Golden State of Mind

Portland, It's Time to Stop Hating on California

The anti-California sentiment runs deep here, and not always in a joking way.

By Marty Patail January 21, 2020 Published in the February 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Oh boy. We’ve really done it this time, haven’t we?

Yes, this month, we’re all about California.

And we want you, dear Portlander, to go out and use it. Eat fish tacos in San Diego. Soak up culture and catch late-night comedy in LA. Seek out the wild west in Truckee, near where the Donner Party once met its grisly end.

We envisioned this month’s cover story as a user’s guide to our sunnier, bigger, flashier neighbor to the south, a way to explore the beauty and bustle of that state we love to hate.

But I also hope it’s an opportunity to take stock of our prejudices. The anti-California sentiment runs deep here, and not always in a joking way. Facebook comments blaming Californians for everything from the traffic to rude baristas are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen the very mention of California render otherwise placid Portlanders deeply angry. At one gathering, I listened to someone unironically suggest building a wall between Oregon and California. His audience—made up of nice, kind people who are vehemently against Trump’s border policies—either laughed or nodded in agreement. It’s this accepted outlet for xenophobia and that’s not OK. Especially when California is significantly more diverse than our state, one of the whitest in the west.

Full disclosure: I arrived here from LA in 2005, with nothing but a U-Haul, an acceptance letter to Portland State University, and a desire to get out of North Hollywood. What I found was a city that was so unlike what I had left behind: friendly, walkable, with a growing microbrew scene. It had all the perks of a small town and all the excitement and possibility of a bigger one. So I do get it. The draw of Portland is its un-California-ness. And there are real issues feeding people’s mistrust: housing, affordability, transportation, equity, and, perhaps most vividly, a perceived loss of uniqueness, what drew any new arrival (from anywhere, at any time) to Portland in the first place. The city I fell in love with in 2005 is still here beneath the construction cranes—but no one can deny the changes.

These are issues we will need to spend the next decade trying to fix. No, banning Californians won’t help. (Most newcomers come from somewhere else, anyway—find some stats over here.) In 2020, we don’t need more bans, or walls, or blind hatred of a diverse, wild state of 39 million people, most of whom are never moving to Oregon. But we could use a bit more sunshine.

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