Portland community members prepare for rent strike due to lack of support during COVID-19 crisis

By CORY ELIA

The closure of a vast majority of business establishments and subsequent layoffs of employees has resulted in thousands of Portland renters asking themselves something important during the COVID-19-induced economic recession:

How will I pay my rent?

This question and concerns regarding it have been asked of City officials like Portland mayor Ted Wheeler since the crisis began.

It even resulted in one activist taking control of a podium and voicing concerns during a press briefing by the mayor. In their message, they called for a rent freeze, as have many renters here in Portland.

The Oregonian reports: “Multnomah County, Portland suspend evictions during coronavirus outbreak”

Lat week, the City of Portland announced that it’s allowing tenants impacted by COVID-19 to delay paying rent during the state of emergency declared Thursday morning, March 12th. The order gives renters six months to pay their back rent after the state of emergency has ended.

An eviction moratorium was also declared. Gov. Kate Brown made the no-eviction order statewide late last week, but advocates have said that’s still not enough.

Oregon Renters Rights shows renters how to delay paying their rent.

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A petition has been formed appealing to Wheeler and Brown to offer some form of financial support or a suspension of rent for the thousands of workers impacted financially by the shutdown of businesses.

The response to this came from Wheeler and was that the City of Portland has no legal standing to implement such a rent freeze / suspension of rent.

Photo by Keller Laura

This resulted in a Facebook group being formed called PDX Rent Strike 2020 (with 326 members) and a community page called PDX Rent Strike (with 1,328 members). On the page it is stated the purpose of the page is to facilitate “a group to coordinate actions in regard to the upcoming rent strike”.

The group’s new website PDX Rent Strike is here.

Photos by Elliot Young

The rent strike is planned for the month of April 2020. Even though there won’t be a physical gathering, an event page has been created.

Organizers for the groups spoke about the movement on KBOO’s Wednesday Talk Radio Program for those more interested.

One of the main organizers for the group and event is Randall Gravess, who stated that the movement has already drawn national attention and other cities may follow Portland in the rent strike. “At the end of the day we are looking at a massive economic crisis, and once again our government has chosen to save billionaires”, Gravess said. “I wanna clarify— we are demanding a rent suspension not a rent freeze”.

Gravess states that the group demands are directly tied into saving as many lives as possible during the pandemic.

The group demands are: free healthcare, no work, no rent, release of prisoners, and housing of the homeless. “Our intention is to come together as a community and make it clear we will not pay for this crisis. The rent strike is a tool to protect the millions of suddenly unemployed Americans who individually would be evicted for not paying but who can stand together to present a united front.”


The toolkit shared by the organizers, including a sample letter to landlords and how to organize your neighbors.

As an urban studies and an renter organizer, Olive jumped into this rent strike movement because she wanted to make sure renters were informed and being taken care of. She said she only speaks for herself, not the group or organizers.

(Olive didn’t want to include her last name for fear of future retaliation from landlords and for work purposes.)

“People can’t make this month’s rent,” she said, and the ones that can are terrified to use their last bits of cash when they have no stable income.

There’s going to be bailouts for the banks, airlines, cruise lines, and many other industries— and she said she thinks there should be one for renters and for home owners holding a mortgage.

“We don’t want anyone left behind, but that doesn’t mean we don’t understand the larger social dynamics,“ she said for her support of small property owners who may not be paid rent in April.

She made it clear that she doesn’t want to see a repeat of the 2008 crisis, where banks got bigger and many in the middle class lost their homes and businesses.

There are resources for renters, Olive said, at the group page and rent strike toolkit above, adding that the property lawyers she has talked with don’t really recommend a rent strike because it’s risky to the individual renter. She said she couldn’t give legal advice, but the rent-delay order requires renters to reach out to their landlords. There is a sample letter on the Rent Strike site.

“People who are calling for a rent strike— they have no other choice,” she said. Even if folks don’t have to pay rent during the crisis, they still won’t be able to pay all the back rent built up when it’s over— and Olive said she doesn’t think they should have to pay it back.

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There have been a few different movements formed in support of community and the homeless. One movement that has been seen in Los Angeles, California is housing homeless individuals in abandoned or foreclosed homes.

Though squatting to house folks during the outbreak have been proposed and discussed by some rent strike advocates, nothing of significant size like the movement in Los Angeles has happened here yet. However, there are homeless individuals attempting this on their own.

A Portland Metro local homeless man reached out to Village Portland recently and explained that he was cited for trespassing— by officers in full gear with rifles— while trying to squat in a house for shelter during the outbreak.

He stated “I’m as scared as anyone else and was looking for a safe place to stay”. 

