How Can There Be a Housing Crisis When There is Construction on Every Other Block? by Chris Bonner

People ask me, “Why is it that I see all this building going on and yet everyone is talking about the Housing Crisis? Aren’t there enough new homes under construction?” Great question. And one that can be answered best by the following fact: the units going up are almost universally high-end apartments and homes that only the most well-paid workers in our City can afford. 

This chart gives you a quick glimpse into what is wrong here. Rents are on the rise and wages, social security and disability payments are not. So full-time workers making minimum wage, seniors and folks on disability are being left in the cold…literally.

Bottom line, Capitalism is not very good at filling the basic needs of housing, food, and healthcare. If we are going to participate in a Capitalistic society, we need to admit that and find a way to socialize the distribution of these basic needs. Otherwise, we will continue to pass hungry and homeless and sick people in our streets and wonder, “What should our government be doing to fix this?” 

This Fall, you will get an opportunity to help address this problem by voting to pass the Metro Housing Bond. By voting yes to this, and the accompanying Constitutional Amendment allowing public money to be combined with Private Money, you will be committing to providing housing for up to 12,000 folks in the Metropolitan Area (Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington Counties). This bond measure and the Portland Housing Bond that just passed are desperately needed to backfill 40 years of disinvestment in affordable housing in this country. And since the Federal Government has stepped back from a commitment to house our most vulnerable, the State and Municipal Governments must step up. That is us.

For more info on the state of housing and the research behind what it will take to get folks off the streets, check out the Welcome Home website>>

St. Johns Neighborhood by Chris Bonner

James John made his way to Oregon from Missouri in the early 1840s. Initially, John settled in Linnton, but he moved across the river to the area that is named in his honor a few years later. He operated a ferry between St. Johns and Linnton in the 1850s. John platted a portion of his land in 1865 and named it St. Johns on the Willamette; a post office opened in 1873 to serve the small collection of residents in this sleepy town with little industry. When John passed away in 1886, he requested that all his possessions be sold and used to pay for his burial and the construction of a school in the town.

In the 1890s steam-driven passenger trains began serving St. Johns, connecting with the Portland and Vancouver Railway. Gradually industry moves to St. Johns–Portland Woolen Mills, The Jobes Flour Mill, Portland Manufacturing Company's Veneer and Basket Factory, and the Excelsior Mill and Drydock to name a few. Telegraph operator Charles A. Cook became the town's first mayor in 1903. 

Early life in the town of St. Johns was not without tensions; dancehalls and saloons were discouraged from doing business in St. Johns through restrictive tax measures and refusal to approve licenses. Construction of the city hall building in 1907, which is still standing and currently used by the Portland Police Bureau, was rife with contractor and architect drama. Residents of St. Johns and Portland voted in favor of Portland annexing St. Johns in the spring of 1915. 

A bridge across the Willamette between Linnton and St. Johns was proposed to replace the ferry system that was carrying 1,000 vehicles a day at its peak in the mid-1920s. The iconic St. Johns Bridge was designed in 1928 by David Steinman; it was the most significant and most significant suspension bridge in the state when it opened in 1931. Built during the early years of the Great Depression, the project provided many residents with jobs. The bridge was not thoroughly overhauled and renovated to withstand the increase in vehicle weight, and wear and tear from volumes of vehicles until over 70 years after its opening. The rehabilitation took a little over two years to complete, and the bridge was rededicated in 2006. 

Amenities
St. Johns is the northernmost neighborhood in Portland with easy access to west side neighborhoods and downtown via Highway 30 across the St. Johns Bridge. 

There are three pre-schools in the neighborhood: Magnolia Blossom, Montessori House, and Meadow Day. Two elementary schools are within the neighborhood boundaries: Sitton Elementary in the northwestern corner, and James John Elementary in the center. George Middle School is on the northern edge, near Columbia Boulevard, and Roosevelt High School is on the eastern side of the neighborhood. 

Points of Interest
Cathedral Park at the base of the St. Johns Bridge is the pride of the neighborhood. At 23-acres the park boasts a boat launch, off-leash dog areas, large grassy fields for picnics and playing games, picnic tables, a stage, views of the Willamette and a stunning perspective of the Gothic Cathedral-inspired suspension bridge. The city acquired the land for the park in 1968 at the urging of Howard Galbraith, the honorary mayor of St. Johns. Galbraith convinced the city to clean up the junkyard sites at the base of the bridge and create a park for the community on this important historical site known as a fishing location for Indian tribes, a landing site along the itinerary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the settlement of St. Johns founder James John. 

