Portland Neighborhoods: Peacock Lane

One of the things I loved most about Portland when I first came here in 2006 was that there were no crowds. I mean anywhere. 

You could park right in front of a movie theater five minutes before the show started and by the way, you didn’t have to feed a meter or anything. 

So I moved here. Along with, like, 47,000 other people. 

And like most of them –– and all of the people who were here before I got here –– I like to complain about how crowded it’s become. 

Which it has, but let’s be honest, it’s still nothing like LA or New York. With a few notable exceptions, one of them being Peacock Lane the week before Christmas.

So Portland.

Peacock Lane is Southeast 40th Avenue between Belmont and Stark, which makes it about four blocks long, but since there are no cross streets on SE 40th between Belmont and Stark, it’s really just a lonnnnnnnnng block. 

48 weeks out of the year, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about Peacock Lane. It’s just another street with really pretty houses, walking distance to Belmont, Hawthorne, Laurelhurst Park, Mt. Tabor, and Division. 

This house is a block away. It’s like, “Why do I even try?”

What makes this block special is that the houses on that block go all out with their Christmas decorations. And I mean all out. It’s a tradition that started back to the 1920s and there are a couple of things that make it so very Portland. 

In real estate, we deal with Covenants, which are things you’re required to do if you buy a place. And you would think, especially since Peacock Lane is on the US National Register of Historic Places, that there’d be a covenant that makes you decorate your house for Christmas if you live there. But no. People move there because they want to decorate. Nobody tells you that you have to.

Another thing that makes it totally Portland is that a lot of times, when someone buys a home there, the people selling the home will pass their decorations along to the new buyers. But like I said, one of the things that makes it so very not like Portland is holy crap, it’s crowded! At least for the second half of December. The cops block off the street to car traffic now, which I guess makes it even more Portland. If you live on Peacock Lane and you have an emergency at 5:30 on a December evening –– like you’ve run out of kombucha or something –– you’re sure as heck not getting in your car to get more. I mean, not like you have to. There’s a Walgreen’s right down at the end of the block where, yes, last time I checked they sell kombucha. There’s also a weed dispensary around the corner which used to be this place called Immortal Piano –– broke my heart when it closed because, with a name like Immortal Piano…

No longer Immortal …

If it’s a cocktail emergency, you’re staggering distance from several good spots, including the Aalto Lounge, where their happy hour is the stuff of legend. From 5:00 to 7:00 you can get a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of tomato soup for $3! On the way there, you’ll pass a Stumptown Coffee and a Tao of Tea, so pretty much, it’s a neighborhood with everything. 

Best of all is Movie Madness, the neighborhood video store. And yes, there’s still a neighborhood with a neighborhood video store, but calling Movie Madness a video store is like calling the Louvre a building with some nice paintings inside. 

Movie Madness has a more extensive collection of arcane cinema than any of the places I used to frequent when I was working as a director in New York or LA. They break things down not just by genre and director, but also country and style. You want to binge French caper films from the 1970s? They can totally hook you up. 

So I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Well, Brian, that’s all super interesting. Do houses on Peacock Lane cost more than equivalent houses a block or so away?”

Great question. 

It’s a tough comparison to make because in the past three years, only four houses on Peacock Lane were sold. Those sales took six times as long to close, but the houses went for about 15% more per square foot than houses in the immediately surrounding area. 

What that says to me is that Peacock Lane is a neighborhood for a special kind of person. But that person is willing to pay more in order to get to live there. 

Got any other real estate (or film) questions? I’m at 310-854-2458.


Portland Neighborhoods: Foster/Powell

See? People are happy here.

You know me. I love pizza. So it should come as no surprise that I love Foster-Powell.

I mean, just look at it on a map. It looks like a slice of pizza!

Yeah. I know. Tenuous. But check this out! Two of the finest pizzerias in all of Portland are in the neighborhood –Char and Pizzeria Otto (which just opened its second location at SE 72nd and Foster). Char is awesome not just because the pizza is amazeballs, but also because the people are super nice and they name the pizzas on the menu after their cats. How Portland is that? And Otto is awesome because the pizzas are wood-fired deliciousness! It’s going to be fun to see these two duke it out.