Some people making calls for more squatting, Olive said, but it’s more difficult in Portland because there aren’t blocks of empty houses like in places like Detroit, Michigan

Olive pointed out that the squatters in Los Angeles (part of Moms 4 Housing, started in Oakland, California) are providing shelter, fixing up the houses, building community with pre-existing neighbors, and even planting gardens.

Squatting can be a win-win for communities, she said: “Would anybody really be upset if they refurbished it [a house] and added value?”

***

City officials are working to find ways to provide enough room to shelter Portland’s homeless. Oregon Convention Center was opened along with the Charles Jordan Community Center. The Jupiter Hotel also announced they would help to add 81 more beds for the homeless during the crisis. 

This movement has already drawn the attention of more frustrated citizens and resulting in community members posting pictures of graffiti dedicated towards the movement around Portland.

Gravess foresees that “America is likely to be the only country where Coronavirus leaves more people bankrupt and homeless than it kills”.

For those hoping to get involved or find more information, Gravess suggests that folks should check out the Facebook community page where a number of graphics and toolkits are provided.

“If people want to get involved, we ask that they begin organizing using the toolkits provided and contacting their neighbors. The more decentralized the process is the more likely we are to succeed.”

Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty. 

Contact Cory:

Facebook: Cory Elia 
Twitter: @therealcoryelia

Efforts emerge to support small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 economic downturn

By ANDREW WILKINS

Local and state officials are working to provide relief for Oregon’s business community— and as of Friday, March 20th the federal Small Business Administration has approved Oregon’s disaster declaration for COVID-19.

For more information, and how to apply go to the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans page here. The Oregon Economic Development Association wrote that there was a two-to-three-week timeline and five days for disbursement on the loans.

Apply for SBA Disaster Loan Assistance

According to its website, the SBA can provide up to $2 million to help “meet financial obligations and operating expenses” that could have been met if the disaster hadn’t occurred.

SBA EIDL fact sheet

Efforts in Portland

Wheeler said that on Monday, March 16th, he authorized a task force led by his office and Prosper Portland, the City’s economic development agency, to assist small and large employers and their employees struggling with the economic impacts of COVID-19.

In a press conference Tuesday, March 17th, Mayor Ted Wheeler discussed how the City was working to mitigate the downturn’s impact on small businesses in Portland.

“Every option will be on the table to support the resilience and the recovery of our local economy,” he said.

Watch the business-focused part of the Tuesday, March 17th press conference, or read the highlights below.

Update: On Wednesday, March 25th, Portland announced $1 million for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 economic downturn, the Oregonian reported. The city will prioritize women- and people of color-owned businesses, with some conditions, according to the executive director of Prosper Portland.

The biggest news, however, that came out of that press conference is that the City barred evictions, and is allowing tenants impacted by COVID-19 to delay paying rent during the state of emergency. He also announced that the City’s tenants and borrowers would have a three-month deferral on rent and loan repayments.

Wheeler said the task force is also partnering with major employers and small businesses, front line communities, labor partners, work force development partners, and foundations. Wheeler also acknowledged cooperation from key City and County partners and Business Oregon.

Wheeler said he met with downtown property owners on Tuesday as well.

To help vulnerable businesses, Wheeler said Prosper Portland was immediately making $150,000 in grants available in a partnership with the Jade District Neighborhood Prosperity Network.

As home to many Asian-owned business, Wheeler said the Jade District is “amongst the hardest impacted by the economic downturn related to COVID-19”.

With time, Wheeler said he expects resources will be expanded to other areas.

Grants are being awarded to businesses in the Jade District and Old Town, and immigrant owned businesses and / or API owned small businesses are prioritized.

The Jade District Steering Committee also added $50,000 to the program. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m., March 23rd. Apply to the Jade District-Oldtown COVID-19 Small Business Response Fund here.

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Wheeler said he is convening partners in the private sector to develop a commercial eviction strategy and other financial relief. He also thanked private landlords who allowed their tenants to defer or forgo payments.

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For non-profit organizations impacted by the downturn, the Oregon Community Foundation has established the Oregon Community Recovery Grant program. Guidelines are still being formulated, but you can get more information and apply here.

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Also on Tuesday, East Metro Economic Alliance called on small businesses across the state to share with the Governor’s Office how they’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Share a story with Leah Horner (leah.horner@oregon.gov), Brown’s Jobs and Economy Policy Advisor.

Tina Granzo was helping spread the word about the EMEA campaign on social media. She served on the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association for four years, and knows that a lot of small businesses are suffering.

She wrote that the help will be good, but it needs to come quickly. “… with some businesses, the owners put everything they had (all equity) into their businesses and (as with Bipartisan [Cafe]) did things like pay employees a living wage, taking much less for themselves,” Granzo said. “So, not much of a back-up or safety net (even while waiting for help).”

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Wheeler said he would be meeting with banks and credit unions on Thursday, March 19th, asking them to make sacrifices because he knows they are sitting on substantial reserves.

