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Gentrification in Old Town Chinatown

Portland Mayoral Candidate Ted Wheeler on Gentrification:

"Wheeler said the development practices of the Portland

Development Commission have furthered gentrification."

Interview here. (March 3, 2016)

Yet the PDC, now Portland Prosper, with the local community association and the Portland Business Alliance, promote strategies and objectives that advance gentrification.

This is not the usual tactic to displace renters presently living in affordable housing units (estimated at less than 800), but an "income balance" strategy to build market rate apartments for the white folks with more money, a block to anymore of "them" a.k.a. low income folks from moving in. One can only imagine how "income balance" would play in neighborhoods such as Hillsdale or Forest Park. Here's how it looks in two public documents:

Five Year Action Plan

Page 9 of Five Year Plan: "Priorities for property redevelopment include the addition of market rate housing to create a balanced mix of residential income..."

Strategic Plan of Old Town Chinatown Community Association (OTCT)

From the Vision Statement

"The district has a balanced mix of market rate, student and affordable housing."

From the Goals and Strategies:


"Encourage the preservation of the historic resources to increase economic activity in the district:

d. Support new market rate housing."

Strategy document available at:

How do these strategies play out in terms of land use and retail strategies?

Is Old Town a food desert* about to get its first Starbucks?

The residential potential of this neighborhood is eschewed in favor of a total focus on commercial development by public agencies. A recent announcement of a Starbucks moving into our neighborhood is cause for celebration although not necessarily among the "buy local" owners and customers. Retail strategy is by professionals skilled in commercial development and mostly with an eye to meeting the needs of visitors and tourists. Community development in a mixed commercial and residential neighborhood, the oldest neighborhood, is not in the arsenal of business development professionals and developers.


How renters and other residents get heard or represented in the decision-making processes that churn away in large organizations such as Prosper

Portland or in a hybrid community association created by business owners and blessed by the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) is beyond me. The Portland Way of organizing large groups of people to storm the walls doesn't work among a small population of disenfranchised people, mostly men, many in poor health.

The 1964 Economic Opportunity Act that directly funded Community Action Programs (CAPs) worked.

Do those who hold sway over the destiny of our neighborhood still need to embrace public policies and practices that preclude subsidized below market housing investments, particularly when there are choice properties available and owned by the city's redevelopment agency?

Challenge the Vision

The vision of the neighborhood as a "balanced mix of market rate, student, and affordable housing is a minority vision formed primarily by persons who do not live here and may be on the path to delivering over time another wealthy, white Portland neighborhood surrounded by "them."

It needs to be challenged by not only residents, but City staff and elected officials.

And while taking a closer look at the Vision ask not where the $58M allocated to the Five Year (2014) plan went, but why it hasn't gone anywhere. Only a small portion ($3M or so?) has been spent to date. Let's hope that the City does not have a "use it or loose it" policy.

*A food desert is an area, especially one with low-income residents, that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

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