A Guide to Neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon
City of 90 Plus Neighborhoods
So what does ice cream have to do with Portland neighborhoods? Susan’s husband (Rolf) loves ice cream and just about any flavor will do. He has a difficult time deciding which flavor will suit him on a given day and he will change his mind a couple times before making his final pick.
It struck me that Portland neighborhoods are like Rolf trying to decide on his ice cream flavor. Everyone of them offers a new taste sensation. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t pick a favorite. You have lots to sample from and it may mean changing your mind a couple of times.
Below are some maps to help you locate and get acquainted with the Portland metro area:
- Click here to view a Google map of the Portland neighborhoods and communities.
- Click here to view a Wikimap of the Portland metro area in which you can select categories (hotels, parks, restaurants, interesting places, etc.) to display.
- View a Portland Neighborhood Map in PDF format. This map displays the neighborhood boundaries the best.
The third edition(20150 of the Newcomer’s Handbook® for Moving to and Living in Portland, about 560 pages long, contains detailed and updated information on neighborhoods, getting settled, helpful services, child care and education, cultural life, and much more. Written by Bryan Geon, who has spent over a decade exploring Portland and the surrounding region, both as a long-time resident and serial newcomer, this book is the guide to Portland and the surrounding communities.
Office of Neighborhood Involvement
If you like names, you will love those that classify Portland neighborhoods. For example, on the west side you’ll find Goose Hollow, Lair Hill, John’s Landing, and Terwilliger. Across the river (Willamette) to the east are Brooklyn, Eastmoreland, Ladd’s Addition, Mt. Tabor, and Sullivan’s Gulch.
According to the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, (ONI) a city agency, there are more than 90 neighborhood associations in Portland. It has hyperlinks to all the individual neighborhoods data, calendars, map, and city information. This site has so much information and links, it is difficult to navigate. But perseverance will be rewarded.
The “neighborhood revolution” began when a number of neighborhoods began to argue for their own versions of local revitalization in the late 60s. By 1972, active neighborhood associations and planning committees had established a presence that politicians and planning administrators could not have ignored even had they wanted to do so. Two groups are credited with creating today’s active neighborhood associations:
- The Northwest District Association formed in 1969 to deal with a proposed hospital expansion. It worked with the Planning Bureau to develop an alternative plan that would preserve Northwest as a high density residential area.
- The Hill Park Association organized also organized in 1969 to fight the possible clearance of the Lair Hill neighborhood, located just south of the downtown urban renewal zone. It joined three other neighborhoods to develop their own district plan to preserve fragments of old South Portland and Fulton.
In January 1972, the Portland City Council under the direction of Mayor Terry Schrunk convened the District Planning Organization Task Force to explore the idea of a city structure for neighborhood and district citizen participation. The City was acknowledging the current phenomena of increased citizen interest and participation in the planning and the delivery of government services. as well as requirements on city, state and federal levels for defined citizen participation structures. In 1973, newly-elected Mayor Neil Goldschmidt supported neighborhood participation in city government by proposing a Bureau of Neighborhood Organizations with a budget of $104,000. By 1979, there were 60 active neighborhood associations in Portland, and the city’s planning process and neighborhood efforts were aligned with major accomplishments across the city in neighborhood revitalization.
Nomenclature Deciphering the difference between official neighborhood names as maintained by the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) and what Portlanders call a neighborhood can be a problem. For example, most Portlanders call the official ONI neighborhood of Southwest Hills by the two older historical names: Council Crest and Portland Heights. The official neighborhood name for the area in the hills of Northwest Portland is “Hillside” but many Portlanders call it “King’s Heights.”
Best Places This amazing website is the creation of Bert Sperling who lives in Portland and Depoe Bay, Oregon. He is a co-author of “Cities Ranked & Rated: More Than 400 Metropolitan Areas Evaluated in the U.S. & Canada” (Wiley Publishing). The site offers various cost-of-living calculations, as well as information about schools and amenities, and allows users to take a quiz to help find the best place to live. You’ll answer questions about your life stage, job, amenities, schools, health care, culture, etc. Then the site will provide you with a list of places to live.