“As tenants are unable to pay rent, landlords and build owners would then not be able to pay the mortgage they are due,” Wheeler said at Tuesday’s press conference. He said he’ll ask the banks and credit unions to give them more coverage during this cash crunch.

Thursday, Wheeler said they would also be convening their two task forces and meeting with the business community on Thursday.

As of Monday morning, March 23rd, there’s been no update from the mayor or governor on these business-related initiatives.

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A survey of more than 900 Oregon businesses by Built Oregon found that respondents are losing an estimated $4.8 million in sales. See some of the results of the survey below. The survey was first reported by Portland Business Journal; find more details here.

When asked for what kind of help they needed, many business owners responded: no-interest loans to cover rent and payroll; emergency working capital loans; and assistance for workers, according to the story.

More calls for action from the Portland business community:

At the federal level, the United States Chamber of Commerce has called for bridge loans for the 68 million American workers that are employed by enterprises with more than 500 employees.

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Negotiations over relief measures are moving fast in Washington D.C., and as of Sunday afternoon the Tax Foundation reports:

“… the Senate released an updated version of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The bill builds upon an earlier version of the CARES Act and is intended to be a third round of federal government support in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis and associated economic fallout, following the $8.3 billion in public health support passed two weeks ago and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.”

The Tax Foundation will provide updates as the happen.

Portland’s advocates rally an outpouring of support and calls for action during the coronavirus crisis

By CORY ELIA

Since the first case of coronavirus in Oregon was announced on February 28th, tensions in the Portland metropolitan have been increasing. But even in the face of this crisis, volunteers and officials are taking steps to respond to the outbreak’s health and economic impact— and special steps to protect the unhoused.

As of Monday morning, March 17th, there are currently 47 confirmed cases in Oregon, (two in Multnomah County, 14 in Washington County, and two in Clackamas County) with one death in Multnomah County.

One of the most complicating issues for health officials is the lack of data on how widely the virus has already spread. The virus may have been spreading in Washington State for six weeks prior to it first being detected.

Click the image to reach OHA’s COVID-19 webpage.

Health officials have reported that even if an individual isn’t showing symptoms they could still spread the disease. It has been advised— by the federal Center for Disease Control and other officials— for people to avoid all social gatherings, practice social distancing (about six feet), avoid groups, and practice good hygiene like regular hand washing.

If you think you are sick, stay home, call your doctor, and separate yourself from others. For more specific advice, ask your doctor and follow the link in this paragraph.

The unhoused’s vulnerability

The most vulnerable to the coronavirus are the elderly and immuno-compromised of the community. The homeless population includes a large number of individuals who fall into either or both of those categories. With their constant exposure to the elements, close quarters when receiving services, and lack of consistent sanitation options, homeless are some of the most vulnerable in the current crisis.

By the 2019 Point-In-Time count, 4,017 people are living on the streets that could be exposed to the virus. If this population is not properly supported during this time of community crisis the devastation the virus creates could be exponential increased.

There are a number of things being done to help this vulnerable part of Portland’s population. Vendors from Street Roots have formed outreach teams which are visiting camps to inform campers— who may lack a source of news— about the virus and handing out sanitary supplies. There have also been 21 mobile emergency hygiene stations placed throughout the city.

Local government response

The Joint Office of Homeless Service has implemented a number of things to help address the issue.

Recommendations from Multnomah County for the shelters are to spread beds out six feet apart. While that would create a decrease in beds, winter shelters have been opened to ensure capacity was not diminished due to these new requirements and hundreds of more shelter beds are planned to be added.

Also, a moratorium on towing of what are considered to be “abandoned” vehicles— which might be occupied by homeless individuals— has been stopped as well by the order of Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who heads  the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

And just recently, County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Wheeler announced a ban on evictions, but no rent freeze or assistance at the moment. A protester took the podium around 25:00 in the video in to call for a rent freeze or strike until assistance can be given. After that a short Q&A was held for members of the media.

He also sums up much of the actions taken by local government. Watch the video by clicking below:

Citywide services

Meal services throughout the city have also been advised, and have been conducting sanitizing cleanings on a daily basis to control the spread of the virus. Most continue to serve as usual.

Volunteer and advocate-run meal services— like Free Hot Soup— have also stated they would continue to serve the homeless downtown with precautions in place to reduce spread of the disease.

Medical facilities like Kaiser Permanente have also been working to help during the crisis to address the situation on the street. They donated $100,000 to Central City Concern to help prevent the spread of the virus and provide CCC the ability to test for the disease in the homeless population.

Editor’s note: After publication, a representative from the Joint Office of Homeless Services got back to us, so we’ve updated the story to include their input. Additions / clarifications in the next two paragraphs are italicized.