Pier Park is a sprawling 87-acre site in the northwestern corner of St. Johns. Named for Stanhope S. Pier, Portland city commissioner in the 1920s, who proposed the construction of a park, similar to Laurelhurst Park, on the site. Boasting a robust skate park, a disc golf course, soccer, baseball and softball fields, picnic areas, a tennis court, a splash pad, and walking paths meandering through mature trees, the park delivered on its goal to rival one of the city's most prestigious parks. 

Adjacent to Pier Park is a dream of a park for dog owners! Chimney Park was once the location of an incineration facility, hence the name Chimney, and now it is a sprawling 18 acres with fencing so dogs can roam off-leash.

Culture
St. Johns can keep you busy from the moment you wake up until you're ready to lay back down. Start your morning with a freshly boiled bagel from Bernstein's Bagels and dart across the bridge for a quick hike in the less-congested side of Forest Park. If you want to indulge in a cup of locally roasted coffee and peruse the paper, visit St. Johns Coffee Roasters

The central business district runs along N Lombard and N Ivanhoe streets between N Richmond and N New York Avenues. This area has the highest concentration of retail shops including second-hand clothes, accessories and home goods, specialty olive oils, new and vintage cameras, comic books, and shoes. If you need sustenance you can stop along this stretch of N Lombard for vegan BBQ at Homegrown Smoker, or vegan Indian Food at The Sudra, old-school tacos at Tienda Santa Cruz, or rustic Italian fare at Wood-Fired Eats

There is no shortage of watering holes here either. Start with the oldest dive bar on the strip, 107-year old Slim's Restaurant and Lounge for solid bar food and a cheap drink. Wandering in the center of St. Johns you can also experience a mini-brewery tour by visiting Royale Brewing's taproom, The Garrison, or the newcomer to the neighborhood, Stormbreaker, before walking down the slope towards the river on N Baltimore Ave for a stop at Occidental Brewing. If it's entertainment you're after, catch a show at the Fixin' Too, a honky tonk bar and music venue, or see a movie at one of the neighborhoods two independent theaters, St. Johns Twin Cinemas, or McMenamin's  St. Johns Theater & Pub.

Head east along N Lombard Street to check out the all-in-one stop, St. Johns Marketplace and Food Pod. Here you can buy farm fresh produce and plant starts from nearby Sauvie Island's Kreuger Farms stand, get a bite to eat from one of their eclectic mix of food carts, or grab a beer from The Beer Porches tap stand featuring Northwest brews.  If you get a craving for handmade pasta on your way to the farm stand, stop off at Gabagool, a food cart turned brick and mortar passion project from two east coast guys who fell in love with Portland.

Get your nature fix without leaving the neighborhood by visiting the Smith & Bybee Natural Wetlands Area where you can walk the trail between Smith and Bybee lakes or, take your kayak and paddle around. If you decide to visit, be sure to bring your binoculars for better bird watching!


 

Chamber Music Northwest Summer Music Festival by Chris Bonner

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Chamber Music Northwest’s mission is to inspire our community through concerts and events celebrating the richness and diversity of chamber music, performed by artists of the highest caliber, presenting our community with exceptional opportunities for enjoyment, education, and reflection.

Their Summer Festival packs an incredible roster of talent into five weeks at venues all over the city–and some of the events are FREE.

Check out the full schedule for their Summer Festival here>>> 

Portland PRIDE Events by Chris Bonner

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Since 1994, Pride Northwest has been encouraging and celebrating the positive diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans communities here in the Pacific Northwest.

Don't fret if you can't make the Pride Parade (Sunday, June 17th) there's plenty more to experience. Pride NW has organized a variety of events including Reading is a Drag–a family-focused event with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and a performance by Resonance Ensemble performing selections from 'Considering Matthew Shepard', and the Portland Gay Men's Chorus performing "The United States of Broadway".

Check out Pride NW events happening this month>>

Charity Spotlight: Basic Rights Oregon by Chris Bonner

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Founded in 1996 as a result of community responses to anti-gay ballot measures that had been cropping up in Oregon over the previous 20 years, Basic Rights Oregon's mission is to ensure that all LGBTQ Oregonians experience equality. Today they are the primary policy advocacy organization for LGBTQ Oregonians.

Areas of focus for Basic Rights Oregon include racial justice, transgender justice, youth justice and efforts to support LGBTQ people living outside the Portland Metro Area. Check out their track record here!