(I should probably also mention Assembly Brewing, where they make a damn fine pizza in the Detroit style. The only reason I didn’t put it up there with those other two is because honestly, I’ve only had Detroit style pizza at Assembly Brewing and who knows? Maybe you people who actually know what a Detroit pizza is supposed to taste like would consider it an abomination.)

Two — maybe three —awesome pizzerias would make a neighborhood special in just about any other city that’s not in Italy. Let’s be honest, in Portland, it’s barely notable. Portland has more amazing pizza places than anywhere I’ve ever been.

So let’s forget about pizza. Let’s talk about what makes FoPo special.

Hey look! An old car!

FoPo is unusual in a Portland neighborhood way in that there’s no central village. It’s bordered on the south by SE Foster and on the north by sE Powell. You’re super smart so you probably already figured out that that’s how it got its name. The border on the east is SE 82nd, or as I like to think of it, The Crust, because let’s be honest, that’s kind what it is.

They keep trying to turn SE 82nd into something it isn’t, meaning to draw your attention away from the auto parts stores and motels and to get you to notice the …um …what? Carpet stores and fast food chains?

The most recent effort was to rebrand SE 82nd as The Jade District, which sort of makes sense. There’s a disproportionate number of Asian businesses on 82nd, places where you can get fantastic dim sum, pho, bahn mi, even groceries they don’t carry at Freddy’s or Safeway. In amongst them you’ll find a fish market, hispanic restaurants, fast food places, and other stuff. But it’s a busy street — a highway, even — so it gets no charm points like Woodstock or Gladstone.

Foster and Powell are slightly less busy than 82nd, but they’re still busy thoroughfares, which make FoPo kind of an island in a swirling sea of commuters. And appropriate to its island-in-the-swirling-sea metaphor, it just might be the best place in Portland to buy fish and seafood. You can get better live lobster cheaper at the no-frills Asian seafood places on Powell than at the fancy-schmancy grocery stores. And unlike the fish markets where they splay dead fish on ice, how awesome is it to make eye contact with your dinner as it swims around in its tank?

On the other hand, at the very tip of the pizza slice, where Foster and Powell intersect, is a Burger King. That feels meaningful, somehow.

There’s a strip of Foster that’s starting to develop a cool vibe, between SE 60th and SE 72nd. You’ve got a tango hall (not making this up — this is Portland) the requisite tattoo parlor, a vegan burger place, a neighborhood grocery, a bagel place where they actually boil their bagels the old fashioned way, and some neat bars.

That having been said, there’s an “elegant” furniture store that I swear, I’ve driven by at least once a day for years and I’ve never seen a single person come in our out, plus no shortage of strip clubs, plumbing supply stores, pot dispensaries, places to buy granite countertops, and body shops. You can even buy gravel and mulch by the truckload and satisfy all your taxidermy needs almost right across the street from a gun shop.

So %$#*! Portland, right?

The neighborhood is unusual in another way. It’s mostly houses. You’d be hard pressed to find a fancy-schmancy condo development in Foster Powell and that gives the neighborhood (or let the neighborhood retain a cozy, family-oriented vibe.

You could probably get $1,200 a month for that tree house.

Of course, there are families and there are families. The houses in that pizza slice-shaped triangle are kind of cottage-y. They were built for the most part in the 1920’s. 1930’s, and 1940’s as housing for lower middle class workers. Compared to the classic Portland four-squares that dominate (or used to dominate), say, Clinton and Division, here you’ll find houses that are smaller and less photogenic.

Totally Mary Ann.

I happen to think that’s a good thing. Sticking with that island thing I set up way back in the 10th paragraph, the houses here are like Mary Ann to Gilligan’s Ginger, if you’re old enough to get that reference. They’re pretty, approachable, sensible homes and as a result, the families that make up the population have a tendency to feel kind of the same. Well, I don’t know about pretty. But definitely approachable and sensible. In a city famous for not showing off, foster Powell makes other neighborhoods look like they’re elbowing each other out to hop the spotlight.

What’s ironic is that FoPo has become kind of a darling of Portland real estate. The recently discovered undiscovered gem, so home prices there have gone up a lot and people are moving in because it’s the place to be a little more than because it’s the place they want to be. According to The Portland Business Journal, the median home price is not $399,000 and what’s even more impressive, the average home sold in the past year was on the market for 12 days.