If someone in a shelter has symptoms of a respiratory illness or is vulnerable to serious symptoms, JOHS is allowing shelter providers to place them in a motel room for quarantine purposes. There have already been some issues with this which resulted in a group of elderly homeless women being turned away by a hotel manager out of fear of the virus.

The County government issued an order on Tuesday that bans motels from refusing people in those circumstances going forward.

No one living on the streets of Portland has tested positive so far, County officials said, but testing has just started in that population.

It has also been announced that the City would reduce the number of sweeps conducted on homeless camps. This will be done by increasing the threshold of what is deemed needing to be swept. The reasoning behind this is to also reduce the risk of spreading the virus if it should be in the homeless population. There is concern being expressed to the City, however, that the sweeps need to stop entirely to fully contain the situation.

The homeless camp sweeps continue during the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Anthony Bencivengo

The broader community response

There has also been a formation of community members trying to help people who may not have not been prepared for a situation like this. A Facebook group called COVID-19 Portland Oregon Area Community Support has been created and has attracted over 2,600 members since its creation on March 12th.

A statement by a moderator of the group says “this group exists for solidarity and mutual aid of the working class in and around Portland”. 

Image may contain: text

Another Facebook group that has formed is called PDX Covid-19 Mutual Aid Network. That group has around 2,300 members and the aid for that is being supplied by a GoFundMe which has been set up.

No photo description available.

Join one or both groups to offer or ask for help.

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The situation in Oregon has been changing quickly and several places have closed abruptly causing citizens to worry about their financial well-being. Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency on March 12th. On the afternoon of March 16th, Governor Kate Brown ordered all bars and restaurants to close except for takeout or delivery food which will last for four weeks. This has furthered concerns of financial instability across the state.

Addressed to Brown and Wheeler, a petition has also been formed entitled Request for Relief for Rents, Mortgages, Sweeps, & for UBI by Portland City Council candidate Rachelle Dixon in hope of them address those issues. 

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Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.

Contact Cory:

Facebook: Cory Elia
Twitter: @therealcoryelia

An interview with Patricia Sanders, Montavilla historical writer, on how to research your own ideas

By PATRICIA SANDERS & ANDREW WILKINS

As an editor, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a writer or reporter that’s super passionate about their work.

Village Portland gives space for non-traditional and niche writers and reporters, and it’s really interesting to give them space to do what they do best and gently edit their work and story selection to— in my humble opinion— best connect to issues and readers.

Everybody has a voice and an opinion and it’s interesting to help people develop that through multimedia reporting / storytelling. The work Patricia Sanders does in her Montavilla Memories articles is a special kind of magic to me.

Read all 16 of Patricia’s “Montavilla Memories” articles and her self-introduction to the community below.

Village Portland reports: “Welcome to Montavilla Memories”

One of our goals with Village Portland is to inspire people to tell their own stories. Obviously, social media is an option, but a lot of folks could benefit from some guidance with that effort.

Patricia’s work has humbled me to the complexity and conflict that our elders endured to create the world we have now. I hope this Q&A gives readers some skills to turn their curiosity into research, their research into and stories, and their stories into a better understanding of how the world we have now came into being.

Patricia Sanders with Dianne Dixon-Lawrence, who Sanders interviewed about her family’s drug store in Montavilla.

Can you briefly describe your experience as a historian?

My academic background is in art history. I earned my Ph.D. at University of California, Berkeley and I taught art history for some 30 years, mostly at San Jose State University. My basic research skills and methods I use to write about local history derive from my art history training.

After I retired from teaching, among other things, I started doing genealogical research. But moving to Montavilla in 2013 aroused my curiosity about this neighborhood’s history. I felt particularly connected to the area because my mother and her parents lived nearby on the north slope of Mount Tabor and as a very young child I lived there too. Living close to Montavilla, my grandmother shopped on Stark Street and my mother used the Montavilla Branch Library on 80th Avenue.

In a way, this is like a return to my roots and I wanted to know more about Montavilla’s past.

Since I’m relatively new to local history, I’m teaching myself how to research and always learning as I go. I don’t consider myself an expert and I think anyone who’s really interested can do it. There are also books you can consult written by more experienced local historians, such as Carol Kammen‘s book “On Doing Local History”.

What interests you about the past? 

I like knowing what Montavilla used to be like. With all our old houses and commercial buildings, the past seems very present to me. How could I not be curious?

As I learn about the people who lived here long ago, I can walk around Montavilla and think, “John Brown’s son Salmon used to live here”, or “Montavilla’s Buffalo Bill look-alike used to live there”, or, “that used to be Hope Presbyterian Church“, or, “here’s where the streetcars ran”. This makes me feel connected to Montavilla in a really physical way.

I also like learning the stories of the people who lived here, how they contributed to the community, the roles they played, where they came from, what they were like, what they looked like. They become the actors in the stories I unearth about Montavilla.