Donate to Basic Rights Oregon>>

The ABCs of ADUs by Chris Bonner

On May 2nd, Portland City Council voted to permanently extend the waiver on System Development Charges (SDC) for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). This waiver has one concession: the ADU cannot be used as a short-term rental for ten years. 

photo credit: Hammer & Hand

photo credit: Hammer & Hand

What does this mean? 
System Development Charges are fees assessed to new developments which, when collected, help offset the impact the development will have on public infrastructures like storm and sanitary sewer systems, water and street systems, and parks and recreation. In 2010 the City Council waived SDC fees for ADUs. An ADU is a dwelling– attached or detached from the main house–that exists on a lot with another house. SDC fees for an ADU can be as low as $12,000 and go as high as $19,000, so this is a big win for ADU advocates.

We are in favor of the new restriction on offering this waiver for AirBnB type dwellings. Folks are still welcome to create short-term rentals with their ADUs, but there is no reason that we rate/taxpayers should subsidize this enterprise.

Background
ADUs have been legal in Portland since 1981, but few residents were building them until 2010 when the city issued a temporary waiver on SDC fees. The waiver created an ADU boom; the city issued 86 permits for ADUs in 2010, by 2016 that number increased to 615. The recent vote makes the waiver (initially set to expire July 31, 2018)  permanent, a change that many believe will spur more ADU construction because it removes unpredictability from the ADU development market. Knowing that ADU development costs are stable may encourage investment and support from financial institutions. Could we see a standalone ADU loan product in the future?

Why is the City giving ADUs a break?
Unless you've been asleep in Portland for the last decade, you're aware of the housing crisis including skyrocketing home prices and rents, gentrification and displacement. Given our urban growth boundary, the City is being forced to explore ways to increase housing density to accommodate the influx of residents. This ADU subsidy also potentially enables more residents to purchase homes because it reduces a financial barrier for those looking to offset housing expenses with rental unit income. 

Resources for Homeowners
Kol Peterson is an ADU owner and advocate in Portland offering a wealth of educational content on multiple websites (accessorydwellings.compdxadu.blogspot.com, and accessorydwellings.org). He has also written a book "Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development" and offers a course on building an ADU.

If you're interested in having an ADU on your property but don't currently have the capital to build one, you might want to consider partnering with Dweller. They can build and install an ADU, arrange for a reliable 3rd party property manager to rent out the ADU, and then they split the revenues with you, the homeowner, 70/30. Their offering is flexible, for example, you have the option to purchase the ADU over time or rent it out yourself. 

Regulations, requirements, and assistance are also available on the City’s website.

Exploring the Lents Neighborhood by Chris Bonner

The area that we now know as the Lents neighborhood was well-trafficked before it became a city. In the mid-1880's, Foster Road was a popular route for settlers venturing to the Oregon Territory to establish land claims because many were headed for the Willamette Valley. Foster was also frequently traveled because it intersected with Powell which led to the marketplace and port hub in downtown Portland. Travelers along the Columbia River moved along SE 82nd as a route to Oregon City.

Lents neighborhood began as a self-sufficient town–with its own grocers, bankers, barbershops, and schools–that was considered a suburb of Portland. Named for Oliver P. Lent, an early settler and upstanding individual who built, owned and operated a sawmill and also served as school director, road supervisor, and justice of the peace. It made good sense to name the town in his honor and in 1892 when his son platted the town, he named it Lent. People began referring to the town as Lent's and over time the apostrophe was dropped and the name officially became Lents.

A steam-powered railway began running from Portland to Lents in 1892, transitioning to electric in 1901. The neighborhood continued to grow and by 1912, the year Lents was annexed by the City of Portland, the population had swelled to 10,000. Residents in Lents were generally lower income than those in downtown Portland and the neighborhood was at enough of a distance that it didn't receive much attention in terms of maintenance and services for things like roads and sewers. 

Decades later, in the late 1970's Lents became the site for construction of Interstate 205 when residents of Laurelhurst effectively lobbied to not have the freeway run along the originally planned route of 39th Avenue. The City acquiesced and planned to build I-205 along 52nd Avenue but by the time plans were being finalized it was determined that the freeway needed to be repositioned to a less dense area and was moved to 95th Avenue. When the freeway was constructed, it effectively split the Lents neighborhood in half. Hundreds of dwellings were removed and there was a considerable impact to the commercial corridor that had evolved around the intersection of SE 92nd Avenue and Foster due to the construction of an access route to the freeway.

These impacts did not go unnoticed by the City; in the 1990s there was a strong focus on renewal in the urban center of Lents, including, "creating new family wage jobs, offering assistance to new and existing business, making improvements to local infrastructure such as streets and parks, construction of new housing and improvements to existing housing." Today the Lents neighborhood is vibrant and diverse with property values that reflect the positive changes implemented by the City along with the neighborhood association. 