As I mentioned in another post, in Portland we have 20 blocks to a mile so even if you’re out by 82nd, you’re within biking distance of downtown. And it’s a nice ride, too, through Clinton, Ladd’s Addition, and over the Hawthorne bride. You can’t even get lost. Just follow the thousands of other bike commuters making the same trip. It’s a good ride back home. Short enough to do it every day. Strenuous enough that you can justify …you know where I’m going with this …



Happy Times / Sad Times

Let me start by saying we’re not curing cancer here. I know that. What we do is help people do something they’re going to do anyway.

That having been said, it’s tremendously rewarding (and I don’t mean financially) to help people navigate a confusing, stressful process. What’s interesting is that the times that people rely on me are generally either extremely happy or extremely sad.

The happy ones are fun. A couple is getting married and wants to settle into their first home. A professional just got a job opportunity that requires her to move to Portland. Parents decide to give their kids four acres of backyard wilderness to play in.

But it’s the sad ones that make you feel the best about what you do.

Last year I sold a house for a neighbor and friend who was (and is) experiencing early onset dementia. Another listing I had was for the family of another neighbor who had passed away. A third was for a friend of a friend who, already confined to a wheelchair, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Trying times. The pain that comes with these transitions is only amplified by fickle buyers, home values that don’t jibe with the optimistic projections of Zillow and Redfin, repairs that need to be made, and the myriad documents that need to be understood and signed.

It’s not enough to protect my clients. I need to make sure my clients feel protected.

I used to work for multinational corporations, creating marketing and advertising on a global scale. I did some really good work. I solved complex problems in (if I say so myself) some extraordinary ways.

After one particularly difficult project that resulted in a huge victory for a global financial services company, I had a realization: Corporations can’t be happy. They can only be profitable.

People, though. People can be happy.

That’s what got me into real estate. I like making people happy.

My client in the wheelchair repeatedly called me a lifesaver. I wasn’t. She passed away anyway, much too early. And my friend and neighbor with dementia, when I call her now to check in, often can’t remember who I am.

I’m at peace with that. Like I said, what we do is help people do something they’re going to do anyway. And that other thing they’re going to do anyway? Well, it’s a lot bigger than just buying or selling a house.


Portland Neighborhoods: NW 23rd Ave.









Whenever I work with clients moving to Portland from LA, the first place I take them is NW 23rd. It’s Portland’s version of San Vicente or Larchmont –– a strip of mostly fancy schmancy stores and restaurants that was the main draw back before there were other main draws like Division, Mississippi, Alberta, Lake Oswego, and other neighborhood villages.

As you can tell from the address, NW 23rd is 23 blocks from the Willamette River, which is just over a mile (blocks in Portland are shorter than they are in a lot of other cities). In between, you have non-stop interesting stuff: NW 21st is kind of the Clinton to 23rd’s Division (see my post on Division here, and on Clinton here). They’re super close, but different enough that people who live there tend to identify with one or the other.

Then there’s the Alphabet District, where you can’t get lost because the avenues are numbered and the streets are alphabetical. (Cool Portland fact: the streets are named after city founders. Other cool Portland fact: If you watch or watched The Simpsons, a lot of those names will look familiar. Matt Groening is from Portland.)

An awesome old house.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Interesting stuff between NW 23rd and the river. After the Alphabet District, you have Slabtown, the Pearl District, Chinatown, and Old Town. I’ll be writing posts on each of these sections down the road.

Right around NW 23rd, you’ll find a lot of condos, but head west a bit and you get into houses. Amazing old houses, built mostly in the early 1900s.

Not an awesome old house. An awesome new one.

The street is kind of ideally located. The Portland Streetcar moseys through, connecting the neighborhood to the rest of the city. But it’s actually walking distance to downtown in one direction, the Pearl District in sort-of another, and Forest Park in the another.

NW 23rd used to be distinctive in that it was the only cosmopolitan area of the city. It has a Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Lush, Gap, Ben & Jerry’s, and some other big name stores. “Real” Portlanders like to cop an attitude about that because the city likes to defiantly support local businesses, but with Salt and Straw, Blue Star Donuts, Stumptown, Ace Hotels, and a lot of other local businesses going national and even International, it’s harder to draw the distinction anymore.

