“If you build it for the residents, the tourists will come. If you build it for the tourists, the residents will leave, and eventually, the tourists will stop coming.”
These words from award-winning journalist and urban critic, Roberta Gratz, are worth keeping in mind when thinking about tourism.
Tourism Should be Viewed in the Context of the City’s Growth
Several newspaper articles and City Club’s recent program on the growth of tourism, have called attention to the pluses and minuses of tourism’s impact on Bend. But tourism isn’t good or bad in its own right — the question is whether Bend’s policies are up to the task of handling the impacts of tourism.
The reality is that it’s difficult to distinguish between activities that mostly involve tourists and those for residents. Both locals and visitors are attracted to Bend’s restaurants, pubs, and festivals, along with its great outdoor recreation. That means that managing the growth of tourism is part of managing overall growth.
And, the key to managing growth in a way that keeps Bend livable is to minimize incompatible uses, especially those that spill over into residential areas, where the City’s permanent residents don’t expect or appreciate nuisances like noise and congestion. Unfortunately, gaps in the City’s current policies not only allow for incompatibility, but often enable or encourage it.
Priorities for Managing the Growth of Tourism
With this context in mind, the Bend Neighborhood Coalition has issued a position statement outlining five priorities for managing the growth of tourism (click here for the full statement). These include:
1) Ending the transfer-on-sale of old-style short term rental permits in order to achieve an actual reduction in the density of vacation rentals.
2) Lowering sound levels, requiring a permit for outdoor entertainment venues, and shifting enforcement of the noise ordinance from the police to a sound technician.
3) Adding criteria for noise and event permits so that variances are granted sparingly, don’t affect the same neighborhoods repeatedly, and are used for events that have a community focus, not a private commercial focus.
4) Diversifying tourism promotion to appeal to groups and families that want to sample Bend and perhaps decide to relocate themselves and their businesses here, while phasing out the practice of awarding prizes for completing the Ale Trail.
5) Developing a vision for one or more entertainment districts where outdoor music and late-night fun is concentrated and allowed to prosper under more relaxed guidelines.
Why It’s Important to Have Good Policies
The price of not acting on these priorities is greater conflict — conflict that makes neighborhoods less appealing for Bend’s permanent residents and requires expensive City resources to manage. As Bend becomes more densely populated, we will need policies that acknowledge the increased potential for conflict and promote compatible uses before conflicts arise. We will also need more consistent enforcement of the rules.
So, we support the tourism industry as an important part of the local economy. At the same time, we would like to see it managed in a way that minimizes the impact on livability for Bend citizens. Additionally, we believe the City owes it to its permanent residents to work toward a more diverse economy, so Bend isn’t affected so negatively by the declines in tourism that inevitably accompany recessions.