Tools to Research Portland’s Neighborhoods and Communities

When it comes time to move to a new community or settle in a new neighborhood, the checklist generally begins like this:

  • Best school test scores
  • Most house for the money
  • Shortest commute

There’s another way to do this, however, that may yield more happiness for less money. Call it a values audit.

This checklist includes scouting the drop-off zone at schools, eavesdropping shamelessly, figuring out where people swim in the summer, scanning the community’s bookshelves and pestering the local psychologist. The object is to figure out what a community really stands for and whether you would want to be friends with any of the people who live there.

Not every real estate agent provides that sort of information. Specialists in a single area don’t have much incentive to offer the warts-and-all download, or they may fear being accused of violating federal law that forbids steering buyers based on race.

But the questions are about shared values and how community minded the residents are. So the answers will have to come from people who live there. Don’t be afraid to engage Portlanders in a conversation. Most Portlanders as well as suburban people are friendly and willing to talk with strangers. Stop by a coffee shop, restaurant, or food market and ask about the neighborhood, schools, shopping, crime, etc. Don’t restrict yourself to superficial questions. Offering to buy your new acquaintance a latte could get you good information. 

New York Times writer Ron Lieber in his YOUR MONEY weekly column wrote an extremely interesting story entitled, “43 Questions to Ask Before Picking a New Town.” You will be bemused with some of his methods of gathering intelligence about a community.

Neighborhood Pulse

Neighborhood Pulse provides information about the Portland region’s neighborhoods: how they are changing, who lives there, and the issues of interest to the region’s leaders and residents. It is well worth your time to explore Neighborhood Pulse to get specific information about neighborhoods as well as to browse the site to learn more about Portland and the metro area.

Neighborhood Pulse includes three components:

  • Neighborhood Profiles provide information about people and housing in each of Portland and Beaverton’s neighborhoods.
  • Greater Portland 21 provides a stories about how our region and its neighborhoods are is changing.
  • Neighborhood Pulse Map Viewer provides taxlot-level maps related to specific issues of interest to neighborhoods and advocacy groups.

Neighborhood Pulse complements Greater Portland Pulse by providing a neighborhood view of some of the data provided at the county and regional level on Greater Portland Pulse. 

Property Information

LoveThyNeighborPortland Maps  Using a street address, a Portland Maps user can track property tax and assessment histories back to 1997; lookup permits, permit violations and complaints about the property; and see which capital improvement projects the city plans within a half-mile of the property.  Maps show neighborhood zoning, utilities and land elevations, as well as aerial photos dating back to 2000 and potential natural hazards such as floods, landslides, wildfires, and earthquakes.

Zip Maps  This site will display a Google Map with an overlay of Zip Codes for over 41,000 zip codes in the U.S.A. Users can easily view the boundaries of each Zip Code. For example you can view a map of Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, with the 95 neighborhoods displayed to the right of the map — click on a neighborhood to view the neighborhood on the map. There is a lot more you can do with Zip Maps so you may want to read the “Instructions” or just try different ways to see the results.

Washington and Clackamas Counties

  • In Washington County you can find property information using Intermap.
  • In Clackamas County, building permits are available by address at the Clackamas County website. Click on the VelocityHall icon, then on the “Check/Research Permits” link.
  • Oregon City property maps and data can be found on the city’s OCWebMaps.

Map of Portland Houses that are Scheduled to be Demolished

As demand for housing in Portland continues to rise and developers demolish single-family homes to build multi-family housing, many residents are concerned about the changing landscape of their neighborhoods. The city of Portland gives residents another way to keep tabs on what’s going on in their community through a website that maps residential demolition permits throughout the city. If the user wants more information, the summary includes a link to the location’s entry on PortlandMaps.com.

Newcomer’s Handbook® for Moving to and Living in Portland

The third edition 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.

Portland Monthly Magazine Guide to Neighborhoods

PDXMonthlyMag_April2014In their April issue every year, the Portland Monthly Magazine features the past year home prices along with other information about Portland neighborhoods and suburban communities. 

The numbers on the website as well as the printed magazine are divided into four sections (real estate, people, crime, and lifestyle) on each of the Portland 90 plus neighborhoods as well as about 25 suburban communities. The website offers over 50 items of information about each Portland neighborhood and suburban community. There is more data online than in the printed magazine. 

The magazine added a feature on their website for homes sold in 2014 and it’s also available for homes sold in 2015 — an interactive map where you can click on a neighborhood and a pop-up displays five items (1-year median price change, 5-year median price change, median gross rent, walkability score and percent of newcomer) for a Portland neighborhood as well as a suburban community. 

To visit the magazine’s website latest stories and numbers visit their Real Estate section — click on “Neighborhoods” to view the numbers for the Portland neighborhoods and click on “Suburbs” for the numbers on communities in the metro area.Note the detailed numbers for each of the four sections for homes sold in 2014 and 2015 are displayed below the map.   To access the Portland neighborhoods and metro communities demographic data and home prices by year:

Getting to Work Via Public Transportation

Using the SpatialMatch Search for Homes tool ( https://www.movingtoportland.net/map-based-search/search-for-homes/) you can search for homes by distance to public transportation – both bus and rail. You will find this option on the ‘Advanced’ icon. 

TriMet’s Trip Planner ( http://trimet.org/#/planner) will provide you with different options (Bus, MAX Light Rail, Portland Streetcar, WES) for commuting to your work address (or other addresses) from any address you insert in the “From” field.