And other neighborhoods of the city have let some of those big name national brands leak in.

A wall of chocolate at The Meadow.

But there are some things along NW 23rd that you can’t find elsewhere in Portland. One is St. Jack, a French Bistro where they make two things that are worth the hike all the way from my house: the chicken liver mousse which is, I’m serious, a $%&*!! revelation and a drink called The French Pearl that I swear tastes like sipping springtime. Another is Kornblatt’s Deli, the only (unless you count newcomer Kenny and Zuke’s) Jewish deli in Portland.

Just off NW 23rd at the north end you have St. Honore, a  bakery that looks like something out of an old French movie and Kenny and Zuke’s Bagelworks, where the bagels are actually good. Really good. Better than most of the bagels I had when I lived in New York good.

Look at all the whiskeys at the Southland Whiskey Kitchen! We’re gunna be here for a while…

Oh, and this is cool! Every September, the Vaux’s Swifts stop off on their annual migration to spend the night in a chimney at Chapman Elementary School (1445 NW 26th Ave). Head over there any day of the month just before dusk and join thousands of Portlanders who think sitting on a blanket on the grass and watching birds fly into a chimney is more exciting than any Miley Cyrus concert.

I’ll be there. Look for me. Afterward, we can head over to St. Jack.

Portland Neighborhoods: Clinton

Remember Manhattan back in the 40’s and 50’s, when you could walk a block and go from one neighborhood to another one that was totally distinct?

Me neither.

But I’ve heard stories. And when I used to live there, you could still find vestiges – little reminders that the German neighborhood you were in butted right up against the Italian neighborhood a couple of streets over.

Who needs a gallery? Put your art on a fence ….
….on a telephone pole ….
….even on your house.

Portland has a lot of that. More subtle than in New York, but places where there’s a real difference in the personalities between two areas. Colonial Heights is different from Ladd’s Addition. NW 21st is different from NW 23rd. Hawthorne is different from Belmont, which is different from Stark, which is different from Burnside. And Clinton is different from Division.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” plays every Saturday night. Not making this up.

I’ve already gone on about Division (click here to reread my extremely informative and even vaguely accurate post), but to recap: 1) Freeway, 2) no freeway, 3) hippies, 4) fancy restaurants, 5) hipsters.

Clinton is a block away, but where Division was originally kind of an industrial cut through, Clinton began life totally residential. So even though the same hippies bought houses in both Clinton and Division for pennies on the dollar when the government abandoned its plan to build a freeway into downtown, neighborhood stuff got (and gets) emphasized on Clinton a lot more. To the point that today, cars get to drive on division; bikes own Clinton.

Clinton is what the city calls a Designated Bike Boulevard, which is defined as “low-volume and low-speed streets that have been optimized for bicycle travel through treatments such as traffic calming and traffic reduction, signage and pavement markings, and intersection crossing treatment.” Clinton has speed bumps, signs, DUI catchers (little roundabouts in intersections), even special street signs with cute little bikes on top – all that and more. In fact, just try to drive a car down the street. You can’t. There are spot where cars are actually forced to turn off.

When old homes are torn down in Clinton, they’re usually replaced by new homes. On Division – and did I mention that Division is seriously only a block away? – when old homes get torn down they’re usually replaced by multi unit housing.

I haven’t actually been to this place yet. We should go.

Like most of the neighborhoods in Portland, Clinton is its own little village. In and just off of the stretch between SE 20th and SE 26th you’ve got your pizza place (Hammy’s), a breakfast place (Off the Waffle), a diner (Dots, which is surprisingly good), an artsy brasserie (La Moule), another artsy brasserie (Jacqueline), and a kajillion other places to eat and drink and watch the parade of bike commuters on their way to and from work. There’s a fancy grocery store (New Seasons, which is really on Division, but like I said, a block away, and actually more connected to Clinton), and a food co-op (People’s Food Co-Op on SE 21st and Tibbetts).

You also have two optometrists, a boutique that sells kid stuff …even two real estate offices.

Which you really don’t need to bother with. I mean, you have me, right?

For a complete Portland bike map, click here.





