Advocating for Affordable Housing in St. Johns

In 2016, Andres Oswill and five other PSU Masters in Urban and Regional Planning students embarked on a capstone project in partnership with the St. Johns Center for Opportunity (SJCO) to build a comprehensive housing plan for the St. Johns community. Over a period of one year, PSU and SJCO engaged community members in dialogue around housing issues and an examination of Oregon housing policy to create the St. Johns Housing Action Plan. This plan is being implemented by the Housing Committee, comprised of a group of community members and the St. Johns Center for Opportunity. Andres now works in Tenant Policy for the Portland Housing Bureau. We sat down with Andres to talk about the impact of his work with SJCO during this project.

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Andres explained that the research project was really rewarding because he got to know the people and the neighborhood very closely. “My involvement with SJCO and this project was without a doubt the most significant and impactful involvement of my Master’s Program. I was able to take a theoretical program and put it to use in a neighborhood who needed me. That meant a lot to me! We envisioned and created a neighborhood plan, which is very different from the traditional housing plans that exist at a regional level. It was important to be able to create something to help address issues and create a new model to contribute to the field of urban planning”.

The students and SJCO felt really strongly about engagement with the community during the project. To capture the voices and concerns of community members, they held 5 different listening and engagement events in the area.  George Middle School and the St. Johns Neighborhood Association hosted the listening sessions in the community.  

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In these listening sessions, the students heard that the community was ready to do something. There was concern about new construction, the history of only building single-family homes in the area and the students found themselves surprised to find the housing pressure really affecting the community. People were concerned with themselves or their neighbors moving and selling, the increase in rents, eviction and displacement, and the changing profile of the neighborhood from working class to the “next frontier of Portlandness”. They were asking, “What can we do? How can we keep people in their homes?” Unlike other neighborhoods, it has many multigenerational, long-term residents. Andres recalls talking to a community member who had lived there for 10-15 years and she said “that’s nothing around here. In the context of St. Johns, that’s a really short time”. They had the additional challenge of working within this historical context.

What did you learn from working on the St. Johns Housing Action Plan project?

“It was a real look at the housing crisis in Portland. I got a rich background of knowledge for myself to say this is what it looks like: many empty lots built up with high cost apartments, older apartments being gutted and revamped to become high end, people leaving the neighborhood. I got a good definition of what housing stability looks like too. Housing stability looks like being able to live in and stay in the neighborhood that they grew up in”.

Now, Andres is working at the city level writing landlord and tenant policy. He explains that this project informed his current work and he knows that the city needs to keep grounding policy recommendations in neighborhood conversations like they did in St. Johns.

How do you see SJCO’s work impacting the St. Johns community?

Andres said “SJCO has a unique role because it started as Main Street organization and has transformed into a community resource hub. Getting involved in housing advocacy was a huge step for them. I think the organization does its best work when it functions as a hub, a center for convening people who do different types of work to talk and collaborate. In our instance, it was funders, the Community Alliance of Tenants and the Portland Housing Authority. It’s critical to bring all these people together and then push to get things done!”

 
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Interested in learning more about the St. Johns Housing Action Plan recommendations and findings? You can visit the St. Johns Center for Opportunity (8250 N. Lombard St.) to read a copy of the 82 page document or check out more info on our website here

Supporting Small Business Owners in St. Johns

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Carmen Madrid is a Business Development Specialist with Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). For the past 2 years, Carmen has represented MESO serving the St. Johns community at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity every Thursday. She offers free business coaching and support to entrepreneurs of color and underrepresented populations in St Johns. The mission of MESO is “to improve the economic opportunities of underserved individuals through empowerment, education and entrepreneurship for the benefit of the greater community”.

As a Business Development Specialist with MESO, Carmen loves that she gets to work with marginalized communities to help them reach their dreams of business ownership. She sees herself as a bridge to help people who may have never dreamed that it was even possible to be a business owner.

“I love empowering people! I love watching people blossom and build confidence in their business ideas. Seeing a person that was able to overcome a barrier or a perceived barrier to their business is so rewarding for me.”

What has the impact of the MESO partnership been?

Carmen has worked with over 50 small business owners in St. Johns, since the partnership with SJCO began in 2015. They have received support through IDA matching accounts, technical assistance, business and social media support, and risk management support. People sometimes try to take advantage of underrepresented business owners and a lot of what Carmen has been able to do has been to educate and support these owners as they learn their rights and build confidence in advocating for their business needs. She has seen that more communities of color have become present in the business district of St. Johns, especially along the Fessenden corridor. She has worked with Susie’s Carniceria, Dub’s St. Johns, Gabagool, Taste of Casablanca, Happiness Family Farms, Kweki African Fashions and many other small businesses in the neighborhood.

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She has also seen an increase in support and integration into the larger St. Johns community because of the SJCO partnership. One way this has occurred is by providing vendors with access to the St. Johns Farmers Market in 2017. MESO funded two booth spaces for the first 3 weeks of the market, to be able to support MESO businesses that would not have otherwise been able to afford or feel empowered to access the Farmers Market as vendors. This new exposure led multiple vendors to have season long involvement in the market including Rosata from Happiness Family Farms and Patience from Kweki African Fashions. Similarly, MESO funded two booths at the St. Johns Bizarre, to provide new businesses the chance to vend their wares to the public and get exposure in the larger St. Johns community. This level of community integration and exposure through the SJCO/MESO partnership and the welcoming St. Johns community has been crucial for the success of many new local business owners.

