Pricing Out Portland's Artists

Can Portland's Creative Community Survive Development, Price Surge?


Ugh, right after we displaced the lowest economic tier of Portland out to the middle of no where and put up all the bars and shopping centers we enjoy, people richer then us came in and have started to displace our living situation. We wanted the gentrification to stop at our price point, damn it!
I really like the reporting here on the role of construction materials in involuntary displacement. If a few of our commercial corridors are hitting a concrete ceiling -- where the only way to increase supply is to build up, which increases costs per unit because you have to switch to concrete and steel -- one reasonable question would be whether we should be allowing more infill in what are currently yard-and-driveway neighborhoods: townhomes and duplexes and so on that are denser, but still short enough to be built with wood.
Kimchi, that's true, though of course I think it's really heartless (and probably economically short-sighted) for someone to say that because they're not used to seeing a duplex across the street from their house, artists and other low-income people shouldn't get to live in Portland any more.

But I think a lot of the loudest complaints aren't about density increases, they're about one-for-one demolitions, a problem which I personally agree is more legit. That's a ton of money spent for not much benefit *except* displacement.

Anyway, the truth is that Portland's "single-family neighborhoods" haven't been single-family for years -- they're already overflowing with roommates and ADUs and so forth. Somebody wrote in my neighborhood newsletter once that density and overcrowding aren't the same thing. Density means things are close to each other, they said; overcrowding means neighborhoods are holding more people than they were built for. We've got overcrowding already and are generally failing to convert that to density ... because we've made it illegal to do so except on a few of the big streets. Some modest changes to legalize adjoined homes that don't loom over everyone else's would do a lot of good to Portland's deep and awful housing shortage.
I agree with Jesse's sarcastic sentiment.

Where was this moratorium request during the gentrification of the Alberta, Mississippi or Irvington neighborhoods? People start to care about gentrification when it effects them.

Sure, artists are great and all and have contributed to our city's culture but why are they so special to get a pass on gentrification? What about Portland's working class people, the blue collar workers and the historic Black neighborhoods?
And by pass, I mean an exemption. Why should neighborhoods like Richmond and Buckman get protections? They're already majority upper-middle class anyway! Rifer is dead wrong too, developers are as much to blame as are the city commissioners for courting them.
The city was broke, saw a way to make fast cash, we got screwed. All of us.
We have paid for this merrigo round behavior because of pet projects, lack city policies, and poor accountability.
The rich think or demand and pay less for better services, the poor wish or demand and pay more for better services. Which generally still go to the privileged elite. Portland, needs to keep its weird wild vibe or it will become that of every other faceless boring city. The reason people move here is because we have a diverse, and extrodinary culture ethic. That is being lost rapidly. If we do not stem the to high to stay pricing in PDX, it will become as blan as a retirement village. As for pricing people out of your homes. It's greed. The teacher is full of shit. Anyone, who has worked and lived here knows, they build cheap, build with flaws cause countless headaches, repair few and file bankruptcy on their projects so they are not accountable. Developers and builders are sucking the life out of our historical neighborhoods. Boxes with no charm.

It's not just Artists, it's singles, young families, the elderly, retired empty nesters our core of residents who make up the joy of being here. Not the out of state landlords.

