01 March 2018

The Return of South Portland: Welcoming the Proposed Sixth Sextant

Don't look now, but Portland may be about to grow a sixth address area.

Actually, it already exists. Anyone familiar with the map of Portland knows that the Willamette River and Burnside Street makes a basic division of the address grid into NW, NE, SW, and SE quadrants; the veering to the northwest of the river north of the Burnside crossing creates an ample area on the North Portland Peninsula which is named, simply, N, and these areas form the directional part of every street name in town.

South of the city center, though, starting at about SW Jefferson St, the river dawdles more south-southeast rather than straight south. This is a topic I wrote about here back in 2005; and while the addresses increase southward in accordance with the southward address trend, you reach a point at which the zero-line ... then, SW Front Avenue, now SW Naito Parkway ... is actually several blocks east of the river. Rather than dubbing a new address district, back during the Great Renaming in 1930-33, the address planners counter-intuitively called for addresses to increase 100 to the block again, as you traveled toward the river, but with a leading zero affixed. These addresses I termed the zero-hundreds, but the term of art in the City is leading-zero addresses. Why they decided to take this approach rather than a mirror-image of the North Portland scheme is not recorded and presumably forgotten.

As an example, the home base of Portland's legendary The Old Spaghetti Factory, at the end of SW Bancroft Street, on the river, is 0715 SW Bancroft St, effectively seven blocks east of Naito but on the west side of the river, so SW.

Image: PBOT
It seems incredibly likely that that's all about to change in a local geography edit that, while is not as major as the original Great Renumbering, is quite remarkable and unprecedented in Portland's post-renaming street rationale. If approved by the City (and judging by the amount of work already done it looks quite likely), in 2020, the slender wedge of land with leading-zero addresses beginning just south of the Hawthorne Bridge and expanding to about a mile's width by the time you cross the Clackamas County line will lose the W in the directional and the leading zero in the address number. The Old Spaghetti Factory's address will become 715 S. Bancroft; Johns Landing's main drag will be known thenceforth as S. Macadam Ave, and SW Terwilliger blvd south of Lewis and Clark College will be S. Terwilliger Blvd. The PBOT 'Sixth Sextant' logo schematically summarizes the change, which was apparently catalyzed by the growth of a major urban neighborhood in the South Waterfront area and the collateral issues of city service and emergency service provision in an area where a caller will say "300 SW Whitaker" when they meant "0300 SW Whitaker".

If and when (let's be frank, or at least Meier & Frank ... when, this looks like a done deal) the change is applied, the new South sextant will come into being affecting 258 of Portland's estimated 19,502 street intersections (interestingly, I found that my home 'sextant', SE, has more than 6,600 of those intersections, about double that of the second-largest, intersection-wise ... SW).

I expect I'll embrace it with some excitement, though I'll have to admit that "South Macadam Avenue" doesn't have quite the ring "SW Macadam Avenue" did. And, though blander in character (the originally-named area was something of a center of lower-income and poor European immigrant communities) there is the thing that there will be, at long last, a real South Portland in Portland, Oregon.

Now for the info! Follow this link to the Portland Bureau of Transportation's (PBOT) South Portland Addressing Project: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/75814. Maps, tables of street name changes and address changes, FAQ's, the works!

Also, a tip of the hat to my incomparable friend Friday, who knows what I like and how to get my attention about it: she pointed me to this The Oregonian article and the rest, as they say, is Address Nerd history: http://www.oregonlive.com/roadreport/index.ssf/2018/02/sixth_sextant_city_considering.html

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