Analysis finds property owners in Portland’s most diverse, gentrifying areas hardest hit by code violation fines

Overgrown grass near a sidewalk on a residential street

A report from Portland’s city ombudsman found that property complaints and city fines over code violations like overgrown grass disproportionately affect gentrifying areas where residents are vulnerable to displacement. Staten Island Advance/Kristin Dalton

An analysis by a Portland city watchdog found that complaints about property maintenance have been highly concentrated in the city’s most diverse and rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.

The report from the city ombudsman’s office made public Wednesday showed that neighborhoods with some of the fastest-rising home prices, and those with the most racially diverse residents, tend to also face the most financial consequences for property violations like overgrown grass, trash in a yard or a deteriorating building.

It suggests that the code enforcements could disproportionally affect residents of color and contribute to displacement.

 The city ombudsman’s office collected and analyzed of six years’ worth of maintenance complaints submitted to the Bureau of Development Services between 2013 and 2018. Portland’s enforcement system is primarily complaint-driven, and fines or penalties can be assessed if a resident has run afoul of one of dozens of code requirements. Some address safety concerns like a dangerous or collapsing structure, but others govern maintenance issues like peeling paint or missing siding.

Residents who are found to be in violation of city property rules can face escalating fines or end up with a code enforcement lien attached to the property that’s been deemed out of compliance. That could put the resident at risk of foreclosure.

The analysis showed that the number of property maintenances complaints was higher in neighborhoods with higher percentages of people of color, an increase in median home price between 2013 and 2017, and a larger percentage of the population below the poverty level.

But the number of complaints was lower in neighborhoods where the home cost per square foot was higher, the median household income was higher, and there was greater access to public transit and bike paths.

The ombudsman’s office tracked the number of complaints per 100 households in each of Portland’s 94 neighborhoods. They also tracked the number of liens per 100 households.

The neighborhoods with the highest numbers of complaints were: Woodland Park, with 29.55 complaints per 100 households; Mt. Scott-Arleta, with 23.97; Vernon, with 22.24; Lents, with 20.94; Brentwood-Darlington, with 20.65; Foster-Powell, with 19.43; Portsmouth, with 18.47; and Kenton, with 18.17.

Bridgeton, the Lloyd District, Old Town, Hayden Island, Sunderland and the Pearl District all had zero complaints. Downtown had 0.45 complaints per 100 households, Northwest Heights had 0.99, and Forest Park had 2.

Rebecca Esau, director of the city Bureau of Development Services, and Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the bureau, said in a letter that they agreed with the findings and would begin looking for alternatives to the complaint-driven system. They also said they, along with the Portland Housing Bureau, would look into financial resources to help low-income homeowners with health and safety-related home repairs.

Esau and Ryan said their bureau was already making efforts to address the disparities created by some of the city’s code enforcement fees by loosening the requirements for people to qualify for a lien reduction on their property and by increasing the lien reduction for low income and disabled property owners from 50% to 100%.

They also encouraged low-income residents and homeowners of color to look into various programs the city already offers that assist with home repairs or help pay for them with grants.

The city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights also responded to the report, noting the disparate impact of racist policies on homeowners of color.

“The current report on BDS Property Maintenance illustrates one facet of a systemically oppressed structure connected to home ownership,” wrote Dr. Markisha Webster, director of the Office of Equity and Human Rights. “The Office of Equity respectfully asks City Council to digest the contents of this report and use it to shape the direction of services specific to property maintenance for Black, Indigenous and communities of color in Portland.”

Portland’s $114M Pandemic Relief Program Overwhelmingly Helped Black Residents, and Other POC

(Dave Killen / Staff) The Oregonian

A city of Portland drive to spend $114 million in federal coronavirus aid to help struggling residents last year overwhelmingly assisted Black Portlanders as well as other communities of color, according to an analysis released Tuesday.

The sweeping set of initiatives approved by the Portland City Council included providing everything from Chromebooks to those with limited digital resources to food boxes and direct cash payments to families to grants to businesses and artists that had fallen on hard times.

City officials said it was essential that programs created with Portland’s share of federal CARES Act money prioritize historically marginalized groups such as communities of color, immigrants and people with disabilities.

An interim a report issued to Portland’s mayor and city commissioners by the city’s Office of Management and Finance on Tuesday shows the programs largely achieved that objective.