The city needs a landlord guideline book, the mayor and governors need to have an expectation on viable up kept properties within city limits. Be accountable to tenant rights. Not act like warlords when they see a pricing opportunity. Most of our commercially operated properties are in deplorable states. How many have been retrofitted for earthquakes? How many need new electrical, plumbing etc. how many just need a good pressure wash? Windows? Parking, landscaping. Daily maintenance? Seriously if we just expected a reasonable owner owned property to be rentable we could stop the demolitions. But, everyone turns a blind eye. Well, you better open them because the change that's coming ain't pretty and it affects all of us!
That's funny, Andy Warhol never had any problem renting in Manhattan.
to be a true bohemian, is to be a nomad, following cheap rent and forging new frontiers. have any of you traveled east of 82nd in the last decade?? apparently not. its not the tidy grid and critical mass of yuppiedom that SE has turned into but its still cheap.....move there, make art. move there, buy a house, make really big art!! the death knell for affordability in this town hasn't rung yet but the urban frontier has shifted and its not st. johns or foster powell anymore.
So, the price of an artwork created when the artist was unknown (or known to only a few) should not increase after the artist is "discovered" and known to many? Same with the neighborhood . . .
If people want the city to support arts infrastructure , such as affordable workspaces and housing, then we should hold the city council and the PDC accountable for where our Arts Tax money is being currently allocated ...
Mostly to the 1) big existing arts organizations that already have established homes for their companies and 2) k-8 arts education "enrichment" with little to no arts resources for high school artists that need both the arts and the business skills and training so they can actually become professional thriving creators who can support themselves, their families and be active community participants).

The other thing that I have yet to see discussed when we talk about affordable rental spaces is the property taxes in multnomah county. I bought a rental property that I was determined to offer for lower/affordable rent to young people not going straight to college who still need to have their first "out of the nest" living experience. I benefited from this in 1980's Portland when I shared a 3 bedroom duplex in the woodstock neighborhood with 2 other 20 year olds and we each paid $80 a month & all had our own bedrooms! But now, for a $209,000 house, the monthly property taxes are $330, add in landlord insurance and that's already $400 a month just to cover costs. It is especially biting that about $120 a month of the taxes is going to support PPS when it is these same "at-risk for dropping out of school" youth that weren't served properly by PPS. As they seek to find affordable housing in their birth city they just can't compete at all with the higher wage earning transplants who likely benefitted from a better education elsewhere. (I say this based on our ranking in the lower tiers of national grad rates.)

These issues are very complex. It isn't going to be an easy fix and the city seems ok with just letting people vent without actually changing the PDC's focus away from developers and back towards the citizens. Growth is natural, but it seems like this city is missing some institutional memory of how we got here and some wise elders to tell our still wide-eyed city planners to ease up, slow down, and let's watch how these latest developments fill up and get used before rushing forward to build more.
I think the more inclusive Portland is the better it is. But inclusion requires adding more housing to the city and more choices for people who would reside here, not restricting them.

The problem isn't those building new housing, the problem is those satisfied with their own housing who don't give a damn about anyone else's.
Check it out, there's this guy who lives in a shed off the Nehalem, who runs deer trails in the morning, yells Oowies for echo from the canyon, rearranges fallen leaves under the trees, and you think you know art?
Portland is more about food (mostly) and drinking (beer mostly) and shopping. Whatever art did or didn't do for the public the restaurant and micro bar/boutiques have filled in or outright replaced even most of the buildings/spaces where those "creative-artistic" cultures were making their work.

Food booze shopping apts cars...not much different than anywhere else
Everett Station Lofts was built with the idea of providing Work/Live space, for artist and crafts folk. From the beginning, wannabees lied about being artists, just so they could move into a cool, new, place.
Looks like Arkansas is the state where you can rent a two bedroom apartment with the lowest hourly wage paying job of $12.95
I tend to think of this question - of ''artists" being displaced, as rather a immature question to begin with.
From the beginnings of time, artists have always tend to live where the rent was cheap.
NW Portland used to be the same, as well as way back when many lived in those cold-water flats by the trains, now known as the Pearl District.
My buddy used to live in one of those then.
By lifestyle and nature, artists go where they can live cheaply to further explore their own interests.
We shouldn't bemoan this very intrinsic part of their nature.
It remains as it always has been, a choice of lifestyle.
Expect to see interesting works from near Gresham in the future.
Besides, you know most bask in the glow of their suffering for their art.
I live in portland, it is a bunch trust fund cokeheads who go buy clothes from very expensive novelty stores in the trendy part of town that cost a small fortune. Its a very degraded fake culture, I would not recommend it to anyone. It was pretty cool about 10-15 years ago, when it was mostly hippies, wiccans, and buddhists - but now it is mostly hipster atheist marxists with a huge chip on their shoulder, which is strange because this whole new "art" scene is really just a bunch of rich kids who don't want to get a job. I can barely afford rent here anymore, most of the lower income people have been pushed out of their neighborhoods to make room for this whole new wave of gentrification.
City officials are paying Wieden+Kennedy for promotional campaigns based on Portland's "quirkiness":

