'Money' Magazine Rates Portland No. 1 City

P O R T L A N D, Ore., Nov. 14, 2000 -- Sure, it rains a lot, but Portland, Ore., is the best place to live in the country, according to Money magazine.

The 1,700,000-person Northwestern town topped Money’s 14th annual rankings, which appears in the December issue going on sale this week.

Money praised the city’s roaring high-tech economy, small school classes, and strong job market, in addition to a high quality of life that includes short commutes, pedestrian-friendly shop-lined streets, and “loads of culture.”

Add to that a public transportation system that is the envy of commuters around the country, and the surrounding natural beauty of snowcapped Mount Hood and the nearby Columbia River Gorge, and you’ve got a winner, the magazine says.

“What’s great about Portland is the whole package,” said Elisa Dozono, a city spokeswoman.

Even the rain — averaging of 152 days a year — isn’t a big problem, she says.

“I think we get a bad rap,” she insists. “It helps keep us as green as we are.”

The magazine also picked regional winners: Chicago in the Midwest; Providence, R.I., in the East;Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C., in the South; and Salt Lake Cityin the West. Sarasota, Fla., was named the nation’s most livable small city.

A City That ‘Reinvented Itself’Money lauds Portland’s transformation from a timber town to a high-tech hub with an excellent job market and a ranking in the top fifth of all metro areas for job growth. Job growth is projected at 26 percent over the next 10 years.

“We’re reinventing ourselves as a very urban place by incorporating the natural environment, transportation, parks and neighborhoods,” said Gil Kelley, Portland’s Bureau of Planning director.

The combination of a technology-fueled economic boom with somewhat bohemian values may remind some of another West Coast city.

“If all this tech talk makes it sound a bit like San Francisco, well, it is, but without the hassles and expense,” the magazine says.

But Portland has at least one problem in common with its neighbor down the coast — sky-high housing costs. While not as expensive as San Francisco, the median price for a single-family home is $165,700, making it one of the nation’s least-affordable housing markets.

According to a Harvard University study those prices jumped 44.3 percent between 1991 and 1999.

But Money says that taken as a whole, the Rose City is way ahead of the competition.

Portland is becoming something of a critics’ favorite, having been dubbed “The nation’s darling of urbancorrectness” by The Economist and having a National Public Radio “Talk of the Nation” program devoted to the city’s charms.

The listing is a recognition of how well the local economy is doing, said Carl Abbott of Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning.

“All of these surveys define a set of criteria then compare the cities to those criteria,” he said. “It is plausible that Portland is the best place to live.”

A Victim of Success?Some fear that Portland may become a victim of its own virtues, with so many people trying to live here that they will erase what drew them to Portland in the first place.

Last year’s Money winners, San Francisco and New York City, have in part been victims of their own success, the magazine said, as the booming economy drove up housing costs even further.

The magazine notes that people are so eager to live in renovated downtown Portland that the vacancy rate there is a slim 3 percent.

Still, Portland Mayor Vera Katz doesn’t appear to be worrying yet.

“We’re growing gracefully,” she told the magazine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.