The solution to every Portland problem

In the '60s and '70s, Portland did some really bad things to some ethnic neighborhoods. The Jewish neighborhood south of downtown was wiped out for the freeways, and the Black neighborhood in inner north and northeast was wiped out for Emanuel Hospital and other white things. 

It's 50-some years later, and we've been facing up to the Black displacement history for a couple of decades. People want to do things now to try to make up for the bad that was done then. But there are a number of problems with this. One is that the vast majority of both perpetrators and victims of that era are gone, most of them dead and almost all the rest of them far from Portland. You can track down the victims' descendants and give them money, I guess, but no amount of cash is going to make up for the 50 or 60 years that they didn't get to live in their once-vibrant community.

Another problem with the corrective actions is that they're being run by a city bureaucracy that is utterly beholden to developer and construction weasels. And with those guys pulling the strings, there's only one answer: crap multi-story apartment bunkers here, there, and everywhere. They used to be called "the projects," but that's not allowed any more. Now they're "workforce housing," or some other mildly Communist-sounding moniker. With no place to put a car, of course. 

Sure enough, the developer-construction dudes who have hijacked the Black displacement narrative in Portland are using it to their great advantage. The ostensible reason they get public money handed to them to build more of their obnoxious human warehouses is that they're somehow remedying the injustices of 60 years ago. Indeed, they've even talked the politicians into covering I-5 at the Rose Quarter to give them more sites for cr-apartments. And it's all because of what was done to the Black people in the '60s and '70s.

Gimme a break.

This week, Nigel of the Weed took a brief break from compiling his dossier on Betsy Johnson to write about the city's often-ludicrous gestures toward correcting Black displacement. His story is here.

The results of what the city calls the North/Northeast Neighborhood Housing Strategy are mixed. In 2018, Mayor Ted Wheeler called it an “abject failure.” Today, a national housing discrimination expert says Portland’s strategy is a “pernicious” attempt at resegregation.

At the same time, for 94 families who’ve been able to buy homes through the program, it’s life changing. And 400 other families have been able to move back into new, city-subsidized apartments in Albina.

In addition to the thinly disguised "projects," the city also hands out money to a lucky few Black folks to have a down payment on actually owning a single-family home – you know, the kind the city "planners" are working so hard to tear down. But as it turns out, even if the beneficiaries can make their mortgage payments, they can't afford the high prices of everything else in town. And they don't feel welcome any more, either.

Roslyn Hill, a Black architect who bought a commercial property on North Alberta Street in 1993, says it’s impossible to re-create the Black Portland community of her youth.

“It’s too late to do it the way they are trying to do it,” Hill says. “The neighborhood doesn’t have the culture anymore. A lot of the Black churches aren’t there anymore. And a lot of the stores and the businesses, they are not friendly.”

The look of the neighborhood just isn’t the same. “I’m on Alberta Street all the time,” Hill adds. “Usually, I don’t see anybody who looks like me.”...

Renae also feels somewhat conflicted. If the city only aimed to right wrongs and give her the opportunity to be a homeowner, she says she could have gotten a lot more for her money in Gresham or Parkrose. And, she adds, the Northeast Portland of her youth is gone.

“It doesn’t feel like home anymore,” she says. “I feel like a stranger. It’s pretentious, it’s wealthy, and it’s expensive—you’ve got a make $100,000 a year to live in this neighborhood."

Darn right. Her water bills alone may be enough to drive her into default.

I'm not sure how you even stop gentrification, much less reverse it. But I do know whom I would not trust to do it, and that's Portland City Hall. All they know how to do is ruin neighborhoods. And make the developers and construction dudes ever richer. They are very good at that.


  1. I lived in NE Portland when the black community was still “vibrant.” In fact, I spent my formative years there and was even bussed to a ‘white’ school along with the rest of my classmates. It is beyond ludicrous what they are trying to accomplish.

    They might as well also try to resurrect Yaw’s and Farrell’s while they are at it. And don’t forget the Fotomat across from Farrell’s and also the Newberry’s lunch counter where all of the seniors in the area used to go. They got displaced also.


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