Meet your neighbor: David Kerr

David and Bobs

Oak Grove resident David Kerr is the man behind David Kerr Violin Shop in SE Portland. His shop has  has been in business since 1976, and is the preeminent destination for violins on the West Coast.  From rental violins to the rarest works of art created by luthiers, it’s the place to go.

Along with his partner, artist and architectural designer Bob Abbott, his father Chuck, and two good neighbors, David manages over an acre of property in Oak Grove that he calls a garden, and we call a farm. To see it at the height of the season, with its bees flying and chickens chattering, it is clearly a piece of land that is lovingly worked and provides generous bounty for its tenders.

When did you move to Oak Grove and why?

My partner Bob and I moved to Oak Grove 16 years ago from the city for land. Gardening is in our blood and a small lot just did not work for us. We found the former Richard Groener property and fell in love with the wooded landscape and year round stream.

What were some differences between Oak Grove then and now?

When we first moved out we did not know many people and there did not seem to be a sense of place. We always put down our address as Oak Grove but everyone else we met used either Portland or Milwaukie as the address. They both work, but we liked the ring of Oak Grove. Now there are signs up that designate the area and there seems to be much more recognition and pride in the area. We have also met many artists and small business owners and various characters. The area is rich in talent and I think most people would be surprised at who lives here.


Your partner Bob and yourself have traveled extensively and experienced many cultures. In your opinion, what are a few things necessary to create a sense of “community”?

Well the things that would really help would be to have a viable downtown with a good grocery store like New Seasons and at least one really good restaurant. My fantasy is to have a top notch restaurant, a great pub, a good grocery store, a wine store and a copy of the cheese board ( a cheese store in Berkeley that is on par with ones in Paris ). If we could have access by walking or riding a bike to an area like that it would make a destination area where people would gather.

Bob adds:

The single deterrent to community in Oak Grove is the blight of McLoughlin Blvd.
1. The run down buildings in disrepair reflect a lack of community pride and economic success.
2. New buildings often have no continuity with other buildings and are architectural zeroes. The new development in Portland sets a high standard of design and imbues forward thinking (positive progress).
3. McLoughlin needs street trees and island plantings with restricted turn lanes.
4. The lack of zoning provides for low-class chaos.  It is impossible to grow community or personal pride living here with the obvious void of governmental vision.

What are a few aspects of living in Oak Grove that you think might be hard to come by elsewhere?

In terms of Portland there are more interesting neighborhoods though you would never find the large lots in those neighborhoods that we have here. As far as the country is concerned we live in Paradise just don’t tell anyone.

The lack of zoning provides for low-class chaos.  It is impossible to grow community or personal pride living here with the obvious void of governmental vision.

Your father lives in the community at a retirement community. What has it meant to him and you to live near each other in Oak Grove? How has your relationship changed since you both moved to Oak Grove?

My Dad lives at Rose Villa which is a fantastic retirement community with graduated care. The grounds are like living in a park with flowers everywhere. Their new food hall is really a restaurant and their cook is really a chef. They have the best woodworking shop anywhere and he spends a lot of time making furniture and fixing things. They even have garden plots for those who want to raise their own veges though since it is only a mile away from our place he does his gardening with us. He is at our place on average four days a week so I get to see a lot of him which has been a great gift.

You and your partner share quite a large garden with your neighbors. Does living in OG cultivate/encourage urban farming?

The properties tend to be larger than the urban lots but we both had a gardens in the city when we lived there. I don’t think OG has anything to do with it, but for those who are interested in gardening OG is considered the banana belt of Portland. In fact our bananas are all flowering this year. So with the slightly warmer weather we have, our veges tend to grow larger and the season is slightly longer than even Portland. I have also noticed that driving in to work OG is often sunny when Portland is shrouded in clouds.


Tell us about your farm. What do you grow?

I think of it more as a vegetable garden than a farm. It is 3/4 of an acre though. Spring: asparagus, artichokes, kale, spinach, peas, fava beans, lettuce. Summer: 22 varieties tomatoes, three varieties potatoes, six varieties eggplant, corn, onions , cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, trying black garbanzo beans from Afghanistan this year, blue corn for flour, beets, Swiss chard, carrots, 8 varieties of peppers including the amazing red and yellow marconi’s, raspberries, cascade berries, tay berries, currants, elderberries. Fall: six varieties of winter squash including the rare and delicious Catalon de Plana which I am happy to share seeds with anyone, pears, apples, quince, persimmons, plums, my first Goji berries this year, pomegranates. Winter: my first winter garden! Six varieties of kale, cabbage, carrots, onions, lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, parsnips, beets, rutabagas, olives. Then we have eight chickens and 17 bee hives.

