07 June 2018

Portland: Like It Or Not, A City Of Sextants

As of yesterday, they finally went and did it, they did, did they.

As a charter member of the Address Nerd club (or, as I like to call myself, a cartesiaphile), I hold my adoration of Portland's neat, well-ordered and pleasing address system as second to nobody's ... well, maybe Michael Long's of Portland and Ben Lukoff's of Seattle.

I will fight you on this.

A short while ago I reported on an approaching revision to the city's address grid; that of the conversion of the area between the river and Naito Parkway, including the South Waterfront area, Johns Landing, and areas including Dunthorpe and Riverdale, on whose east-west streets addresses increase as you approach the river and include a zero on the front, were going to become a new address district.

I traveled the district in prose in this missive, committed to the aether back in the salad days of 2005 on this blog (http://zehnkatzen.blogspot.com/2005/07/geography-address-nerd-on-zero-hundred.html) I called them 'zero-hundreds'; it's developed that the official city nomenclature on those are 'leading-zero' streets. The most common example is the address of the Old Spaghetti Factory, a favorite place of many hardcore Portlanders (including Your Humble Interlocutor and wife, whose birthday dinner tends to happen there), which is, in the common rubric, 0715 SW Bancroft St; seven blocks east of the Naito Meridian yet located west of the Willamette.

Yesterday was the city council's vote to change the face of Portland just a bit, but remarkably so, and the city council approved. So, as of May 2020 (I'm born in that month, so what a coincidence!) the leading zeroes disappear from this area, and the SW is dropped in favor of simply ... S, giving us the most consequential Portland geography revision since the Great Renaming itself, nearly 90 years ago.

This was the layout of Portland before:

The east-west baseline being Burnside, of course, and the straight line going north is N. Williams Avenue. This is then, now; as of May 2020, this will be now, then:

Welcome, South Portland, to the family of Northeast, Northwest, North, Southwest, and Southeast Portland. The city, who keeps liking to call it a sextant, holds that the change was needed to facilitate wayfinding for emergency dispatch services. Those I know who aren't all that thrilled about it find it specious, pointing out that modern wayfinding technology is plenty sophisticated enough to make sense of leading-zero addresses and it's just plain lazy not to bother to learn it, not to mention the cost of manufacturing hundreds of street signs to replace the old.

6 of these = 1 PDX
I agree with those amongst us who say it's a problem that wasn't really demanding a solution that hard. I'm also sad to see a most unique Portlandism, and perhaps the most satsifying local geography quirk that exists pretty much anywhere, evaporate so. And it's such an absurdly small sliver of land to go on about!

The timeline as thus: in May, 2020, the new street blades go up in the South area. They remain up until 2025, after which leading-zero address will officially become a a Thing Of The Past, going into the hazy demesne of nostalgia that holds Ramblin' Rod, Barney Keep, Tri Met Service Sectors, and my ability to hear Lars Larson's voice without gagging.

Although, as the article at https://www.opb.org/news/article/portland-south-new-address-area/ explains, the USPS will still deliver to leading-zero addresses after the year 2025. That article, done by OPB's Amelia Templeton, also links my 2005 Address Nerd entry on zero-hundreds as explanation, and you'd better believe I'm flattered by that!

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