What’s next for MESO in St. Johns?

Carmen explains that it is important to keep the partnership with SJCO going strong to see even more community members of color accessing MESO support in the neighborhood. She would love to see more representation at the Farmers Market and the St. Johns Bizarre festival, to keep integrating these business owners into the neighborhood. She would also love to see the existing businesses scale up to the next level, like a food cart becoming a brick and mortar store.

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Are you interested in learning more about MESO business coaching support in St. Johns? Carmen holds office hours every Thursday at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity. Set up an appointment by e-mailing her at cmadrid@mesopdx.org.

Help us #amplifywhatspossible in 2018 by donating to support the St. Johns Center for Opportunity here. Double your impact with a matching grant from Porch Light Realty, if you donate by December 22nd! 

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The Arts and Belonging in St. Johns

Kirista Trask coordinates quarterly arts events in St. Johns through the St. Johns Center for Opportunity (SJCO). She is also a professional abstract mixed media artist who lives in the neighborhood and has a studio in Cathedral Park Place. We sat down with Kirista to talk about the impact of the arts in St. Johns and the work of SJCO to support the arts in the neighborhood.

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Photo by Nicole Elizabeth Taylor

As a working artist living in St. Johns, Kirista loves that she lives so close to her studio.  She said “I love walking to work. My studio is one mile from my house. I also get to hang my artwork in the neighborhood with the people that I live around and I get a view of the bridge from my studio!”. Kirista’s abstract mixed media art is currently hanging in 45th Parallel Wine Shop in downtown St. Johns. As the coordinator of the artBURST events through SJCO, Kirista curates and supports local artists to show at the quarterly Art Walk, where local businesses partner with an artist to display their artwork for the evening, the Farmers Market Art Constitutional, a fine art and craft fair set up alongside the Farmers Market vendors, and the Holiday Night Market at Cathedral Park Place. “SJCO and these artBURST events provide an environment for artists and craftsmen to interact with their neighbors in the place that they live and work. This has the added benefit of exposing the neighborhood to art and art experiences that they might not otherwise have access to. SJCO is growth oriented because they are supporting artists who are also small business owners and entrepreneurs!”

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Why are the arts important to a neighborhood?

“Art helps people connect with each other. Connection makes neighborhoods safer because people know and are invested in one another. SJCO provides opportunities, which only improves the livability of St. Johns. Art impacts lives in so many different ways. As budget cuts happen, arts programming is more and more important and often we lose access to it, especially young people. It is important to keep access to the arts in the neighborhood, through these types of events and exposure, especially for kids”.

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The September Art Walk in St. Johns was one of Kirista’s favorite moments this fall. The bustle of people walking around, looking at and buying art, engaging with local business owners, art and sculpture in the plaza, all of this activity added a new energy to St. Johns. You could see St. Johns engaging with the community and artists in a way that was so positive and also family friendly. The St. Johns Center for Opportunity makes space for these types of activities so that neighbors, small business owners and practicing artists can connect and support one another.  

Kirista describes that a lot of art studios and spaces are located in SE Portland, so it is all the more important that SJCO continues to bring artists into the neighborhood for artBURST events. This provides access to the arts and helps attract artists to places like Cathedral Park Place Studios because artists need to practice in areas where they can also sell their work. SJCO artBURST events help encourage that.

What is your hope for the future of arts programming through the St. Johns Center for Opportunity?

“I would love to see the ArtBURST go from a quarterly to a monthly event. That will take more community participation in these events, which I think will happen. The businesses have been awesome and incredibly supportive of the art walk. I would also love to see a yearly Artist in Resident position that engages the community directly in community art programming!”

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Support the work of SJCO to maintain and grow a vibrant arts community here in St. Johns by donating to our end of year campaign here. Our goal is to raise $7,000 by December 22nd. Donate online here today!

The artBURST Holiday Night Market is this Friday, December 1st from 4-9 pm at Cathedral Park Place (6635 N. Baltimore by Occidental Brewing). Listen to live music, buy local, handmade holiday gifts from 25 vendors and tour open artist studios in the building. More information about the event here. 

Roosevelt Homecoming 2017: Making it Home

This post was originally published on the Roosevelt Alumni Association Website, by Jinnett Powell, St. Johns resident and Roosevelt High School PTA President. 

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Thanksgiving weekend, and I wish all who read this a relaxing (we can hope, right) and bonding time with friends and family.  Neither my husband nor I am from N. Portland (I’m a New Englander, and he’s a Sheboyanite), yet St. Johns is home.  It wasn’t always that way for me.  In fact I’ve spent most of the past 15 years living here feeling like an interloper.  We never intended to stay longer than a few years before moving back to be closer to family, but we got stuck.  Not in a bad way.  More in the way of “not wanting to leave.”  We were growing roots even though I continued to always feel like an outsider.