For example, among those who received laptops or internet cards from the city’s $5 million “digital divide” program, 33% identified as Black and another 56% identified as Indigenous or other people of color.

Black residents also comprised 33% of those who received aid from a $2.3 million food assistance program and 58% of a $1.6 million homeowner stabilization fund.

According to the most recent census estimates, from 2019, people who identify as Black make up 8% of the city’s population, while 10% identify as Latino and 70% identify solely as white. In addition, 2% identify as Indigenous, 11% as Asian American and 1% as Pacific Islander.

Those percentages add up to slightly more than 100% because some people identify as more than one of those categories, such as Black and Latino.

The spending analysis, which faced multiple delays, comes as the City Council plans to approve a new $64 million assistance program using funds the city received from the federal American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March.

Ultimately, the city says it wants to pull all demographic and geographic data about relief recipients together to evaluate and share with the public.

Below is a breakdown for three of Portland’s largest CARES Act programs.

Read the full report here.

$500 gift cards ($18 million)

33,954 cards distributed, including 3,975 to those experiencing homelessness. So far, the report said, only 26,978 of them have been partly or fully used.

Recipients: 41% Black, 24% White, 18% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 15% Latino, 9% Asian, 4% Native American, 1% Middle Eastern.

Language: 64% English only, 28% Non-English speaking, 6% Unknown, 1% Multilingual.

Rent Assistance ($16 million)

3,243 households assisted, with the average assistance totaling $4,300.

Recipients: 42% Black, 24% White, 15% Latino, 9% Asian, 4% Native American, 4% Other, 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Small Business Relief Fund ($15 million)

928 small business grants, 423 block grants, with the average grant totaling $10,000.

Recipients: 27% Asian, 25% Black, 22% Latino, 11% White, 5% Native American, 5% Middle Eastern, 2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Is Portland Over? ‘Absolutely Not!’

‘Portland is not over. It takes every single one of us’

It’s easy to say “Don’t worry, we’ll recover quickly.” But it’s hard to ignore the destruction and vandalism that continues to eat away at Portland and its reputation. It’s hard to see a once-vibrant downtown wounded, still boarded up and vacant.

And it’s difficult to be optimistic when it seems everywhere you look your eyes land on graffiti, trash, garbage, filth. How does Portland recover when it’s this bad?

Red tape

“Well, we are dying,” said former Mayor Sam Adams. “We will cut through the red tape or die trying.”

Adams is now the Trash Czar, the man in charge of digging Portland out from under the tons of garbage choking the city.

“We’ve got an enormous task ahead of us so we cannot afford to have disconnected department and governmental efforts to clean up the city or red tape standing in the way,” Adams said.

There’s a lot of red tape to cut through.

Unlike almost every other major city, Portland has no city-wide sanitation service. More than a dozen departments and agencies are involved. It is a governmental garbage mess that wasn’t a priority before the pandemic.

Now it’s a disaster.

Trash in one spot is PBOT’s problem. Filth and debris in another spot is TriMet’s job. The garbage and human waste next to the homeless camp is Metro’s responsibility.

Asked about the graffiti and filth along the roadways leading into the city, Mayor Ted Wheeler said, “That’s not the city. That is the state. Those are ODOT right-of-ways and that’s their responsibility.”

When you’re trying to clean up Portland, it’s easy to pass the buck.

Adams is already cutting through the bureaucratic mess. He’s working with ODOT and other agencies, organizing business groups, volunteers, community leaders to come together to just get the job done.

The phenomena of trash

“I have never seen the trash problem this bad,” said Chris Carico, the head of SOLVE. “I’m a native Oregonian. I was born at Good Sam and in all my years here I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Carico has mobilized hundreds of volunteers and groups to meet the challenge and working with Adams as a key part of the solution.

It’s overwhelming. Once trash piles up it attracts more trash.

“There’s another phenomena happening right now with people dumping their household trash in encampments of the homeless,” she said. “So once again you see where people are littering because there’s already trash.”

A company contracted by Metro to cleanup garbage sites is required to sift through every pile, every bag, checking for used needles and biohazards. It’s not the kind of work well-meaning volunteers are equipped to do without training and precautions.

“It’s got to be a staff-led event because we are the ones that know what we are doing,” Carico said. “We are discouraging volunteers from going out on their own for some of these areas that are a little bit rough.”