Do you know other growers in OG? Is there a nucleus of farmers here?

I know a number of people with normal sized vegetable gardens but don’t know any farmers.

What do you hope to see happen for Oak Grove in the next 5-10 years? What kind of businesses do you hope will join the downtown area?

First of all I would like to see the light rail line go past Oak Grove so I can walk to the stop. Second, I would like to see several great restaurants come into the area. Third, It would be great to have a local New Seasons or Market of Choice so we don’t have to drive to Sellwood or Lake Oswego for groceries (if we needed some!)

  swarm landing

Check out the entire gallery here:


Meet your neighbor: Eleanore Hunter

If you’ve lived in Oak Grove for any amount of time you know Eleanore Hunter or at least her name. The former chairwoman of the Oak Grove Community Council accomplished much in that role and is still passionate about Oak Grove’s future. She graciously answered a few questions we threw at her recently, ranging from where Oak Grove is headed, her accomplishments and future goals, and the collaborative community growing here.

Can you tell me a little history about the Oak Grove Community Council (OGCC)? Why was it created?
The Oak Grove Community Council was created by Clackamas County in response to an Oregon State mandate to have citizen participation in land use planning. Only Washington and Clackamas Counties created CPO’s – or Citizen Planning Organizations – to fulfill this mandate, other Counties did other things. The Oak Grove Community Council is the CPO for this area. Washington County has 12 CPO’s, Clackamas County has 32 active ones, and the OGCC is by far the most active and the most attended.

Does the organization have a “direct line” to the commissioners? Or any influence?
We do have a direct line to the Commissioner’s – all citizens of the County do. The OGCC is clearly recognized as the voice for the citizens in Oak Grove, and we are able to influence certain things. One main consideration is that Oak Grove is a more urban area than most other CPO’s and the issues and needs for this area often differ from the issues and needs of other CPOs. We all must abide by the same laws and codes – zoning, nuisance enforcement, etc., within often very different circumstances.

Oak Grovers feel like they have no voice – is that voice OGCC?
I can certainly understand why many people in the area don’t feel that they have a voice – most people in the area have no idea that the CPO even exists – it is a constant desire for the board and members to let more neighbors know about the CPO and the great things that are taking place in the area. The OGCC is the main voice for the area – no doubt about it.

What issues are hot right now?
Two things are really hot right now – the coming of the Orange Line to the corner of Park Ave and McLoughlin – which will serve as a transportation hub, linking Light-Rail, Bus, Auto, Bike, and Pedestrians. I am so excited by the potential this link to the greater Metro region will bring to our community – multi-modal transportation is key for the health, well-being and vitality of any residential and commercial area. It feels to me that this area was put on ‘pause’ sometime in the mid 50’s and Light Rail will be the catalyst to revitalize our local economics and vitality.

The second thing that is really hot right now is the McLoughlin Area Plan (MAP) – a community-lead plan that has engaged over 600 residents of the area. We are now in Phase III, actualizing the Projects and Programs that were identified by community members in Phase II according to the Vision, Values and Guiding Principles of Phase I.

There is fantastic potential for people to get involved in hands-on projects that are taking place throughout the community – streetscape improvements to McLoughlin Blvd., environmental enhancement projects, design issues, social connections and economic vitality. Many of the projects and programs are interlinked, and my fellow committee members are working to create partnerships and relationships with a wide variety of governmental agencies, non-profits, citizens…you name it. MAP has the greatest opportunity for true physical improvement for our area.

Why are there so many strip clubs and car lots in Oak Grove?
Actually there are only a few working strip clubs, but it looks like more due to the signs that are still up.

As to the car lots, the cluster of auto dealers in Gladstone make this area the second largest in the state. The largest being over on Canyon Road. The location of ‘dealer clusters’ are regulated, so the auto emphasis will be with us for some time. But – there is no reason that there cannot be a greater diversity – and a more family orientation of businesses – along McLoughlin Blvd.

One thing lacking in our community is a community center or breakfast joint or brewpub. Why is this? Would OGers embrace this?
I think having a community center would make a big difference for this community. This area is unincorporated governmentally, and I feel that it is also unincorporated both emotionally and psychologically as well – there is no corpus, no body, no center. Where is the center? The corner of Oak Grove Blvd and McLoughlin? We need to have community gathering places, places for people to come together and enjoy a sense of community. When I look at the demographics and the economic profiles for the community, I come to the conclusion that what we need to support a vibrant, local economy is more people.

