Where should we move?
August 31, 2006 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Should we move to the Bay Area, Portland or Denver? O boundless wisdom of the collective MetaMind, help us plot our life’s course…

Two mid-30s self-employed professionals, able to work anywhere, currently living in a funky-but-too-small city in the Southwest, looking for more social options, outlets and people to enjoy them with (i.e. bigger city) without sacrificing beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. Plus a place to finally buy a home and, eventually, raise kids.

Here’s our understanding of the three leading options:
1. Bay Area: beautiful, incredible art/music/etc scene, very diverse, traffic/crowding a problem sometimes, but pretty ideal overall except real estate is so stupidly expensive that all else may be moot.
2. Portland: people rave about it too, still relatively affordable, rare manageable-size city, weather the big question mark (especially after 360+ days of sunshine per year here), very homogenous (i.e. white) city, funky social scene (hipster central), great outdoors options.
3. Denver: the dark horse, still affordable up-and-coming metropolis, great outdoors options, traffic/crowding occasionally a problem, affordable real estate, moderate social/ethnic diversity (?), social options...?

So – what are we missing/misperceiving? Does California’s absolutely insane real estate rule it out completely? (For a house, 300k is doable, 400k a stretch.) Will Portland’s weather drive us to self-harm? (Everyone says “the summers are great,” which makes me suspicious.) Is Denver more fun or dull? Where should we head?
posted by gottabefunky to Grab Bag (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You'll have a hard time finding anything worth living in for less than $400 k in the Bay Area unless you're living at the fringes. Of course if you're living at the fringes you won't have access to all the arts and activities. Conversely, if you live in Berkeley/Oakland/SF you'll probably find that the beautiful scenery and outdoor activities are about an half-hour's drive away, minimum.
posted by lekvar at 1:22 PM on August 31, 2006

Portland has been sort of getting out of hand lately. It's not a big city, & doesn't have the infrastructure to support a big city, but its turning into one. There have been some freak things that have happened the last few months.. a lot of youth violence that just came out of nowhere (I live in Corvallis, so my Portland news comes from the Portland TV station). Depending on where you are in Portland, it can be very cool, or meh. Whoever layed out downtown Portland was on crack; the only reason that city even sort of works driving-wise is because there aren't a ton of drivers. Oregon drivers are terrible, also. Weather... eh. It starts raining sept-oct, stops raining about april/may, but there are plenty of gaps in there where its quite nice. Usually in Jan or Feb you'll get a couple weeks of cold-ish but clear/sunny weather. Again in March. Falls are nice. Oregonians are outdoors nuts. I don't know the exact places up around ptown, but you have at the very least Mt. Hood up there, & easy access to both the oregon cascades & the north cascades (I prefer the north cascades personally, just never get up there). Oregon really can't be beat for availability of outdoors.

I wouldn't go to Denver. Why would you want to be in the middle of a desert without an ocean within sight?

I love SF. I'm going down to the bay in a few weeks. I'd move to SF if it wasn't so f-ing expensive. Unlike Oregon, Californians know how to drive - fast & steady, instead of weaving in & out of traffic, passing on the right, like it was some video game.

Have you thought about somewhere in the north northeast? Upstate NY or VT/NH might have some hip-ish [small] cities that would meet your needs.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2006

And by the way, $300,000 not in the west hills will get you a damn nice house. I'd strongly recommend SE portland, near Reed College. That neighborhood is beautiful, fairly safe, a bus-line/bridge away from downtown, houses are fairly cheap but very nice, & you have Reed Canyon to wander down when you're high^D^D^D^Dbored, like all the other reedies.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:39 PM on August 31, 2006

Average home price in the SF Bay area is around 650k. You won't want to live anywhere in this area that costs 300k and 400k will either be a postage stamp or be very far away from any of the reasons you'd want to live here. That said, my guess is that wages and job opportunities are also higher in the Bay Area than they are in either Denver or Portland. I've actually heard that Portland is so affordable because the job market is so bad. Denver is, from my understanding, a much more socially conservative place than either Portland or the Bay Area if that is an issue. Good luck.
posted by Wolfie at 1:40 PM on August 31, 2006

$300K will get you a nice house in inner Portland, but finding a job is an entirely different matter. Expect it to take a few months, unless you already have contacts in the local industry.

