Category: Community

Change of Ownership at Bipartisan

This week, the original owners of the Bipartisan Cafe sold the 18-year-old landmark shop to their former employee Josh Pangelinan. Hobie Bender and Peter Emerson opened the coffee house and pie spot at 7901 SE Stark Street on January 18th, 2005. The corner eatery helped launch the century-old downtown main street’s resurrection, defining Montavilla, and has served as the community’s living room for nearly two decades.

Bender and Emerson opened Bipartisan Cafe after Peter Emerson decided to cash out his stock option at Starbucks and leave the company. Both were 45 years old, and their two children were not yet teenagers. This sudden career change allowed Emerson to pursue a longtime obsession with creating communal spaces. “I am always creating restaurants in my head, ” said Emerson. “I actually explored opening [the cafe] about five years before when I was not happy working for Starbucks.” However, he kept his corporate job until his manager noted Emerson’s workplace disinterest in a performance review. “So I gave my notice and started looking around,” recalled Emerson. The partners considered purchasing an existing business but decided to create something new in an untapped market instead.

In the early 2000s, Montavilla lacked the definition as a neighborhood and was not the destination it has today. “If somebody told me I’m in Montavilla, I would say ‘where’s that?’ but it reminded me a little bit of a small town, which I’m from,” recalled Emerson. They found a rough space on the corner of SE 79th and Stark that had potential. “It was ugly, [but] I can work with it,” he recalled thinking while touring the storefront. When they tore out decades of tenant upgrades, the partners discovered that the building retained its 100-year-old charm below the surface. Under the fake stone facade hid the original undamaged transom windows. Walls and a drop ceiling covered thin-plank interior cladding, and the hardwood floors extended the length of the space, intact but worn with years of use. Emerson recalled it was just the look he imagined for his creation. “I wanted it to look like an old Grange hall, a community-type place.”

When the Bipartisan Cafe opened, it joined a handful of existing restaurants, bars, and shops. “There were some anchor businesses, but there was not much traffic,” said Emerson. However, even during construction, people expressed excitement over the new addition to their neighborhood that needed more walkable resources. “A lot of people had just moved in [to the area], and we didn’t have a coffee shop,” explained Emerson. That excitement translated into a strong launch that almost lost its momentum. “The first year went pretty good, and then I didn’t realize that December and January we’re going to be really slow. I panicked and thought we were going under, but it picked up stronger than ever mid-January, and it’s been a kind of a cycle like that since.” Press coverage of the new shop drove some traffic, but an article about Hobie Bender’s pies put the cafe on the map and brought people into the neighborhood from all over Portland.

The local customer base was stable, but significant growth required media exposure to bring people from outside the neighborhood. “We did the interview for that in May and forgot about it,” remembers Emerson. By summer, when the publication printed the article, the partners were unaware that their business’s trajectory would soon change. “We didn’t even know it was coming out, and we got slammed. Since then, pie has been what made us [known] citywide,” said Emerson.

Initially, the partners planned for Peter Emerson to run the shop, with Bender providing occasional support. She was enrolled in classes and on a different career path but still wanted to support the family cafe. “I foolishly thought, ‘Oh, I can make that work on my own,’ but she was helping right when we opened the doors, and by the end of the year, she was full-time,” recalled Emerson. Bender stopped going to school and took an equal role in developing the cafe. “I felt a little guilty about that for a while, but she has reassured me many times that she’s glad we did this,” confessed Emerson.

Hobie Bender’s daily participation in the Bipartisan Cafe helped the young business get off the ground, but her more influential contribution came from Bender’s multigenerational pie-making expertise. Growing up in Southern Oregon, she honed her baking skills in the one-time family business, but not through familial guidance. “Her mom owned a pie shop, Pies by George Ann, and Hobie worked in it as a teenager, but her mom wouldn’t teach her how to make pies because she never wanted Hobie to do it for a living.” However, when the business sold, the new owners kept Bender on and taught her the family recipes as an employee. Decades later, those renowned dishes became the core of the cafe’s success despite the efforts of Bender’s mother. “Those are the pies that we have here, and when her mom found out that we were gonna serve pies… she was not happy with me,” recalled Emerson.

Emerson noted that pies were not a popular item among the younger patrons when the cafe opened. In 2005, few places specialized in the dish, with most restaurants offering commercially baked varieties. After the article recognized their baking talents, a segment of the population that longed for a classic fresh pie began making the trek out to Montavilla. “When they said something about our pies, all of a sudden, we’re getting people from all over the city, and they were all older,” said Emerson. That buzz about their pies and coffee spread across generation lines, bringing even more people to the shop and neighborhood. As the Bipartisan’s reputation grew, adjacent storefronts became main street destinations again with customer-facing tenants.