What do you think is important for people to be aware of their history?

History helps us take the long view. People just like us faced many of the same challenges and problems we do today. How do we make sure our children get a good education? How do we keep our families safe? How do we come together as a community and get things done? 

Some of the challenges were even bigger in Montavilla’s history because the new residents had to fight for water, schools, roads, sewers— the basic infrastructure we take for granted. History teaches us about our basic human nature. We face hardships and we persist. We disagree and we come together. We make mistakes and we succeed. We mourn and we celebrate. 

Was there a specific moment that you knew you were interested in history?

Not a moment, but moments, going back to elementary school. But I did my first serious local history research for a high school California history class; I surprised my teacher with a 60-page paper on a Spanish land grant. That’s when I discovered a passion for research, which later continued with my art history, genealogy, and now local history work. I feel lucky to have found and followed my passion.

Are there ethical guidelines for historians, and what are they?

This is a complex question and I think the answers change over time. You could read many articles and books about this, but I’ll try to give you my own short answer.

I think every historian would agree that it’s important to be as accurate as possible. This requires being thorough and using good sources.

Thoroughness, for me, means digging deep, and locating as much relevant information as I can. Because little has been written about Montavilla history, this means beginning with things like old newspapers and other old periodicals, city directories, census, etc. I crosscheck a variety of sources for inconsistencies.

When I begin my research, I start with a topic that interests me. As I research this topic, I look for an interesting story, like how the community managed to get something accomplished or why something is the way it is today. My idea of the storyline often changes as I get more information.

I’ve often been surprised when a new fact completely changes the way I thought something had happened. It’s important to stay open until you feel you’ve collected all the relevant material you can find on your topic. 

You need to be a skeptic. You can’t believe everything you read or hear. For example, I’ve heard people say, and even write, that the origin of the name Montavilla is Mount Tabor Village. This is not correct.

Historic documents show it comes from the name of the first real estate tract in this area, Mount Tabor Villa Addition, which went on the market in 1889.

The Morning Oregonian, June 13th, 1889, from newspapers.com.

From a previous “Montavilla Memories” story, “The Montavilla Streetcar Line” I wrote this:

The Montavilla streetcar line opened as the Fairview branch of the City & Suburban Railway on July 26, 1892…

The Fairview branch was soon renamed the “Montavilla” line, a contraction of the name of the housing tract at the line’s terminus, Mount Tabor Villa Addition.

The first usage of the name “Montavilla” that I’ve found is in the United States Post Office’s record of appointments of postmasters in Multnomah County. That was in 1891. In 1892, the residents of Mount Tabor Villa built their own school.

Portland City Directories continue to list this as Mount Tabor Villa School until 1906, but newspapers, like the Oregonian, frequently refer to it as the Montavilla School. As you can see, it’s important to check authoritative documents yourself.

This attitude encourages caution to suspend judgement. This can be exciting because it keeps us in suspense a little bit. It keeps us from jumping to conclusions. We’ll probably still make some mistakes and new information will inevitably surface, but historians owe it to their readers to strive for optimal accuracy.

A more difficult guideline is being aware of our biases. This has come up a lot recently among historians in the attempt to write history that consists of more than wars and rulers. Many historians, not just local historians, have been trying to recognize and account for the diversity of our populations over time and the variety of human experiences.

Local history is great for this kind of history because it tends to be about ordinary people. Local newspapers give us a glimpse into these lives, but I dream of someday finding a stash of letters written by old-time Montavillans for a closer and more personal view.

When did you move to Montavilla and what was your first exciting discovery about the neighborhood?

I moved to Montavilla in 2013. My first exciting discover was finally finding the location of the Montavilla branch library, where my mother used to borrow books. My first article for Village Portland was on this topic.

How do you get your ideas for Montavilla Memories stories?

This varies, but it’s largely driven by curiosity and happenstance. I start with a topic or question. What was that old building originally used for? How did Montavilla get a park? When did Montavilla get its first school? Are some of the sewers in Montavilla really 100 years old?

Sometimes I’m doing research on one thing and I come across something else that looks interesting. For example, recently I was trying to get information on Montavilla before there were many building here and I came across a mention of Montavilla bike paths along Stark Street. (I plan to write articles on both topics.) 

Sometimes I get ideas by talking to people who’ve lived in Montavilla for a long time, like their memories of berry picking and sledding. Sometimes I’m reading an article or book on a general topic, such as, the story of how American women got the vote, and I start wondering how Montavilla might have been involved in that effort. Ideas just seem to pop up and multiply. I have a long list of these. Being curious is the main thing.

It’s really awesome how you can find out so much about the past. Could you describe your research process?

I mainly do my research online. It’s so much quicker than my library research in the old days and searchable databases help me locate a broader range of resources. Sometimes the resources I need are only available in archives and libraries, so that’s when I leave my computer.

