Shelli’s Guide to Portland

Let Shelli Find You a Home and a Neighborhood

Welcome to my Website about the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. The site is designed for newcomers to the area so you can learn about Portland and its communities. It’s loaded with information about the Portland area housing market, neighborhoods, schools, weather, parks, taxes and what you can expect if you lived here. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. 

If you have questions or if you’re interested in buying or selling a home in the Portland area, contact me online or call me at (503) 816-8436.

Shelli Gowdy
Real Estate Broker
Shelli’s New Listing
3276 NE Bryce St.
Portland 97212
$945,000
MLS#: 18490698

Getting to Know Portland

There was a time when saying you lived in Portland would get a response like, “Isn’t that out west?” Now, people not only know where the city is but also inevitably ask, “Is it just like the show?” The answer today is definitely, No. IFC’s Portlandia, which began its eighth and final season in 2018 no longer portrays Portland. The early sketches skewered the city’s progressive optimism and “Keep Portland Weird” mindset. The city’s popularity boomed, and not just because of the show. But the cost of housing rose, and the “Dream of the ’90s” started to sting when that part-time barista job no longer covered rent. The idea of young people coming to Portland to retire is dead. Today Portland is full of high tech companies along with thriving shoe and clothing companies. It’s a city looking for talented and skilled workers. 

Why Two Portlands?

How did the country end up with two cities named Portland? In 1845 two men both had land claims for an area known as The Clearing in what is now downtown Portland. They couldn’t agree on a name to call the area so to resolve the deadlock, they flipped a coin — now known as the Portland Penny. Asa Lovejoy, who originally hailed from Massachusetts, picked Boston. Francis Pettygrove, who was from Maine, picked Portland and he won the toss.

Portland lies at the junction of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. The south-to-north-flowing Willamette River bisects the city into east and west sides and is the 13th largest river in the contiguous United States. It has an average annual discharge of 32,000 cubic feet per second at its confluence with the Columbia River northwest of Portland. The Willamette Basin discharges more runoff per acre than any other large river in the United States, with most of it occurring during the winter rainy season.

Many have trouble pronouncing the river’s name (They usually called it the Will-a-met) so we’ll give you a handy guide that one of Oregon’s governors devised: It’s the Will-lam-et,  damn it. Now that we have the river correct, we’ll give you some help with the state’s name. Place the stress on the first syllable (Or) and keep the “g” hard, as in “gun”. You can say “OR-ih-gun” or “OR-eg-un.” You are now on your way to becoming an Oregonian.

The City of Bridges

Besides being called the Rose City, Puddletown, and Stumptown (from its lumbering past), Portland is nicknamed Bridgetown for the different bridges that unite east and west Portland. There are 12 bridges in a span of 11 miles. Most Portlanders have their favorite bridge, and mine is the Hawthorne. It’s the oldest vertical-lift bridge in operation in the United States and watching hundreds of bikers pedal across the bridge in the morning is breathtaking (over 8,000 cyclists commute to work on the Hawthorne along with 17,400 bus riders). Just think of all the cars that are not on the road! More than seven percent of all Portland commuters choose to get to work by bike — this is the highest in the country. The Hawthorne was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 2012.

The Hawthorne has character but for pure beauty, the St. Johns wins by a landslide. David Steinman, the designer of the St. Johns bridge, was inspired by the hills and evergreens that surrounded Portland and wanted the bridge to match. The suspension style that he ultimately chose included soaring Gothic arches topped with copper spires, which were intended to complement the “evergreen spires” on the trees around it. Steinman considered the bridge to be a work of art. On March 17, 1931 (St. Patrick’s Day, appropriately) it was announced that the St Johns bridge would be painted the redundantly named “verde green.” The decision to do so was fairly radical: at the time, almost all bridges were painted black or grey. Today you will find bridges throughout the United States painted  “federal standard 595 color 24272,” but nobody calls it that. From New Hampshire to Washington and even Canada, uncoated steel structures are painted  ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) green.

There is a new bridge in Portland called Tilikum Crossing, and you can bike or walk across it but you cannot drive your vehicle on it. You can also ride a bus, streetcar, or light rail train on the bridge. The Tilikum Crossing is 180-foot-tall with pentagonal-shaped stay-cable towers as the bridge’s focal point. The 1,720-foot-long bridge also features two landside piers and two in-water piers. The 780-foot-long main span deck is separated into a 31-foot-wide transitway between the tower legs to accommodate two lanes of track and two flanking multi-use paths for pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a beauty! Tilikum is a Chinook Indian word meaning “people,” “tribe,” and “relatives,” and has come to describe friendly people and friends. So Tilikum Crossing is the people’s bridge.

light art aesthetic lighting system is what makes the Tilikum different from other bridges. It alters the bridge’s lighting effects based on the Willamette’s speed, depth, and water temperature. It uses 178 LED modules to illuminate the cables, towers, and underside of the deck. The base color is determined by the water’s temperature. The timing and intensity of the base color’s changes, moving the light across the bridge, are determined by the river’s speed.