Walk Score (http://www.walkscore.com) provides a Walk Score, Transit Score, and a Bike Score for any address. Transit Score measures how well a location is served by public transit based on the distance and type of nearby transit lines.

Crime Websites

  • Crime Mapper  A feature of the Portland Maps website is CrimeMapper, which pinpoints the locations of individual crimes reported in a neighborhood.  You will need the address of a property.
  • Beaverton Police  They provide maps and statistics for 13 city neighborhoods.

The Portland Police Bureau tracks crimes by neighborhood, coalition, precinct, and city area. Parameters include date and type of crime as defined by the Uniform Crime Reports. This site is by far the easiest to use and the information it provides is superior to any other community in the Portland metro area.

Sex Offenders in Oregon:  A Broken System

State of Oregon Sex Offender Registry  The Oregon site lists information on approximately 700 sex offenders who have been classified as “sexually violent or predatory sex offenders” by the state Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision. In addition to names, addresses and photographs, the site includes a physical description of each offender, the type of vehicle he owns, a description of the crime committed, and the types of victims targeted.

Estimates vary widely but there are between 18,000-25,000 convicted sex offenders in Oregon. Of those  offenders, more than 95% get to live mostly private lives. You won’t find their names or addresses in any public database. That’s because state law says only “sexually violent offenders and  predatory sex offenders” get added to the public database.

Portlanders can bypass the state registry for sex-offender information.  Portland Maps uses maps to flag the homes of convicted sex offenders.

In 2003 The Oregonian did a series of articles on the sex offender system in Oregon and here is a quote from one of their stories:

“Oregon is two years behind entering names into its electronic database of registered sex offenders. It’s so out of date that local police don’t rely on it.

Oregon’s public website lists only a fraction — 2.5 percent — of the state’s more than 25,000 sex offenders. So residents can’t really tell who and how many sex offenders are in their neighborhoods.

Others come to Oregon with no intention of playing by the rules. They simply don’t register. They exploit federal and state laws that rely on the honor system. It’s up to an offender to continue to register.”

This means that we have a broken sex offender system in Oregon and the registry is virtually worthless.

US Census Bureau: Neighborhood Demographics

The City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement offers a census document on each of the Portland neighborhoods. The document cover the 2000 and 2010 census data has been broken down into geographic areas corresponding with the neighborhood association boundaries. It covers population, area/density, race, household, and housing units. A column called “Change” gives both raw numbers and percentages.

It’s a valuable tool in researching neighborhoods as you can see trends by a careful analysis of the data. For example if you looking for a neighborhood with children the document provides the number of children under 18 years old living with their parents. By noting the  change between 2000 and 2010, you can get an idea of where the neighborhood is heading.

Here is the direct link to the ONI Web pages.

Environmental Issues

EPA  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a database that may have an environmental impact on your community.  Click on the “Search Your Community” link and explore any ZIP code.

Oregon UST Cleanup Program  The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality keeps a database of any leaking underground storage tanks that have been reported. If you’re curious about the locations of past and present leaking heating-oil tanks in your neighborhood, just type in a ZIP code and read the results.

Follow the Money

Follow The Money  Find out which candidates and political party your neighbors supported.  Plug in your own address and read the list of financial contributors who live in your neighborhood. The National Institute on Money in State Politics is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization revealing the influence of campaign money on state-level elections and public policy in all 50 states.

Is a Neighborhood Red or Blue? 

The Oregonian’s web developer, Mark Friesen, took precinct data from the 2012 presidential race to offer one gauge. He shaded the Portland metro area, including parts of Southwest Washington, red and blue.

Red shows areas where Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, won a majority of votes. Blue shows where the Democratic president, Barack Obama, did. Shades deepen for areas with an especially lopsided vote.

Zoom in or out, and click any precinct to see vote totals and percentages for the candidates.

Schools

Portland Monthly Magazine has a wealth of data about public schools in the metro area to include both Oregon and Washington. It also has information about private schools.

Great Schools  Compare neighborhood schools and retrieve test scores.  You can also find data on student-teacher ratios, student socioeconomic levels, and ethnicity.  Read  parent’s candid comments about the schools.

In Oregon, information varies from district to district. Portland Public Schools maintains quantities of data, broken down by school.

In Oregon, information varies from district to district. The Oregon Department of Education maintains staggering quantities of data, broken down by school.

Restaurants Inspections

Restaurants Inspections  Wonder what the Multnomah county health inspectors found when they last visited your favorite restaurant in Portland?

Very Local Weather

Wunderground Weather  Sometimes the local weather report is just not local enough.  The solution? Many amateur meteorologists maintain personal weather stations throughout the metropolitan area. Scroll down to the “Portland Weather Stations at a Glance” and then click on the icon “Station Select” and you can select the station either from the list or from the icons on the map.

 

 

 

lightrailconvent

 

The MAX light rail heading downtown with the Convention Center in the background.

 

 

 

 

eastmoreland_golf

Eastmoreland Golf Course in Southeast Portland.

 

 

 

 

 

bullrun

Bull Run near Mount Hood.
Bull Run is the main source of water for Portlanders.

 

 

 

 

waterfront_spring3

Springtime at Gov. Tom McCall
Waterfront Park.

 

 

 

 

pleasantvalley

Pleasant Valley on Portland’s eastside.

 

 

 

 

 

japanesegarden

Japanese Garden
in Washington Park.

 

 

 

 

laurelhurst

Laurelhurst Park
on the eastside.