Some might not like that idea, and want to maintain the same population levels that we currently have. I say this community deserves better than what one sees on McLoughlin Blvd. This community is considered “underparked” by both Metro and the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation Dept. Where are the places for young mothers and their children to gather? Where are the places for grandparents to take their grandkids to enjoy an afternoon? Where are the places for teens to be constructive and participatory? We can do so much better for this community.

What were some of the accomplishments under your helm?
There were two goals that I set for myself while I was Chair of the Oak Grove Community Council – 1) get so many people involved that just a few people couldn’t ‘run’ the area, as had been done in the past and 2) make sure that every governmental, environmental, human service, business group, every agency, department, committee, group knew about Oak Grove and what we are creating and stimulating and reviving here. I feel pretty good about having accomplished those two goals – now I want more and more residents of the Oak Grove area to know about the Community Council and the McLoughlin Area Plan so they too can participate in the revitalization and be proud of this great place.

What role will you play now?
Currently I am serving as the Vice-Chair of the Oak Grove Community Council and as Chair of the Community Connections Committee of MAP-IT – the McLoughlin Area Plan Implementation Team, or Phase III of MAP.

When did you move to Oak Grove? Why did you choose it?
I moved to Oak Grove at the very end of 1998. I had little knowledge of this area, and was looking elsewhere. A friend mentioned a friend who had a place here who had to move, she had a vague idea where, so I came down to look for the house, couldn’t find it, and saw one that I really liked, pulled in the driveway and that was the house my friend was talking about! I figured the house wanted me to live here as much as I did.

What changes have you seen since moving here?
I see more strip joints turn into used car lots. I see more vacancies and more temporary businesses on McLoughlin – the kind of businesses that have little to no connection with the community. I see one elementary school about to shut down. I see an increase in the people who need food assistance.

I also see hundreds of people turning out to help plan a future for their community. I see people show up month after month to community meetings to advocate for improvements for the community. I see dedicated staff people working their hearts out to help make improvements. I see collaboration and respect and greater understanding between neighbors with differing values. I see incremental steps being taken all around this area that are beginning to add up, that are starting to tip the scales towards pride and vigor and well-being. I see the end of the isolation the old guard worked so hard to enforce. I see better times ahead.

What makes Oak Grove special?
We are located in an amazing place, and with some care and attention, we can keep this place amazing. The trees. The larger lots. The quiet side streets with no sidewalks. Friends come to visit and remark on how much it feels like the country here – how close to PDX and yet so quiet, so lush. We are on the brink of change, and we can be a model for how to do things consciously, with future generations in mind, or we can ignore the swirl of world forces around us and continue on the path of isolation, exclusion, and 1950’s thinking to our detriment and perhaps peril.

What’s the potential of Oak Grove?
Beyond enormous. We can keep the small neighborhood feeling, we can keep the unique features that make this place so beautiful and desirable and unique. Just imagine having what are called ‘activity clusters’ along McLoughlin at the major intersections of Park, Courtney, Oak Grove, Concord and Roethe – and stopping the unrelenting strip mall quality McLoughlin currently has. Think of this area being focused on people and not automobiles! Imagine McLoughlin Blvd. actually living up to that name. Tree lined! Contiguous sidewalks! Cafes! Housing! As the Blue Heron site in Oregon City is re-developed, everything between there and the Park Ave light rail line is going to become more and more attractive. We can do this – it is not unknown. There are proven ways to revitalize communities like Oak Grove – for families, businesses, all aspects of our community.

How do we encourage younger families to move here?
Young families (like the rest of us!) need a few basic things – affordable homes, easy transit to jobs, close recreation opportunities, good schools with strong community involvement, and a sense of safety and belonging. Getting the Orange Line to come to the northern tip of our community is one of the greatest things that could happen to encourage younger people to return to our community. We must become more pedestrian and bike accessible – the Trolley Trail is a fantastic addition. We must have more family friendly businesses on the Blvd and along the side streets at the major intersections. We must have updated cafes, restaurants, brew-pubs, and nightlife to entice younger people to return. But most of all, let’s really appreciate the great housing stock and neighborhoods, the mature trees and quiet that everyone values.

So, tell me about your garden. What are you growing?
I have become a rose freak, I must admit. Creating more areas of native habitat for both plants and animals and deeply enjoying the way they dance together. The asparagus and artichokes have exceed my expectations, the tomatoes, kale, basil, squash, carrots, beets, cauliflower, broccoli and cucumbers are all hearty and delightful. Wondering if the Brussels sprouts will actually sprout. The hedgerow is filling in well and the birds and raccoons are loving it. But the roses have opened my heart to a new level, I am humbled by their variety, colors and scent – oh my, their scent!

