Portland's Restorative Listening Project

Karol Collymore

Today in the New York Times, I came across an article that spoke to Northeast Portland's gentrification. More specifically, it mentioned the Restorative Listening Project hosted by the City's office of neighborhood involvement and the participants from the Alberta neighborhood. The project was intended to bring neighbors of all colors to discuss their stereotypes, concerns around gentrification and other things that would come up in this kind of setting. I've emailed this article, it was emailed to me from a friend, and a co-worker added it to our office blog. It struck a chord with many who found it. The passage that struck me was this:

Yet one person’s frontier, it turns out, is often another’s front porch. It has been true across the country: gentrification, which increases housing prices and tension, sometimes has racial overtones and can seem like a dirty word. Now Portland is encouraging black and white residents to talk about it, but even here in Sincere City, the conversation has been difficult.

“I’ve been really upset by what I perceive to be Portland’s blind spot in its progressivism,” said Khaela Maricich, a local artist and musician. “They think they live in the best city in the country, but it’s all about saving the environment and things like that. It’s not really about social issues. It’s upper-middle-class progressivism, really.”

There are many issues to discuss around gentrification and they tumble in and out of my head during cocktail conversations. There are several themes that run through the article. The one that is on my mind is the effect gentrification has on our neighborhood schools. People move in and transform streets, seemingly overnight. But are schools benefiting? Parents move in and then, sometimes, do not send their children to the local school. This isn't mentioned in the article, but I think deserves a little light of day.

Read the rest and let me know what you think.

  • (Show?)

    Environmental issues--such as brown fields within our fair city--are hardly exclusively an upper-middle-class concern. The poor and ethnic minorities are disproportionally affected by poor environmental quality. I think Maricich's statement shows that despite the clear friction and threats of upheaval, there are also benefits from "outsiders" moving into a new neighborhood, just as there are benefits to immigrants moving into the country. The new comers may just bring energy and ideas with them that benefit the entire community if they are not viewed as upstart outsiders threatening the status quo.

    That said, I agree with Karol's position that there are clearly negative racial overtones in gentrification, including concepts like whites "homesteading" in traditionally black neighborhoods (even if the neighborhoods themselves were originally the product of enforced segregation we now all presumably oppose.)

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Per schools, the Portland Public Schools have a very liberal transfer program; lots of kids do not go to neighborhood schools. Having mentioned that, this may be particularly common for white families in inner NE Portland, but I have not seen statistics. It should be noted that despite the emotional attachment of many African Americans to Jefferson HS, many, many African American families opt to send their kids elsewhere. School transfers are not a white-only issue.

  • DE (unverified)

    This article, like most regarding gentrification, was crap. They always interview the folks left behind, lamenting the changing racialscape of the neighborhood. Here they (with irony?) even add the hilarious statement that the minorities want to be seen as people and not by their racial group, despite the fact that they view the newcomers through a racial lens.

    An article like this is incomplete without statistics about who left, why they left, and where they went. This article included nothing from people who recently (or not-so-recently) departed, or those on the verge of leaving. I'm not saying gentrification is victimless, but the victims are most frequently portrayed only by their absence from the discussion. It's not enough.

    P.S. Where's "Albert Street?"

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    I'm of the increasing conviction that it's the numbers on our paychecks, more than the colors of our skins, or the content of our character, that have to do with our living situations. I'd like to see that get better for everybody.

  • Bill Jones (unverified)

    Wow, what concern for the less privileged from Portland's progressives.


    It gives the impression that progressives only care about themselves. Like the accusations they level against Libertarians and conservatives.

    You should be asking yourselves if there are any screwed up government policies that caused this harm to people.

    The answer, of course, is YES.


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    I don't see gentrification as just a racial issue, though that does have a piece of it. It is a wallet issue more than ever and homeowners are resistant to seeing the kinds of developments that come with making housing more affordable. Thanks, John, for pointing that out.

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    The new comers may just bring energy and ideas with them that benefit the entire community if they are not viewed as upstart outsiders threatening the status quo.

    Jamais Vu, I think you are looking at this on a more superficial level than is usual for you. Of course, it might have something to do with the framing of this in terms of the "listening project." The question is not just how "new comers" are viewed, but the social effects and social policies involved, IMO.

    Large numbers of inner East Side people have been displaced outward, to far East Portland, to Gresham; there also has been a bit of displacement of African-Americans southwards. It has to do with housing prices, including effects on rents.