Of course, I do general Google searches, but I go well beyond the first page to find little nuggets of information. Google Books and Google Scholar are also useful. Probably most of my time is spent with newspaper databases. The ones I use regularly are NewsBank (free on the Multnomah County Library website under the Historical Oregonian), Historic Oregon Newspapers (free on the Library website and through the University of Oregon Library website), Chronicling America (free through the Library of Congress), and Newspapers.com (for a fee). Since many Montavillans came from other states, I also sometimes use newspaper databases for other states.

Google Books and the library have old and specialized books online as well as scholarly articles (e.g. JSTOR on the Multnomah County Library website). When I’m researching individuals, I also use Ancestry (fee required) and FamilySearch (free) to find vital statistics (such as censuses). I also look at city directories for a person’s occupation and addresses. I often find old photos and maps provide important details. Old photos are searchable by name or subject on the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland City Archives websites. The library website has some useful old maps. I’m also grateful to the individuals who have shared photos with me.

I’ve also used the Oregon Historical Society library, Portland’s Central Library and the University of Oregon Library. The University of Oregon Library is the only place where I’ve found microfilms of two Montavilla newspapers, The Montavilla Sun and The Montavilla Times, which have been invaluable sources. I have yet to find any issues of The Montavilla News, but I’m hoping someday I’ll find copies in someone’s private collection.

In searching databases, I use a wide variety of search terms (or keywords), including different spellings of names and different forms of names (first and middle initials then last name, full name, first and last name, etc.), related terms (such as, Montavilla, an organization the person belonged to, relatives), terms or spellings used in the time period I’m researching. Since database indices don’t include every instance of a term, I use search several databases with the same terms.

As you can see, this gets tricky and time consuming. And you really need to use your imagination to think of new ways to get at the information you’re looking for.

Persistence is the main thing. Sometimes I think I’ve found out everything I can about a subject and then I have a brainstorm about something else to check, which may lead to one of the crucial bits of the story I’m working on.

Besides all this nitty-gritty research, I like to see how an episode in Montavilla history relates to the bigger picture, whether that’s Portland, the United States, or the world. The Montavilla experience is usually related to some larger context— say Prohibition, the women’s vote, the Spanish Flu, road building. For this, books and articles are my go-to tools.

Are there any other neighborhoods that you are curious about? Why?

Since two generations of my family (not counting my own first two years) lived on Mount Tabor, I keep my eye out for interesting information about the Mount Tabor neighborhoods. I also know that if I want to learn about the Montavilla area before it was called Montavilla, I need to research the Mount Tabor vicinity. The histories of Mount Tabor and Montavilla are very closely linked, at least, until they became rivals.

For people interested in learning more about their past, are there any words of wisdom you’d like to share?

If you have a passion for it, get started. Follow your interests. There are many, many stories waiting to be told.

Many people have told me that the Historical Society Museum library staff has been really helpful to them. If you’re researching a new subject or if you’re new to local history research, that’s a good place to begin. 

Be a skeptic. Don’t believe everything you read.

Keep digging. Don’t give up researching an idea too soon. Be creative. See if you can think of other ways to pursue it.

Relate Montavilla [or your neighborhood] to the big picture. It’s more interesting if you can see how it is connected to Portland, to Oregon, to the United States, or even the world.

Be persistent and have fun!

***

Historical story ideas? Questions about Montavilla’s past? Also share a love for neighborhood history? 

Comment on the article at the link in the heading. Or you can reach out to Pat Sanders at pat.montavilla.history@gmail.com.

Read all of the “Montavilla Memories” articles by Pat Sanders here.

This weekend

Oregon officials shut down schools to stop the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory virus commonly called coronovirus.

State health officials urge, “good hand hygiene, covering coughs and staying home if you are sick”. According to the CDC, symptoms can include fever, a cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms emerge two to 14 days after exposure.

Diagnosis is difficult because the symptoms overlap with other common ailments, health officials say. The cough is usually a dry cough, and a runny nose and sneezing aren’t commonly associated with COVID-19.

Over 400 Oregon doctors are asking State officials for more action and equipment in response to the outbreak. And Gov. Kate Brown is also asking the federal government for more supplies and testing capacity.

If you’re going out, take care, and it’s probably best to double-check if an event is even being held.

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There’s a good Facebook conversation at the I Love Lents group (you have to be a member of the group to visit it) about a federal proposal that could evict many people in East / Southeast Portland from flood zones. Here’s an article that’s not behind the New York Times paywall.

Indiana Environmental Reporter reports: Trump administration pressures coastal communities to evict homeowners from flood-prone areas

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FRIDAY, MARCH 13TH

Grotto’s free weekend:

The Upper Garden at The Grotto is free through Sunday, March 15th.