I personally like the rain and the 9 months of cloudy grey skies, but it's obviously not for everyone. The summers are warm/hot and sunny; right now it's 72 out and partly cloudy. Visit in December before seriously thinking about moving here.

I don't know what devilsbrigade is talking about; Portland is laid out in a very logical manner, and once you get the quadrant system settled in your head, it's easy to find your way around. We don't drive much here because we don't need to drive. It's also a very safe city, regardless of what the local news wants you to think.
posted by cmonkey at 1:44 PM on August 31, 2006

I love SF and have lived here for many years. But it is crazy expensive. I rent and will in all likelihood continue to rent -- I have a nice rent-controlled apartment for $2000/month (2 1/2 bedrooms). I can only afford a $300K mortgage and you can't even buy into a TIC for that.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:47 PM on August 31, 2006

I grew up in Denver, and now live in Berkeley. Your real estate dollar will go waaaaaaay farther in Denver than it will in the Bay Area. The real estate market is much more volatile in Denver as well, so house prices will go up and down a lot more than they do in the Bay Area. That is either fantastic or terrible, depending upon whether you are buying or selling.

Are politics important to you? Denver is basically a blue city, but parts of Colorado are militantly, Christian-fundy red, whereas the Bay Area is blue down to its toenails.

When I was a sullen, bershon teenager I though Denver was unbearably provincial, but nowadays when I go back to visit family, chunks of Denver proper (not the sprawly developments of the outer reaches)are pretty hip and interesting, and you'll have plenty more sun (similar to Santa Fe) than either Portland or the Bay Area. (Note to devilsbrigade: Colorado is semi-arid, but Denver isn't the middle of a desert. )

You might also want to know that Colorado has had a huge influx of Californians fleeing high real estate prices. They arrive not knowing how to drive in winter driving conditions.
posted by ambrosia at 1:50 PM on August 31, 2006

$300K will get you a nice house in inner Portland

It will? Where? (that's not snark, I'm genuinely curious, because I can't find one...)

Second the job recommendation - if you don't have a lead on a job here, it'll take you a while to find one. Also, second the weather thing - if you come here today, you'll say "geez, Portland's gorgeous". Come back in December, stay two weeks, and if it doesn't drive you insane, you can probably stay here year-round.

Portland's easy to get around, and transit's pretty good; a car's nice to have but by no means essential.

Portland also has some great brewpubs and restaurants, if that's the sort of thing you meant by "social" - all this gray drippiness leads to some great places in which to while away the hours until spring.
posted by pdb at 1:55 PM on August 31, 2006

This thread compares the Bay Area to Denver, but without Portland thrown into the mix.

I wouldn't go to Denver. Why would you want to be in the middle of a desert without an ocean within sight?

Uh, Denver isn't in the desert.

On preview: ditto Ambrosia, especially the parts about thinking Denver feeling provincial when growing up, but realizing now that it's a pretty darn nice place, not to mention the terrible out-of-state drivers who can't figure out what to do when it snows.
posted by scody at 1:57 PM on August 31, 2006

ditto pdb. For anyone who hasn't priced a home here in the past year, please note: $300k will now get you a modestly-sized (1200 sq feet) home in most of the metro area, or a slightly larger home in need of serious work.

WTF on crappy drivers? This is the only place I've ever driven where people actually LET YOU MERGE.

Oh, and September is the 3rd driest month of the year, and Septembers alone are a good reason to move to Portland. I'm giddy for fall right now.

If you are prone to depression, the weather might be a serious consideration, but otherwise, I really think it's not a big deal. Sure, it rains, but the rainfall and percentage of gray days (which are the real mood-killers) varies dramatically from year to year.
posted by peep at 2:03 PM on August 31, 2006

Of course, Portland has five "quadrants" (NE, NW, SE, SW, and N).

The main reason driving in Portland is interesting is that the Willamette River (will-LAMM-ett) runs smacko down the middle of it and divides the whole thing in half. You'll soon learn the names and locations of all the major bridges.