- Bright Neighbor This site lists events, goods and services. Additional features enable users to connect for rides, trades and more. Users can click on an event, for example, and find a list of people offering or looking for rides to the event, too. And instead of selling or hunting for goods and services one at a time, users can keep a wish list or inventory of offerings in a “Swap & Share” section.
- Neighborhood Notes celebrates the people, places and things in all 95 neighborhoods, not just the central city, and strives to share resources that drive local prosperity—better neighborhoods plus better businesses equals a better city—for all citizens, now and in the future.
- Wikipedia Wiki does a short writeup about all the Portland neighborhoods along with maps and links. They also give all the National Register of Historic Places listings within each section of the city.
Portland Greenest Neighborhoods
Working with Portland General Electric (PGE) and Energy Trust of Oregon, Sustainable Business Oregon (SBO) obtained sets of useful numbers on energy. PGE sent SBO its 10 leading ZIP codes in terms of renewable energy purchases, by percentages, while Energy Trust provided a list of its residential solar projects by ZIP code.
What SBO really wanted was city data on recycling and composting rates by ZIP code. It turns out the city doesn’t track its efforts by ZIP codes because it contracts with 18 waste carriers that work across neighborhood and ZIP code boundaries. SBO also wanted the city’s data on water usage by ZIP code, per capita, but the city couldn’t procure that either.
So what we have is SBO’s inaugural Greenest Neighborhoods list as of July 2013. The areas were rated on a cumulative index that awarded points for landing within either, or both, of the PGE and Energy Trust’s 10 leading ZIP codes for renewable energy usage. The list includes the neighborhoods within a ZIP code along with landmarks in the ZIP code.
Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND)
The acronym TND stands for Traditional Neighborhood Development, a comprehensive planning system that includes a variety of housing types and land uses in a defined area. The variety of uses permits educational facilities, civic buildings and commercial establishments to be located within walking distance of private homes. A TND is served by a network of paths, streets and lanes suitable for pedestrians as well as vehicles. This provides residents the option of walking, biking or driving to places within their neighborhood. Present and future modes of transit are also considered during the planning stages.
Public and private spaces have equal importance, creating a balanced community that serves a wide range of home and business owners. The inclusion of civic buildings and civic space — in the form of plazas, greens, parks and squares — enhances community identity and value.
For more information about new urbanism, see the article Welcome to the New Urbanism.
The Town Paper website provides a list of TNDs throughout the world. Oregon has over fifteen on the list.
Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. Walk Score shows you a map of what’s nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property by just inserting the address.
Your Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100. The walkability of an address depends on how far you are comfortable walking—after all, everything is within walking distance if you have the time. Scores are from 100 (walkers’ paradise) where most errands can be accomplished on foot and you get by without owning a car to below 50 (not walkable).
Portland might be the most walking, biking, and public transit friendly city on the West Coast. Most neighborhoods have walkable food cart pods, supermarkets, movie theaters and cafes.
Portland’s neighborhoods are a mix of classic craftsman homes, rental apartments, and new construction condos, some of them green built and LEED certified. Hollywood has three MAX lines and four bus lines. Northwest offers maximum density, while Healy Heights and Sylvan-Highlands have great schools. The Pearl District is home to a number of tech and design start-ups, and a thriving restaurant scene that foodies love.
There are about 3,116 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in Portland. People in Portland can walk to an average of 5 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in five (5) minutes.
Portland is the 14th most walkable city in the U.S. with a Walk Score of 63 and 57% of the residents have a Walk Score of 70 or above. Click here to view the Portland scores for 89 neighborhoods.