We were both drawn to North Portland because the neighborhoods have a distinct sense of place - a rich history, full of their own small town quirks that made us want to be part of them.  I’ve always made a point to be involved in my community, but many of my efforts took me outside of St. Johns.  Until, that is, my son’s sophomore year at Roosevelt when I join the newly starting PTSA.  In doing so, I got the chance to work with alumni, and quickly came to appreciate the dedication and passion that many of you hold for Roosevelt, it’s history and the success of its students.  Helping host Homecomings pre-game celebrations that included the pep-rally parade and tailgate BBQ made me feel like part of the local community in a way that I never had before.  

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The Parade, organized by Mike Verbout and the St. Johns Center for Opportunity created a magical mix of community groups, such as The Beat Goes On, playing and marching along side RHS students in the Roosevelt Rider Elite Dance Team and Roosevelt Jazz Band, surrounded by Future Riders from local youth groups and neighborhood schools starting as young as preschool.  It highlighted how the Roosevelt community’s roots begin way before and extend long after those 4 years of high school.  The tailgate party, sponsored by the RHS Alumni Association and hosted by the PTSA was a similar, collaborative success in which alumni and parent volunteers fed over 1000 students, families, and guests!

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The Alumni Association’s vision for the tailgate, started the previous year in  2016 in lieu of the Alumni Annual Dinner, was to provide an all-inclusive event that would bring together the greater community to celebrate Roosevelt - at no personal cost! When my family attended last year, I was inspired, and knew that I wanted to do my part to ensure the Tailgate became an annual event by getting PTSA to join in hosting. Thanks to generous donations from local businesses including Franz Bakery, Tim’s Chips, Willamette Valley Meat Co., New Seasons, as well as the support from the Alumni Association and SJCO, we  were able to continue the tradition of a community Tailgate BBQ - free to all!  

The entire event, as well as the student athlete's performance on the field, brought Roosevelt some much deserved public admiration.  I overheard visitors young and old alike, saying “wow, what a great event! What a great place - it feels just the way a homecoming should!”  I went to bed tired- but already dreaming up ideas for Homecoming 2018! I also realized that for the first time, I didn’t feel like I just lived here, I belonged here.

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The RHS PTA is hosting a fundraiser to raise money for the 2018 Senior Grad Party this Friday, December 1st at 45th Parallel Wine Shop in St. Johns from 6-9 pm! Free admission and snacks. 

Business Spotlight #4: Etcetera

 
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Etcetera Gifts & Goods was the dream of mother/daughter duo Sherry and Brie Wissler. Sherry was an experienced business owner and retail sales representative, having run Generations, a maternity and children’s clothing store on Hawthorne for 15 + years. Brie was an artist and stylist specializing in jewelry, home décor and furniture. With their powers combined, they launched in the smaller space behind Etcetera’s current location on Lombard in August of 2011.

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At the time of their opening, Grammy & Nonna’s Toys occupied the front of the property but within the first 6 months of opening, the toy store closed and the duo jumped at the chance to move into the larger shop space. They didn’t have enough inventory to fill the space when they moved, but Brie said they “went with their gut” and didn’t let the doubt of “Why are we expanding? We’ve only been in business for 6 months” stop them from building the store of their dreams. Sherry’s business experience provided a great safety net for them to explore, experiment and expand Etcetera into the store that it is today.

Etcetera is filled with beautiful products for kids, men, women and the home. They specialize in products that are local, handmade, fair trade or sustainable. They have been a longtime seller of Betsy & Iya jewelry and Appetite bags, both of which are Portland companies that have experienced huge growth in the past few years. Brie explained that this is one of the most exciting things about working with local artisans. She gets to provide a retail space to highlight their creations and watch them grow and evolve their styles over time. It’s gratifying to be able to support artisans as they launch their careers.

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Jewelry, cards, candles and beard oils have been best sellers, as of late, but Etcetera is also expanding the clothing section of the store, which features fair trade, organic and locally screen printed products. There are also baby clothes and toys, perfume, home décor, hats, purses, flasks and more! The retail space is family oriented and it has always been important to them to make sure there is enough room for strollers and wheelchairs to navigate the space. It was important for Sherry and Brie to create a space where everyone felt comfortable and welcome.

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Earlier this year, Etcetera had a heartbreaking loss. Sherry passed away after a 4-year battle with cancer. Brie explains that her mother taught her so much about the ins and outs of running a retail business, and that their business was a true collaboration and friendship. It has been a challenging year, as Brie has taken on all aspects of running the store. She explains that she is even more committed to the business after having gone through a loss of this magnitude because she is still wants to do this. “You just can’t continue to take on this much work and responsibility if you don’t have the passion for it after such a tragic loss”. The store is a continued way to honor everything her mother taught her; and a tribute to the dream that they built together.

