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Resident has seen Foster-Powells good and bad

My View
by: l.e. baskow, Kathy Rentenbach takes a morning stroll with her dogs, Bear and Rosie (on leash), in the Powell-Foster neighborhood.

I live in the Foster-Powell wedge, too …nine years in a 100-year-old house. The young couple in your June 26 Rethinking Portland story 'Area has identity struggles' can rest assured that there are others in this neighborhood with whom they can feel comfortable.

I can point to four households on my block that meet the criteria of liberal politics, biking to work and valuing travel; all of us are transplants.

We are in our 40s to 60s, married with families or single. None of us has a car in the front yard. I hire someone to manicure my lawn. I like an edge to the grass - I just don't want to do it. But not everyone in Southeast has the disposable income to manicure.

Here in the wedge, we don't have a neighborhood meeting place. We need a bookstore, a coffeehouse, a grocery store, alittle movie theater.

I used to rent in Northwest Portland, and after I moved, I realized I missed Cinema 21, the Thriftway that is now Trader Joe's, Coffee People, bookstores with readings, and restaurants.Everything was within walking distance. Now I have to drive everywhere I want to go unless I want to risk biking.

Foster-Powell is named and hemmed in by the vicious traffic of the same. It takes courage to cross at the signal at Southeast 69th Avenue and Powell Boulevard; it changes when you're just over halfway across. You're on your own from there, staring down the onslaught of SUVs.Hence, like the couple in your piece, I, too have given up trying to cross the main throughfares and do my walks crisscrossing the wedge.

Ihave seenchange coming.One of my neighbors died at age 102. Her double lot was quickly divided, and up went a huge new slick house. Her house was gutted and rehabbed. Down came the tall, blooming bushes that had hid her old porch. Her neighbors salvaged her rosebushes. Real estate agents had been salivating over that property for some time.

The house that faces me has had three owners since I've lived here; it, too,sat on a double lot. In its backyard was a beautiful giant tree. As I walked my dogs, I watched as they slowly dismembered the tree. The power saws were buzzing for several days.

Now, instead of a backyard complete with rope swing, there sits an oversize house just a few feet behind the original house. It almost completely covers the lot, with very little lawn area. It's an oddity in the neighborhood. It seems all the double lots are sporting new houses that shout: 'Look at me. I'm big. I'm new, and I'm bland.'

There are rentals. I've had almost a decade of loud, drunken parties nearby. I let them be and only call the police when I hear fist on flesh.

There was a famous party a few years ago that I refer to as 'the Easter Riot.' It was a three-house party thatwrapped around the block. I called 911 around 3 a.m. to report fighting in the street.

After I gave my address, the dispatcher said, 'Ma'am, the police are already there.' I said, 'Tell them to move up a block.' (I could see four cruisers from my window.) Within a few minutes, most of the partiers' cars were gone.

The next day, a lone SUV was left over, blocking my 85-year-old neighbor's driveway. He called for it to be towed.

The 85-year-old grew up in the neighborhood and has lived 50 years in his present house. A World War II veteran with Navy tattoos, he spends all day tending his lawn and roses.

He walks three miles a day and has outlived two wives. He fell recently near his house and hit the curb. Luckily, another neighbor who was nearby to pick him up.

Another neighbor, a 70ish widow, has been known to edge her lawn by hand with scissors. She's been in her house about 40 years. Her husband, my old buddy, who died a few years ago of cancer, used to sit on his porch daily and stand watch over the corner. He knew everyone's vehicles. I always knew what was happening. I miss him.

Our 1912 sidewalks still sport iron rings bolted into them - horse hitches. The dusty flower- and blackberry-lined alleys that used to lead to horse barns are still there and lead to garages now. I walk my dogs down them. You can almost forget the city and the traffic.

I love my old house but have considered moving due to frequent unwanted 3 a.m. music/screams/firecrackers/police cars.But I can't afford a $500,000 house, and I don't want to move out of the city. I turn the fan onto 'high' to drown out the noise.

Interesting that the area is now 'close-in.' So I stay put and hope that one day there might be a real neighborhood here.

I say to the young family of your story: Please stay.

Kathy Rentenbach is paying her mortgage in the Foster-Powell neighborhood in Southeast Portland.