Have you considered Seattle? Same weather as Portland, about the same kind of roads and traffic, much bigger, and even better recreational opportunities of various kinds because it's a bigger metropolis and because of Puget Sound.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:08 PM on August 31, 2006

You seem to have a good grasp on the pros and cons of the Bay Area, but what everyone else said: $400K won't get you a decent place that's near the things you want to be near.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:10 PM on August 31, 2006

They're not going to be able to afford much real estate in Seattle for under $400K.
posted by matildaben at 2:11 PM on August 31, 2006

While I think Seattle is prettier than Portland, I think the traffic is significantly worse and similar houses are $100 to $200k more expensive.
posted by turbodog at 2:18 PM on August 31, 2006

One thing I should have added: a strong local writers/filmmakers community (professionals, not flakes) would be a big plus, which I know SF has, but the others...?
posted by gottabefunky at 2:22 PM on August 31, 2006

I dunno much about the bay area or portland. what I *do* know is Denver... and some common misconceptions about it.

the plusses include an amazing assortment of things to do outdoors. hiking, skiing, fishing, sailing (yes! sailing!! on the many huge reservoirs!!!), sun, great weather, low humidity and awesome scenery. it's also one of the highest rated towns for 'single' life, whatever that means.

a few things I've noticed about Denver:

Denver really isn't all that 'cool'. Denver is essentially a jumped-up midwestern cow town. it certainly has its moments, but I don't know if it would be much more fun than Santa Fe.

we do get 300 sunny days a year. that translates to extremely dry conditions a lot of the time. and water rationing.

it is a whole hell of a lot cheaper to live here.

it is becoming absolutely overrun with people from both coasts. whether this is a good thing or not? that's debatable. it adds culture, sure, but it also adds crowding, sprawl and social tensions. it provides a lot of humourous name-calling on the local craigslist RnR board, and basically no one really understands the local driving rules here.

the Denver metro area is a vast wasteland of suburban sprawl, similar to many other central U.S. cities. compared to the Bay Area and Portland, the public transportation sucks monkey balls.

the economy here seems independent of the national median and it tends to go thru a 5 to 8 year boom-bust cycle every decade. I know you said you're both self-employed / able to work anywhere, but for the rest of those out there what this means is: that great job you're moving here for? it probably wont be here in three years. however, by the time your unemployment is less than a month from running out, you've maxed your credit cards, put a 2nd mortgage on the house and have given up in despair and are ready to move home with your parents, you will (most likely) get hired again.

in comparison to both the other areas you're considering, Denver has ZERO diversity. I mean none.

all that said, I really like it here. but then I happen to be an avid bike racer and skier.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:28 PM on August 31, 2006

My wife, son & I moved to Portland from LA a couple of months ago. Loved SoCal, but couldn't afford a house. So far, Portland is tolerable (hasn't rained yet!) Better beer, the best restaurants we've found are competitive with what we considered "good" in LA, prices are generally lower for everything, and (the big thing) we found a house we could afford. (A comparable place in a comparable neighborhood in/around LA would have cost at least 75% more.)

It's definitely very white, and there seem to be a lot of church / megachurch-type things around. Everything closes up early. Drivers aren't as good (and I say that as a biker -- I have PLENTY of experience with bad drivers). Road signage is AWFUL, but the layout isn't too complex, so if you've got good spatial awareness, you can pretty much wing it.
posted by spacewrench at 2:30 PM on August 31, 2006

Wow, you're in an enviable situation. If it weren't for the real estate thing, I'd vote San Francisco.

I don't know anything about Denver, so I'll leave that out.

But Portland is a great city. I don't know what they're telling devilsbrigade down in Chicago, but he's dead wrong on a number of counts.

There's some crime here, but it's not as bad as it is in many cities this size. Most crime is property crime. There's was an unusual spate of gang violence earlier this year, and the Portland Police Bureau reacted by ramping up patrols in higher-crime areas. According to a recent article in The Oregonian, the strategy appears to be working.

The drivers here are also very nice. As someone mentioned above, they let you merge. They drive a little slow for my taste, but this is a pretty safe, mellow place to drive -- if that's your thing. Something like 10 percent of the working population of Portland takes alternate means of transportation to work -- buses, light rail, bikes, etc. If you live and work in the city, it's an easy place to get around.