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Etcetera is part of our local St. Johns economy. Brie lives just a few blocks from the store, she grew up in Portland and has watched the city grow and change. She thinks it is important to know where your dollars are going, to know the story of the shop owners and artisans that you are supporting with your purchases. Etcetera seeks to promote and highlight the work of local artists and fair trade international artists. Some of Brie’s favorite products in the store include hand woven baskets made by an African women’s collective that teaches the women business skills, vibrant wool purses by Manos Zapotecas, a women’s collective in Oaxaca, and St. Johns jewelry makers Frawn & Indigo Alice. There are also vibrant cruelty free nail polishes and matching flasks by Odeme, because who doesn’t need a matching flask made in the USA? This is just the tip of the iceberg for unique gifts. There are so many more treasures to find, so stop in today. Brie says that many people come in and say “I’ve been in St. Johns for a year and have never stopped in until today”. Well, if that’s you, the time is now. What are you waiting for? Explore all your local stores and businesses, you might be surprised at what you find! Etcetera is open Tuesday-Saturday 10-6 pm and Sunday 11-5 pm, and will have extended hours throughout the holiday season.

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What’s next for Etcetera?

  • Join them for their 1st ever Fall Fashion Event, Friday, November 10th from 6-8p! Check out all the newest styles and new brands of Organic, Fair Trade and Local apparel and accessories. Enjoy discounts and refreshments and be the first to shop limited production items.  

  • They will be participating in Little Boxes, a citywide shop local program that provides incentives and prizes for shoppers supporting local businesses on Black Friday! Go check out the adorable felted animal ornaments and other holiday decoration and gifts in the store.  

  • Follow them on Instagram @etceterapdx. They do contests and drawings to win free products!

  • They are hiring a part-time salesperson for the holiday season. Drop a resume by the shop to apply!

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Shop Location: 8621 N. Lombard, St. Johns, Portland, OR 97203

Contact: (971) 279-2473 or etceteraportland@gmail.com 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Etceteraportland/ 

Business Spotlight #3: What A Deal Thrift Store

 
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5 years ago, Bob and Sonja opened “What a Deal” Thrift Store in downtown St. Johns at 8953 N. Lombard across from Baxter Auto Parts. Sonja had always wanted to open a thrift store and after 10 years in Hawaii, they moved to St. Johns to take care of Bob’s ailing mother. The decision to come out of retirement and start a thrift store hung on one caveat: Bob said he would only agree to open one if it didn’t smell like a thrift store!

When you walk into the business, you’ll notice, there isn’t a whiff of dust in the place. That’s because Bob meticulously cleans, mends and fixes each item that comes through their doors before it goes onto the shelves for sale. You can find just about anything inside this shop: band t-shirts, dresses, baby clothes, kitchen items, board games, original art and jewelry, Christmas decorations and more. It’s all carefully categorized and priced to sell. Their goal was to create something good for the neighborhood, a store where anyone could find something they need or want at a great price, hence their tagline “Everyday items for Everyday People”. They’re like a mini-Goodwill but with Goodwill’s OLD prices, Sonja explains. They get all of their items from community donations. Over the years, they’ve seen some interesting donations. They once got a junk drawer filled with mainly paper clips, half used receipt books and miscellaneous paper scraps but under all of that were 3 gold teeth. They took the teeth to a metal smith shop and got $180!

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If you’ve walked through their doors, you’ve likely experienced that it’s more than a thrift store. There is a feeling of “aloha” here. Bob and Sonja both agree that “a lot of nice happens here”. There is a seat at the counter where customers are welcome to sit and chat, Bob and Sonja greet each customer with a smile and they’ll help you find what you’re looking for, even if they don’t have it in the store. Once, a customer came in looking for a notebook but they didn’t have any in stock. Another customer overheard the question and said “I’ve got one in my car that I’m not going to use, you can have it” and she went out to get it for her! Over the years, they’ve witnessed and received quite an array of kindness and generosity in the community. Bob described that people often say “keep the change!” when they’re paying for their items. Once, a couple came into the store, shopped a bit and then came back an hour later and said “We own a bar on Hawthorne and we’ve started a “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” fund, where we give out a little bit of money to people doing good work. We just really appreciate how you do business and how friendly, open and awesome you are, so here’s a check for $487, just because!”. 

They see the occasional shoplifting from customers but they’ve got a straightforward good cop/bad cop vibe when dealing with customers. Sonja has an eagle eye in the shop to make sure things stay on the shelves and, for the most part, people respect the fact that they’re a small business who treats every customer like a friend.

It’s a family business. Bob and Sonja’s daughter, Sheila, helps manage the store and the inventory in the shop. Most days, you’ll find all 3 of them working at the shop from open to close. As Bob explains, the shop is their life. They work 6 days a week and haven’t taken a vacation in a long time but they’re passionate about the store and the community.

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Outside of work, Bob and Sonja are both artists. Bob paints and sings, Sonja makes jewelry that you can purchase in the shop, along with creating pastels, drawings and collage work. You’ll often find them at Patty’s for Saturday night karaoke, where Bob does a classic Neil Diamond or Willie Nelson song. Bob and Sonja love the St. Johns community and they want to continue to be a great spot for deals and unique thrift store finds in the neighborhood. Stop by, say hello and find a great treasure today!

Upcoming events:

·         Tuesdays are Senior Citizen day with a 25% discount.

·         Military Veterans get 25% off EVERY DAY.

·         When you bring a donation to the shop, you get 30% off your purchase.

·         Don’t forget to check out their epic Christmas tree display (which takes 2 weeks to set up) in the front window of the shop in December!