The City of Roses becomes the city of bicycles in early August each year as upwards of 12,000 people clamp on helmets to join in the annual Providence Bridge Pedal. The event, extraordinary for its route over Portland’s Willamette River bridges, draws Oregonians and out-of-towners of all ages.  Children in bike buggies, couples on tandems and adults pedaling everything from sleek titanium racers to one-speed cruisers fill the streets and bridges from early morning until early afternoon. If you’re new to Portland, you must try it at least once.

Portland’s Quadrants

Now that we know the river and bridges, let’s talk about the city’s “quadrants.” It may prevent you from getting lost. For a city that’s split by a river, Portland is surprisingly easy to navigate by car, bicycle, or foot.  The exception is traversing the West Hills as many of the streets curve and wind.

The city is laid out in five quadrants: north and south are divided by Burnside Street, east, and west by the Willamette River. The official quadrants of Portland are North, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast. All addresses within the city are denoted as belonging to one of these specific quadrants with the prefixes: N, NW, NE, SW or SE. Downtown Portland is located in the SW and NW quadrants. 

Locals will tell you the eastside is quirkier and more eclectic than the westside. The east side is very bike-friendly (it’s flatter than the westside), and homes are somewhat more affordable than the westside. We like the eastside because of the variety and number (also reasonable prices) of restaurants. There are over 20 dining establishments within 30 or so blocks on SE Division Street. The westside has the parks and zoo (there are restaurants, too).

Yes, it Does Rain

The Pacific Northwest is known for warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters, and Portland is no exception. Compared with Seattle, Portland is both slightly warmer and dryer all year round. Portland gets about the same amount of rain that an eastern city such as Boston or New York (40 inches) gets. It’s just that in Portland it rains more often and it’s a drizzle. But then again, there are 144 sunny days and an average temperature of 71 degrees.  And even though many days may be cloudy and drizzly, it’s rare to hit stormy weather or a full day of heavy rain.

Portland is near both mountains and sea, which means it has what is called a “Mediterranean” climate. Portland is nowhere near as warm as southern California! Summers in Portland are the best. There is little rainfall (only about 4.5 inches during the entire summer), and days are warm and dry. Even better, while the weather is warm, it’s rarely hot: high temperatures in June, July, and August generally top out in the low 80’s, with an occasional day or so over 90.

Home Costs

Because Portland’s economy is booming along with the fact that the word is out about the city’s progressive political climate, home costs have increased. The choices are also limited; the inventory of homes for sale is low. Today the median price of a home in the 5-county Portland area is just under $400,000. Much cheaper than the San Francisco area where home prices are well over a million dollars. In February 2018 the median price of a home in Seattle was $777,000. Lower homes costs are the reason many of the Silicon Valley and Seattle high tech firms are opening offices in Portland. Many startup firms are choosing Portland because of the lower home costs.

We Read, We Drink, We Listen to Music

Portlanders read a lot (nothing beats sitting by the fireplace with a good book on a rainy evening), and we have the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world called Powell’s City of Books. It contains over 68,000 square feet, about 1.6 acres of retail floor space. It’s large enough to hold about four million books and every day it buys 3,000 used books. You will find the used books mixed right in with the new books. CNN rates it one of the ten “coolest” bookstores in the world. Our county library system is outstanding; in 2012 the Multnomah County Library circulated 24.8 million items — only New York Public Library circulated more. For the 11th year in a row, Multnomah County Library patrons have checked out and renewed more items than patrons of any other U.S. library serving fewer than one million residents.  

We love our liquids:  coffee, beer, and wine. WalletHub’s data crunchers compared the 100 largest cities across 14 key indicators of coffee lover-friendliness. Portland came in number two behind Seattle. Portland is often considered to be the Beer Capitol of the World with over 50 craft beer breweries in the Portland metro area. Many of Portland’s breweries have become famous for their beers, shipping their beers all over the world. Portland’s brewpubs are almost always family friendly and many of them have play areas for children. All of the brewpubs serve food and many serve foods that are organic and locally sourced. Frequenting brewpubs is a part of the Portland culture and a must for any visitor.