    I spent yesterday in a conference organized by the Coalition for a Livable Future called "Planning for Opportunity: An Inclusive Agenda for Sustainability," the central concept of which was something referred to as a "triple bottom line," i.e. to evaluate development ideas and approaches in terms not just of economic benefits, but ecological sustainability and social equity. The aim was to help CLF work toward building a practicable equity agenda.

    One key argument presented by the keynoter and echoed in numbers of sessions was that there can't be true sustainability without equity. The framing of the event was built around the CLF's recently published Equity Atlas, which is illuminating about the geographic distribution of resources in the Metro area.

    An example that goes to why a dialogue only focused on inner Northeast isn't adequate has to do with the location of jobs. In general they are concentrated away from higher-proportion minority areas, and the marginalization of lower income people of color and whites away from the city center exacerbates that fact. It gets related to sustainability insofar as the extrusion of working people to the geographical margins involves greater travel to work.

    I agree with Bill Jones, I think (unless I misundertand him). I also agree with DC that the dialogue needs include those displaced as well as people in the places they've been displaced to. My guess is that I don't agree with him or her on much else, since he/she seems to be promoting the idiotic myth that it's really white people who are the victims of racism, and that racial perceptions are all the same despite radically different social histories of how people with different racial labels have been and continue to be treated.

    We need all kinds of listening, but one of the most important kinds is the sort that relates to things like Erik Sten's efforts to shift some resources from the ultra-rich & subsidized Pearl District to schools in a geographically peripheral area. As the population grows and the outer areas become denser and also the places where most disadvantaged people live, we need to be having conversations about distributed resources that support decent lives across the region.

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    Karol, thanks so much for your comment there. I was composing in my head a comment about gentrification not necessarily being racial. Four things swirl around my brain:

    1. A city with intact neighborhoods with citizens living there for longer periods is better than a city with fragmented neighborhoods with transient residents.

    2. If the main cause of neighborhood turnover is that a population is being priced out and forced to move, this seems to thwart the first point. The dispossessed need not be racially homogenous for this to be alarming.

    3. When property values fall and crime rates rise in a neighborhood, one solution is gentrification, which brings stability. But this may well contradict points one and two.

    4. Finding a solution to the issue takes intention and oversight. The market will consider none of these factors. Cities have to actively manage them or watch helplessly as gentrification progresses organically. (Remember, cancers are organic!)

    Bonus thought: that woman at the end who came off as an impolitic rube--did anyone find her willingness to seriously consider the issues (if not her tact) admirable? I don't think we can demand grace if we expect people to really work with these issues.

  • Christy (unverified)

    Thanks for posting this, Karol. As a "gentrifier," I can't really say much without feeling like a hypocrite. But, I will say that Portland's transfer system will continue to plague efforts for racial and socioeconomic diversity. It is a problem and one that will not be solved any time soon. School choice means a lot to parents, particularly the ones most likely to seek transfers for their kids and/or head to the 'burbs or private schools. I have pledged to myself that when (and I suppose if) I have kids, I will stay in Portland and keep my kids in neighborhood schools.

    Also, I hope that others will speak to this week's Coalition for a Livable Future summit, which focused on equity in building sustainable communities. It was a great event and brought to light ideas for balancing environmentalism and social justice.

  • joe (unverified)


    I'm a parent whose kid attends the neighborhood school, but I know lots of parents who apply for transfers, and I'm referring to folks in some of the more affluent parts of NE Portland. The transfer policy is considered responsible for keeping most kids in the public schools; it also leads to some really skewed enrollments (such as three times as many students at Grant HS as at Jefferson).

    My spouse teaches at PCC Cascade in inner NE Portland and commented to me thusly:

    "Fifteen years ago, Alberta looked like the worn down and dangerous center of a black community at its nadir. The corner of 15th and Alberta was difficult to maneuver through because kids in gang clothes were avoiding a face off, with one group waiting for the bus on the sidewalk; the other waiting from the street itself. Today the traffic challenge is avoiding bicyclists who believe the whole street belongs to them.

    "Gentrification means that most houses are now tidy and occupied; fifteen years ago, perhaps a third of them were boarded up. Tawdry apartment houses with bullet-ridden doors have now become spiffy condos with newly refinished wooden floors. While the neighborhood may seem prettier to many, I miss many of the roses that grew wildly in the midst of havoc. I miss the fragrance from the plethora of barbecue joints, even though I'm a vegetarian. I miss the fact that not long ago, everyone who taught at Cascade knew one another, but now we have spread out over multiple blocks, with classrooms replacing African-American churches and grocery stores."