Even as businesses opened around them, the Bipartisan Cafe remained a common destination for all residents, just as Peter Emerson intended. “I come from a small town where there is a space you go to, and on certain events, the whole town is there.” That meeting hall idea themed the space as an all-welcoming place for the community. Emerson’s family had a long history of political involvement and civic engagement, contributing to the cafe’s name. However, the obsession with collecting political memorabilia came after the doors opened, starting with four big posters. “Somebody gave me Eisenhower, and I think I had Kennedy, Johnson, and Lincoln. At some point, somebody came in and said, ‘I notice you have only Democrats on the wall.’ And I said, ‘well, Lincoln is on the wall.’ but I [thought] I should have a representative of all presidents.” That eventually led Emerson to eBay, and then he was hooked. Over the 18 years, he has packed the shop with articles of American political history. All but a few items will stay with the shop as part of the sale. Peter Emerson will take his father’s name placard and two figurines representing his dad. Hobie Bender will keep a sign’s letter “H” that Emerson liberated from an old hotel marquee.

Until a few years ago, selling the business was not part of the owners’ plan. “I thought I was going to work here until I die, and I was beginning to hand it over to my kids in early 2020.” Then the pandemic hit, causing the cafe business to struggle through all of 2020, extending into 2021 and beyond. A community fundraiser kept the cafe open with significant contributions from Mr. Plywood and loyal customers. “2020 to now has been hard. We had to reinvent every six months, and at some point, I just felt like I don’t have the energy that this place needs and deserves.” Bender and Emerson’s kids decided not to take on the tumultuous life of working in food service, leaving their parents to consider the future. A year ago, they started shopping the idea of a sale, but they had high standards for any buyer.

Josh Pangelinan worked at the cafe for eight years and kept tangentially involved as a coffee distributer’s rep. Once he expressed an interest in buying the shop, Emerson explained there was no other reason to keep looking. “He knows what the Bipartisan Cafe is. He knows what Montavilla is. He knows how they go together, and he’s going to keep that.” Not only will Pangelinan’s personal history with the cafe maintain continuity for customers, but his hands-on involvement will support the staff from a place of experience. Peter Emerson will work for the next 60 days making sure everything transitions smoothly, and then take a summer vacation before looking for his next adventure. Hobie Bender will come in as needed.

Peter Emerson looks back on the years at the cafe with a sense of success. Together with Bender, they created exactly the space he wanted to build, a small town community space in the heart of a city. A room where people gathered for the exhilaration of the 2008 election and the deflated hopes of the 2016 election. The place where people formed the farmer’s market and local business association. He is excited to see what the new owner will bring to the space, and he will still come in occasionally, but mainly as a customer interacting with his community. “All my friends are from the cafe, and I’ve got some great friends,” remarked Emerson.

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Potential 2024 TriMet Fare Increase

Bus and rail riders may have to pay more in 2024. The TriMet Board of Directors will vote on a proposed fare increase during its next meeting this Wednesday, May 24th. The public transportation company invites people to provide feedback on the proposal at the public hearing or via email. The meeting runs from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m. from the University of Oregon Portland campus at 70 NW Couch Street.

TriMet has avoided increasing most fares since 2012, despite rising gas, utilities, labor, and supply costs. The transit operator seeks to address inflation and supplement the growing operational costs through this fare increase. However, any increase in transportation costs can negatively impact those who are struggling with the rising cost of housing and food. Monthly pass holders will not see any price increase as part of this proposal. Adult riders would pay an additional 30 cents for a two-and-a-half-hour ticket, taking it from $2.50 to $2.80. The highest proposed increase affects the Adult Day Pass, bringing the cost to $5.60 from $5.00. If approved, the new fares would take effect on January 1st, 2024.

The public forum portion of the board meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and run for a maximum of 45 minutes. Individual comments are limited to 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the number of speakers. People wishing to comment on any TriMet topic, including the fare increase proposal, should sign up to speak by 9 a.m. on May 24th. Virtual testimony is available via Zoom. However, people interested in voicing their opinions online must visit by noon on May 23rd and register to receive a link. TriMet will live stream the meeting on YouTube.

The TriMet Board of Directors meeting will be the final opportunity for transit leaders to hear public comments on the fare increase proposal prior to their vote. Increasing the cost of ridership could further reduce the already diminished post-pandemic ridership, and some groups have called for removing all TriMet fees to lessen personal vehicle trips. Without significant changes to the funding mode used for public transportation, this increase is likely the quickest way to bolster the bus and rail operator. However, this increase will likely impact many people who have no other options but to use public transit and are already dealing with strained personal budgets.