The state of Oregon has established an international reputation for its production of wine, ranking fourth in the country behind California, Washington, and New York. With 725 wineries in Oregon, a tourism industry has developed around wine tasting. Much of the tourism focuses on the wineries and tasting rooms in and around the Yamhill Valley southwest of Portland. Oregon is most famous for its Pinot noir, which is produced throughout the state. Pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley have received much critical acclaim from wine connoisseurs and critics, and Oregon is regarded as one of the premier Pinot-producing regions in the world.

The state’s main contributions to American popular music began in the 1960s when The Kingsmen and Paul Revere & the Raiders established Oregon as a minor center of frat rock and garage rock. Other musical groups that now call Portland home are Pink Martini, Decemberists, Kutless, Modest Mouse, The Shins, and She & Him. The Willamette Weeks annual Best New Band poll proves the sheer number of musicians worth hearing in this town has hardly fallen off. Every year, WW asks 200 of the most dedicated scene-watchers to name their favorite emerging acts, and every year, WW get a fresh crop of over 400 bands, rappers, singers, and producers to sift through. 

The Outdoors

If you love the outdoors, Portland is your kind of place. The Trust for the Public Land compared the 60 largest American cities based on the size and quality of park space. Different variables were inputted into a weighted equation and added together to generate an overall “score” for the city’s park system. “Analysis is based on the three most important characteristics of an effective park system,” according to the website, “acreage, services, and investment.” Portland tied for third place with Boston for cities in the country with the best green space. There are parks (10,763 acres which represent 11% of the city’s area), trails and green spaces scattered throughout the city — it’s perfect for a hike, a bike ride, or a pickup soccer game. Area waterways welcome those who enjoy rafting, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and boating.  And if there’s not enough to keep you occupied in the city itself, you won’t have to travel far to find beautiful scenery and outdoor pursuits. Head west and drive about  75 miles and you’ll be looking at the Pacific Ocean. The Cascade Range (Mt. Hood) is 50 miles to the east and there you will find skiing in the winter and hiking (and camping). 

What’s Not to Like?

Traffic, Oregon public schools, taxes, and the foolish expenditures of government money. That’s what not to like.

Vehicle traffic has gotten worse in the Portland area the last 2-3 years. One of the main reasons: more people moving into the area and we’re not using our public transportation system enough. We haven’t invested in infrastructure like more roads. Almost none of the additional commutes that originated in Portland in 2016 happened on bikes, foot or public transit. Instead, of the 12,000 additional commutes Portland added in 2016, 11,000 happened in cars. 

Oregon’s complicated property tax system is a “Frankentax” that needs a complete overhaul. That’s the conclusion of a report released in November 2013 by a City Club of Portland research committee.

Oregon schools perform in the bottom one-third nationality. They rank No. 39 in spending per student, adjusted for cost of living.  You can find superior school districts in the metro area as well as individual schools. It takes a little research, and we have a wealth of data about schools in our education section on the Moving to Portland Website.

Oregon leads all states in corrections’ expenditures as a percentage of the general fund at 10.9 percent.  Oregon currently spends more on corrections, $684 million, than on higher education, $648 million. This according to the Pew Report.

Real Estate News

The Gardner Report 2018

The following analysis of the Oregon and Southwest Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Posted November 7 2018, 11:00 AM PST by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate  Read more…

Tiny house helps veterans: Big donation from Street of Dreams builder (photos)

How much impact can a tiny house have on a community? A compact, portable home built on a travel trailer was seen by thousands of visitors during the 2018 Street of Dreams luxury new home tour in South Hillsboro. Then the one-of-a-kind dwelling was auctioned off to raise $30,000 for groups that help veterans. Read more…

Design hangovers: Trends that should stay, go in 2019 (photos)

11 December — Flipping through photos of creative people’s newly remodeled houses, adorn in dramatic paint colors and filled with conversation-starting furniture, can be entertaining. But for you to live happily with a trend, you have to love it. And you can’t love them all. So we wondered: What popular home design looks should continue into the new year and which ones should stop right here in 2018? Read more…

On the market: Oregon homes featuring coral, the 2019 color of the year (photos)

9 December — It’s time to highlight your bubbling aquarium because the Pantone Color Institute has selected orange-gold Living Coral as 2019’s color of the year. The natural, playful shade evokes a sense of comfort and buoyancy, says the team at Pantone, which sets professional color standards for home decor, fashion and other design industries. Read more…

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