This area, which is part of Washington County, Oregon, represents the first suburb to the west of the Portland metropolitan area. Portland mainly makes the news when there is some form of protest or other confrontation, or in listings of places with good food and drink. Just as Everett and Tacoma are not Seattle, Portland’s burbs are not Portland. They just share a border.
Important note: Beaverton is an actual city with its own government. Aloha (pronounced uh-LO-ah) is simply the name of a region of unincorporated Washington County between Beaverton and Hillsboro (the county seat). In combination they house maybe 150,000 people. The only practical distinction is which police respond to emergency calls (city police vs. county deputies) and whether one is misgoverned and overtaxed by city or county officials. I have come to designate this area as Aloverton, and to go by the local chuckles, I might just be one of the first to assign it. Anyway…
Pros of living in Aloverton:
- Powell’s. This famous downtown Portland bookstore has branches in Beaverton and eastern Portland. While our branch isn’t as cavernous as the one downtown, it’s still the size of a Costco and much more fun than going out to buy a 5-gallon bucket of grape jam or enough paper towels to absorb a small lake. Every editor reads, and every reader enjoys bookstores.
- Max. This is Portland’s light rail network linking Aloverton with the rest of the metro area. It’s efficient, generally safe, and reasonably priced. You can live out here and get to Gresham (the extreme eastern burb), the airport (north, along the Columbia), as far south as Clackamas (in a different county), and to the Expo Center (way up north). Ride all day for five bucks.
- Great Korean food. This is Portland’s main concentration of Koreans and Korean-Americans, and the result is a very high standard of Korean dining. Nak Won (downtown Beav) is always at the top of the metro area’s Korean restaurant listings, and there’s a reason why people line up to get in when it first opens in the evening. I never knew how much I loved Korean food until I moved here.
- Diversity. While it is true that Oregon was founded as a racist Utopia, and still has a lot of ugly racial history to confront, I regularly hear Spanish and other languages in my local travels. I see kids in my neighborhood playing with toy cricket bats. It is not strange to meet a variety of races, faiths, and outlooks.
- Industries. Nike’s world HQ is about three miles from me, and many tech companies (Intel, Tektronix for example) have local presences. There tend to be jobs in Aloverton, sometimes pretty good ones, and we have lots of business parks.
- Coast. If you want to show that you’re a visitor, refer to “going to the beach.” Most people here say “going to the coast.” Aloverton is about seventy minutes from Cannon Beach (which I am always tempted to call Cannon Coast, just to mock the trend). Close enough to get there in an hour and a half, but not so close as to be swamped with coastgoing tourists–nice location.
- Beaverton library. This is large, nice, adjoins a pleasant park, and has almost enough parking plus a friends-of-the-library bookshop across the street. Comfortable, easy to use, doubles as a ballot drop box area at election times, well organized, not too many riff-raff using it to get out of the rain. I like.
- Nearness of natural areas. I don’t have to drive more than about fifteen minutes to see nothing but farmland. While that might get more difficult, I remember living in Seattle’s northern burbs where the countryside felt like it might as well be in Idaho. This area has a number of water control wetlands that remain undeveloped, and some very pleasant local nature trails. You can get out into the woods.
- Mt. Hood. While we are not physically close to this dormant andesite volcano, some urban planner had a great inspiration. Two major east/west arterials flow through town. For a short stretch, the southernmost one shoots right at Mt. Hood; the northernmost one does so for a very long stretch. So it’s a sunny day, you’re coming home from one of Hillsboro’s many strip joints or car dealerships, and you’re just watching out for the speed limit changes. And in the distance, you can see that you’re aimed directly at a beautiful snow-capped mountain set against the blue sky. Yes, please.
- Coffee and cannabis. If you like legal stimulants and relaxants, it’s easier to find a coffee place or dope/CBD store than it is a gas station. I’m not exaggerating. If you drive at random, you will find coffee or dope before you will find vehicle fuel. Most of the coffee is all right and some of it is great, especially a couple of the non-chain downtown Beav places. While a number of the dope places are staffed by kids who obviously qualify to work there mainly through product experience, there are enough that one can find a place with people who know more about the products than “whatever kind you want, dude.”