The winters aren't that bad, though they do get old by aruond April. But then they end. It's true that it's gray and drizzly most of the time from mid-October to mid-May. But that doesn't mean non-stop constant rain. It means at least a little rain every day. There are "sun breaks" on raining days. It's almost never particularly cold. And the rain is mostly a drizzle. Still, you'd be best to get here in the spring and spend a full summer here before you deal with your first winter.

More difficult than the rain is the darkness. Portland's pretty far north. In the middle of summer, there's pre-dawn light in the sky not long after 4 a.m., and post-sunset light at 10 p.m. It's awesome. But in the winter, the days are pretty short -- 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. or so, it seems. Than can be hard, especially if you're prone to seasonal affectedness.

Real estate in the city is not as cheap as you've been led to be believe. There's a very small number of fixer-uppers in the central city that can be had for under $250,000. For $250,000 to $350,000, you're going to have to look in less trendy neighborhoods or you'll have to go with a pretty small condo. Normal-sized houses (2,000 square feet and up) in nice neighborhoods tend to go for $350,000 to $750,000.

Portland is very white, but if living in a diverse area is important to you there are more racially diverse neighborhoods. The Northeast Portland neighborhood I'm currently in is more than 50 percent black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and it's one of several minority-white census tracts within the city.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:40 PM on August 31, 2006

The traffic in SF isn't really that bad, unless you have to commute down the peninsula or are trying to do something dumb, like drive across the Bay Bridge during rush hour. And there is a dizzying array of public transport.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 2:41 PM on August 31, 2006

Ha ha, I was going to move from the Bay Area to Santa Fe to raise kids (when/if that happens).

My friend just bought a place in the Bay Area for ~$320K. Punchline: it's <7 00 square feet, an industrial loft with no internal walls, and in of those neighborhoods where you shouldn't walk around outside (west oakland). small detached single family homes neighborhood over run about $500k. not a neighborhood where you'd want to raise kids, much less send them to the public schools.br>
One place I disagree with comments above -- Berkeley and Oakland have good outdoor stuff within 10-15 minute drives (Tilden Park and the bayfront). Otherwise, no.
posted by salvia at 2:54 PM on August 31, 2006

Sorry for the weird formatting, I swear my comment looked okay on preview. The key fact should read "<700 square feet" (ie, the extra space there is not a missing zero or anything).
posted by salvia at 2:57 PM on August 31, 2006

a strong local writers/filmmakers community (professionals, not flakes) would be a big plus,

There are a lot of young, grungy, hipstery creative people in Portland, but I'm not sure how many real professionals there are.

Although I, myself, am I writer, I don't make any effort to be a part of the Portland writer's community. Here's what I know about:

Tin House, a pretty respected literary magazine, is based here. There are a couple of non-literary magazines published in Portland, but I don't think they have national distribution -- a coulpe of your city standard lifestyle mags; Nervy Girl for feminists; Imbibe for people who like to drink. I think I just read something about an upstart called "American Bungalow" or "Modern Bungalow" that will get going soon, too.

Word Stock Festival happens here every year and is pretty cool. Really incredibly cool, actually.

Powells is headquartered in Portland, and brings lots of writers through the city for readings every week.

Olivia Butler used to live here, but she's deceased now. Chuck Palahnuk, author of "Fight Club" and lots of other stuff, is a city resident. There's a smattering of other famous writers who live here -- the woman who wrote that "American Quilt" book is one, I think.

As for film:
The Northwest Film Center is headquartered in Portland, and there are several small local film fests here every year.

There are a lot of great small theaters and almost any independent move you read about will get here to within a reasonable amount of time.

Gus Van Sant has some connection to Portland, and he always seems to be directing some independent movie here or another.

I'm sure San Francisco way outweighs Portland on all this cultural stuff, but there are things going on.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:58 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

But in the winter, the days are pretty short -- 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. or so, it seems.

croutonsupafreak, you're remembering optimistically! Sunsets in December occur around 4:30; it can be pitch black a little before or after 4:30 depending on the weather. I always forget that it's not this way everywhere.
posted by peep at 3:14 PM on August 31, 2006

Stay in Santa Fe. Seriously. You've already got what you're asking for: artist community, diversity, beautiful surroundings. In addition, it's by a huge margin a better place to raise kids than San Fran, Portland, or Denver: higher density of great private schools, good public schools, low crime in general, lots of sun and activities for kids, and good additional educational resources. Also, it's easy to find affordable real estate that's not far from the center of town, so long as you're willing to do a miniscule amount of communiting (compared to what you'd do in Portland, Denver, or San Francisco).

