The scoop from the other Nob Hill

Not being a denizen of Northwest Portland these days, I don't have reason to check in with the NW Examiner newspaper much. But an alert reader sent me this month's issue, which is available here, and it's got some good stuff in it.

On the cover is a sordid tale of lies and coverups at City Hall. Maybe the worst part is how the bureaucrats over there lie to the politicians who are supposedly running the bureaus. That may explain a lot of why the place is in the tank. Our "commission" form of government is an epic fail, little wonder given that it's about 80 years out-of-date.

Back on page 8, perhaps not coincidentaly, the same city bureau that looks so bad on the cover is taken to task for letting the chi-chi Café Nell restaurant make its neighbors miserable with noise. That's the joint where the mayor, Dud Wheeler, takes dates and tries not to get punched out.

The city of Portland has waived noise limits for Café Nell at Northwest 20th and Kearney streets and is working on an ordinance that would override the restaurant’s zoning nonconformance.

Scarlett Wise, who lives with her two daughters next door to the restaurant, has complained about the noise generated by Café Nell’s expansion into its parking lot, which has been used for outdoor seating during the pandemic.

Wise fears the city will grant the zoning variance Café Nell owner Vanessa Preston is seeking to allow the tented 50-by-100-foot parking lot to serve large crowds after COVID restrictions are lifted. Since a business at this site predated the zoning code, the restaurant is allowed to serve up to 49 customers indoors, but no expansion of space or intensity is permissible in its residential zone.

An earlier story explained:

Neighbors estimate that the restaurant, which has an indoor seating capacity of 49, now has more than 100 outdoor seats. Propane heaters provide each table with warmth, backed up by an industrial-grade natural gas furnace. In tandem, they keep patrons, in the words of reviewers, “super-toasty” and warm enough to remove one’s cashmere sweater....

The city noise control officer found this industrial grade natural gas furnace to exceed the noise limit for residential zones by 15 decibels....

“In addition, there is a separate Bluetooth speaker inside the outdoor lounge,” said Renee Mercado, who lives with her husband and three children directly north of the restaurant. “This speaker plays a separate soundtrack and is turned up so that when all 70-plus diners are talking, they can still hear the music. This speaker reverberates between the buildings and into our bedrooms.

“It’s putting the neighbors through absolute hell and bedlam,” she told the NW Examiner.

Some neighbors have pointed stereos outward to blare their own music in retaliation. Bedlam indeed.

Scarlett Wise, whose home is hemmed in on two sides by the restaurant, said, “We … live through pure hell. Music, high-powered machines and crowds of people 12 to 14 hours per day, seven days per week...."

Nowadays the City Hall noise control operation is part of the "Office of Community & Civic Life." Just the name on the door already tells you it's a joke. Until recently "run" by former commissioner  Chloe Eudaly, now it's got commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty nominally in charge. Heaven help us all.

NW Examiner editor Allan Classen calls it like he sees it, and these days what he's seeing is pretty bad. Let's hope he keeps pointing out the follies.


  1. Back in the days, the corruption and favoritism was more discrete. We all miss those days.

  2. Jack, check out the lead story in the June issue, just out today. Yep, Cafe Nell owner Vanessa is being even more horrible than before. And City Hall enabling her childish behavior.


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