Portland Neighborhoods: Mt. Scott Park*

*not to be confused with Mt. Scott, a 1,091-foot-high volcanic cinder cone in Clackamas County

When I first moved to Portland 13 years ago, I was told to stay away from this area. People called it Felony Flats. A lot of the yards had pit bulls chained up in them, next to the carcasses of dead cars and appliances.

Oh how things change.

It’s still one of the more affordable neighborhoods in the city, but according to Portland Monthly the median home price is now $384,999. Felony Estates, more like.

It’s the area between SE 52nd and SE 82nd, north of Woodstock and south of Foster. (Cool fact: Foster Road was named for Philip Foster, who owned a trading post near Estacada in the late 1800s and was married to Mary Charlotte Pettygrove. Another cool fact: Foster Road was built on top of the northern fork of the Oregon Trail.)

The centerpiece of the Mt. Scott Park neighborhood is …wait for it …Mt. Scott Park. It’s a quiet, family-friendly park, and just about every weekend there’s a birthday or graduation or something being celebrated in one of the picnic areas. A couple of years ago, the World Naked Bike Ride started in the park. So yeah, totally wholesome.

Okay, I lied. The Mt. Scott community Center is the centerpiece of the neighborhood. It’s adjacent to or maybe in the park and has two swimming pools – one that’s great for lap swimming and water aerobics and the other that’s built just for kids, with a slide, whirlpool, buckets that splash water on top of you, and a wading area that graaaaaaaadually gets deeper and deeper until the water comes all the way up to your knee.

The neighborhood is culturally diverse with a pretty substantial Russian population, as well as Mexican and Vietnamese.

In addition to the pools, the community center has a basketball court, a gym, meeting rooms, and a skating rink. For real. A skating rink with wood floors and posts which I know from first-hand experience are placed perfectly for you to run into when you’re trying to teach your kid how to skate and not paying close attention to where you’re going.

Someone told me that in the old days, the Mt. Scott Trolley ran from downtown Portland up to the town of Lents and no, I have no idea why it was called the Mt. Scott Trolley, but because that was the name of the line, that became the name of the park.

I was also told that the Arleta Triangle, a weird orphan of land that’s cut off from the southwest corner of the park at SE 72nd and Woodstock, came about because trolley tracks were laid to cut the corner of the park, leaving a little triangle of land all sad and lonely out there in the middle of the intersection. It sounds convincing, but according to the 1942 trolley route map I dug up, the trolley didn’t go anywhere near that corner. And also, it wasn’t called the Mt. Scott Trolley.


Speaking of things that are named for what they aren’t, across the street form the park is the Arleta Library, which isn’t a library, but a breakfast place that got famous because some TV Chefs ate there once. It’s good, but good enough to wait in line to get in? Yeah, actually it is.

Next door to the Arleta Library is Space Monkey Coffee where I have a secret crush on a barista named Amy. If you go there, tell her hi for me.

Okay, I lied. The centerpiece of the neighborhood is the Portland Mercado at SE 72nd and Foster. It’s a collection of Hispanic food cars – everything from Colombian to Peruvian to Oaxacan to Cuban – plus a tiendita for groceries, a carniceria for meats, a cafeteria for coffee, and a bar.

You know what? For real, the centerpiece of the neighborhood is Milo, the Best Puppy Ever™. He lives across the street from the park and loves to invite neighborhood dogs into his yard for play dates. If he’s not out by the gate when you come by, ring his doorbell on the little free library and he’ll come out. Unless he’s gone to work with his dad (me) to sell some houses in the neighborhood.


– Brian





Portland Neighborhoods: Division

(Not the definitive history, but my version, which includes maybe a little hearsay, a little mythology)

Something like 45 years ago, the federal government decided to put a freeway into Portland and bought up a swath of old houses along the proposed route –– SE Division Street. Scrappy Portland citizens said “we don’t want your stinkin’ freeway” and managed to force the project to be abandoned, which left the government holding a ton of properties. The government decided to get rid of the properties and because governments are so good at turning a profit, they sold the houses for pennies on the dollar.

The timing was perfect for hippies. San Francisco was getting pricey. So tons of them hitchhiked up north to a land where you could drive a VW bus 20 minutes in almost any direction and find yourself in a gloriously beautiful setting –– you could take a quick hike through misty woods, pluck a couple of psychedelic mushrooms, and bliss out naked in a hot spring.