“In this spirit of hope, everyone is invited to visit our Upper Gardens at no charge through Sunday, March 15, so that you might have a place to reflect, to pray, and to find comfort and hope.”

– Fr. Don Siple, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

The Grotto, 8840 NE Skidmore St * 9 am – 5:30 pm * free

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Live music:

Music in Montavilla with Kate Morrison & Dave Captein. They call it a “indie pop/jazz-based trio”, but if you’re curious— just watch to the video.

Vino Veritas, 7835 SE Stark St * 7 pm – 10 pm * free

SUNDAY, MARCH 15TH

Sunday market:

Montavilla Farmers Market‘s Winter Market is on Sunday.

7700 block of SE Stark St * 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

This weekend

It took many volunteers from multiple neighborhood groups to manage Thursday’s Portland City Council forum hosted by the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association.

Twenty four candidates attended, the room was nearly full, and we had a good crowd tune in for the livestream. A recording of the livestream is here, and the forum begins at about 1:21:00.

Village Portland was happy to participate, and give folks who couldn’t make it a chance to meet the candidates.

Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers who worked to make this event successful.

SATURDAY, MARCH 7TH

Johnson Creek restoration work (event):

“Join us for Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s largest restoration event of the year! For nearly 50 years, local residents have worked tirelessly to restore, repair, and clean Johnson Creek. We are proud to have been part of this grassroots legacy for the past 25 of these years.”

There’s a free lunch afterwards.

Volunteers will restore, repair, and clean this waterway that wends through multiple neighborhoods in Portland. Register at the event link in the header.

Ten locations * 8:45 am – noon

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School fundraiser (event):

Image result for vestal social justice

Vestal Elementary is having their annual fund raiser!

“Join us for our 6th Annual Rock, Paper, Soiree! Funds raised during this event go toward the Garden Program and other Outdoor Initiatives at Vestal.”

Milepost 5, 850 NE 81st Ave * 6 pm – 9 pm * $25 @ Vestal office or at the door

SUNDAY, MARCH 8TH

For the full list of vendors and how to get involved in the market, go here.

Montavilla Farmers Market, 7700 block of SE Stark St * 10 am – 2 pm

An airship landing port in Montavilla? True or False?

By PATRICIA SANDERS

An image of Baldwin’s airship’s the “City of Portland”.
Source: Barbour County Index (Medicine Lodge, Kansas), September 27, 1905, Chronicling America

Sometimes I stumble on interesting information when I’m really looking for something else. This happened recently as I explored a database of early 20th Century Oregon buildings on the University of Oregon Library website.

I was surprised to find under Montavilla buildings a listing for “National Airship Company, landing port”. Searching further, I also found the entry under the contractor “Alexander Ots”. I’d never heard of an airship landing port in Montavilla. Was this really true?

I had to investigate. The building database, originally compiled and published by Michael Shellenbarger in 1992, was an index of buildings mentioned in The Portland Daily Abstract from 1906 to 1910. Luckily, the Multnomah County Library has microfilm of this newspaper, where I found the source of the information: two identical ads in the December 31, 1907 and January 1, 1908 editions.

An “Ariel” ad from the Portland Daily Abstract of January 31, 1907.
Source: Microfilm, Multnomah County Library (Central Branch)

The full-page ad offers stock in the National Airship Company, which planned passenger service from New York to London in a large airship (shown at the top), and from Portland to San Francisco in a smaller airship.

(The airships referred to were gas-filled non-rigid dirigibles; what today we usually called blimps. One had been tested in October, 1907, but failed. Another larger one was probably then under construction in San Francisco.)

The ad further tells us that the National Airship Company had purchased 80 acres on “the Montavilla car line” and would begin building “landing docks, freight sheds, etc., in the spring”. This must be what was translated as a “landing port” in the U of O database. Presumably it was for the Portland-San Francisco airships.

The ad identifies property on the Montavilla streetcar line, which in 1907 went as far east as the intersection of NE Glisan Street & NE 82nd Avenue. The best place to find open land along the line would have been at the east end, so a port in or near Montavilla sounds, at least, plausible.

But was such a port ever built? Of that there is no record. Nor is there a record that the land was actually purchased, although Alexander Ots, superintendent of construction, told Portland newspaper reporters he had purchased the 80 acres from Isaiah Buckman, who was, indeed, at that time an extensive property owner. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because he was the son of the Buckman Addition namesake, Lydia Holloway Buckman. Ots’ claim is possible, but so far I’ve found no published record of a real estate transfer.

If he did buy the land, did Ots make any headway with the port project? The only possible evidence I’ve found is the drawing of a factory-like building in the lower left corner of the ad. However, when newspaper reporters asked Ots about the exact location of the property and the dates of construction, he was evasive.