Oak Lodge Sanitary Facility Dedication Celebration

Here are some pics of the tours to celebrate the completion of a major overhaul for Oak Lodge Sanitary District’s water reclamation facility.

On November 3, 2009 voters in the Oak Lodge Sanitary District approved the sale of up to $44 million in general obligation bonds to rebuild the aging wastewater reclamation plant. The measure was approved by a wide margin – with 85% of voters saying “Yes”. Construction at the water reclamation facility began in June 2010.

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Oak Grove, summer 2013

Been kind of quiet on the blog – enjoying our glorious Oregon summer!

In the meantime, here are some photos from Saturday, July 26, as we walked around town and enjoyed our farmers market, the Good Roots picnic and our walkable neighborhoods.














































Meet your Neighbors: Schoolyard Farms


Schoolyard Farms grows edibles ranging from broccoli, kale and lettuces.

As the local food and DIY gardening movement gains steam, many locals have dived right in by planting edibles and raising chickens. Oak Grove and surrounding neighborhoods such as Jennings Lodge and their large lots and acreage, make gardening a logical choice. From box gardens in front yards, chicken coops in backyards, and lawns being ripped out for gardens, Oak Grove is attracting more “urban homesteaders” that want to live off the land and grow their own.

This same spirit has also been extended to a local school. Which makes perfect sense.

At Schoolyard Farms at Candy Lane Elementary in Jennings Lodge, unused grassy areas have been transformed to thriving, edible gardens that not only feed the community but help educate students on how to grow their own food.

Launched two years ago by Courtney Leeds and Justin Davidson, alumni of the popular Zenger Farm, Schoolyard Farms expanded existing box gardens started by the school and has grown to include a half-acre on the side of the school.


Existing box gardens installed by school staff over the years are a key component to the garden.

The farm was originally Singer Hill Farms, which launched four years ago at the school and flamed out when it couldn’t meet the demands of its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Last year, Leeds and Davidson were looking for land to farm on when they saw a notice on a local Portland online discussion group from the school. The deal was that the school would provide the land and water and growers would provide education to students. The partners jumped at the chance and starting immediately ripping up sod and planting edibles.

By having the garden at the school, kids can get an education about farming, health and nutrition, get out of the classroom and even get a math lesson (one teacher uses the box gardens for addition/subtraction lessons).


Schoolyard Farms’ Justin Davidson illustrates an interesting technique that helps tomatoes grow straight up. Neighbors often stop by and ask about how to grow their own.

“Kids love being outside, and were willing to be out here during the winter, weeding,” said Davidson. “We’re looking for rain gear for them. The school is Title I and many of the kids can’t afford the extra gear.”

In addition to educating the kids, rain or shine, at school about where their food comes from, how to grow it, and getting their hands in soil, the farm also donates produce to the Head Start in Oregon City where the produce gets cooked – and some of it goes back to the school, to students.

The farm is non-profit and broke even last year. To break even this year and to continue to educate the students, the farm is selling shares of its produce through a CSA. (Customers buy shares and receive 24 weekly shares of fresh, responsibly and locally grown vegetables.)

The ultimate goal of the farm isn’t a CSA but to be a direct food source for the cafeteria. The plan is that they’d grow food and the school’s cafeteria would use it in meals for the students.

Local neighbors benefit as well. Many stop by and ask questions, are curious about some of the growing techniques and are generally in support of the garden.

“Most schools have plenty of unused land. We’d like to see more schools do this sort of thing,” adds Davidson.


Last year’s crops mingle with existing sod – ready to be ripped out for planting.

If you’re interested in joining the CSA, visit the farm’s website. They’re also on Facebook. And, if you have lead on getting rain gear donated to the kids, please contact them.

Save our schools, save our community

The below is from a Riverside parent but applies to the whole community on possible school closures. 

You may have heard that North Clackamas School District has put a proposal in front of the school board that will close two more schools in our Oak Grove neighborhood.

Two years ago they closed and moved Sojourner, and now they are proposing to close New Urban High School and Riverside Elementary; effectively closing three schools in one neighborhood in two years…also selecting schools in the poorer part of the district– both schools have a student population living at high levels of poverty receiving free and reduced lunch and taking backpacks filled with food for the weekends.

Two years ago they closed and moved Sojourner, and now they are proposing to close New Urban High School and Riverside Elementary; effectively closing three schools in one neighborhood in two years.