Update: On May 24th, 2023, TriMet’s Board of Directors approved the proposed fare increase. The new pricing will go into effect January 1st, 2024.

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10th Annual Montavilla Jazz Festival

Tonight, supporters of the music community will gather for the 10th Annual Montavilla Jazz Festival Season Reveal Fundraiser at two venues. Proceeds from the event will help fund this milestone jazz festival. Attendees will begin inside Flattop & Salamander at 6:00 p.m. and conclude the event at 9 p.m., two blocks away inside Strum PDX. The festivities will include live jazz, soul food, and musical “surprises” to celebrate a decade of hi-lighting Portland’s rich musical community.

Starting Monday, May 22nd, tickets will go on sale for the yearly three-day musical event. This season’s Montavilla Jazz Festival spans five venues and features 11 concerts showcasing Portland’s renowned jazz musicians. The festival begins with a world premiere of Views of an Urban Volcano, a three-part commission inspired by Portland’s Mt. Tabor. That project features a 12-member Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble and includes new works influenced by a series of community input events. Performances run from September 1st through the 3rd, with two concerts live-streamed for those who can not attend in person. Montavilla Jazz leaders will announce the full lineup on Saturday, May 20th, at Montavilla Jazz’s Season Reveal Fundraiser. Event organizers will post more information about the event on starting Monday.

Alan Jones – Photo by Kathryn Elsesser and provided courtesy Montavilla Jazz.

September’s Montavilla Jazz Venues include:
Mt. Tabor Park Caldera Amphitheater
Alberta Rose Theatre (3000 NE Alberta Street)
Portland Metro Arts (9003 SE Stark Street) – Live Streamed and in-person
The 1905 (830 N Shaver Street) – Live Streamed and in-person

Juvenile in Custody For Threatening School

Yesterday afternoon, Portland Police officers took a teenage boy into custody near SE 92nd Avenue and SE Stark Street after receiving reports of an armed former student threatening violence at Creative Science School. Just before 4:00 p.m., May 15th, East Precinct officers were dispatched to the 1231 SE 92nd Avenue school. Nearby, they found the 13-year-old suspect wearing a tactical vest, helmet, and goggles. The juvenile also possessed a convincing replica handgun. The responding offices took the child into custody, transporting the suspect to the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center and detaining them on charges of Menacing with a Firearm and Disorderly Conduct.

KATU report of the incident said Portland Public School (PPS) previously banned the former student from the middle school. On Monday, staff escorted him off the property prior to the reports of a gun. After hearing about a possible weapon, School administrators followed established protocol during the event, putting the school into lockdown and contacting 911. 

A gun threat near a school is an alarming event. Fortunately, students and PPS staff were not in physical danger during this situation. The threatening behavior of this individual exposes an unaddressed issue within the local education system. This recent situation is an example of a former student using the threat of violence to express their feelings towards a school and community. In a country with the highest number of deadly school shootings, this event is a rare opportunity to evaluate our social systems without first having to lose a life.

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Art Theft at Milepost 5

On Saturday, May 13th, operators of the art gallery located within Milepost 5 noticed four pieces from The Surreal Life and Art of Keith Dillon collection were missing. The suspected thieves removed to artwork sometime between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., according to Sarah Gerhardt, president of the Milepost 5 Studios Artists Collective. The art exposition is on the first floor of Milepost 5 Studios & Apartments at 850 NE 81st Avenue. A fundraising campaign is underway to secure safe storage facilities for the remaining artwork. People with knowledge of the art’s whereabouts are encouraged to share with Gerhardt or the Portland Police Bureau (PPB).

Pieces currently on display are part of a memorial art exhibition celebrating the artist’s life, making this theft even more difficult for the community. “I’m devastated by this and angry. His work is stunning and deserves the visibility he never got while here,” said Gerhardt. “Now, not only am I trying to find the pieces. I am trying to get a storage facility secured and raising funds to pay for it a year or two in advance. That way, not only can I store his pieces but also other artists’ stuff.”

Flyer reporting missing art provided by Milepost 5 Studios Artists Collective

Dillon was a photographer and surreal digital artist living at Milepost 5. He advocated for keeping the artist community alive within the building and inspired Sarah Gerhardt’s current efforts to revitalize the artistic roots of the complex. The building has faltered from its original intent as a low-income live-work space for artists. Opening in 2007, it was a unique housing project that was supposed to bolster the arts. However, residents have struggled with security concerns over the last few years and have seen reduced access to creative spaces. Although some improvements are underway, this recent incident indicates gallery activities require more security.