Detail of the “Ariel” ad from the Portland Daily Abstract January 31, 1907.
Source: Microfilm, Multnomah County Library (Central Branch)

Voices of the Villages

Click the image above to go to our crowd-sourcing campaign.

The Portland, Oregon area is home to several village-style transitional housing communities. In a nation struggling with housing and homelessness, is this a model that can work for more people— and for more cities?

Beginning with Dignity Village, founded in 2000, Village Portland is creating a documentary series, “Voices of the Villages”, to examine each of Portland’s six villages to find out what they can teach us about housing and homelessness, and why many see the model as an improvement over traditional homeless shelters.

If you’d like to help Village Portland examine this unique model that has helped so many people find housing, community, and dignity, please donate to our crowd-funding campaign. Funds will go towards the reporting of Cory Elia and production crew.

Voices of the Villages” crowdfunding campaign

We’ll be announcing subsequent campaigns for each village documentary. If you as an individual or your organization would like to be a sole sponsor, please contact us. Thank you for supporting independent media and this housing model that has helped so many.

Sincerely,
Andrew Wilkins
Publisher / Editor
villageportland.com
andrewtaylorwilkins@gmail.com

This weekend

There’s not going to be an newspaper’s worth of stories every week or even every month in a neighborhood, but when issues emerge, you can’t really rely on the citywide media for the deep dive often needed.

The Portland Street Response pilot project planned to start in the spring and be based in Lents is a big deal, and deserves a close examination.

The program is designed to lessen the need for armed officers to report to non-violent incidents involving the unhoused and free up police for more pressing matters. Cory Elia reported on the program during a information fair for potential volunteers.

We’re thankful Lents Neighborhood Association leadership gave us the heads up to cover their monthly meeting featuring Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the program’s architect.

The presentation begins @ about the :58 mark.

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The Committee on Community-Engaged Policing recommended several suggestions for Portland Police during a traffic stop, the Oregonian reported:

“… Portland police officers should introduce themselves with their full names, explain the reason for the stop, clearly state if they are detaining someone or not and ask if they could do anything to put people at ease.”

These all seem like more-than-reasonable requests.

You can watch their January meeting here.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 31ST

Live country (event):

“Hey!!! Get those boots on the dance floor cuz this is one helluva Country show!!”

Smoke Wagon: 9 pm
The Nash Brothers: 10:30 pm

Eastside Bar & Grill, 2530 NE 82nd Ave * 9 pm – midnight * $8

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 1ST

Conversation on homelessness:

Image may contain: one or more people and text

This is the first of four of these events. For more details and the other times / locations, go here.

PCC Southeast Community Hall, 2305 SE 82nd Ave * 9 am – noon

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Once Upon a Time Family Theatre:

“Once Upon a Time Family Theatre is a magical mix of theatrical simplicity and grand storytelling for kids and their families. There’s always a slight twist to the traditional story that keeps these productions fresh. Though simply produced, these delightful and engaging productions will soon have everyone fully absorbed in the interaction of live theatre.”

This month’s production: “Sleeping Beauty”

Portland Metro Arts, 9003 SE Stark St * 11:30 am * $1 for children – $1 for adults

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2ND

Anime Origami (event):

“Come and fold paper into your favorite anime or manga character. It’s fun and easy. No folding experience necessary.” 

Holgate Library, 7905 SE Holgate Blvd * 2 pm – 3 pm * free

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Enjoy your weekend!

This weekend

This post will be light on events, but we are very happy to announce a fundraiser for Village Portland @ St. Johns!

It will be held on Wednesday, February 19th at Fixin To, the excellent Southern-themed bar and live venue. We’re proud of our initial work up there and are excited to do more for that special part of Portland.

Creature Party has agreed to play, and we’re looking for one more band. So we must ask: who’s the coolest band in St. Johns??

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What is the best way to tell a story? You have radio, newspapers, television stations… but what I love about the internet is the ability to incorporate all three mediums— and different combinations of each— into our coverage.

But for a debate / candidate forum, what is better than livestreaming? Viewers can ask questions of each other in the moment and the livestreaming host can moderate and pass questions along to those running.

It’s a fabulous engagement tool, and to give credit where credit is due: it’s a technology that Mark Zuckerberg and the folks at Facebook got right.

We stepped up to livestream at the Advancing Collective Equity Candidate Forum on Sunday at Midland Library. It’s a two-part forum, so if you want to watch both go to our Facebook page here.

It was good to see the mayoral candidates Ozzie González, Sarah Innarone, and Teressa Raiford, speak in length rather than in the sound bites mainstream media limited by.

Hosted by Bernie [Sanders] PDX, the same three candidates attended a forum on Tuesday— with the addition of candidate Cash Carter. We were there to livestream then too.

Do your homework and choose wisely this election season.

And also… enjoy your weekend!

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