City of Portland Auditor’s Reports
The City of Portland Auditor prepares a number of reports on city services. For example they conduct a community survey every few years. They asked Portlanders about their views on the quality of a variety of City services. They survey citizens on everything from police responsiveness to tap-water quality. They are called “Livability” reports. Another is the annual report entitled Service Efforts and Accomplishments (SEA).
This reports are available to view at the City of Portland Auditor’s website. Click on the “Publications” tab and then select “Audit Reports.” You can select reports based on the year they were published.
Portland Maps The best source for current demographic data for Portland neighborhoods can be found at Portland Maps. You will have to know the address of a home within a neighborhood to obtain the census information. For a neighborhood, you can find the following:
- Percentage of home ownership vs. renters
- Number of households
- Size in acres
Other information located at Portland Maps: assessor/taxlot Information, aerial photos, elevation, schools, parks, zoning maps, water/sewer, and natural hazard.
Washington County has its own version of Portland Maps.
Population Research Center The Population Research Center located at Portland State University provides and abundance of demographic data for the Portland Metropolitan area. U.S. 2000 Census data is available for all Oregon metro areas, Oregon counties, and incorporated cities (as well as Census Designated Places).
US Census Bureau US Census Bureau also provides demographic data of the Portland Metropolitan (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties) area.
The Portland Monthly magazine will permit you to download their Real Estate Guide to Neighborhoods and Communities. It is an excellent resource.
Neighborhood coalitions are independent non-profit organizations which contract with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement to facilitate citizen participation services and related neighborhood crime prevention activities for the neighborhood associations and citizens within a geographically defined area. The board of each coalition is primarily composed of representatives from its member neighborhood associations.
Some of the websites such as Southeast Uplift have excellent links to each neighborhood in their respective geographic areas.
Below is a list of Portland’s neighborhood coalitions, contacts and websites:
NE Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN)
4815 NE 7th Avenue, 97211
Drawing Some Conclusions
Here are a few conclusions that can help you with selecting a neighborhood.
- Most of the “highlands” are on the west side. As such, most of the more expensive neighborhoods are on the west side.
- Although some new homes have been built to fill in vacant land in the stopover, everyday and highland neighborhoods, most of the newer housing is in the suburbs. In order to increase density, newer multiple-unit housing is being built close to downtown Portland. This includes everything from rowhouses, condos, and lofts. Underutilized warehouses in the Pearl district are being converted to loft housing and new buildings (both traditional condos and lofts) are being erected.
- Most west side homes are built into the hills; a smaller number sit on stilts. A popular west side style is the daylight basement, which is built into the hill, with some rooms at street level, and others on the lower level. West side streets tend to curve around the hills, often intersecting at odd angles.
- East side streets are generally straight, and they tend to follow a north/south and east/west grid. A popular east side style, now known as the Old Portland, is a small bungalow home, with an open floor plan and big front porch. Many Old Portland homes were built during the building booms in the early part of the century.
Citizens can access the predatory sex offender database on the Oregon State Police website. The website allows searches by zip code, last name, or other types of information.
CAUTION: The list of predatory sex offenders on the public site is much shorter than the list of all registered sex offenders. The site explains the criteria used for the web list.
You may request a complete list of all sex offenders in your neighborhood by telephone or in writing. Call (503) 378-3725, extension 44429.
House Bill 2549, passed in 2013, prompted changes to the Oregon State sex offender program. In part, this bill directs the Department of Corrections to adopt a risk assessment tool and classify each registered sex offender based on their risk of reoffending in the community. It also established general rules regarding community notification based on assessment results.
The below City of Portland neighborhoods have detailed profiles.
Downtown and Close to downtown
- West Hills
- Arlington Heights
- Forest Park
- Hillside (aka King’s Heights)
- Southwest Hills (Council Crest and Portland Heights)
- Southwest Portland
- South Portland (Corbett, Fulton, Johns Landing, Lair Hill, and Terwilliger)
- Northeast Portland
- Grant Park
- Rose City Park