Up until that point, Portland was a rough, blue-collar manufacturing and timber town. But so many hippies invaded that the city’s personality changed.

The hippies turned their craftsman houses into goat barns, pottery studios, rooming houses, and mini ashrams. They didn’t have the money (or inclination) to tear the houses down and build modern houses, but they put enough love and care into them to keep them from falling completely apart.

35 years later, the rest of the country discovered this little time warp and what it had become. Disaffected young people from all over the US started moving into the city in hopes that they, too, could live a life where a kombucha culture got more attention than a time sheet.

About 15 years ago, I can’t remember who, but some adventurous chef decided to open a restaurant on SE Division, driven mostly by how inexpensive the property was. The restaurant became a media darling and other chefs came in with their restaurants. Soon Division became a culinary destination. That’s about the time that I moved into the neighborhood. I used to walk five blocks to Pok Pok, sit down, and have a great lunch. Now you have to wait in line for an hour to get in.

I remember when the first condos went up in the neighborhood and the developer priced the units at the audaciously exorbitant price of $225,000 a unit. I bet he’s kicking himself now. I know I am.

Division these days is one culinary experience after another, with pricey little boutiques interspersed in between. But a lot of the original residents are still there. They like to complain about having to pay $4 for a cup of coffee and about how they have to park sometimes a block away from their houses, but their homes are worth $750,000 and up.

Division street itself is becoming a canyon of condos, which is hard to square with its original vibe. Many of the restaurants there are now mini-chains. The Bollywood Theater is a wonderful example of a really neat restaurant that was established in another neighborhood, but has a branch on Division. Those of us who have lived here long enough feel like that’s some kind of betrayal, but let’s be honest, the food is good and they only have two locations. That doesn’t make them The Great Satan.

Division is super close to downtown. You just hop on your bike and pedal thirty some-odd blocks and you’re at the river. Take the Hawthorne Bridge across and bam, you’re there. Bonus, Hawthorne is about a half mile to the north and Clinton is two blocks south and a little west. Getting to the airport is pretty easy, too. Just head east to the 205 Freeway and go north. It used to take me 20 minutes. I suppose now it’s 35 when there’s traffic.

Some of my favorite places on Division:

  • Scottie’s Pizza (One of the best pizza places in the city. And that’s saying a lot. Portland has tons of great pizza places.)
  • Bollywood Theater
  • Pok Pok
  • Lauretta Jeans (Amazing pie. I take my kids there for Pi Day every March 14th and the place is packed with math geeks.)
  • Pinolo Gelato (Just a couple blocks from Salt & Straw. I like it better.)
  • Cibo (*&$%!! good happy hour, with another amazing pizza.)

In Which I Call B.S. on a Recent HousingWire Story

Did you see the headline from last week? “It costs more to own a home than to rent one in every U.S. state.” For a link to the article, click here.

The story talks about how using US Census Bureau data, CNBC was able to compare the median cost of renting a home to the median cost of owning a home.

Remember what a median is? A median is “the value or quantity lying at the midpoint of a frequency distribution of observed values or quantities.” In other words, if you have 1,001 houses, exactly 500 will cost more and 500 will cost less.

And this is where the methodology is screwed up. RentCafe took the same data that CNBC used and figured out that in the US, there are 73% more apartments rented than houses. And the Terner Center at Berkley took that same data and determined that “Today, single-family detached homes make up more than 62 percent of the housing stock in the United States…” .

So the median rental is way more likely to be an apartment, while the median home that’s owned is way more likely to be a house.

Here’s another way to think of it. Jennifer Lopez has a $28 million home. So she and all the other millionaires who own mansions skew the median cost of home ownership up. But unless
there are a lot of millionaires out there renting apartments for like $2 million a month, it’s a pretty safe bet that median rental doesn’t skew as far north.

If all those numbers make your eyes glaze over, let me frame it one more way. The common
sense way.

The CNBC story implies that in every single state, people who rent out their homes are, on
average, losing money. In other words, we have a country full of generous landlords.

Sorry, that just doesn’t fly.

As a realtor®, it’s important to stay informed. But it’s way more important to think.