  • DE (unverified)


    Maybe my language was too strong, but you're interpretation on what I believe or what I'm trying to insinuate is pretty far off. I am an african american raised, churched and schooled in the neighborhoods in question. I do not think that "it's really white people who are the victims of racism," however, I have spent enough time around people of both races to know that some people of all races stubbornly use the race of their neighbor as an excuse not to be neighborly, and that is racism, whatever the skin color of the perpetrator.

    My concern with the article is well framed by the core of Jeff's points. That said, they assume things that I believe require better investigation.

    "1. A city with intact neighborhoods with citizens living there for longer periods is better than a city with fragmented neighborhoods with transient residents."

    TRUE, but poor and minority neighborhoods are and have always been the most transient to begin with. Statistics on students arriving and departing schools over the course of a school year make this clear. So, what's healthy for the "city," per Jeff's point, might be gentrification, which would result over time in a less fragmented, transient neighborhood. But I suspect it's not the "city" but the people, with whom we are most concerned.

    "2. If the main cause of neighborhood turnover is that a population is being priced out and forced to move, this seems to thwart the first point. The dispossessed need not be racially homogenous for this to be alarming."

    TRUE. But it's not clear what is the main cause, particularly based on this article. They don't talk to anyone for whom being priced out or worse, "forced out" is a problem. I have plenty of brown or lower income friends & family who left the neighborhood (and Portland) over the last 15 years, and not one was "forced out."

    "3. When property values fall and crime rates rise in a neighborhood, one solution is gentrification, which brings stability. But this may well contradict points one and two."


    "4. Finding a solution to the issue takes intention and oversight. The market will consider none of these factors."


    As for joe's anecdote from his PCC teacher spouse, I can count very few residents of that neighborhood who miss the wild roses and gang fights. I like being able to choose what color I wear walking down the street, thank you.

  • my town (unverified)

    Great post, thoughtful comments.

    The continued shortage of family wage jobs and the failure of PPS do not bode well. Our HS drop-out rate should be a scandal. Under-educated kids are each an individual tragedy, but collectively, they bode ill for our community's future. Will they be able to live here? Can we catch them up?

    The gentrification discussion will only rip the scabs off as long as these and other equity issues remain unaddressed.

  • Mighty T-Dazzler (unverified)

    The people who speak of gentrification in racial terms sound a lot like the debate over integration. White people take their dogs everywhere, and think their kids are too fragile to yell at. Black people like flashy cars with loud boomin' systems and aren't afraid to let their kids go outside and play with the other kids in the hood (Even when it's dark outside)--Get over it...There are differences in the way all people live their lives. Even though you were taught in theory about the reasons why it's a bad thing to be a racist, some of you white people have never even been tested in how predjudice you really are because you've only lived with white people. ....Your actions speak louder than words. Meanwhile, you black people see the sickening display of whites coming into the hood for that grubby art last Thursday thing and think all of the whites are some group of people that have no respect for you and the history of the hood you have lived in for years. If I moved into Little Italy of NYC, I would want to know the history of the hood. I would go to the local shops which have been there for long before I was there...Why aren't most of you hypocrite white people who are moving into the hood doing that?

    I want to know why there aren't as many discussions on the shady, racist, elitist and unfair practices perpetrated by the funding institutions which is the root cause action that creates the ball rolling where those who are granted the money to buy properties and develop them to turn into a profit get the biggest piece of the cheese.

    Looks like there is too much talk about the racial aspects of gentrification grabbing headlines and discussion topics. I bet the people who hold all the bread and make the rules on who is going to be able to get the crumbs are eating cake and breathing a sigh of relief every time the focus of gentrification is focused on the same things as the debates on integration was 40 years ago.....

    I can't stand to go into the yuppy infested New Season's or the smelly, hippy, anti-bathing, back to nature Co-Op on Alberta filled with liberals who don't even know a black person but feel connected to them by voting for Obama. Are places like that what gentrification is? If it is, I hate gentrification. If it's making a neighborhood safer, improving it's houses, and bringing people together who might not have never been able to learn about another race of people, I'm all for gentrification.... Let's define the positive and negative aspects of the word and then it will be easier to work on eliminating the more negative aspects and therefore leaving only the positive ones behind to be enjoyed by everyone (Who can afford to live there...Ha!)


  • Alberta Conservative (unverified)

    Dazz - great post.

