East Portland begins at Lents ["Razed & Confused," WW, Jan. 22, 2014]. The story of promises made and not delivered is the same for Lents and other neighborhoods east of the 205 freeway. It's not easy to figure out why the city of Portland has been unable to make a dent in the problems.
One problem is the dual nature of the city's efforts. With the best of intentions, it wants to make Lents a nicer place to live. But making a place more livable is a double-edged sword: Livability costs money. The other issue is gentrification. It may be impossible to "improve" a neighborhood without gentrifying it. Gentrifying a neighborhood means kicking the can down the road: The poor have to live somewhere.
Virtually all of inner Portland has been gentrified in recent decades. The Pearl notwithstanding, all of those gentrified neighborhoods did it by themselves—from Northwest to Hawthorne to Mississippi to Alberta to Division, and on. Each of those neighborhoods was revived by young creatives taking advantage of cheap rents. Of course, having good housing stock didn't hurt.
The prescription for Lents? Erect incubator buildings: art spaces, DIY spaces, maker spaces, commercial kitchens, etc. Subsidize them so they're cheap to rent. Set rent control and have the city pick up annual increases.
Two, forget about Foster Road, 82nd Avenue and Johnson Creek Boulevard; they are not neighborhood shopping streets. Buy up land and build a new center on 92nd. Keep commercial rents artificially low; subsidize them, too. Take money from the Pearl and spend it on Lents until it's up and going. It shouldn't take that long.
Some may differ with the idea that what low-income areas need are expensive, high-end grocery stores, particularly when it takes a ton of government money to get the high-end grocery store to locate in the low-income area.
I'm not sure if trying to turn Lents into the equivalent of Southeast 20th Avenue and Belmont Street would benefit the existing residents.
Something needs to be done about the Chevron. Having a gas station sitting in the middle of what is supposed to be a vibrant commercial district is unheard of, and it sucks the value out of all of the properties within a one-block radius.
DEPT. OF POLITICAL TITLES
Cylvia Hayes is often referred to as the "first lady" ["Parking Violation," WW, Jan. 8, 2014]. She is more correctly "the first mistress."
Last week's cover story, "Razed & Confused," incorrectly stated the number of housing units the Portland Development Commission has built in the Lents neighborhood since 1998. While the urban-renewal area has had 1,144 units added within its boundaries during that time, the PDC's $27.7 million in housing expenses directly funded only 350 affordable housing units. WW regrets the error.
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