I sure wish I'd stayed in that sweet old town.
posted by koeselitz at 3:19 PM on August 31, 2006

Portland weather: it's a good idea to have AC in the summer and a sweater handy the rest of the year, but the weather is rarely extreme, compared with most other places in the nation—it doesn't get as cold as New England in the winter (we see snow on the ground maybe every other year or so, for a day or two), and it doesn't stay as warm as California. Clouds, not rain, are the seeming constant; there's a lot of precipitation, but it's not constantly coming down. Expect overcast skies and cool temperatures, and have an umbrella.

Crime isn't bad at all. Varies a bit, concentrations downtown and on the north side, but it's a pretty calm city.

Anyone who complains about Portland drivers needs to spend some time in Massachusetts. We drive like overcautious idiots whenever it gets icy, but that's, again, about once a year. The rest of the time there's a pleasant dearth of horns and screaming. A commute into the city from one of the major burbs—Beaverton, Hillboro, Gresham—can see some traffic, but it sounds like you're not thinking about buying 15 miles from city center, so that may not matter.

The beer is great. The local second-run theaters are fun. There's culture aplenty if you go looking for it, even if it doesn't hang out as aggressively as in SF or NYC. There's not nearly as much creative Industry around compared to some bigger cities, though.
posted by cortex at 3:26 PM on August 31, 2006

You'll have a hard time finding anything worth living in for less than $400 k in the Bay Area unless you're living at the fringes.

Speaking from the fringes, that won't buy a single-family house here either. But there are a few 1BD condos you might be able to afford. Most people who want houses in that range go buy out in the San Joaquin Valley or Sacramento Valley and then do insane commutes of 3+ hours per day each way in bumper-to-bumper to get to the Bay Area jobs required to meet mortgage.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:29 PM on August 31, 2006

Denver native, lived in Seattle for 20 years:
Denver is a Cow Town - always was, always will be - at least until people stop replacing sports for culture. There's an arena/stadium for every sport, but no professional orchestra. Sunny, truly friendly people, social circles that cross economic/professional boundaries, and loads of places to ride bikes, run, hike, ski, etc - all in the sun!
Seattle has so much culture it's almost an embarassment - orchestra, chamber groups, professional choruses, ballet, opera, musuems, and galleries galore. Also film, and an incredible film festival. Also rain - lots and lots of rain some years. The year some friends moved here from Ft. Collins it rained (and was cloudy all day) 90/92 days that winter. They almost slit their wrists. It's also very mild - seldom freezes, and we only get snow once or so a year. Skiing is close by, although by SW standards it's hard to call it "good" - I was told that "...skiing in the rain isn't so bad, it softens up the snow!..." Oh, and real estate prices are nutso here - headlines today for 256 sq ft condo downtown for $149K ($600/sq ft).
So Portland is smaller, sketchier job market, and more extreme weather wise - colder when it's cold (they get ice storms), hotter when it's hot, wetter when it's wet...BUT easter Oregon (and Washington, for that matter) are just what the doctor ordered as a get-away from that - dry snow, sunny days, lovely summers - it's all there. Have you looked at Bend, Ore?
posted by dbmcd at 4:00 PM on August 31, 2006

So far, Portland is tolerable (hasn't rained yet!)

Just you wait, spacewrench. Just you wait.

Anyone who complains about Portland drivers needs to spend some time in Massachusetts.

I lived in Boston for five years before coming to Portland, and I must say I actually prefer the drivers in New England. Memo to Portland drivers: THE LEFT LANE OF THE FREEWAY IS NOT FOR GOING 5 MPH BELOW THE SPEED LIMIT.

If you work a typical office-type job, Portland in the winter makes you feel like a mole - go to work in the dark, come home in the dark. Summer makes up for it - it's reasonably light until almost 10 in July/Aug. It doesn't rain as constantly as Seattle, but it rains harder when it does rain, and in between rainshowers, you won't see the sun for a couple weeks or so. It gets old fast.

