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  • 22 Dec 2014

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East Portland residents feel the worst about city services

Only 35 percent of East Portland residents feel safe in their neighborhoods, the lowest of any of the city’s seven neighborhood districts.

And despite allegations of questionable spending by the Portland Water Bureau — and a pending ballot measure to take the bureau away from City Council control — 70 percent of residents still rate their water service as good or very good.

Those are among many insights about how Portlanders feel about their city, gleaned from the 23rd-annual community survey.

The city auditor’s office sent surveys to 9,800 randomly selected households and got 3,352 valid surveys returned. City auditors calculate the results have a margin of error of 1.7 percent, meaning they could be off by that much in either direction. Results for the seven neighborhood districts have a margin of error of 4.1 percent to 4.9 percent.

After East Portland, North Portland residents feel the least safe in the city, with only 48 percent saying they feel safe or very safe. Residents of Southwest neighborhoods feel the safest, with 77 percent saying they feel safe or very safe.

In inner Northeast neighborhoods — the area undergoing the most gentrification in recent years — 68 percent reported feeling safe or very safe.

Though 70 percent of residents rate city water service well, there’s been a slight erosion of support in recent years. In 2010, 77 percent rated it well, down from 80 percent in 2009.

Interestingly, residents feel better about their water service than their sewer service, which also would be removed from City Council control under a potential ballot measure. Only 51 percent rated sewer service as good or very good, but that shows some improvement since 2011, when 46 percent rated sewers well.

While residents of East Portland reported the least safe in their neighborhoods, they also registered the highest esteem for police services, with 68 percent scoring them as good or very good. The two districts with the lowest regard for police services are residents of Northeast/downtown and those in inner Northeast, where 56 percent rated police well.

In last year’s survey, there was a noticeable dip in public appreciation for local garbage and recycling services, which many blamed on the city’s move to pick up garbage every other week instead of weekly, while adding curbside compost pickup. This year’s survey showed an uptick in residents’ perceptions of garbage and recycling service, with satisfaction levels close to where they were before weekly trash pickups were dropped.

Not surprisingly, residents in East Portland — where the city has land-banked many park sites but hasn’t developed many of them for active use — registered the lowest usage of city parks. Only 21 percent of East Portland residents reporting using a city park daily or weekly in the prior year, compared to 43 percent citywide. The highest parks usage comes from residents of Northwest/downtown, which boasts Forest Park, spiffy new parks in the Pearl District and easy access to Washington Park.

Some 57 percent of Northwest/downtown residents report active use of parks.

Citywide, 86 percent of residents rate the parks system as very good or good.

Despite many regional efforts to get people out of their cars, 64 percent of city residents indicated they drive to work alone, while 10 percent report taking public transportation. When all trips are included, including shopping and recreation, 70 percent of residents say they drive alone, 11 percent carpool, 5 percent take public transit and 4 percent bike.

Not surprisingly, only 32 percent of residents rate street maintenance as very good or good, compared to 39 percent in 2009. Street maintenance was a low priority under the administration of former Mayor Sam Adams.

East Portland residents report the lowest esteem for city land use planning, with only 22 percent scoring it well. The next-lowest district for land use planning is Southeast Portland, where only 36 percent give the city good marks.

East Portland residents also scored the lowest of the seven neighborhood districts for being close to transit, close to parks and having access to services.

In inner Northeast, only 29 percent say housing is affordable, the lowest of the seven districts. In Northwest and Southeast Portland, 37 percent say housing is affordable.

Despite some notable shortcomings, Portland residents still feel pretty good about their community. Citywide, 80 percent feel positively about city livability and 88 percent feel positively about their neighborhood’s livability. Both scores are essentially unchanged during the past four years.

The city’s popularity doesn’t extend to business owners, though. Only 51 percent of residents who reported owning a business in Portland feel the city is a good or very good place to do business, while 21 percent feel it’s a bad or very bad place to do business.