Trash can be picked up and the results are instantly seen. But the long-term damage to Portland’s downtown can’t be undone quickly. It’s difficult to bring boarded up businesses back and make people feel safe again.

Portland’s tarnished reputation

How do you restore a city’s heart, its reputation?

“Some people think the solution to a bad reputation is a public relations campaign,” said economist Bill Conerly.

Conerly wrote a scathing article about Portland in Forbes Magazine earlier this year titled, “Death of a City.”

“The solution to a bad reputation is to stop doing the things that gave you a bad reputation,” he said. “Portland needs to address these really significant issues.”

The issues include ongoing vandalism from repeat offenders. Wheeler recently took a firmer stand on arrests and put pressure on Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt to follow through with prosecutions.

Adams agrees with Mayor Wheeler’s tougher stance.

“This is about stopping self-described anarchists who just last week said, ‘Maybe we should, you know, start another fire inside the Multnomah County Courthouse,’” Adams said. “This group of self-described anarchists with their quote-unquote direct action is a code word for ‘destroy property.’ That’s a crime. And our job is to stop that crime and to prosecute, to arrest and get the DA to prosecute those that are guilty of it.”

Time to re-think downtown Portland

Jim Mark heads up Melvin Mark properties. His family has been in business 75 years owning, operating and managing buildings, many in the downtown core. His buildings have been damaged. They’ve been boarded up. He’s waived rent for the last year for many of his tenants.

But he continues to invest in downtown Portland and remains optimistic.

“Protests and violence over the past year has put us in a very difficult spot and it’s going to take some time to get it back,” Mark said. “I think leadership comes from all of us. So we’re all responsible for where our future is in Portland.

“I’m not quite on the ‘Let’s blame the mayor or let’s blame the council.’”

If Portland wants a last recovery, Mark said it may be time to re-think the downtown like the city did in the 1970s and 1980s — a time when downtown Portland was a model other cities admired and copied.

“Portland did have to reinvent itself. It had to give people a reason to come down, whether it was retail or just the urban environment,” Mark said. “We’ve got to re-think the way that works again.”

Can Portland work again? Can the city did out from the current mess? Can it recapture the spirit and drive that made Portland such a special place to live, to raise families, to grow businesses, to dream?

Or is Portland over?

“Absolutely not! Portland is not over,” Carrico said. “We’re still a wonderful community. Everytime I’m out at an event and I see my community members, my neighbors, it gives me hope everyday.”

Sam Adams, former mayor and currently part of Mayor Wheeler’s team, also believes things will turn.

“Portland is not over if people lean in to helping to recover. It takes every single one of us.”

By: Jeff Gianola | Source

Will In-N-Out Burger Come to Beaverton?

Portland Metro Area residents rejoice! Almost one year ago we were anxiously awaiting the grand opening of In-N-Out’s Keizer location, the second In-N-Out to be built in Oregon. Sure, it was still a 45-minute drive to get a taste of one of the most popular burgers in the country, but we were ready to make that commitment. Now, we may get a shot at having an even shorter commute for animal fries.

For awhile the rumor mill was pushing out information regarding In-N-Out scouting out more locations in Oregon. Cities such as Hillsboro,  Tualatin, Happy Valley, Oregon City, Beaverton, and Vancouver, Washington were in the mix, two of which seemed to get the most traction: Beaverton and Tualatin. While there has been no confirmation that In-N-Out is looking to develop in Tualatin, a proposal has been submitted by them for Beaverton.

According to the proposal that In-N-Out submitted to the Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation, In-N-Out is seeking to build a 3,879 sf restaurant complete with a drive thru and outdoor seating area over at 10565 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Highway. For those not familiar with that location, it is close to 217 and across from the Uwajimaya Asian Supermarket.

Now, while you may think that letting In-N-Out demolish the current Hawaiian Time restaurant to build this highly desired restaurant is a no-brainer, there actually is community anxiety over it, primarily for one reason. Traffic. If you have ever ventured out to the Keizer location you will notice two things. One, the line is really really long. So long that it goes out into the other businesses, weaving its way, sometimes hard to know exactly where it is….because the cones that denote the lines are just that far away. The second thing you will notice is that even a year after its opening, wait time still can be up to two hours long in the line for In-N-Out. That isn’t a typo. Two hours. People are willing to submit to the high wait times, because this is the only close location for this restaurant.

