Opinion » Editorial

Apartment fight reveals Bend's latent—and damaging—xenophobia

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Our editorial board has already established its position regarding the construction of the proposed apartment complex near The Pavilion in Bend. In a housing crisis, it is unconscionable for a city not to approve apartments on land that's been privately, legally obtained by owners who have adhered to the rules for developing such a property.

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Were there controversy around the legality of the development, that would be cause for concern. But the arguments against the complex err on the side of emotion instead. Detractors decry that the developer is from Seattle, Wash. They worry, with the five-story height, that the apartments will make McKay Park too shady. One commenter at a recent city public hearing even accused the hearings officer of "being a land use attorney"—as if obtaining a Juris Doctorate and specializing in land use somehow makes one less qualified to address land use issues. Detractors also worry that nearby street parking will become a challenge—forgetting that if they, too, need street parking, it means that they've been allowed something that they now don't want a new resident to have.

The feeling that comes out of arguments such as these is the feeling that Bend is inherently afraid of outsiders. "We don't want to be Portland lite" is a common fear-mongering statement bandied about in Bend—an argument that skips over the fact that a good majority of us came from there, grew up there, or see Oregon's largest city as the cultural center of our state.

This fear of outsiders is fraught with so many contradictions.

By the numbers, most Bendites were outsiders once. This issue is the drawbridge mentality at its worst, once again.

But this clannish mentality has another facet: It honors homogeneity and invites racism. Bend has long been a highly homogenous community. As we grow, diversity increases—including a diversity of opinions, skill sets and visages, and we should welcome that. When we reject the growth that is already so inevitable in our community, we reject that diversity, and we show an ugly, xenophobic, "fear of other" side of our city that we shouldn't be proud to show—and one we should stand up against.


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