Why I moved to the ‘Burbs

It was not too long ago, where I would have scoffed at the idea of moving out of the city and off to the suburbs.  The following commercial pretty much sums up my life trajectory in the last 10 years.

There are many things that I will miss about Portland, and some things that I won’t.

THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT LIVING IN PORTLAND

  1. Restaurants
  2. Trimet
  3. Easy Entertainment Options
  4. Parks Galore
  5. My Favorite Neighborhoods

THINGS I WILL NOT MISS ABOUT PORTLAND

  1. Tweakers
  2. Tent Cities in Downtown Portland and Central Eastside
  3. Terrible Public Schools
  4. Hipsters

The bottom line for us that pushed the move out of the city was two things.  One, was space.  We needed a bigger house.  We were living in your classic Portland craftsman bungalow.  We had about 1200 square feet of actual livable space in our house.  When it was just my wife and I it was not a problem.  When we added our oldest son it was doable.  When our youngest arrived it was manageable until the last year when we were living with a toddler and a pre-k in 1200 square feet.

The second reason for moving is public schools.  Portland, along with many other public school districts in Oregon, has been in a downward spiral since Measure 5 passed in the early ’90s.  West Linn some how has managed to avoid that trajectory and is one of the best public school systems in the state.  We went from sending our children to a failing school to one that is a spanish immersion school and in the top 10% of statewide performance standards. While I realize that urban flight of highly educated professionals to suburbs does not help urban schools, it can hardly be blamed for the failure of Portland’s schools.  If anything it is just a symptom of a larger problem.

I miss already the easy access to fantastic restaurants and neighborhood pubs.  Thank goodness it is summer and I love barbecuing.  Today on the menu are smoked spare ribs! So time to go mow the lawn, turn on the barbie, go to home depot, and maybe bed bath and beyond if we have time.

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11 thoughts on “Why I moved to the ‘Burbs

  1. Now that I’m 64, we’ve moved back into the bungalow. Fortunately we didn’t sell it when we moved out to the ‘burbs. At first it was a financial stretch to manage renting it out, but in the longer run it paid off rather nicely.

    • That sounds like a great plan. I wish we could have rented our house but for a variety of economic reasons it did not pencil out.

  2. We started our west coast life in Lake Oswego, because the few public schools we visited in 1987 did not seem a match to those we were used to in Princeton, NJ. But your assertion that the public schools are “terrible” is a generalization that is painted with too wide a brush.

    I agree that there are problems with the public schools, but like most cities, there are successful schools and there are failing ones, roughly corresponding to the income levels and house prices of the neighborhoods. The biggest problem in even the successful ones is large class sizes, but I do think that there are various options for Portland parents to educate their kids in public schools even if they don’t live in the wealthier neighborhoods.

    Portland has various foreign language immersion programs, arts and environmental middle school programs, alternative schools and high schools with IB programs. But that means a child may not attend a neighborhood school and spots are limited.

    I am in no way critiquing your choice to move to West Linn. Indeed, our kids ended up attending a combination of private and LO schools. My intent was simply to provide a little more info for readers who may not be familiar with the Portland schools.

    • Elaine, you are correct that there are some good schools in PPS. However, I think most of those schools are out of reach for the vast majority of Portlanders. The median income in Portland is $52,000. The median home price in Alameda is $847,000; Laurelhurst, $712,000; Council Crest, $795,000 just to give a few examples of neighborhoods with excellent schools. The good schools are confined to wealthy neighborhoods that are out of reach for not just the average Portlander but for educated professionals such as myself with an income level to match. While I am generalizing a bit, it is a fair contrast when you are comparing the state of most schools within reach for most Portlanders compared to those in the suburbs.

      • My husband teaches a class at PSU that includes a sociological analysis of PPS in the syllabus so I just conferred with him.

        According to his research, the more successful public HSs are Lincoln, Cleveland, Wilson and Grant. There are definitely homes in those districts that sell for more reasonable prices than the ones you mention; indeed I now live in one in Multnomah Village. But it is a huge sellers’ market in PDX now and finding a house in these districts is not an easy task.

        Sadly, that $52K median income won’t get a family into a home in those districts very easily- or in LO or WL!

        We remained in LO until our son left for college – and within weeks of his starting his first semester, we’d sold our LO home to enable us to move to Multnomah. And the first thing we did on moving was to ditch the second car! Ironically, by then he was at OES, but we loved the LO house and needed the space, so we stayed.

        We each make the best choice we can based on our priorities and the needs of ourselves/our families. There are always trade-offs. Enjoy your new home!

  3. Scott- I’m trying hard not to hold this against you. The old schools argument is bogus, same thing was said in the 50’s- 60s as an excuse for white flight. PDX has some great schools. Do you really prefer the “drive everywhere in your minivan” lifestyle over walking and biking with your family experiencing fresh air and urban vibrancy and yes, the real variety of people in the world? Seems like a world traveler wouldn’t want to move from a real place to the generic blandness of the suburbs.

    I’ll still read your stuff though!

    • Thank you for not holding it against me, too much! See my response to Elaine about the schools. I went to Portland Public Schools in the 80s. I think the funding crises for public schools in Oregon is well documented. You and Elaine are absolutely correct that there are good educations to be had in Portland Public Schools, even in the ones that are struggling. However, the difference between your average school in West Linn and your average school in Portland is night and day.

      As for diversity, I definitely live in a blander place than Portland. That being said, Portland is not a bastion of diversity. It is not like I am moving from a vibrant multicultural city to the stepford wives (ok well maybe a little). Portland is 76% white. Beaverton is more diverse and multicultural than Portland. Absolutely, where I moved to is less diverse, but I was never living in a diverse place to begin with.

      There is definitely more driving in my future. I can’t argue against that. After 17 years we bought a second car. It is weird owning two cars. I absolutely miss walking to neighborhood pubs and restaurants. But we have a great park, pool, and tennis courts within walking distance of the new house. There is also a nice walking/running trail and a winery within biking and walking distance. So I gave up some things and gained some others. All in all we are happy with the trade off.

  4. Scott you made the absolute best choice possible for you and your family. My 3 boys all grew up there and graduated WLHS. All 3 are now first res-ponders serving Oregon. I believe that there is better choice you could of made and you will never regret it. The community is most made up of very grounded hard working professionals who are seeking what is best for their family. It is NOT at all like Lake Oswego which is now made up of white flight equity refugees from California completely spoiled and arrogant from their new found wealth (usually inherited from their parents CA. real estate). They are so easy to spot, just look for the 100k plus brand new foreign luxury car with customized licence plates (so they can tell you about them) and handicap parking permit tags ( they are not handicapped, it is so they can park in an area without the risk of getting their car scratched).This is all soooo true! PS Hipsters are mean, did anyone else notice?

    • Thanks Ramsey. We are very happy with the choice and the quality of life in West Linn.

      On a side note I guess I now know who the CSR at the Walmart on 43 was talking about when he said a guy comes in here a lot to load serve card $500 at a time.

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