, in the process, how we live, work and commute. This episode chronicles the decades-long battle over the proposed Westside Bypass, and Oregon’s complicated relationship with highways.

Episode 5: Property owners fight back (8/12/22): Oregon’s unique land use system has been challenged in court and at the ballot box a half dozen times in the generation since its creation. The stiffest fight came in the 00s – as property owners won the right to get money back if new land-use rules prevented them from building. We tell the story of the woman who became the public face of that fight, Dorothy English.

Episode 6: We’ll be fighting this forever (8/19/22): Our final story looks at the ways Oregon’s unique land-use system has worked — we’ve saved open space, we’ve built walkable communities, we’ve made sure even suburbs feel like true neighborhoods. But there have also been unintended consequences: An increasing gap between rich and poor, rising real estate prices and increasingly contentious fights over what Oregon towns and cities look like.

Further reading