    Bill J. - Doesn't that impression about progressive have a slight grain of truth in it? There are many wealthy white progressives who so yearn to show their diversity publicly and that they aren't self-centered people that they actually cause more harm than good. The illustration on "what should we call you?" with the response being "people" is spot on. Thomas Sowell has a recent article about 'trophies/mascots' that is similar to this yearning mentality.

    My white grandmother (not a typical white person as defined by Obama) lived in North Portland for nearly 50 years. She saw a lot of changes over those years. In some ways whites saw minorites in a better light years ago than they do now - mostly unknowingly. Most are worried about how to properly call or act like a 'group' in terms of identity in a way that some lose the perspective that they are just people like everyone else. Minorities are constantly telling whites to not try and act like them or treat them differntly/special, just treat them like a person.

    My grandmother taught me that just treating people as people instead of 'trophies' is the best way to heal racial or economic divides. Wasn't that MLK, Jr's point?

    We as a society need to continue working toward equality and opportunity for all minorities and immediately quell this 'trophy/mascot' mentality.

    Nothing is more upsetting to me as a white person than being in a professional group and having a white(yes - the self proclaimed progressive) point out the diversity of the group or say "isn't it nice to that an African American can be a part of this group." I see those comments as self-centered and elitist. Meanwhile, I am wondering if I really have the credentials and brains to be a part of the group.

    Also, I don't recall a "government program or policy" that created gentrification on Alberta Street. Gentrification is caused by people's individual choices. The person with the most money generally wins - white progressive moving to Alberta Street or Californians moving to Portland or Bend.

  • Peter Noordijk (unverified)

    I don't know too much about this in general. But when we moved into our apartment on Fargo in 2000, there were still shootings in the neighborhood including our neighbor Jason. His Grandma sold her house for $200,000 after he was killed, and moved out. Our neighbors across the street refinanced and moved the family out of the neighborhood to get their nephew away from his "friends" who his uncle thought were going to get him killed. They still own the place, they just rent it and hold the asset. That is gentrification, but I'm not sure if those folks are going to mourn the old neighborhood. It seems like the geographical community was already in rough shape, and now they are choosing who they consider community.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    I love the way that folks like Dazz go on in their superior tone, blathering about how they can't stand to go to such and such a shop, in order to critique what they see as OTHER PEOPLE'S air of superiority. "I can't stand to go into the yuppy infested New Season's or the smelly, hippy, anti-bathing, back to nature Co-Op on Alberta filled with liberals who don't even know a black person but feel connected to them by voting for Obama." Good gawd.

    I also love the way that folks like Alberta Conservative commit one of the most basic errors of logic: drawing sweeping generalizations from extremely limited anecdotal evidence.

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)

    One linguistic hole in a debate about gentrification is the lack of discussion about the changing landscape of values and neighborhoods generally. I think DE's first comment about needing to gets more information on those who left, is really crucial. Is some of it people selling houses, taking the equity, and moving somewhere cheaper? And what about other neighborhoods ... the article (yesterday) about prostitution and related crime in the Montavilla neighborhood, for example, or another recent article about the increasing racial diversity of Gresham and Troutdale.

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    It's helpful to distinguish between gentrification and revitalization. Here's one brief definition:

    Gentrification is the process by which higher income households displace lower income residents of a neighborhood, changing the essential character and flavor of that neighborhood.

    Revitalization: the process of enhancing the physical, commercial and social components of neighborhoods and the future prospects of its residents through private sector and/or public sector efforts.

    Both processes involve far more than just "individual choices," including both current and historical patterns of public and private sector policies and practices, many of them racially discriminatory. But the key here is that gentrification is a process of displacement - which is radically different from strategies for community revitalization and reinvestment.

  • Mighty T-Dazzler (unverified)

    "in order to critique what they see as OTHER PEOPLE'S air of superiority."


    When did I come down on these people's so called, "air of superiority?" I just don't like to be around those places....Why would anyone want to be around people who smell bad and bring their dogs into stores that sell food at the Co-Op? And how disgusting is a store like New Seasons that prides itself on being the most righteous, sustainable, eco-friendly, organic and FRIENDLY store in the city while using economics of charging more money than most of the people who have been living there for generations can afford and therefore, creating segregation as a by-product of those high prices. Has anyone ever noticed how many black people vs white people shop at New Seasons? It's such an uncomfortable ratio.