Many Milepost 5 residents wish to change the narrative around their building and reinstitute the artist collective. This loss of art will not deter those efforts but will reprioritize the fledgling non-profit’s priorities toward protecting the art. Gerhardt asks people with information about the art’s location to contact her at 503-990-5547 or email Officer Brooks at with information regarding case number 23-125240.

Correction: The artist’s name is Keith Dillon. A previous version of this article used a misspelled version of the last name.

Park Light Pole Community Meeting

On May 17th, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) will host an online community question and answer session regarding its Light Pole Safety Project. Attendees should log in just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday to participate in the hour-long event. Bureau representatives will present timeline and lamp post design information before answering questions. This meeting and other significant program changes resulted from public objection to the program’s first iteration, which planned to remove 244 light posts in twelve parks without sufficient funds for replacement.

On February 22nd, PP&R began the removal of potentially dangerous light poles in City parks, including Montavilla and Mount Tabor Parks. Engineers determined that some older cast-concrete light poles in Portland Parks have structural anchoring issues that could pose life and safety hazards to the public. This project had limited funding, with just two parks expected to receive new lights within 16 months. Affected parks would have closed at 10:00 p.m., with Park Rangers frequently visiting at night to compensate for the dangers caused by the poorly illuminated facilities. The maintenance worker’s quick action and the public’s short notice caused anger in the community. Before citizen groups could mobilize, PP&R crews removed lights in Mount Scott Park, Sellwood Park, and Sellwood Riverfront Park.

Within weeks of announcing the Light Pole Safety Project, several community groups asked PP&R leaders and City elected officials to halt the removal and reconsider the process. Among them, Montavilla’s neighborhood coalition Southeast Uplift sent a letter signed by 23 community-based organizations. The letter requested the City find funding to restore all lighting it had or would have removed. It also asked PP&R to postpone further light removal until they procured replacement units and engaged the community in the replacement lighting process.

At the April 5th Portland City Council session, the Mayor and all four Commissioners approved an amended contract with McKinstry Essention for energy savings performance contracting services, including funding for new park lights. PP&R halted light pole removal and has begun a community engagement campaign that includes the Zoom meeting on May 17th. Participation in this meeting is an opportunity for community members to stay informed about this project that impacts the function of the public parks. Additionally, attendance signals to City staff that public engagement is a valued component of this project and others like it. Registration is not required, and organizers invite everyone to attend.

Zoom Meeting Link: 
Meeting ID: 812 1276 5219 | Passcode: 078274

Disclosure: The author of this article serves on the Montavilla Neighborhood Association and 82nd Avenue Business Association boards, both signers of the Southeast Uplift letter.

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Police Staffing Traffic Division

On May 9th, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) announced it would partially re-institute the Traffic Division. In 2021, Chief Chuck Lovell transferred officers to precincts to answer 911 emergency calls during a police shortage, and the division has remained mostly unstaffed until now. In this limited iteration of traffic-focused policing, two sergeants, ten motorcycle officers, and two car-based officers will work seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Chief Lovell acknowledges a steep increase in fatal crashes since transferring officers from the Traffic Division. Although BBP remains understaffed and continues to face an increased 911 call volume, the public’s desire for traffic enforcement has prompted this slight shift in priority. 2022 logged 68 fatal crashes, with nearly half involving pedestrians. On April 28th, Montavilla was the site of a deadly vehicle-pedestrian crash involving a person in a wheelchair. The early morning incident at NE 82nd Avenue and Glisan Street took the life of someone thought to be in a crosswalk. PPB feels having officers patrolling High-crash Corridors during the evening hours should help curb reckless and impaired driving, reducing the number of deadly crashes.

The current Traffic Division is smaller than pre-pandemic levels and will focus on reducing dangerous driving behaviors, including Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII) detection and investigation. Traffic officers will also support traffic-related calls for service, investigating severe and fatal injury crashes. This limited return to enforcement may strike a balance between discouraging the most dangerous drivers from harmful behavior and not over-policing an often profiled population. Expect more officers on the streets pulling over motorists and issuing warnings or citations.

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Art Explores Local Japanese American History

This Friday, May 5th, people are invited to attend the Furin Project Symposium at Portland Community College’s (PCC) SE Campus. Attendees will see the culmination of a year-long community art project led by artist Midori Hirose and learn more about a project that aims to bridge the Japanese farming history of Southeast Portland with its modern diversity and culture. Since early April, PCC has exhibited a collection of Furin, Japanese “wind bells,” made during free ceramic bell-making workshops. Now, the community can explore three related exhibits, including the work from PCC’s Geographic Information System Club, a Sound Map project, and the Furin wind bells display.