At the same time, they subsidize the Portland Development Commission as it tears down the affordable real estate that makes "quirkiness" possible. Yes, people with $1M mortgages in SoCal would have moved here no matter what, the economy needed to expand given the high unemployment of previous decades, and density is better than sprawl. But if our leaders are going to exploit "weird," then they should understand the concept of arts and nightlife districts where older buildings in good shape can be easily preserved, businesses can stay open late and be noisy...

I learned to accept the takeover of Nob Hill by the first round of yuppies. But the new generation of techies and speculators wants to turn entire cities into suburbs, which displaces not just artists, but anyone who isn't rich and wants to live near work and nightlife. I recently moved back from Seattle, where the process is further along. Traffic is much worse (not helped by lousy mass transit), while chain stores and apartment monstrosities have replaced most of the neighborhood character. What Portland looks like in ten years will be determined not only by the almighty marketplace, but policy choices.
The question proposed in the very title of this article is easy to answer. NO. Portland artists and musicians who are not rich (which btw is most of them) are already being pushed out for years now. I lived in Portland for 17 years, and I worked the whole time and I was a working musician. Up until about 10 years ago you could get paid as a band more than you do now, you could rent a house cheap enough to put a studio in it, and scrape by if you managed to hold on to a job or lived in group living scenario or even get a loan to buy something reasonable! Now most of the working class musicians and artists can't even afford a place to live let alone a studio or space to create. People on this thread have commented that artists just don't want to work- well the only ones Portland will have left soon are the independently wealthy ones who mostly make crappy art and music- "just get a job" etc is so freaking stupid if you lived in Oregon the past 10 years you know how hard it is to get a decent paying job regardless of your art.

This year I moved to Detroit. I bought a house for the same as I pay for rent for a year in Portland, seriously, a nice one with good neighbors. I have been able to get more creative work done this year than in the past two combined because I have a dedicated space under my control, time to work outside of my job, and finally not all of my resources are tied up with eating and rent. Portland was like that for me in 1997 till about 2005.

The developers will continue to make it a paradise for the greedy and rich kids who may or may not be artists from Brooklyn and Cali will continue to flock willing to pay way too much to be in a "cool city" which was made "cool" by the working class.