- Bonus pro: friendliness. While it’s still a suburb of a large city with the associated distancing and space bubble tendencies, there is a certain easy, polite friendliness about the area. It’s that general Western US friendliness that one finds most places, a sort of relaxed outlook. Yeah, we have some amazing jackasses, but not many. If you can’t figure out where something is, most people will be glad to direct you.
Cons of living in Aloverton:
- Bad Chinese and Thai food. As well represented as are many Asian demographics including Chinese and Thai, most of the local restaurants in these specialties are…forgettable. We knew of one Chinese place we thought was good, but it closed. We know of one good Thai place and we help keep it afloat. You’d expect better here.
- Mediocre Mexican food. We lived in former sundown town Kennewick for sixteen years, where the population of Hispanic origin was considerable (more so across the river in Pasco). Beaverton’s best Mexican restaurant in our experience would be about the sixth best in Richland/Kennewick/Pasco, which makes no sense given that absolute numbers here are greater. We know one rather good place and one street taco place, and we help keep them afloat. Most would not be missed, ranging from “okay” to “not doing that again.”
- Rats. A decades-old problem, significant new construction has stirred up many squadrons of varmints. Worsening the problem are people who feed birds and feral cats, and who keep chickens in their back yards (quite common here). The result is Too Much Mickey. This year we had to get serious about the battle, but not enough locals take it seriously for us to make progress against the problem. It’s the same old thing: people can’t be bothered to change anything just because it might help the community as a whole.
- Police. During my first week here, I had a shakedown attempt from the deputies in the form of a certified letter accusing me of a false alarm without a permit (the spot for a date of infraction was blank) and strongly suggesting I buy an alarm permit. I investigated and found there had been no monitoring here for five years. I didn’t even get an apology. Beaverton is infamous for traffic ticket cameras, traffic stings, and fascist enforcement of even the most minor laws. Speed limit changes are frequent and seem designed to encourage infractions.
- Property crime. Mail theft, porch piracy, petty burglary, car break-ins, illegal street races, and the like are quite common here and one should probably expect them to get worse. The police have their hands full setting up stings to catch people not stopping for pedestrians at unmarked crosswalks, I guess. When it comes to protecting your property here, you’re on your own.
- Downtown. Aloha, not being a town, does not even have a pretense of downtown. Beaverton tries so hard to have one, but there just isn’t much to it. The area’s two main east/west arterials roar through such downtown as there is, which contains a few interesting places and more uninteresting ones. It only gains any ground during Saturday markets, which one learns about from all the signs warning against parking in business lots on market days.
- Street disposal. In this area, getting rid of large junk is not simple or cheap. Very often, people’s solution is to just put the old washer or computer hutch on the sidewalk, assuming someone will snap it up; failing that, eventually the city/county will come get it. I understand this with a box of books or something else of rational value, but not with a dead refrigerator. Jeez.
- Street name changes. One of this area’s civic pastimes is changing street names in mid-run for no evident logical reason. I’ve alluded to two main east/west arterials, Oregon State Highways 8 and 10. OR-8 is called the Tualatin Valley Highway until the edge of downtown Beav, when it becomes Canyon Road. No sane reason. OR-10 is Farmington Road until the center of downtown, where it changes its name to the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. Got it. Why? Who does this help? Another example? All right: There’s an arterial named SW Allen Street. Then it’s SW Davis Street. Then it’s SW Oak Street. This all happens within one mile. That’s some fine naming work there, Wally.
- Transportation infrastructure. The road system and Max park-and-ride lots have not nearly kept pace with the speed at which developers throw up apartment buildings. Combine that with a street system in which you often can’t really get there from here, and it can be annoying and difficult to navigate. While the growth is goosing our property value, it’s not making the area more livable. Or more walkable. I live in an area where there is not one single business within one mile. It’s as burby as a burb can get.
I note that I can find eleven strong pros and nine solid cons about Aloverton. I guess that fits my view, which is: While big cities just fundamentally do not appeal to me, if I have to live in or near one, this will work.