    Oh yeah...and if we keep jabbing each other over stupid things like this...The fat cats who hold all the bread will keep laughing because we aren't focusing on their unfair money loaning practices or the unfair ways certain people get favors and approvals to do things that other people are denied.

    I can't believe this is 2008 in one of the most progressive cities in the country. Then I have to ask myself who's progress are the progressives concerned with? Freeing Tibet or going to the Talking Drum to get a latte and rapping with some of the people there. I read the following and it struck a serious chord with me.....

    "It's upper middle class progressivism-really" I couldn't have said that better myself.

  • David McDonald (unverified)

    I believe it was put best by Khaela Maricich when they said "It’s not really about social issues. It’s upper-middle-class progressivism, really.”

    Portlanders are so politically groovy that they forget we have some serious social problems that aren't being addressed very well.

    Case in point... the crisis of domestic violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect faced by people with developmental disabilities. Who's stepping up to the plate?

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    I am part of the gentrification of St. Johns - though my house is for sale - so I really don't think its just a race issue. I wanted to move into a neighborhood where my property value would increase but I don't think I fully understood the impact of all the people moving in until I started talking to my neighbors who had lived in NOPO for years. Its interesting - some welcome it, some feel pushed out.

    I think there also need to be another layer of conversation about population density and the environment and affordable housing while keeping people in neighborhoods that they want to be in.

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    DE, I apologize for so thoroughly misunderstanding what you were saying. Curious though, when you say no one you know was forced out, does that include people who were renters? To me, being priced out is a form of being forced out, but maybe we're using the term differently.

    On this "some people of all races stubbornly use the race of their neighbor as an excuse not to be neighborly, and that is racism, whatever the skin color of the perpetrator," at that level of interaction, I'd agree.

    There is something weird about much of this discussion in which people from different points of view all seem to accept that somehow "real" or "progressive" Portland is "upper-middle class". I don't buy it. The votes that go for lots of "progressive" policies are just too big for those values and ideas to be restricted just to the "upper middle class."

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    dazz, did you ever consider that organic food and well treated employees are really expensive? There's a reason WinCo is cheap--processed food, run down physical plant, bargain basement employees. NS is absolutely prohibitively expensive--but you get what you pay for, and the idea that they're intentionally pricing themselves for a white clientele seems absurd.

  • Mighty T-Dazzler (unverified)

    Segregation is a by-product of those high prices charged by New Seasons....Nothing absurd about that. It's a fact. Never did I say that it was intentional. It's just the way it is.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Dazzler: As I read your comments, I am reminded of a young lawyer I once knew. He belonged to the National Lawyers' Guild and worked as a public defender. He was also never to be seen in anything but blue jeans, flannel shirts and work boots, evidently imagining that this outfit gave him some sort of faux working class credibility.

    I suggest that not only would be all be wise to look past the surface, and therefore not scorn people on account of their surface appearance; we would also be wise not to modify how we look on the outside in order to present an appearance that we imagine other people will find somehow more compelling or more authentic.

    If a Free Tibet bumper sticker gives you conniptions, could it be that you're a bit judgmental?

    And that goofball comment about lattes...well, let us not forget that authentic man of the people, Tom Buffebarger, introducing Hillary Clinton at a rally in Ohio:

    "Give me a break! I've got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius- driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear him speak! This guy won't last a round against the Republican attack machine. He's a poet, not a fighter."

  • Alberta Conservative (unverified)

    From JDW: "drawing sweeping generalizations from extremely limited anecdotal evidence."

    I didn't think you wanted to read endless words, events, recollections and links - so I summarized some points. :)

    I am sure you have been in groups where white people of any political stripe pat themselves and others on the back because minorities (ethic or sexual preference) were a part of that group. Haven't you witnessed a white person telling a minority 'Good for you' for getting that Law degree, graduating, etc? I have. Numerous times. How do you think phrases such as "You go Girl!" were developed?

    Anecdotal? Sure; Irrelevant? Nope.

    Did you dismiss the NYT article because the anecdotal evidence of a white person asked what she should call them "Black or African American?"? Love the "Donna" response! Reminded me of my White grandmother who DIDN'T cross the road.

    Where's your empirical evidence that shows what Thomas Sowell and other's have written extensive aren't in any way correct?

    Oh, you want "sweeping generalizations from extremely limited anecdotal evidence." Here are some: Conservatives are evil, racist, & stupid. Rural people are rednecks, bitter and hold onto their guns/religion.