In collaboration with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and Mural Arts Institute in Philadelphia, Midori Hirose’s Furin Project involves honoring the history and legacy of the Japanese American Farming community that once thrived in Montavilla and surrounding area. The project centers on the intersection of the current social landscape in relation to food resilience, farming, and green spaces.

People interested in participating should register to save a free spot at the event. Attendees should gather before 4 p.m. near the Learning Garden at 2305 SE 82nd Avenue and then take part in the short walking tour. The event coordinators have created several stopping points for speakers to present, leading up to the Furin exhibit inside the Student Commons building. APANO will host a potluck in their building across SE Division from the PCC campus to wrap up the event.

Graphics provided by APANO and the Furin Project

NE 82nd Hotel Becomes Recuperative Care Site

Central City Concern (CCC) is relocating its Recuperative Care Program (RCP) to the former Comfort Inn at 8225 NE Wasco Street. From this new location, staff will provide ongoing medical and housing support for people recently discharged from the hospital but needing continued recovery assistance. Participants are referred directly from local hospitals, health plans, and outpatient providers, staying on the property for an average of four to six weeks.

CCC is purchasing the 66-unit former hotel to host the RCP program currently housed within the Blackburn Center at 122nd Avenue and E Burnside Street. That location often runs at its capacity of 51 participants. The program’s relocation to the NE 82nd Avenue building will allow it to expand to address the 25 to 35 patient referral waitlist. Beyond the added space, the new facility offers centrally located access to transportation through the adjacent Max station and the 72 Bus line. According to Jordan Wilhelms, director of CCC’s RCP program, many of their clients face mobility issues and need easy access to TriMet. “Having access to public transportation is critical to their recovery,” wrote Wilhelms in an email interview.

The RCP provides a critical service to recovering people who do not have access to post-treatment support. Medical respite care prevents recently discharged patients from relapsing and needing to be readmitted. Inadequate post-hospitalization care is a particular concern for unhoused individuals who do not have access to primary care or specialty outpatient care. CCC will provide on-site primary care and pharmacy support for RCP participants in the new building, so people staying on the property can have immediate access to those services. The health care and pharmacy services currently offered at Blackburn Center will remain at the E Burnside Street facility, while the soon-to-be vacated RCP space could help expand the supportive housing program offered in that building.

Since 2005, CCC has grown the RCP and often stands as an example to other communities facing similar issues. “We were early adopters of the medical respite care service and are routinely visited by governmental and organizational representatives from cities all over the country looking to replicate the model. Our service is built around connecting participants with appropriate health care, helping stabilize health conditions, and accessing much-needed housing support,” explained Wilhelms. They provide around-the-clock support for clients and a place for medical providers to refer patients experiencing homelessness and needing additional care to recover from an acute or chronic condition.

Sheltered people often accomplish post-hospital care at home with the assistance of their personal support network, but that option is not available to everyone. RCP partners OHSU, Providence, and Health Share rely on this program to discharge at-risk patients to a safe and supportive environment where they can receive continued care. Programs like RCP can save money and keep hospital beds open. With the RCP option, people do not need to extend their hospital stay solely because they have no medically sound place to go when released. The CCC is engaging neighborhood and business associations in conversations regarding this site, and people can direct questions to the senior director of public affairs with the CCC, Juliana Lukasik, at

Disclosure: The author of this article servers on the boards of the 82nd Avenue Business Association and Montavilla Neighborhood Association.

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Free Rides and New Bikes

In celebration of Earth Day, Nike is offering people free Biketown rides starting on Saturday, April 22nd. Riders will have 200 new electric-assist e-bikes to use as part of a 500-bike expansion announced on Friday. At the event, Nike and its partner Lyft unveil 30 special Earth Day bikes depicting local landmarks. The added bike-share vehicles will expand the fleet to 2,000 units.

2020 expansion brought the service out to Montavilla and other points in East Portland. It coincided with the fleet’s upgrade to pedal-assist electric bikes. Just last year, Biketown hit a record of more than 575,000 rides, a 65% increase over the previous year’s ridership. Usage of the bike-share system continues to increase, and these added vehicles will help meet demand and better distribute bikes throughout the network of docks.

Image courtesy Biketown

From April 22nd through the 24th, Biketown will waive fees for trips 60 minutes or less. Details are available on the program’s website. Participants need to download the mobile phone app before obtaining their free ride. The program operators hope this free ride weekend will encourage more people to take a bike instead of a car for some trips, reducing carbon emissions and helping the environment year-round.

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