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Business Spotlight #2: Peninsula Station

St. Johns Center For Opportunity is focused on elevating our small business community, along with community engagement, workforce development and housing advocacy. As our neighborhood businesses grow and change, we want to highlight both the new and established businesses that make up our community. Twice a month, we’ll be highlighting the stories of business owners in the community. Are you a business owner that would like to be interviewed? Do you want to hear the story of a particular business in St. Johns? Let us know at info@stjohnsopportunity.org

 
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Since March 29, 1989, Kenn has been behind the counter at Peninsula Station in downtown St. Johns. Located in the old Kasper Insurance Agency building at 8316 N. Lombard, Peninsula Station serves as a hub for shipping and mailing services in the community.

Kenn’s roots in St. Johns go back to his great grandfather who stopped in St. Johns in 1910, to work for a mill in the neighborhood before settling in the Banks-Vernonia area. He continues to share the history of St. Johns through the display of historical photos in his shop, as well as his willingness to share memories and history of the neighborhood with his customers.

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So, what exactly IS Peninsula Station? Step inside and you’ll see PMBs (private mail boxes), shipping and packaging materials, a copy machine, a carousel of postcards, historic St. Johns photos on the walls and plenty of quirky memorabilia. As Kenn describes it, the business is modeled after Mailboxes Etc. and was one of the first mail receiving agencies in the area. This means that you get your mail delivered directly to Peninsula Station if you rent a PMB from Kenn.

You can do much more than just pick up your mail at Peninsula Station. You can do your shipping and faxing, make copies, buy postcards, get passport photos taken, and get a lot of random questions answered! Kenn describes himself as an information broker for the St. Johns neighborhood and he’s always happy to help a customer who has reached an impass with some problem or is just curious to learn more about the neighborhood.

Some things you might not know about Peninsula Station are that over the years, Kenn has developed a reputation among artists as a top notch packaging and shipping service for their fine art prints. Kenn once foiled a $1.4 million multi-state crime ring that had a PMB in his store because he had a hunch that something fishy was going on with this particular customer. When Kenn isn’t at the store, he’s an avid soccer player and coach in both indoor and outdoor leagues.

If you haven’t been in to Peninsula Station, go check it out and meet Kenn. You’ll also meet Sherri, a longtime employee of Peninsula Station for over 20 years! Keep an eye out for a collection of photos created by Louisa, a long time St. Johns resident and customer, who has been bringing Kenn hand-collaged photo series of herself in a variety of hilarious scenarios: being hugged by a grizzly bear, carried away by birds and more. They’re on display around the frame of Window #1. You don’t want to miss them!

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Business Spotlight #1: The Story of Bridge City Kid

St. Johns Center For Opportunity is focused on elevating our small business community, along with community engagement, workforce development and housing advocacy. As our neighborhood businesses grow and change, we want to highlight both the new and established businesses that make up our community. Twice a month, we’ll be highlighting the stories of business owners in the community. Are you a business owner that would like to be interviewed? Do you want to hear the story of a particular business in St. Johns? Let us know at info@stjohnsopportunity.org

 
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This week, we’re highlighting Bridge City Kid, one of the new businesses in downtown St. Johns. Opened in April of 2017, Bridge City Kid is an outdoor store exclusively for kids located at 8402 N. Lombard Street. Business owner Chelsea grew up in Portland and was always seeking adventure in natural spaces. When she became a parent 5 years ago, she wondered if she could keep that spirit of outdoor adventure alive while still being a “good parent”. She didn’t see many models of how to take babies and kids on adventures in nature, instead she saw an emphasis on constant technological stimulation and staying indoors. She wanted there to be something different, a model that could help parents and kids connect with nature from very early ages, to explore the wildness and beauty of nature together.

This was the belief that Bridge City Kid was built upon: to create a space that encourages kids and parents to get outdoors and discover new things from a young age, so she created a retail space where kids are front and center in the shopping experience for socially conscious outdoor retail products. Bridge City Kid is the first outdoor store for kids of its kind and it’s right here in our neighborhood! As many outdoor retailers reduce their children’s product inventory, she is building a retail space specifically for kids. In addition, she envisions it becoming a community gathering space for families, where they can meet to hike with kids in Forest Park and listen to live music in the winter months. She encourages everyone to come shop and play!

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You may have seen the sign in the window: All Profits to Charity and thought, how is that possible? It’s a new approach to business that Chelsea calls retail non-profit. Like any new way of doing business, there has been some confusion about the business model. As she explains it, the business model is that after she pays her own salary, she will donate all after-tax profits to environmental and local non-profits working to get youth outside. She plans to start a 501(c)(3) non-profit to manage the donations so that all contributions from the business are fully transparent and available to the public. In addition to selecting socially conscious products to carry in the store, she seeks to create a business model that gives back in all aspects.

These adorable onsies are made by a local artist Carved Life, who donates 10% of each purchase to Doernbecher Children's Hospital!

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What’s next for Bridge City Kid? Chelsea is excited to continue to build community with families in St. Johns. There are plans to build a rock climbing wall in the space and host movie nights for families in the winter months. Chelsea is collaborating with Hike It Baby to start hosting family hikes in Forest Park that leave from the shop. She would also like to build up a youth outdoor rentals program where you could rent kid outdoor equipment including snow shoes, wake boards and more for your outdoor adventures!