Naturally, Beaverton residents are highly concerned. Uwajimaya, along with Chick-Fil-A, Target, and Home Depot. already generate quite a bit of traffic to the area. If In-N-Out were to be added, knowing what the current wait times in Keizer are, how many more people would that bring? What would the congestion look like, especially around rush hour? 217 is already gridlocked at that time of day. How much worse would that get?

On December 28th, there will be a virtual neighborhood meeting for anyone wanting to attend. This meeting, originally scheduled for December 22nd, is to gain community feedback. If you are interested in sharing your opinion or listening in, make sure you have Zoom downloaded, and use the Meeting ID: 834-0465-2990. Over Zoom? You can also dial into the meeting by calling: 1-877-853-5257.

What are your thoughts about In-N-Out potentially expanding to Beaverton? Are you excited for more options and a shorter drive? Ambivalent as to whether it comes or not because you don’t like the food? Or are you concerned that this may bring too much congestion to Beaverton?

Hillsboro Is One of the Best Places to Live

When it comes to Hillsboro being one of the best cities to live in, I’m a little biased. Having lived in the area for the majority of my life, I love what this city has to offer, and I am thrilled that others are seeing the value of this community as well. In fact, Money Magazine recently released their “Best Places to Live 2020” list, and Hillsboro came in at #29.

It was no surprised that the first thing that Money Magazine mentioned about Hillsboro was the “Silicon Forest” that everyone has heard of. Intel, IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, and Genentech are several heavy hitters that people around the nation keep an eye on, and are consistently in the news here in Oregon, especially with the amount of jobs they provide. The number of breweries you may find also was not too much of a shock, as one of the fun facts about Oregon is that Portland alone has more breweries than any other city in the world. With Hillsboro being within 30 minutes of Portland (longer if during rush hour, shorter if the stars and moon align), one has access to not only the breweries like Vertigo, Ambacht, and 3 Mugs that are within Hillsboro’s city limits, but everything that Portland has to offer as well.

These are all lovely aspects of residing in Hillsboro, but here are a few more observations that may be added to the justification of why Hillsboro is one of the best places to live:

  1. Parks and Nature Preserves: One of the things I love most about the Hillsboro area is its walkability, not only in the neighborhoods, but in the numerous parks in the city. Hillsboro has over 1500 acres of designated green space, including the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, Orchard Park, Noble Woods Park, Rood Bridge Park, and so much more.
  2. Home of the Hillsboro Hops and Portland Timbers 2: Hillsboro is home to the only Portland Metro Area professional baseball team, the Hillsboro Hops. Hops games are generally always packed and are such family friendly events that you would be surprised if you went and didn’t see anyone you know there. Within the last year or so, Hillsboro also came to an agreement to be home to the Portland Timbers secondary soccer team, opening up new opportunities for Hillsboro residents to enjoy one of their favorite franchises without making the trek to Providence Park.
  3. Growth: Hillsboro has grown to be the state’s 5th largest city (home to over 100,000 residents), and has the 4th largest school district in Oregon. Not only am I a graduate of a Hillsboro School, but my children attend school in Hillsboro as well. Having the opportunity to be an active participant in the school district, I get the privilege of viewing how decisions are made, the amount of community involvement, and the amount of care that goes into providing opportunities to students. Hillsboro always has eyes on how to create a thriving community. Check out their 2035 plan here.
  4. Environmentally Conscious: Hillsboro has spent consecutive years at the top, and still remain, the national leader in green power usage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The amazing thing about this is that this comes from residents voluntarily choosing to be environmentally conscious. Since 2012, the amount of green power used in homes and businesses in Hillsboro has increased from 39% to 64.8 percent in 2020.
  5.  City Pride: While Hillsboro is known for bringing in many new residents from out of state due to our abundant “Silicon Forest”, you will also find that many are life-long residents, or leave for a short time and then return. There is a lot of pride in living in the Hillsboro area, from the way the city works to provide opportunities to residents such as small business grants, voices in the community town halls over topics like police work, and  celebrating the diversity of cultures  to the friendliness of our community.

In Hillsboro, you have accessibility to Portland, the coast within an hour to an hour and a half’s reach, and just about the same amount of time to the mountains. We have the benefits of urban living in a suburban setting. Money magazine covered some of the basics of why Hillsboro is one of the best places to live, but in truth there are so many more reasons than what has been listed.

What attributes does your area have that make it your “best place to live”?