Our small Oak Grove community is starting to grow and flourish with a small business district, farmers market, community gardens… and we do need families to complete this neighborhood.

If they close these schools, it will not be attractive to families wanting to move in– and it will be more difficult to sell houses. Schools are one of the cornerstones of a healthy and vibrant neighborhood.

Can you please take the time to email the school board, superintendent, and elementary school admin employees at the following list of emails? I think it would be very beneficial for the school board to hear from our community and our thoughts on the health of our neighborhood–as they consider voting for this proposal. It is not a done deal in any way and they have asked for input.

Meet your neighbors: Oak Grove Elementary’s Kevin Spooner

kevin spooner

Oak Grove Elementary School principal Kevin Spooner has a vision for his school and the community of Oak Grove.

Spooner has been with the North Clackamas School District (NCSD) for 25 years. He started as a teacher and a learning specialist for kids with learning disabilities. Along the way he was an administrator (he helped merge McLoughlin Middle School and Milwaukie Middle School to Alder Creek), was principal at Linwood Elementary, and three years ago became principal of Oak Grove Elementary.

His interest and the interest of the staff is to try and develop more interconnectedness with parents, teachers and the greater community.

“We sense in some cases there are disconnects – people don’t know each other that well. We don’t know why that is. I think one of the things were trying to do is look at resources out there that can help bring us together.”

His vision is also to help build a community within the school and the Oak Grove community. One example is that the school has been partnering with Rose Villa and Willamette View. They have a group of students that visit Willamette View residents at the art studio where art therapists work with students and residents to create projects together.

“It’s got us very excited how we can help our kids have a voice in the vision for the future and even inspire them: when they finish their schooling they can come back and reinvest here in the community.”

“The majority of our citizens in the area are over 55. We want to help them understand we value their investment in our community here, especially with our kids. A lot of these folks are professional artists, former educators and teachers. They have a lot give.”

They also partner with Good Roots Community Church‘s food bank and community garden. Students that participate that live in the neighborhood (and their families) have access to the garden and learn about gardening. The kids learn about composting, the importance of recycling, the different types of insects– all of the environmental pieces to successfully growing a garden.

Through their work with the Right Brain Initiative and access to its funding, the school has a video animator coming in and working with classrooms. “Kids, using animation, are projecting what they’d like Oak Grove to look like in the future. They’re doing some work in the past – what Oak Grove looked like in the past, the present and the future.”

Using different styles of animation, stop-motion, and simple materials such as cardboard and paper drawings, the artist will help students morph these images into a picture books and a final product.

“It’s got us very excited how we can help our kids have a voice in the vision for the future and even inspire them: when they finish their schooling they can come back and reinvest here in the community,” says Spooner.

OG school 2

Attendance at Oak Grove Elementary is holding pretty steady and there’s also not a lot of growth. Spooner says there’s more mobility at the school compared to others in the district. “We see people moving in and out a lot. We also have pockets of folks that are impacted by poverty. With that comes a number of things we can provide to support these families.”

Trillium Services provides treatment to students in the form of therapy, while families in need can also visit the Wichita Family Center.

“We send some of our parents that way but unfortunately they don’t have the transportation to get there. We’re trying to find ways to provide these services here. I’d like to provide more evening opportunities for students and parents with the community college to create more of a community school where we can have access to a variety of things. Not just social services to families in need but things for the whole community  – enrichment classes, self-defense classes, martial arts.”

Meanwhile,  Metropolitan Family Service (MFS) provides Oak Grove’s after school programs and coordinates to build community partnerships. The school is working with MFS to work with current partners and raise awareness of the programs that they provide to the school. Unfortunately their funding goes out this year.

“We’re trying to raise awareness at the County Commissioners’ level. We’re not even sure they’re aware that we have these programs.”

Gold! Chickens! In Oak Grove!

Oak Grove had its own Gold Rush back in the day, with reported findings happening around the area. Except since Oak Grove is so, well, Oak Grove, we did it a bit differently.

According to an early 20s clipping from the Oregonian, some unfortunate chickens pecked at and swallowed gold nuggets while searching for grubs at the local creek (curious to where this was) and soon were discovered. The community then went a bit daft and one fellow went so far and slaughtered his whole flock looking for gold in the gizzards of his chickens.

There had been reports of gold being found around Oak Grove and the latest discovery – through chicken gizzards – seemed to pan out.

The Oregonian had some fun with the chicken craze writing,

No doubt that there is gold at Oak Grove but only the chickens have succeeded in finding it in paying quantities. The organization of a corporation to be known as The Chicken’s Gizzard Gold Mining Company has been suggested.

Here’s the original article: