The Origins of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association

Early 20th century: the Sunnyside Push Club

Various neighborhood “advancement clubs” existed in Portland in the early 20th century. The Sunnyside Push Club was established on February 19, 19081. One of its actions was to advocate for the purchase of 40 acres from the Ladd estate to create a large “Sunnyside Park”. Eventually the city purchased about 20 acres of land, although the name favored by the Push Club was evidently not retained (hint: it’s Laurelhurst Park). A more successful “name fight” was won by the club when the idea of renaming Sunnyside School for one of Portland’s early pioneers was rejected early in the process by the School Board2. No word on who the pioneer was.

The last mention of the Sunnyside Push Club in the Morning Oregonian is in 1914, after which it is not clear whether the club was still active or replaced by another one.

The 1960’s: The Sunnyside Community Improvement Committee and the Richmond-Sunnyside Neighborhood Service Center

Fast forward to the 1960’s. President Johnson’s plan for a Great Society expands the federal government’s roles in reducing poverty. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 creates the Community Action Program. In Portland, a Metro-wide Steering Committee is established to administer the program and help organize neighborhood representation by fostering the creation of Neighborhood Committees. By 1966, the Oregonian notes that “in Portland these committees are strongly peopled with actual poor people”. The Sunnyside Community Improvement Committee is put in place in 1966 and quickly advocates for the creation of a Neighborhood Service Center, modeled after the Albina Neighborhood Service Center opened in April 1966, to provide residents with easy access to various social and employment services. Similar committees in the Richmond, Buckman and Brooklyn neighborhoods eventually join forces under a newly created non-profit organization called Portland Action Committees Together (PACT).

Under the leadership of PACT, three districts are created in SE Portland to oversee three Neighborhood Service Centers: the Brooklyn District, the Buckman District and the Richmond-Sunnyside District. By 1967 the Richmond-Sunnyside Neighborhood Center was up and running at 3525 SE Hawthorne in the Douglas Building, under the supervision of a local Board made of Richmond-Sunnyside residents.

1967: SE Uplift is born!

By the end of 1967, more federal money is expected under the Model Cities program. However, program restrictions mean that its reach is limited to the Albina area. PACT advocates for the effort to be expanded to SE Portland and finds support in City Commissioner Francis Invancie and eventually Mayor Terry Schrunk. The SE Uplift Project is officially launched with the goal of doing “most of the work within local revenues, but using federal money when necessary and when it can be utilized without stringent regulations”.

1972: The Sunnyside Neighborhood Association is born!

By 1970, the underwhelming results of the War on Poverty and pull back of federal money under the Nixon administration call for change. PACT decides to do away with its complex structure of neighborhood-level boards sending representatives to an overall board, in favor of a single board that will oversee all programs in the Buckman, Richmond, Sunnyside and Brooklyn areas. With the assistance of PACT and SE Uplift, residents of SE Portland come together once again to reform their neighborhood representation. The Buckman Neighborhood Association is formally organized in December 1971, followed by Richmond and Sunnyside in early 1972.

On March 6, 1972, “about 50 residents of Sunnyside and neighboring communities in southeast Portland unanimously approved formation of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association Monday night. Also approved by persons at the meeting in the former First Friends Church, 3534 SE Main St. now owned by Portland Action Committees Together (PACT) were recommendations by an interim committee to establish a procedure of electing a board of directors and to adopt the general consensus method of conducting business.”

2022 and beyond

In 2022, Sunnyside celebrated the 50th anniversary of the neighborhood association. Let’s be thankful for the work of all of those neighbors that came before us. Let’s also celebrate the fact that both SE Uplift and PACT are still with us today.

In 1974, SE Uplift was incorporated into Portland’s new city-wide neighborhood program and formally became the coalition serving all neighborhoods in SE Portland under the supervision of the Office of Community & Civic Life. It has retained its original name and is still occupying the same building (built 1963) in which the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association had its first meeting back in 1972, at 3534 SE Main.

PACT changed its name to “Portland Impact” in the 1980s, and later “Impact NW” as it expanded its services outside the Portland Metropolitan area. Today Impact NW has grown to serve over 60,000 residents in Multnomah, Clark, Washington and Clackamas Counties and parts of Washington State, including children, families, seniors, and adults with disabilities. It still runs its Seniors & Adults with Disabilities Services here in Sunnyside at 4610 SE Belmont Street (aka for the younger crowd as “the building next to the Horse Brass Pub”).

1 Sunnyside Push Club Organizes – Oregonian (published as Morning Oregonian) – February 20,1908
2 Ladd Opposed as Name. Sunnyside Push Club Against Park Appellation; Change Opposed – Oregonian (published as Morning Oregonian) – February 20, 1910
3 Oregonian (published as The Oregonian) – July 28 , 1966 – page 35
4 Oregonian (published as The Oregonian) – April 3, 1968 – page 13
5 Oregonian (published as The Oregonian) – March 7, 1972 – page 15

Author: Vincent Dawans, Sunnyside Board Member, 2021-2022