Some things you might not know about Bridge City Kid:

  •  The space was a grocery store and an antique store previously. Chelsea is committed to sharing the story of the space with clients and maintaining the unique, wild spirit of the St. Johns community while leveraging our amazing proximity to natural spaces like Forest Park and the Columbia Slough!
  •  They have a consignment section and are looking to build up their inventory! Bring in your lightly used outdoor gear for youth aged 0-14 and receive 45% cash or store credit, which is higher than most consignment store rates!
  • Kids can play while you shop. Try out products like bikes, soft Frisbees, skateboards and more!
  • Bridge City Kid is a Burley dealer, so you can bring in your Burley stroller for repairs, parts and pieces, questions about your warranty or new purchases of strollers and bike trailers.

Welcome Chelsea and Bridge City Kid to the neighborhood by coming to their Grand Opening Celebration on September 17th from 11 am-7 pm. There will be live music, food, drinks and lots of fun products to try out with your kids!

 
 

Meet our new board members!

This month, we are onboarding 4 new board members to our team! Join us in welcoming Kathy, Coya, Phil and Chris to the SJCO family! 

Kathy Glanville
Kathy loves living in St. Johns and is excited about the newly expanded mission of the St. Johns Center for Opportunity. She is looking forward to being more involved in her community in ways that strengthen our neighborhood. She holds a BA in Consumer Studies from the University of Utah and a Masters in Public Administration from Portland State University.  Her career is in higher education as a Systems Analyst for an ERP Software company, Ellucian. Kathy also recently completed the NET (Neighborhood Emergency Team) training and is now an active NET. During her down time she loves spending time with her husband and their dog and looking for unique photography of the St. Johns Bridge.

Coya Crespin
Coya has lived in the St. Johns area for 7 years and firmly believes in uniting with her fellow renters to work for a greater good. She currently works at Community Alliance of Tenants, as a member of the Grassroots Organizing Team.  In addition to going to school part time, she is a currently working on a fellowship with Organizing for Action. In her spare time, she enjoys chilling with her two children, who are her Sun & Moon, and eating tasty food.

Phil Crowder
Phil is an Oregon kid by way of California and has called Portland home for almost 10 years. He fell in love with the St. Johns neighborhood while house hunting with his wife a few years ago. Phil's passion for helping others has always manifested itself through his career in management, sales and customer service.  His genuine interest in giving back to the community was developed while pounding the pavement and assisting on a senate campaign in Colorado 3 years ago. He earned his diploma from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) with a Major in Business Administration and a Minor in Psychology.  In addition to being on the Business Resource Team, he also is an animal lover and spends time volunteering at the Oregon Humane Society.  In his spare time, you can find Phil at West Coast Fitness, out on the running paths, trying new Portland restaurants (and the wines and craft cocktails to go with it), watching his favorite teams (Ducks, Giants, 49ers) and spending quality time in his lovely St. Johns home with his wife Rachel and OHS rescue cat, Gouda.  

Chris Robasky
Chris Robasky is a first generation college student from rural Pennyslvania, graduating from Penn State and Loyola Chicago School of Law.  She happily sold all her belongings and moved to Portland in 1999, and soon after bought a house near Pier Park where she lived until recently with huge dogs (Stella and Ghost still live there with nice renters who take care of them).  Chris still lives in North Portland and regularly visits and loves St. Johns.

Chris has worked as in-house attorney and in employee/labor/HR professional positions for large employers including Nike and Providence Oregon Region.  She currently is a labor relations manager at Multnomah County. Chris enjoys most things that don’t involve too much exercise, and likes to think about traveling.  

Gentrification: Can a St. Johns Housing Action Plan help?

Article by Barbara Quinn
Published in the St. Johns Review on April 21, 2017


Though the city and political leaders have talked about it for years very little has happened to address the rapid gentrification of our city and particularly in north Portland. Has the situation improved after past housing forums with political leaders? Not enough. This time I hope it will be different.

The recent eviction of residents at Titan Manor Apartments in St. Johns is testimony of the failure to address housing issues. According to some sources Portland hasn’t been able to slow its rental crisis because “in a city that prides itself on progressivism, many of the traditional tools used to create more affordability are off the table.” Until last year, the City did not require inclusionary zoning, which mandates that new buildings include a certain number of affordable units. There’s no rent control in Oregon, and efforts to ban no-cause eviction are currently being challenged at the city and state levels. The city has embarked on big urban-renewal projects in the past few decades without putting measures in place to ensure that tenants in those neighborhoods won’t be displaced (The Atlantic, Can Portland Avoid Repeating San Francisco's Mistakes, Semuels, 5/17/16). More than half of the city’s tenants spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Rent increases can rise rapidly in some cases even doubling.

While St. Johns has the most diverse high school in the state, Roosevelt High, with close to 1/3 white, 1/3 Latino and 1/3 African American students, that diversity is currently being threatened by displacement due to the cost of housing. Diversity has been the heart and soul of our community, diversity of age, ethnicity, income, and faith.