    It has been said that a person is niether as good/smart nor as bad/stupid as they are protrayed in the media. I'd say it's the same with sterotypes.

  • Alberta Conservative (unverified)

    Torrid Joe - WinCo is employee owned and sells the same organic and non-organic food (size, brand name, etc) that Fred Meyer, Albertsons, Safeway, Costco & other sells for a MUCH lower price.

    Compare organically grown and certified tomatoes at WinCo with Fred Meyer.

    The employees love the way they are treated and the bonus checks they recieve because they OWN the company.

  • Mighty T-Dazzler (unverified)


    "That goofball comment about lattes?" I guess you missed the point...the point was that the so called progressives would rather give away their money for a cause thousands and thousands of miles away from home instead of buying a cup of coffee at a locally black owned business and talking with them as neighbors who share a lot more in common than an interest in the Beastie Boys.

    It's not the, Free Tibet" bumper sticker that gives me a conniption. It's the people driving the car with those bumper stickers who have no association with black people who just happen to be their neighbors.


  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    This discussion is fodder for a least a dissertation if not several books. To think this limited environment could begin to address the economics and sociology of gentrification or rehabilitation of neighborhoods is asking for exactly the kinds of failed communication happening.

    Our pubic policies do not sufficiently address the market forces in those neighborhood. Our social understanding does not ready us for the collision of cultures. What is clearest is that we can call ourselves progressive and not understand the depths of the problems and think we do.

    I'm not devaluing Karol's post, I'm trying to warn commenters that narrow vision is the biggest problem.

  • (Show?)

    When I first moved to Portland in 1980, we lived on Mallory, two blocks south of Lombard for over two years. In those days there was a narrow and irregular strip of what you might legitimately call slum that ran North/South along the Eastern side of I-5. The rest of North and Northeast Portland had pockets of desperate poverty from Parkrose "by-the-night" motels all the way out to Columbia Villa, but these pockets were always surrounded with well kept if downscale homes of working class owners and renters.

    There was never a huge concentrated area of totally blighted real estate as you might have seen in the big northeastern cities.

    In the past thirty years we've seen both gentrification, (mostly of older but superior quality Craftsman houses and larger early versions of today's McMansions), and revitalization. The latter has been done by gummint design and has been done well in my opinion.

    I've got a buddy who is a Cambodian survivor of the Killing Fields. He's a community activist and he and his caucasian wife and their two children have made a conscious decision to live in the new community built on the site of the former Columbia Villa. These folks are not gentrifiers IMO, but rather fit into the revitalization category.

    This is the idea that I've seen implemented from Aloha to Gresham. Target neighborhoods and even specific intersections with good dwellings, site some good eateries and shopping within close walking distance, (BTW: Poor people like to buy good nutritious and pesticide free food for their children too, if it can be made available and affordable), and from my perspective, the city is in fact on the right track.

  • DE (unverified)


    I would agree that if you live someplace and they raise rents above what you can afford, you're "priced out." All I am saying is that I know many, many people who left the neighborhood (renters & owners both), and that was not the case for any of them. It's anecdotal, but I don't intend it to suggest greater meaning. On the other hand, if rising prices merely prevent newcomers of tomorrow that look like (or have income like) the newcomers and long-timers or yesterday, I think they're "priced-out," but not "forced out." As Karol's comment suggests, even brown people can price out other brown people. If that is gentrification, then the only solution is for every housing transaction to result in an equal or poorer family replacing the voluntarily departing family. That basically only happens in declining neighborhoods...

  • MCT (unverified)

    A friend of mine in NYC emailed the NYT article to me....and this was my response:

    Oh yeah...that's exactly right, families have been driven by the cost factor, out ofthe neighborhoods they grew up in. And a lot of it is due to the fact that in 1978, my first year here, the voters voted in a new land use & development entity called Metro Service District to oversee newly created Urban Growth Boundaries. To avoid urban sprawl. After decades the UGBs have only recently been allowed to be broken into for housing and employment, but in this politically correct age the local governments cannot seem to get the new zoning off the ground....so now, 5 years into the expanded areas, nothing has been re-zoned and no new homes built. The UGB policies also created infilling within local cities' limits....sweet little bungalows on big lots, now have mulit-plexes towering next to and behind them. Ruined the look of Portland. But most of the homes in the areas they talk about in the NYT are on 5000 sf lots. (.11 ac.) And even with the real estate market slowed and loans harder to get, these old craftsman homes are still selling for half a million....down about 15% from their peak. So you can see how the UGB's, in place for 30 years, have done nothing but drive up the prices of existing homes.