Amenities

Lents residents have great access not only to I-205 but also to numerous Max railway stations positioned along the freeway's route. Trimet bus routes 9, 17, and 14 also offer regular service to downtown Portland.

There are two elementary schools in Lents, Kelly Elementary and Oliver P Lent School. Ron Russell Middle School is in the northeast corner of Lents, and Lane Middle School is just west of the neighborhood's western boundary. Grant High School is in the northeast corner of the neighborhood.

Points of Interest

Lents Park is a wonderful resource for the neighborhood. Founded in the early 1900s, the park began as a 5.2-acre plot that was formerly a gravel quarry. During the 1940s and 50's the city purchased adjacent lots to the park as they became available to assemble all of the lands between SE 88 & 92 and SE Holgate & Steele for park purposes. Today, the park is over 38 acres! The park has tennis and basketball courts, an off-leash dog area, soccer and football fields, horseshoes, picnic areas, and a renovated children's play area. There is also a baseball stadium called Walker Stadium that is currently home to the Portland Pickles, a collegiate wood bat baseball team that had its first official season in Walker Stadium in 2016.

The Springwater Corridor is a twenty-mile, multi-use recreational path that runs through the lower part of the Lents neighborhood, connecting the town of Boring, Oregon to the Ross Island Bridge in SE Portland. Formerly a rail corridor, the Springwater line stopped running in 1958, most of the land was acquired by the City in 1990 and Metro has acquired some additional plots since then. Construction began in the mid 90's and will continue for decades to come. This corridor is part of a larger vision for a 40-mile loop that would form a ring connecting many of Portland's neighborhoods, and encompassing numerous natural recreation areas.

Bloomington and Earl Boyles Parks are smaller properties (12.95 and 7.85 acres respectively), both in the northeast quadrant of the neighborhood. They are lovely neighborhood parks with picnic tables, large trees, open spaces, and courts/fields for various sports.

Ed Benedict Park & Skatepark is located at the very northern boundary of Lents and is truly a unique recreational area in Portland with 18,000 square feet of skateboarding terrain. The skatepark is also considered the first enviro-sensitive skate plaza because of the use of recycled materials, native plants, and on-site stormwater treatment.

Culture 

Lents has hosted a vibrant farmer's market, the only one of Portland's markets with a strong international focus, since 1999. The products at this market are a wonderful, true representation of the members of the community as are the Hmong, Latino, and Russian farmers. The market is located at the intersection of SE 92nd and SE Reedway. This area used to be a vibrant commercial center in the neighborhood and has become the center of redevelopment efforts in the past few years.

With the opening of Zoiglhaus–a 200-seat German-style beer hall serving German food, German-style Pilsners and Lagers, and the odd Pacific Northwest beer–in 2015, and promise of food cart pods Collective Oregon Eateries, and Flipside Bar and Carts (both slated to open in 2018) in a four-block radius, this area could become a center of pedestrian traffic and commerce again. Bella Italian Bakery & Market is also slated to open in June 2018 at SE 91st and SE Woodstock.

There are other culinary standouts in Lents, many that are representative of the ethnic diversity in the population, including HK Cafe for incredible dim sum, and El Pato Feliz and Taqueria el Cazador and El Nutri taco cart for Mexican fare–the Portland Mercado, a Latino public market and food court, is also nearby in the adjacent Mt Scott-Arleta neighborhood. Just blocks beyond the northwestern boundary are three unique Asian and SE Asian restaurants, Kenny's Noodle House serves Cantonese food, Chungdam Korean Fusion (self-explanatory), and Best Baguette the Vietnamese/French sandwich counter serving fantastic Bahn mi. If you're more inclined to cook at home, JC Rice Noodles is a fantastic resource for fresh tofu and rice noodles in addition to other packaged Asian specialty items.

If you're looking for arts and culture events grounded in the Lents community, keep an eye on the calendar at the Team Events Center located at SE 92nd and SE Foster. It is an events space dedicated to offering a space for community or private meetings and events. Coming up later this month is a series of performances of an original play about gentrification called Repulsing the Monkey

 

 

 

Exploring the Cully Neighborhood by Chris Bonner

Cully is named for Thomas Cully, an Englishman who settled on a 640 acre land claim in 1845. He was not the first settler in the area we now know as the Cully neighborhood, this land was the site of a long-standing native (Chinook) village called Neerchokikoo. A few years after Cully arrived and settled, he enlisted to fight in the Cayuse Indian War. He was awarded for his service with an additional 160 acres of land in Portland.