All that said, though, I like Portland pretty well and if you're looking for a relatively affordable, low-crime place to live that has cool/funky stuff to do, you could do a lot worse.
posted by pdb at 4:03 PM on August 31, 2006

Have you looked at Bend, Ore?

Look fast if you want to find something reasonable. Everyone else is looking there too.
posted by pdb at 4:04 PM on August 31, 2006

I'm a huge fan of Portland weather (four distinct seasons! spring, summer, and autumn are gorgeous! a little snow but not enough to be annoying! all that's missing is thunderstorms!).

But those of you who are saying that it stops raining in May have optimistic memories. In my experience, it doesn't get reliably sunny in Portland until after the Fourth of July.

That doesn't mean it's unrelentingly gray the whole winter; as devilsbrigade points out, there are intervals of sun from January on. And the first daffodils pop up in February, and from then on it's one spring flower after another.

No, what gets me down about Portland weather is when it's June, and the grass is green, you want to go out and play, and it rains 25 days out of the month. Now that sucks.

Still, of the three cities you mention, I would pick Portland in a heartbeat.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:12 PM on August 31, 2006

Oh, and as far as housing values go, the neighborhood "up the hill" from Reed College does still seem like a pretty good value. But you have to go a ways out, like into the 60s and 70s -- the area right around Reed is called Eastmoreland, and it's pretty tony.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:15 PM on August 31, 2006

"Unlike Oregon, Californians know how to drive - fast & steady, instead of weaving in & out of traffic, passing on the right, like it was some video game"

Wow, where the hell did you get that? That sounds like someone that doesn't have to get on Hwy 101 or Hwy 280... ever. heh. :) And pdb, people do that here all the time.

If I were you, I'd go for Portland. If you're really wanting to live in a place that's "diverse" (what does that mean nowadays anyway?) then your choices are off, because Sacramento, CA was actually voted "Most diverse city in America" by Time magazine. I lived there for several years, and yes, it really is quite diverse. There's also an active art & music scene, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper than San Francisco.
It seems that you can find "diversity" and "art/music" almost anywhere. I showed a friend some photos of a whole street that was lined with art from local artists, sculptures, tile mosaics, etc. He replied "Where in SF is that?" and his jaw almost hit the floor when I said "It's not San Francisco. This is in Grand Forks, North Dakota." My point is, you can find art & music in many many unexpected places.

Portland is also a closer drive to Seattle, and folks I know swear up & down that Portland has the best "local" coffee shops on the entire planet. Also some good microbrews. I have never lived in Portland, but I've been there quite a few times on trips to Newport, OR. I like Oregon.

And Denver? If you really can work anywhere, I'd choose the Minneapolis/St. Paul area over Denver any day of the week.
posted by drstein at 4:15 PM on August 31, 2006

It will? Where? (that's not snark, I'm genuinely curious, because I can't find one...)

I was poking around a few months ago and I found a bunch that fit my requirements: 2 or 3 bedrooms with a yard in inner NE or N around Interstate. They were mostly around $250K, which was beyond what my shitty credit could get me, so I gave up looking. But they're there; I saw 'em.
posted by cmonkey at 4:24 PM on August 31, 2006

I drive I-5 up to Portland fairly often. Oregonians do not know how to drive. Yes, they'll let you merge. They'll also go 55 in the fast lane, pass on the right, swerve, speed up/slow down, etc. Driving in the bay was actually much nicer for me - traffic was much heavier, but there wasn't all of the craziness of Oregon drivers. I've seen Boston drivers, & I'm not sure I'd want to drive there either, but at least they don't drive slow :p

In Portland itself, the Morrison street bridge exit off of I5 is the first thing that comes to mind in terms of horrible layout. I'm not a fan of the Terwilleger Curves stretch either. The bridge system also takes some getting used to, in terms of which lane to be in coming in from the south on I-5. Depending on where you're going, you may have to make some lane changes with pretty short notice. The downtown grid isn't bad though.

And yes, I'll plead ignorance on the crime - I get the Oregonian, but usually only glance over most things relating to Portland. There was a stretch where it seemed every night on the news there was another story about fights breaking out downtown.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:53 PM on August 31, 2006

My wife and I just moved to Portland from North Jersey about a month ago. I'm an attorney (secured a job here before moving), wife is a writer.