    And as for METRO......no one realized (many still don't) in 1978 what a powerful group those 7 elected officials on the Metro board would become. To me they were just a bunch of faces in the back of the voters' pamphlet. When they make a decision they need a majority...so 4 people can make land use laws that effect the entire tri-county area. With very little public input....but always millions of $$$, and years spent on studies. One thing they've done is effectively zoned cheap multi housing units & in-filling all along the MAX light rail train tracks....especially out east from downtown. How urbane and convenent for workers!.....and section 8, gang members, illegals, and drug dealers, meth heads.....they gotta live somewhere. Now we have the outer burbs with rocketing crime rates, shoot-outs at the light rail stations. Had scores of people rioting at one of them a few months back. The low-lifes jump on the trains...no regular ticket checkers on board, that's random.....so they just ride all over town for free and jump on and off at will, sometimes targeting a rival gang member, sometimes a normal citizen. Beat an elderly Gresham man with a baseball bat.

    The city cannot afford to guard the trains, or assist with affordable housing to the low income.....but they can afford to take the recently dismantled Sauvie Island Bridge and re-assemble it to create a bicycle bridge over the freeway downtown for the high-earners who live in the high dollar Pearl district to use on their urban treks.

    So the NYT writer didn't dig deep enough....the true story is much uglier. None of this will change unless workers can earn a livable wage, or the cities begin including lower income citizens in their urban planning.

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)

    MTD, do you actually shop at New Seasons? New Seasons does not charge high prices in the way that the Rose Garden charges high prices for a coke. Comparable products are comparably priced to other stores. But New Seasons carries lots of stuff -- organic, unique, etc. -- that other stores don't have (perhaps because the stuff is more expensive). So while a shopping trip at New Seasons might cost more than a shopping trip somewhere else, that's because you're buying something that's truly different. By the same token, you'll pay more for a pastry at Grand Central than you will for a Little Debbies' pastry (do they still make those?), and the price difference will not be because Grand Central "charges higher prices," but because it sells the more expensive product, for a whole bunch of good reasons (as discussed above by torridjoe).

  • Sarah C (unverified)

    I have lived in the Eliot neighborhood for close to 15 years as a white lesbian. When I moved in we heard gunshots nightly, when we bought our house 10 years ago things were better (not as many gunshots) but the day we got the keys someone ran into the utility pole in front leaving behind a car filled with drugs and guns. Even with the crime this was a neighborhood of people that cared about each other. Our house was broken into and people that barely knew us came over to offer support. We had many say "We want you hear don't let the bad stuff drive you away."

    Over time we have gotten to know our neighbors - some better than others. With all we at least exchange nice greetings when we see each other. With others we share meals and life experiences. This morning when I was taking my daughter to school by bike you would have thought we were in a parade with all the waves and "Good Mornings" that were exchanged. The simple fact is that we were being part of a neighborhood.

    A few years ago Portland Monthly named Eliot one of the friendliest neighborhoods in Portland. The hardest part for many of the long time residents is that gentrification is changing that. The long timers are glad to be rid of the guns, drugs and violence. Joe's wife is in the minority with her feelings - in fact many of neighbors would dismiss her as a guilty white liberal who is trying way to hard. The thing I hear some of the most regret about from the people still here is that people don't say hello as much on the street. One neighbor is black, lived here a long time and is a professional - she wonders why some of the new people think they are better than her. It hurts a lot. One of the reasons why I think we are seen as being good neighbors and not part of the problem is just that we are good neighbors. Even the conservative churches - who could have a lot of issues with a white lesbian couple moving in a raising kids - have said we are some of the best neighbors they have had. They actually say this to people behind our backs! Imagine a conservative church saying that about us.

    I know that stating that we just need to be nice to each other might seem simplistic. I know it does not address displacement and other issues - quite frankly that would be another long post. It does however address the anger that is felt by many who have lived here a long time. Yes, I am a gentrifier but it is hard to stay mad at me when every once in a while I show up at your door with a plate of cookies and I take the time to say hello on the street.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Dazzler, geez louise, you sure seem to know a lot about the intimate lives of complete strangers. You know with certainty that someone with a certain bumper sticker buys--or doesn't buy--coffee at a certain shop and talks--or doesn't talk to a certain person. You know that the shoppers at "yuppy infested New Season's" and the "liberals" shopping at a certain co-op "don't even know a black person but feel connected to them by voting for Obama." How did you attain this insight into the lives of people you don't even know?

