Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2015: a tale of trees

Eastmoreland Garage Sale sign with tissue paper flower

Early-ish on Saturday morning, my housemate friend Jeff and I drove north for the 30th Annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale, my fifth year attending. This is the best neighborhood yard sale in Portland, though others like Overlook and Irvington also hold fond places in my thrifty heart. Check out previous posts on these yearly Eastmoreland yard sales for more details like shopping tips and Porta Potty locations (2013), the importance of Saturdays (2012), and the pros and cons of shopping in groups (2014). This year I became converted to the old-lady shopping cart, scorned in previous years. But the Eastmoreland 2015 Garage Sale for me will mostly be remembered as the year of trees.

I'll get to the trees later on. After the no-car, no-cart year of 2013 in which I wasted hours hauling things back home on the bus midday, I've learned the benefits of shopping carts. Jeff traveled more lightly with just a canvas bag. I had like 10 canvas bags stashed in my shopping cart since the bags act as wrap protection for breakables. Some people bring wagons or load up their kids' strollers, but anything with wheels is a boon when you're a 20-minute walk from your vehicle and carrying a large pile of loot. Fortunately, sellers are almost always willing to hold items after payment until you can pick them up later in the day. This is how we treat furniture purchases and anything heavy, and this year was another big year for secondhand furniture (aka dead trees).

30th Annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale map

Prepared for predicted 100-degree weather (though it didn't get quite that hot), I pushed my cart up and down sidewalks and over cracks, sipping water and dodging buyers in driveways narrowed by tables and merchandise. Shoppers were out in droves in the cooler morning but had mostly disappeared by noon. Luckily, the marine cloud cover didn't burn off till afternoon, at which point I was picking at my dress and the silk slip clinging to my sweaty skin. At least I'd worn a big hat, and Jeff had tied a wet bandana across his forehead (his new summer look). I didn't take many photos, focusing more on my shopping. But I did snap a few pretty flowers and gardens, a tiny fairy house, and a single Backyard Habitat Certification in Progress sign.

yellow rose, Eastmoreland

Eastmoreland Backyard Habitat Certification in Progress sign

blue bench with red-orange geraniums, Eastmoreland

fairy house, Eastmoreland Neighborhood

As usual, many sellers were packing up by 3 PM, citing a lack of buyers, so we started driving the trailer around to pick up all the heavies. At 4 PM, even we were pooped by the time the trailer was loaded, so we headed back down to Gladstone a bit early. We both took naps. I ended up going to bed at 7 PM (and then rose at 11:30 PM for a few hours more work) to recover from a heat-induced headache. Still, the day was lovely and worth it.

Jeff, a Hawthorne Vintage vendor, picked up a former Multnomah County Library chair in need of a cushion (since libraries never want you to stay too long); a cute, white vintage metal outdoor chair; a handmade wall-mounted oak bookshelf unit; a few of what they in the vintage resale business call "smalls"; and the antique occasional table he'd passed on and regretted last year that will grace our entryway once two of its claw-feet are repaired.

Here was my own Eastmoreland 2015 haul:

handmade pine platform bed frame ($20)
3 Swedish stainless-steel trays
4 Heller dishes (2 blue bowls, 2 orange dishes)
small Mexican painted pottery owl
handmade pottery oil lamp
2 vintage Gregg shorthand books (because my mom was a secretary in the 1960s)
handwoven placemat
2 vintage mosaic coasters, made in Japan
pair of Mexican carved green stone bookends
Swedish teak tray designed by Karl Holmberg
white linen skirt
black asymmetrical Bryn Walker dress, made in the U.S. (new with tags)
new "High Line Member" canvas tote bag ($1)
hacky sack (free)
new-in-plastic Japanese samurai origami handkerchief (free)
2 cotton napkins (free)
living Christmas tree! ($5)

living Christmas tree via Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2015

That's right, I bought a live Christmas tree in June. I love the tradition of decorating holiday trees but hate the idea of growing them only to kill them and leave them out with the trash, all brown, and so haven't had one in years. The tree will sit in the backyard till December, where it will be elevated on a table and garlanded with lights and ornaments. Then we'll plant it somewhere but not in our yard because the yard's too small and already has established pines. On the dead-tree side, the platform bed means that now my futon is off the floor above the carpet mold and ants—a win! Not everything I bought is for me. Many of the other finds will be hard to part with, but one must learn to share.

30th Annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale map insert

Speaking of trees, though, one big update in Eastmoreland this year is the neighborhood joining forces to battle developers who are increasingly tearing down perfectly good old houses around Portland to split the lots and erect even more homes—usually taller and narrower ones which will inevitably be built more shoddily, despite their high prices, compared to vintage construction materials and techniques. I'm all for more compact Metro infill and taking greater advantage of vertical space when we're talking about empty lots or fire hazards in disrepair, but not when developers are razing existing functional structures via the unholy call of the dollar sign: $$$$$$.

What about the larger common good? That's what government should be for: controls on capitalist greed. If mainstream developers had their way, all older homes would be torn down and newer, more expensive structures would be built as cheaply as possible to code, demolishing our history—just like what happened to the Jefferson West downtown last year. Plenty of good progressive alternatives exist for razing solid old homes, such as promoting ADUs (accessory dwelling units), duplexing existing homes, supporting cohousing communities, and legalizing tiny homes. But there's not as much money to be made in such projects. In any case, Eastmoreland residents are so concerned about vintage single-family housing demolitions Portland-wide that they stuck a flyer insert in their map this year (see photo above). Whether these well-off Portland residents will also support progressive infill development remains to be seen. Can homeowners also learn to share by letting poorer people squeeze in?

"Save These Giants": Eastmoreland Sequoia campaign

A side effect of older-home demolition concerns a property's mature, established trees. One notable example this year is a lot on SE Martins. (This happens to be directly across the street from where Jeff used to live with his friend who owns a home on Martins.) The 1970s split-level was bought by a developer and demolished (see photo above). According to neighbor gossip, the house's foundation was unstable, and though it could have been fixed, it was cheaper to tear the whole thing down. Okay, fine. But to complete the subdivision of the lot (actually two lots), the developer will also be cutting down the three giant sequoias, reputedly the tallest, oldest trees in the neighborhood.

Eastmoreland Go Fund Me project sign: SaveTheGiants

So a group of Eastmoreland neighbors has raised and placed a $50,000 deposit into an nonrefundable escrow account but still need to fund the rest of the $900,000 price tag by July 2nd in order to buy the lots from the developer (who will be making a hefty profit either way). And we're talking the land only, mind you, since the house is already gone. Read the neighbors' side of things and the reason for the urgency here on their Facebook page. Good luck with that, Eastmoreland, though if any Portland neighborhood could come up with $850,000 in two weeks, it would be you.

Poor old heritage trees never officially designated as such, which might have protected them. Poor Portland, losing its vintage housing stock piece by piece. Shame on the city for approving this deal and many others, as documented by the mysterious Portland Chronicle. Shame on developers like Everett Custom Homes—a business located in suburban Beaverton, by the way, whose owner purports to support old-school Portland charm . . . by tearing it down. The head of Everett Custom Homes blames the whole problem on city codes or the lack thereof in the 1850s, saying the trees shouldn't be so close to all these houses and pipelines. But they are. And they were standing before all these fancy Eastmoreland houses were built by 20th-century developers. Where oh where is Julia Butterfly Hill when you need her? People have choices in where and how they live, in homes bought, sold, and built. Choose carefully.

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