The neighborhood is increasingly becoming white upper middle class like the rest of Portland because the free market is driving housing prices sky high in a traditionally affordable neighborhood. The free market, lest we forget, produced a San Francisco where houses' average cost is over 1 million dollars. Generally only wealthy, white people can live there. Is that where we want to go? Heck no, everyone says, but what are we doing to prevent it? Little to nothing. Apparently here in our city and in our state, the free housing market rules.
   
The Comprehensive Plan, in contrast, envisions the St. Johns neighborhood as a town center with diverse residents, where people are able to age in place. Yet, how can that happen if older residents can no longer afford property taxes? Or afford to stay in the neighborhood they love? Ethnic diversity? Forget it. The average Hispanic family can now only afford a 1-bd home here. Just ask the owner of Novedades Prado whose Hispanic customer base is eroding. They are fleeing the neighborhood. African Americans? They are also fleeing. We are becoming whiter and wealthier with each development.

The solutions implemented so far may have helped but have not had enough impact to change the gentrification process, aka the forced flight from the neighborhood due to the cost of housing.

April 10 St. Johns Forum to organize a Housing Action Plan
The housing forum on Monday, April 10 at the St. Johns Community Center was organized to address these serious issues. Its purpose was to get feedback in order to form a St. Johns Housing Action Plan. Sponsors were St. Johns Center for Opportunity, St. Johns Neighborhood Association and PSU Urban Planning students, who acted as facilitators. The organizers want to help neighbors preserve what makes our neighborhood unique.“St. Johns is like Mayberry,” the woman to my left said. But Mayberry never saw a housing boom like this.
   
There is strong support for diversity here, the facilitator said, but the success of a plan depends on interest from the community and its leaders.
   
I joined the break-out group that sounded most interesting: Creative Housing Solutions. Some suggestions from the group were: formation of land trusts and a local tenants' union, more affordable permitting and taxes for building accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and education of residents on what affordable housing should look like. Traditional houses and buildings could be preserved and remodeled into multiple housing units, no-cause evictions should be banned, (currently the ban is being challenged at the city level and discussed at the state level), and meetings could be convened with developers to find out how to give them incentive to support a housing plan. All this is good.
   
But the challenge lies ahead to keep the issue front and center and build productive partnerships to make a Housing Action Plan that makes a difference. There are good examples available. The neighborhood that's taken the most initiative on affordable housing has been Cully. Living Cully, a coalition, has been rushing to create affordability before prices spike. Living Cully is trying to 'move as much land and housing out of the system as possible into some kind of community-controlled model,' says representative Cameron Hetherington. Right now, about 14 percent of the land in Cully is shielded from the market in some way, to maintain affordability, twice as much land shielded from development than in the rest of the city, he says. It helps that land prices are still relatively low since it's an outlying neighborhood.
   
They’re also working with other community groups to ensure the city follows through on affordable-housing commitments in a way it didn’t in the past. The group Anti-Displacement PDX meets every other week and tries to make sure policies are in place to protect every neighborhood from the churn that the city experienced in the past.

“Our fate is bound up in the fate of our allies in north and northeast Portland,” Herrington said. “We have to be working together city-wide on the policy landscape and getting the right policies in place, really supporting each other in neighborhood-based fights in general” (Ibid.).
   
What must we do to preserve what is unique, what we like, the diversity, the traditional housing styles, and small town lifestyle in our neighborhood given that growth will occur? As always, we must fight back and refuse to accept half measures by our city and state leaders. You can get involved and keep updated at the St. Johns Center for Opportunity website. Or you can drop in the office at 8250 N. Lombard St. 

We need partnerships with other neighborhoods and groups who are forging ahead in this fight such as Living Cully and Anti-Displacement PDX. Gentrification hurts young students the most so we need partnerships with school advocates such as the Roosevelt Alumni Club and the PTAs. We have a right to determine what kind of neighborhood we live in and to demand of our political leaders support for our autonomy in achieving reasonable and affordable housing costs for all residents.

Community Building through Food

Meet Josephine.
It's not a person, it's hundreds.

Josephine is a company based in Oakland, CA, who has recently expanded its entrepreneurial food model to Portland. At the heart of it, Josephine wants to help people in communities feed each other better and use food as a powerful and positive agent of change for communities all around the world.

There is a lot more to learn about Josephine, so we suggest you spend some time getting to know them online.

Home-based cooks can sign up on Josephine, cook delicious meals out of their home, and hungry community members pick up the nightly meal from the cook’s home. Each cook has a page on the website where they can share their upcoming meals and what day they’re preparing that meal. Then, community members can order those meals online and pick it up at the cook’s house. 

As a new venture to Portland, Josephine is partnering with community based organizations to help get the word out and build partnerships to help build successful community models. We’re excited to be partnering with Josephine! As the operators of the Farmers Market and an organization that supports home-based businesses and entrepreneurs, we look forward to building a strong St. Johns community around food.

There are two ways you can experience Josephine.

Eat. Sign-up on the website (it’s free) and you’ll get access to the cooks in your area. Luckily, there is a handful of cooks on “the peninsula”. Some of the meals coming up in the neighborhood include carnitas tacos, potato and kale enchiladas, and a grilled bone-in pork chop.  So take a night off from cooking and give it a try.  If you’re new to Josephine, use promo code STJOHNS for $10 off your order

Cook. If you have a passion for cooking, it’s easy to become a Josephine cook. You get to set the menu, pick the price, date of meals, and pickup times. Plus, Josephine connects you to resources to help you build a strong business and following. Learn more about what it takes to be a Josephine cook.