  • Mighty T-Dazzler (unverified)

    I find it so hilarious that some people are stuck on my comments on New Seasons...meanwhile the injustices leveled upon minority people by the banking institutions will continue as long as we keep the focus on things like defending over priced yuppie chow...Oh yeah, there are a lot more people of color than just black people. Why are they almost never mentioned?

  • Judith (unverified)

    Great discussion. Some important points to consider are: What were the historical disinvestments that blighted NE?

    This isn't about blaming people for moving into a neighborhood and "making improvements". It's about noticing the river of resources and services that follow that population.

    Mikal Shabazz made a great point at the last Event. He said, when the wind blows and shakes the tree and the nuts fall to the ground, do you blame the squirrels for gathering them? He said, no one wants to blame anyone for gathering the nuts, but we need to understand the forces that shook the tree and left the nuts there for the gathering.

    Gentrification is about a lot of things, but race, in Portland, in NE is one of them.

    Keep going deeper, we are capable of so much if we keep thinking, talking and searching..

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    I am not stuck on Dazzler's comments about New Seasons or any other shopping adventure. (I enter New Seasons perhaps once every 3-4 months, by the way. I couldn't really care less about what Dazzler calls "over priced yuppie chow.") What I am stuck on is Dazzler's silly blame games, stereotyping, and sanctimony. He attacks "other" people living in inner NE Portland for their purported ignorance--something he can't know, but which he loves to speculate on--contrasting their alleged flaws with the way that he, in the hypothetical circumstance of moving "into Little Italy of NYC...would want to know the history of the hood." So how does Dazzler know that the folks he attacks are not similarly interested in neighborhood history? The fact is, he doesn't.

    The sad part is that Dazzler refers to important issues, such as lending practices, but he spoils it all by his sanctimonious sniping. Here's a hint: if you want to persuade people, you first have to engage them. And you don't engage people by insulting them and telling them how superior your own insights and motives are.

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    Thanks, anectodal evidence counts for something esp. if it starts to form a pattern, IMO.

    I'm curious if there are patterns about why people were moving who didn't feel forced or priced out, if there are patterns in where they moved, and if you have any impression about what has happened to older communities or networks (micro, face-to-face, personal) -- is there anything like "chain migration" where people move near old friends, relatives, partially reconstitute previous communities? I do think that those including you who raised the "other end of the process" questions up top are onto something important that isn't talked about.

    At the Coalition for a Livable Future event, one of the recurring themes was the need to identify equity in terms of resource distribution to the places where people are going, which may not have so much in terms of infrastructures, not just physical ones (though that may be the case too), but also institutional ones, whether it's small business districts, clinics, hospitals or other health resources, social service agency offices, access to affordable decent quality food, police & fire services, etc., etc. -- as well as affordable housing and how it relates to neighborhood planning for community.

  • Mighty T-Dazzler (unverified)

    "Oh yeah...and if we keep jabbing each other over stupid things like this...The fat cats who hold all the bread will keep laughing because we aren't focusing on their unfair money loaning practices or the unfair ways certain people get favors and approvals to do things that other people are denied."

    I've been pushing this idea the whole time and it's not my fault if people want to get up in arms over my dislike of New Seasons.

    BTW JDW--I am getting my info from the stories spoken and written by the people who have been in the NE hoods for generations and don't give me a lecture on how to better engage a person when my style apparently has you engaged.

    "He attacks "other" people living in inner NE Portland for their purported ignorance--something he can't know, but which he loves to speculate on--contrasting their alleged flaws with the way that he, in the hypothetical circumstance of moving "into Little Italy of NYC...would want to know the history of the hood." So how does Dazzler know that the folks he attacks are not similarly interested in neighborhood history? The fact is, he doesn't."

    Again...I am getting my opinion based on the stories of the people who have lived in the NE for generations who say that the new group of people moving into the hood don't inquire or even respect the people who's hood they are moving into. One more thing.....The people I am, "attacking" aren't the people who move into a hood and become a positive addition to it. I would love to see more than just black and white with a sprinkling of latino in the part of the NE where I live (Woodlawn)

    Now, let's talk about those shady money lenders

    The illest Dazz

  • j_luthergoober (unverified)

    Since when does the NYTs, the mouthpiece for Gotham, set aside its reputation as a cheerleader for a city economy based on predatory usury and rampant consumerism to become a know-it-all about small-town gentrification?

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