By editorial board • 

Traces of ostentation will not lead to ‘great neighborhoods’

If McMinnville residents truly want great neighborhoods citywide, they have to sacrifice some habits ... like snobbery.

City planners offered a survey to local residents, asking them what makes a great neighbor. Tucked away in the results presented to planning commissioners Dec. 20 was a telling response.

The person noticed how many neighborhoods feature a wide range of housing, from fine homes to modest rentals.

“I am not a snob,” the person wrote. “I merely feel more comfortable when neighborhoods’ house values and lifestyles are similar.”

Sorry, but wanting to live next only to people like you — especially in terms of income — is the very definition of being a snob.

Many like to think of the community as a picturesque small town straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Some get steamed if the real world takes a Magic Marker to their fantasy.

In reality, McMinnville needs a wide range of housing, especially for people of low and moderate incomes.

Local wages are not keeping pace with housing costs, Senior Planner Tom Schauer told commissioners while presenting a draft of the city’s Buildable Lands Inventory.

More smaller-scale residences are needed. To achieve this, city officials could allow a wider range of housing types, including duplexes and townhouses, to be built in single-family zones.

Doing so, Schauer said, would help ensure sufficient land zoned to allow traditional homes and support development of government-subsidized affordable housing.
The city may want to make these sorts of zoning decisions themselves before state lawmakers beat them to it. Officials note that House Speaker Tina Kotek has drafted legislation to require cities with more than 10,000 residents to allow up to four smaller homes to be built on land parcels now zoned exclusively for single-family residences.

McMinnville cannot simply provide neighborhoods for people who want to live in upscale homes, while keeping poorer people out of sight and out of mind.
McMinnville will never resemble Lake Oswego. It will be more like Portland, with increasingly high housing prices, more homeless people and those living on the margins.

This is what happens when people care more about big homes, elbow room and neighbors with similar “values and lifestyles” than they do about affordable housing for everyone. They build out instead of up, and the result is extravagant sprawl.
Then, where is your Norman Rockwell painting?


Bill B

You might want to check out your favorite dictionary as you’ve missed the mark on both snobbery and ostentation. For many of us, we are looking for the best home and neighborhood that we can afford. Not because of social status (I’m sure that’s true of some though), but because there is a better chance, we will find a neighborhood with pride of ownership and one that is safer for our families. That’s not stereotyping; just drive around and take a look and also a crime map.


Pride of ownership helps if the owner lives in the dwelling. Landlords who do not demand their property be maintained or who take their profit from rents and let their property deteriorate have no pride of place. Those of us who grew up in modest working class neighborhoods are used to a mix of ages and people working to make a better life for their kids. We are comfortable with diversity. But to have a neighborhood full of absent owners taking profit from their houses without putting anything back to the community does not make for a livable neighborhood. I would not want to live in a big house old folks ghetto, nor do I want to live in an abandoned rental slum. Just as the recent discussion of 'vacation rental' impact on neighborhoods, wide open development has the same dangers.


The opportunity to live in a residential neighborhood with a mix of zones, uses, and dwelling patterns is one of the top reasons I chose to settle in McMinnville. Sharing my neighborhood with a diverse collection of neighbors, having all kinds of family structures and household styles, at different stages of life and career I believe contributes to the neighborhood's strength and cohesiveness.

Appropriate limitations on scale and intensity of development remain important. But "checkerboarding" of appropriately sized multi-family within single family zones adjacent to Office/Residential and Neighborhood Retail zones brings diverse neighbors together by getting them out of their cars and bringing them face to face.


Having lived and immensely enjoyed my time in urban neighborhoods, I am familiar with life where the high-rise luxury condo abuts the pee-stinky homeless encampment. Extremes aside, there are remarkable benefits to living in environments where people from all walks of life and socio-economic statuses exist, side-by-side.

But that’s not why I moved to McMinnville. I did not come here to take part in a social experiment where we significantly increase the density of our existing neighborhoods to accommodate badly needed affordable housing, crossing our fingers that we aren’t junking up the whole town along the way. Sorry, News-Register editorial board, I frequently find myself in agreement with you but not this time.

Wanting to live in a neighborhood free from that wonderful Oregon staple — the house littered with junk cars, broken appliances, faded plastic toys, 18-inch weeds and blue-tarp-covered garbage — is not called snobbery where I come from. It’s usually just considered a desire for sanitation, order and a minimum of good taste.

But kudos to you for your earthy live-and-let-live hippie-ness.