Can Portland Avoid San Francisco’s Mistakes?

Portland in recent months has been struggling with an identity crisis. The common motif of the city was that it was a place that prided itself on separating from the traditional large cities out west. People could ride their bikes and get tattoos and be unique in their own way. At one point, it was known as the place for young people to retire, simply because it was so affordable! However, as any secret has a timeline, Portland was discovered and both businesses and individuals started flocking to the emerging hot spot. The state of Oregon has been rated as the number one destination to move to by United Van Lines over the last three years.

The large businesses that are moving in are finding success along with greater employee satisfaction due to a low-cost lifestyle. As any city grows, it also goes through growing pains. Portland is currently experiencing those growing pains at an alarming rate, as housing and rental rates are rising quickly, and forcing longtime residents out. The problem with the rising rates of housing within Portland is that the city itself isn’t doing anything to stabilize the growth. As new development comes in and raises the prices for current and potential residents, they are not zoning proper areas for low-cost affordable units. Unfortunately in the state of Oregon, there is little to no rent control, and past efforts to pass just-cause eviction laws have failed.

The city of Portland has made a public effort to revitalize urban development, and ensure current residents that they will not be displaced as a result of new development in other parts of the city. The only problem with the effort is that the city itself hasn’t put any safeguard in place to ensure that residents are not in fact displaced through the proper channels.

With public outcry getting louder each day, the city of Portland has tried to respond with alternatives to counter growing housing problems that were declared by the Portland City Council. The Portland City Council took it upon themselves in October to waive some city laws in order to combat the growing homeless problem the city is facing, by providing temporary shelters.

Most Portland residents say that they don’t want to have higher density neighborhoods, and would rather keep the close knit feel the city they’ve grown to love has. Many of the growing pains that Portland is currently experiencing, are ones that the city of San Francisco has encountered in the past.

Most of the people who are being pushed out of the inner Portland neighborhoods are minorities, families who have been in Portland for generations! With the new residents moving into older neighborhoods that had long traditions and lasting memories, there is a growing conflict of social norms. New residents are getting into disputes with long time inhabitants over simple things like outdoor barbecues.

The city is adamant that affordable housing construction is underway, but many of the displaced residents fear that it isn’t coming soon enough. As a safeguard, citizens of displaced families are forming groups to meet weekly, to ensure that the city of Portland is taking the necessary steps to create affordable housing, and is staying true to their commitment. Many new residents that have come into Portland are individuals who simply can’t live in San Francisco because the cost of living is too high. It will be interesting to see if Portland is doomed to repeat mistakes made in the past by other similar cities.