By Karen Hery

 

Picking the next neighborhood hot spot is, at best, one part social science, two parts intuition and a fair bit of luck. As long-time residents age, neighborhoods roll over to younger adults and families. Ratios of owners and renters shift over the years and ethnic and socioeconomic groups gather in desired or affordable places.

There’s no crystal ball to turn to see what’s next for our neighborhoods but there are a few ways to peek into what’s shaping the future of our streets and schools.

 

The age factor

 

Judy Brennan, Director of Enrollment for Portland Public Schools, is surrounded by some of the best stats money can buy.  Still, she knows even accurate data can’t shield the 79 elementary, K-8, middle schools and high schools she helps steward from enrollment booms and busts – mostly booms these days.

Portland Public Schools was a declining enrollment district in the first part of the millennium. Birth rates alone never could have predicted the overall rise in enrollment from 2006 until now inside the district.

Charles Rynerson, the demographer from Portland State University’s Population Research Center, knows that birthrates both in general and in the most upwardly-affected school catchment areas have been flat, neither significantly up nor down.

Yet, from 2006-07 until last school year, enrollment at Abernethy, a K-5 school in Ladd’s Addition, went from 357 to 505 and Sunnyside Environmental School lost most of its open lottery spots now that the majority of the 605 K-8 students that attended in 2012/13 are coming from the neighborhood.

Babies born to parents living in a certain school district aren’t necessarily going to still be living in that same place as they enter kindergarten. Parents may not choose public school even if they are still around and may not choose their local public school when they enroll.

The changing factor Rynerson points to is the average age of the parents at time of birth in the residences that feed a school. In 1990 over 50% of the parents in the area now served by Abernethy were under 30, over 30% under 25. In 2010 just 5% were under 25 and almost 80% over 30.

Rynerson theorizes that older parents are in their more permanent home and, in the case of Abernethy, choosing their local school in greater numbers. In 2006-07, there were 398 K-5 kids living in the Abernethy area enrolled at all PPS schools, but just 62%, 247, enrolled at Abernethy. In 2013, 613 kids in PPS schools came from the Abernethy area and 467, almost 80%, attended Abernethy.

There is some hope that families who have rolled into the Sunnyside catchment area in larger and larger numbers since 2006 are staying put, aging in place and just beginning to take some of the pressure off of the number of new kindergartners expected each year.

Sunnyside Principal, Amy Kleiner, isn’t ready to call it a trend, but it was certainly a relief to welcome just 44 kindergartners this fall when there were 58 the year before and even more in years before that.

The Back-to-School Clothing Exchange in the Sunnyside neighborhood gives anecdotal evidence that this might be a sign of things to come. Tables normally filled to overflowing with baby and toddler clothes being handed down to the next neighborhood family were markedly smaller this year and in much less demand.

Fewer houses are for sale between Hawthorne and Belmont, Caesar Chavez and 20th and rentals are harder and harder to find. Less people moving out restricts how many new families can move in compounded by a price point that is already a challenge even for Charles’s stay-put parents in their early 30’s.

 

The housing “sweet spot”

To help predict the next Sunnyside or Abernethy with a potential growth in home values, rising pressure on rental rates and a trend towards higher public school enrollment, it’s good to know where families of young children are going and staying.

Jarrett Altman of Neighborhood Works Realty often maps out all the places reasonably nearby parks and other amenities with homes under $400,000. That’s the price point she sees most of her families with young children and planning-on-starting-a-family clients reaching for, with the hopes of a great public school too.

Judy Brennan longs for the day when all schools are seen as good schools and she knows that for inner and outer SE, that’s both the job of Portland Public School District and a choice for families that invest in more than just a place to live.  Abernethy didn’t grow into an 80% local attendance school overnight.  It takes a little over 5 years to make a kindergartner and efforts to meet the neighbors and befriend the local store owners can be time well-spent.

For anyone who has the will and skill to be an early adopter, the next Mississippi St. business district or Abernethy School is just a geographical investment away.

 

Changing a Business District

Those rollover success stories get made through a combination of public policy and individual effort. Bob Kellett is just the person to show us what we can change, especially in the upcoming development of Foster Rd. between Powell and 92nd.

“A city is a living, breathing thing” explains Kellett, sitting in his office as the Neighborhood Planning Program Manager for SE Uplift. “It doesn’t stay the same. If it did, it would start withering.”

It’s Kellett’s job to take calls – about that land use notice that came in the mail; about disputes between neighbors; about which department to contact for land use questions and property improvement.

On his to-do list right now is helping as many people as possible understand and give input to the Foster Road Streetscape Plan. In its final phases before adoption by city council, the plan calls for street-calming measures including a proposed change to 3-lanes from 4 with a bike lane.

 

To get involved in the Foster Plan or, more ambitiously, the city’s 20 year comprehensive plan, these websites have information:

• Comp. Plan: www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/57352

• Foster Road Streetscape Plan: www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/57866

• PPS annual and 10 year projections: www.pps.k12.or.us/departments/data-analysis/4606.htm

 

Bob Kellett,  Neighborhood Planning Program Manager for SE Uplift can be reached at bob@southeastuplift.org or 503.232.0010 ext. 314.