Moving was the hardest, most heartbreaking thing I've done in a long time but it's the best decision I ever made. Portland is unique and beautiful in the world but that doesn't matter if you are living below the poverty line and would like to eat and live well. Leave town if you are a serious artists with limited resources you'll be glad you did. Large parts of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania have great opportunities for artists to get a home or studio not just Detroit.
It comes down to this. Boring, frightened white people love to live in urban areas that are free of blacks and hispanics. In the 60's and 70's all the white people abandoned the cities to get away from the blacks. In the 80's our cities fell to slums and almost every urban center was 100% black by the late 80's. Reaganomics was kind to many whites in the burbs in creating a wider gap in wealth distribution. Now all the children of the Reaganites who grew up in the burbs want the city life, minus the blacks. What do Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco all have in common? Urban centers with the fewest minorities and the highest cost of living because they go hand in hand. It usually takes working class whites to go into an area and make it safe enough for the richer whites to come later, like Brooklyn and Philli. Thanks to 30 years of class warfare and racial divide we now have entire cities that only rich white people can live in.
here, lets do a little history lesson. urbanity as we know it has always favored a central location. a pyramid, ziggurat, market, city hall, forward to post WW2 america and the shift to autocentric suburia was in full force. add 20 addtional years of inner city social strife, white flight and ouila, the inner cities of america became a ghost town. fast forward to now, and urbanity is simply correcting itself. people moving to the central city isnt a portland phenomenon, in fact it not really anything we can control, its a market preference thats been true most of urban history on this earth. people want to be close to "stuff". sure i miss gritty portland of yore and would like fewer chain stores, but you know, the city is simply moving forward. all cities in fact, should want to move forward. 30 years from now if detroit actually turns around, people will having this exact same conversation when new center or downtown turns into one giant banana republic and sbarro pizzeria. ps, portland mercury, if you need a new urban planning correspondant, gimme a call!!
In San Francisco and Los Angeles, musicians don't get paid at all, rather, they must audition at each club for the privilege of paying to play.
Wah! Artists keep getting shoved out of cool places. Sorry but this story is as old as art is. Being an artist or musician is hard. Nobody does it because it's a good career move, pays well, lots of security with a pension and insurance.
I'm a second generation artist. My late father was an artist, I'm an artist, (have been for over 40 years),my sister is a full time musician. Back in the late 1920s until WWII my father had studios in really crappy neighborhoods in Paris and in SoHo in NYC. No heat. No plumbing. I've been chased from one perfectly good ghetto to another by folks with fancy cars. I finally got smart and lived rough, really rough, for years so that I could save enough money to buy a tiny little house in the worst neighborhood in the city in the middle of the crack wars. So did my sister and a few of my art buddies. Young folks ask us how they can have places like ours in a cool hood. I've been telling them for over a decade to go buy places around 82nd ave, Lents, Clackamas, or better yet Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Olympia etc. They look at me in disgust and say "Oh I would NEVER live in there."
So artists... Go out and find your own ghetto, buy a cheap dump next to a meth lab, start a coffee shop. Have a buddy start a bar. Get your friends to come hang with you and after 20 or so years of sweat equity you'll have a cool place of your own.
I love artists. (I am one, even though I no more expect to be paid for it than anything else I enjoy.)

But I also love: volunteers, activists, craftspeople, humorists, radicals, spiritual seekers, tradespeople, anti-consumerists, students, refugees, teachers, gardeners, archivists, poets, and basically anyone who isn't a profiteering yuppie-hipster or a one-percenter.

