Not Downtown... Life Goes On

When I read articles like this one it portrays Portland as a dying city under the grip of perpetual riots. But when I look at property prices I see Portland is doing fine.

What other objective metrics could be used to estimate the impact of riots on Portland's long term prospects? Do they all suggest that, at least for now, people are willing to bet on Portland's future?

Several things come to mind.

First, that article is pretty slanted. It's cherry picking all the worst things that have happened, and trying to make it seem like they represent the entire city.

Most of Portland isn't downtown, and even downtown (however you define downtown, which everybody defines differently) isn't covered in protests. The protests have mostly been hitting the same area directly around the police headquarters, occasionally going into other areas.

It's a cliche to say this but it's true- the protests really are "mostly peaceful". They start with a large group of peaceful protesters, waving signs and chanting slogans. Eventually, late at night, they all go home, leaving a more unruly bunch. That small group are the ones who cause destruction, doing it late at night.

Downtown is pretty dead, but that's mostly because of the virus and work-from-home. There was never a whole lot going on downtown aside from commuting office workers and the businesses that directly supported them (like lunch and happy-hour focused restaurants). Some exceptions, which sadly are taking a big hit. But really, downtown just seems a lot like it used to during major holidays- no one there except people with nothing to do.

Speaking of "people with nothing to do", Portland has a big homeless problem. Just like other west coast cities. Some blame it on high property prices, some blame it on drugs, some blame it on lack of law enforcement. I don't know the real reason, but it's a huge obvious problem and it's been building for a long time. So people who are looking for a story to tell about "the destructive riots" can take pictures of tent cities, or property damage done by tweakers, which is mostly a separate issue.

A third mostly-separate issue is that there are a few specific high crime neighborhoods. Particularly the majority-black and low-income neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have always had a high crime rate, much higher than the city overall, and it's gotten much worse recently. I don't know if it's because of lack of enforcement, or tensions from lockdown, or general anger over the political situation, or what. But it's not like the rioters are going into those neighborhoods and shooting people. It's just dumb angry people shooting each other.

Meanwhile, if you're not in one of those neighborhoods, and not downtown... life goes on. The trees are still nice, the food is still good. Most people agree with the general liberal politics. Houses are hard to build, and they're not making any new land. Condos in the city center have gone down in price, but houses almost anywhere else have gone up. Interest rates are lower than ever, so normal people can afford a shockingly high mortgage. The biggest concern for normal people is cost, and job options, which would only get worse if you move outside the city.