I'm not sure what I can add that's new to this discussion, other than to say that so far it has everything we were looking for! Easy to get around (more polite drivers, although not better really), GREAT outdoors activities right in the vicinity, SO much less expensive, and a significantly slower pace of life than we could get in the NYC metro area.

We haven't experienced the winter weather here yet, but frankly, coming from NY I just don't see an issue. Cold and grey and rainy isn't really going to be that different than a mid-atlantic winter, except we'll have less snow here. On the upside, we'll have pretty decent skiing only an hour away, and excellent skiing only 3ish hours away. That alone is a great trade-off for us!

In any event, we like very much so far.

I don't know much about Denver proper, and very little about San Francisco. My in-laws live in Boulder, which you may want to give a look at. We really love it there. Lots of natural beauty, and there is definitely a funk factor. It's also only 35 minutes or so from Denver, so you'd still be close enough for the big city amenities. Just a thought.

Anyway, good luck making your decision.
posted by saladpants at 6:05 PM on August 31, 2006

Portland is known as a hard place to build a social network. It used to be notorious for snubbing new transplants, but now just about everyone is a transplant and I amazed anytime that I actually meet another person who grew up here. I guess other people have a different experience, though, as Portland is often referred to as a "big, little city," that is to say, you run into people you know a lot.

The weird freeway connections exist because we told the Feds that we'd rather have a livable city than yet-another-ugly-old-freeway. The exits were designed with the assumption that the Mount Hood Freeway would be finished. Everything that makes Portland a livable city, in my opinion, is under constant attack by developers and popular support is slowly but steadily seeping away. So, if you don't care about doing your part to keep Portland livable and sustainable, stay the heck away. Portland doesn't need people moving here looking for livability and then ruin it by helping to neglect public transportation and public schools and promote sprawl.

However, if you're willing to help up fight: Welcome! We need you. I think this is the secret to getting along in Portland: Contribute. It's also the secret to make sure that you won't have to move yet again in ten years when Portland goes downhill.

Sure, I prostelytize in Ask.Me whenever the Moving-to-Portland question comes up, but I think that's what we Portlanders do, we prostelytize. Sometimes we even have fun doing it.

Here's a Brit's eye view of Portland: Part 1 and Part 2. (The OHSU tram is a little more controversial than they let on, and Tom McCall rocks way, way harder than they let on.)
posted by Skwirl at 7:37 PM on August 31, 2006

Re Portland driving, you're kidding, right? I moved here from Dallas (a significantly terrible driving city in its own right) and my observation every time I've driven a car here is, everybody's cuddly and I'm a positive Masshole.

On the other hand the drivers seem more treacherous when I'm walking, especially in the Pearl District (what I've observed). Also, Portlanders handle ice in the same hilarious yackety-sax fashion they do where I came from.
posted by furiousthought at 8:15 PM on August 31, 2006

Hear, hear, swirl! (re: contributing)
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:30 PM on August 31, 2006

im not going to be much help in your choices, but id like to recommend Austin, Texas..

the things that apply to austin that you listed as pros ... absolutely beautiful, incredible art/music/etc scene, very diverse, people rave about it, rare manageable-size city, funky social scene (hipster central), great outdoors options, affordable real estate, moderate social/ethnic diversity, many social options.

Texas has some of the cheapest while still being nice real estate options in the country, the weather will be much more similiar to what you are used to but will get a little more on the hot and humid side in the summer, and slightly colder in the winter.

also if you go colorado id recommend boulder over denver.
posted by trishthedish at 9:21 PM on August 31, 2006

Don't even think of coming to the Bay Area if you want to own a home AND raise kids. One or other, maybe, but not both. I've never met anyone owning (i.e., bought fairly recently) + kids who has anything resembling a life here. I'd vote for Portland.
posted by treepour at 9:26 PM on August 31, 2006

"Your biggest opportunity probably lies under your own feet, in your current job, industry, education, experience or interests."
--Brian Tracy

I vote for sticking around Santa Fe.
posted by 10ch at 1:40 AM on September 1, 2006

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