The neighborhood maintained a rural residential feel with industry cropping up along Columbia Boulevard, including Boulevard Dairy that bottled and delivered milk to neighborhood residents. There were also a couple communal canneries where residents could bring fruits and vegetables from their gardens for more efficient canning with larger equipment than they would have in their home kitchens. The last cannery, Cornell Custom Canning on NE 82nd Ave, shut down in 1994. 

Cully was an unincorporated area of Multnomah County until 1985 when it was annexed by the City of Portland. The development of infrastructure and services lagged behind the city of Portland. Seeing a need, a group of non-profit organizations–Verde, Hacienda CDC, Naya and Habitat for Humanity–collaborated to form Living Cully. The organizations that formed Living Cully understood that investment would come to the neighborhood and bring with it a risk of displacement. Together, they have focused on increasing job opportunities and building earnings for residents and neighborhood small businesses, providing opportunities for engagement, collective action and cultural expression, expanding safe, high-quality affordable housing in the neighborhood, increasing natural and built investment including parks, trails and healthy housing, and to working to ensure low levels of involuntary displacement from the neighborhood.

Amenities

Cully residents have good access to the I-205 freeway via Highway 30 and also I-84 to the south. The neighborhood is largely serviced by the 72 bus line which can connect riders to the Max transit hub at 82nd & Halsey. Portland International Airport is a short drive north.

Rigler Elementary School and Scott School are both within the Cully neighborhood boundary at different points along NE Prescott. Beaumont Middle School is the closest public middle school on NE Fremont. Grant High School, in the Grant Park neighborhood, and James Madison High School, in the Madison South neighborhood, are the closest public high schools.

Points of Interest

Thomas Cully Park is a testament to the character and commitment of Cully residents. The 25-acre site at the northern edge of the neighborhood between Highway 30 and Columbia Boulevard is gradually becoming home to a robust community garden, a native gathering garden where plants for native ceremony and crafts like basketweaving will be cultivated, a play area, and some native plant habitat restoration with elevated viewing platforms to provide views of the Cascade mountains (Mt Hood, Mt Saint Helens, Mt Adams, and Mt Rainier). The city of Portland acquired this tract of land, a former landfill, in 2000 and set the intention to transform it into greenspace to serve the Cully neighborhood, one of Portland's historically underserved areas for parks. 

In 2008 a master plan for the park had been completed but Portland Parks & Recreation (PPR) did not have the funds to complete the project. At this point Verde, a Cully-based non-profit, stepped up and proposed that PPR enter into a public-private partnership with them; this type of partnership allowed Verde to fundraise for, design and construct Cully Park. Since the development of that partnership, the project has engaged community members in all phases of development including students from local elementary schools who had input on the design of the play area. The community garden opened in 2012 and other areas of the park are estimated to open later this year. 

There are a couple smaller parts in the neighborhood too. Sacajawea Park at NE 75th and NE Roselawn is a nice 4.85 acre grassy area with big trees and an off-leash dog area. And Khunamokwst Park is another small greenspace located at NE Alberta and NE 52nd. Although Khunamokwst is smaller than Sacajawea it has a few more amenities like picnic tables, a play area, a seasonal splash pad, skatepark, and restrooms. 

Culture

Most of the commercial activity in Cully is along NE 42nd Ave, and the small section of NE Fremont that falls within the neighborhood. NE 42nd Avenue is a wonderful place to spend a fully day eating and wandering. Start at Old Salt Marketplace for a hearty breakfast before you amble over to the Cully Farmer's Market. Wander north along 42nd to Hey Studio, a ceramics studio with both private and communal spaces for creating functional an artistic works with clay. Heading south along 42nd you will run into Portland Bloem where you can wander amidst indoor and outdoor plants, dreaming about landscaping your future home. Keep going south until you get to NE Prescott and take a left to go east for just a half a block or so until you find Metalwood Salvage where you'll find salvaged raw materials along with one-of-a-kind furniture, fixtures and art pieces. If you are still around in the evening, hit up the Spare Room Restaurant & Lounge for karaoke or live music depending on the day of the week.

Visit the Cully stretch of NE Fremont first thing in the morning at Pip's Original where they make fresh donuts daily and offer a variety of chai teas. Continue east along Fremont and then head north on Cully to visit Bison Coffeehouse where Native American owner Loretta Guzman owner brews Heart coffee and beans from Native American roasters around the country. If you continue along Cully you will arrive at the most recent, warm and welcoming addition to the neighborhood dining scene: Beeswing. Serving brunch straight on through to dinner, they are offering a bright and friendly spot with food that everyone wants to eat, made with locally sourced ingredients; it's the perfect start or finish to any day in Cully.