Let's be careful about positioning "artists" at the front of the line when it comes to the availability of decent housing. LOTS of people make Portland - or used to make it - amazing.
^Jo Haemer
If what you say is true then you are only proving the whole point. Portland was once as rough as many of the places you mentioned. 20th and Hawthorne was XXX films and adult bookstores, meth and heroin, shootings ect... but the town also had a lot of cool things that only those with a sense of wonder would appreciate. The vapid scenesters you speak of aren't the people that anyone is concerned about. They are the one's who ride on the backs of others. If you or your father have been run out of places that you worked to make special with something other than money, then you have every right to be pissed. For the same reasons everyone else is pissed, because now it's getting more accelerated and intense in places.
concept...cities are not static entities. they are transient collections of people and structures who change with the times. im not sure why thats such a hard concept for people to grasp. no neighborhood ever stays the same. look at portland census records too. people have been flocking here for the last 150 years. considering over 50 percent of oregonians are transplants, id bargain the vast majority of portlanders have lived here for 20 years or less, hardly enough time to claim they are a neighborhood fixture. think about it, portland, seattle, sf, boise even, are all still frontier towns. as mid west industry has dryed up over the decades, people have moved east, west or south. ive been here since the middle of the 90s and still feel like an imposter oregonian.
Anatta- You said "I love artists. (I am one, even though I no more expect to be paid for it than anything else I enjoy.)"
You made a statement that drives other folks and me who make their living from the arts crazy.
I'm lucky that I was raised by a professional artist. I grew up with the concept that making art is work. Often very hard work, and that we should get paid real money to do it. I don't wait for the creative muse to move me. I can't afford it. I have bills to pay.
Churchill Ladd- "In San Francisco and Los Angeles, musicians don't get paid at all, rather, they must audition at each club for the privilege of paying to play."
My sister is a professional singer. It's her day job. When she goes to SF and LA she gets paid to sing. When I was touring as a guitar picker I got paid to play not just here but all over including Paris and London. You think Thomas Lauderdale, Mel Brown, Sam Henry, Lewie Longmire, Nancy King, Three Leg Torso, Everclear, Storm Large, Becky Kilgore, etc. ( all local folks, I could go on forever), pays to play? Uh no.
If you are any good at being a musician or an artist you will get paid.
The bar is raised a lot higher in California. Farm league players, such as working musicians in Portland, don't get signed by agents or get deals with promoters. If you want to play a small club, you have to rent the place yourself, and charge at the door. In LA, you even have to pass an audition before they so much as let you rent the room.
I'm always hearing about the creative class being priced out of Portland, but every single time I ask anyone in this camp seeking housing or studio space where they are looking, the answer is always the same: the trendiest east side neighborhoods that have been picking up steam for more than a decade. Well, surprise surprise they can't afford it, just like I couldn't afford many neighborhoods in both Chicago and San Francisco where I lived before Portland. My Chicago neighborhood was the then decidedly sketchy (now popular and expensive) Wicker Park because I couldn't afford the North Side. In SF it was the Western Addition, long before Divisadero Street got the cute shops and scene-y restaurants. I went where I could afford and if it was short on charm or amenities (or safety) I didn't complain that I was being denied my rightful place in more sought after neighborhoods. I'm sure there is space in Milwaukie, east beyond the 205, or in Hillsboro but you'll never see this crowd go there. I always laugh when the hand wringing starts about the vanishing diversity on the east side. Want diversity? Head out to Oregon's statistically most diverse city...Beaverton. Anyway, everyone makes choices--did anyone really think that their freeform creative careers were going to pay the kind of income that would allow them to live in prime real estate?
People want to keep insisting that this is nothing new, but it is! You could get an apartment in LA for $350 a month back in the late 80's. What is happening now is the realization of the haves and have nots.
Fuck the "artists". The people in this city who have actual jobs and are working hard to keep this city moving can't live here. But no one in Portland would ever lift a finger for the blue collar workers who are losing their housing.
You can do art anywhere. But if you have a job that requires you to commute and you are too poor for a car... Well, you are SOL my friend.
Very interesting. I'm curious as to when the Mercury will do a piece on plumbers who can't afford housing in our fair city.
And let us not forget the sandwich artists.
plumbers top out at about 90k. average plumbing wage is about 50 to 60k. a two plumber household is probably doing just fine (and they can repair their own house!) thats nothing to sneeze at, especially at two in the morning when your apartment is being overrun with toliet burritos...
It's just the same as how Hitler first ostracized the Jews, then the Homosexual Socialists, followed by the trade unionists, and Catholics. The Fascist, Joint Terrorism Task Force has the mission of controlling the aftermath of the tanking economy. So, first they turn public opinion against the homeless, and then the next worst minority, the artists who tend to be critical of government. Once these undesirables have been eliminated, and the middle class become unemployed, they will be slated next for persecution.
Churchill - it seems that your peyote consumption has increased over the last few days. That last comment was even more outlandish than your previous ones.
I like Portlandia. Will the people on the show be forced to leave too? (Oakland resident)
The author was maybe given some sketchy info: "Abernathy is an interdisciplinary artist who, in 2009, co-founded RECESS, a collaborative arts initiative that began holding exhibitions and renting space to artists at its original location near SE 43rd and Division. The group was evicted from that space in 2011, marking RECESS' first displacement.

"That was a real shame," she says. "We had to close because someone bought the property, and [we were] given 30 days to leave."

Corrections to consider, that really don't matter in the end: SE 43rd & Division was actually the location of the former Artistery all ages venue. Recess was in a corner in basement, sometimes. The Artistery rented space to them, as well as a bunch of other people - Recess in no way ran it or rented space to anyone. Plus the Artistery was given 60 days to vacate, not 30.
We can only hope the people from Portlandia move back to where they came from!
Move back to Portland in time for the past due, 9.2? Goodbye Multnomah County Courthouse. Good riddance to PSU.