Finally, check out this journalist's perspective on Josephine.

Thoughts from the Board : Babs Adamski

Hello dear readers!

My name is Babs Adamski and I am a recent addition to the St. Johns Center for Opportunity (SJCO) Board of Directors. I joined in Fall of 2016 after having been engaged at varying levels with the former St. Johns Main Street and more recently,  the St. Johns Center for Opportunity.

I am a long time grassroots organizer and I am guided by a personal mission to encourage creativity and justice in my environment. Volunteer and paid work has given me opportunities to work in capacities that serve the community. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but feel free to ask me what they are and I’ll tell you.

When I was approached about becoming a board member for SJCO, I took some time to consider how my personal goals would align with the goals of SJCO. It was particularly helpful that SJCO had just gone through a time of introspection about who they were as an organization, what they would do, and how they would do it.

SJCO has four specific areas of focus: community building, workforce development, affordable housing, and local business support. As I considered my personal goals and mission in a “hyper-local” manner, I could see that the work SJCO was doing in the community, matched well with my desire to encourage justice in our community. I see sustainable behaviors as a conduit for making a community more livable. Shop local, work as close to home as possible, commit to your community by engaging with your neighbors, and advocating for resources for your neighborhood. It is a matter of social justice that we all have a secure place to live (renting or owning a home), healthy affordable food, and equitable opportunities for education and work.

To me, SJCO works toward all these goals, and as a generalist, I want to be involved in all of them. But, as a person with a busy life and big family, I realize that I will be more effective if I focus my efforts. Currently, my greatest fear is that local residents, especially renters, will be forced out by the current housing market. Because of this, SJCO’s affordable housing advocacy is what I am most excited about. Whether it’s gathering groups together to canvass for the recent bond measure, being part of the Welcome Home Coalition, or gathering housing advocates to discuss their shared work in affordable developments, we’re working to help the St. Johns community consider what efforts we can make to increase housing stability.

As events and campaigns are publicized, please join in with your support - financially or by volunteering. If you have any questions about the work SJCO is doing, or want to grab a coffee and talk about the neighborhood, you can reach me at babsia@gmail.com

Meet our new board members!

Last month SJCO welcomed four new board members to its team! Please meet Sydney Leonard, Zac Padgett, Shannon Olive, and Cole Kimball: 

Sydney Leonard
Sydney is a proud resident of St. Johns and is passionate about local food and community building. She held the position of Program Manager for SJCO from late 2014 to early 2016, originally joining the organization via the St. Johns Farmers Market. Sydney now works for Portland Farmers Market managing programs, events, and community outreach at 7 farmers markets across the city. She holds a BS in Political Science from Johnson State College in Vermont and also completed the nonfiction writing program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Sydney likes to spend her free time cooking and hanging out with her friends, her fiance, and their dog Bunk at various neighborhood haunts.

Zac Padgett.jpg

Zac Padgett
Zac is a business lawyer and counts small business owners, startup companies and entrepreneurs among his clients.  He was born and raised in Texas, but made he way to Oregon as quickly as he could. Zac's firm is distributed, meaning he gets to spend plenty of time working out of coffee shops here in the neighborhood.  He has significant experience in capital raises, mergers and acquisitions, leases, commercial contracting and nonprofit legal matters.  Zac serves as pro bono legal counsel to the nonprofit Depave and also serves on the business development committee for SOLVE Oregon.  On the weekends, Zac can be found riding his bike, seeing live music, hanging with his friends in the greater nopo area and taking care of the yard.

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Shannon Olive
Shannon was born and raised in Portland. She is the mother of two fine young men, Davion and Jeffrey. Shannon realized her potential to make a difference when she served as a volunteer for Oregon Action from 2004-2008. She Chaired her first campaign: Voters Owned Election (Refinance Reform), which was the reform Amanda Fritz ran under during her first election year and won. 

In 2009, she was offered her first Organizing position with OPAL (Organizing People Activating Leaders). Since then Shannon has developed and obtained skills in nonprofit management and community, youth, and leadership development. She holds her Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from Portland Community College and is planning to return this fall to receive her BA in Psychology from Portland State.

She also serves as a Committee member for the Multnomah County Sheriffs Department Budget Advisory Board and is the Resident Services Coordinator for Cathedral Gardens in North Portland. She has additional experience in public speaking, strategic planning, fundraising, and hosting events. In Shannon's spare time you will find her planning and coordinating activities with her family!

Cole Kimball
Cole is a native Oregonian, growing up just outside of Portland. He has a BA in Business Administration with duel emphasis in Finance and Operational Management from the University of Colorado Boulder. After starting his career in Denver, he missed the rain too much and now happily calls St. Johns his home. During the week he is the Chief Investment Officer at Finity Group, a local independent advisory firm and on the weekend there is a good chance you can catch him on his bike in town or on the mountain if it is snowing. He is excited to be apart of the St. Johns Center for Opportunity and helping out in the neighborhood.