Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Nathan Howard and Leslie Wright

Howard, who was born and raised in Southeast Portland, is president of the cannabis farm East Fork Cultivars, which he founded in 2015 with his brother Aaron. They started the company to grow high-CBD strains of cannabis for their elder brother, Wesley, who regularly used the plant to alleviate symptoms of a rare neurological condition. Leslie, who grew up in San Diego, is a mental health nurse who is finishing her doctorate in psychiatric mental health at Oregon Health and Sciences University. They met when Leslie was working at the Bus Project (now called Next Up) and Nathan was a legislative aide for State Senator Mark Hass. “The Bus Project was putting on an end-of-the-legislative-session celebration and Nate came to the event. I invited him to sit at my table and the rest is history!” recalls Leslie.

Lately, the couple has been working with a group called the Plant Medicine Healing Alliance to persuade the City Council to decriminalize all psychedelics and protect home cultivation and ceremonial religious use of the plants. They just got a labradoodle puppy who they named Blue. When I spoke to the couple in late May, Howard was just getting ready to open Hemp Bar, East Fork’s all-ages CBD café, on 63rd and Foster.

How long have you guys lived in Sunnyside?

Nathan: Five years, in two different locations.

Leslie: We purchased this house two years ago. We fell into the opportunity in a very lucky white privilege way. Nate’s dad is a real estate agent. His first boss in Portland owns a ton of houses and he’s slowly been selling them off. So he was selling this house but never listed it. We did a seller-finance contract with him so we don’t have a traditional mortgage with a bank, which is great because I was about to start school and I probably wouldn’t have qualified because I wasn’t really working.

What do you love about Sunnyside? 

Leslie: We really love Southeast because you can walk everywhere and a lot of our friends live here. And our street has got so many kids on it!

Nathan: I love that aspect. We probably have 16 kids within a block or so, and they’re frequently in our front yard, climbing our apple tree. We just got a dump truck of 10 yards of gravel delivered, and they’re all playing in the gravel and seeing if they can come over and hang out with our puppy Blue. We just love it.

I also love the open-mindedness of the neighborhood. There’s still some fear-based NIMBY stuff going on, but there’s such open-mindedness and I find that so energizing. And I’m starting to see way more diversity—including racial diversity. I’m really hoping that we’re trending towards more diversity in every sense of the word and less homogenous everything. I hope that continues and if that continues that I think I’ll start to love Sunnyside even more.

What’s one thing you would love to see change about Sunnyside?

Nathan: I guess I’ll answer that by saying what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid that Portland—Sunnyside included—is vastly underestimating the amount of in- migration that we’re going to continue to have over the coming decades. We’re vastly underestimating the amount of climate refugees the Pacific Northwest is going to be taking on, specifically the Portland Metro area. And so what I’m really fearful of is that liberal, progressive, open-minded, Sanctuary City Portland—seemingly overnight—could turn into a pretty xenophobic place if we don’t properly plan for a lot more people. So I’d like to see us begin to seriously consider changing that. And that means investing a bunch more infrastructure and housing and probably changing even more zoning laws in certain areas.

Leslie: I don’t know that I have much more to add. Making it more personal: I have friends who have chosen to live in North and Northeast because it’s more racially diverse. I’ve had friends of color who have told me about experiences where they would walk down a street in Sunnyside and people would stare at them from their porch, or smile in a way that was too familiar. Both send the message that they don’t belong and they feel unwelcome.

Why did you name your puppy Blue? 

Leslie: I had a dog named Red growing up, so I thought it’d be on-theme. But then also we were talking to the woman who we bought him from, and she told us that he’s like this kind of old soul, kind of a dopey super chill dog, we thought like “Blue,” blues. That’s cool. That’ll work.

Adopt One Block in the Sunnyside Neighborhood

As of May 21st, over 100 blocks have been adopted in Sunnyside through Adopt One Block with fewer than 60 blocks still seeking adoption. This is more than twice as many blocks than when we started our neighborhood outreach in early April; we had 43 adopted blocks then. The areas marked in grey on the map have been adopted; areas in black still need adoption.

If you have adopted a block and haven’t contacted our Cleanup Coordinator yet, we would love to hear from you! Knowing who has adopted blocks within Sunnyside lets us improve collaboration and coordination among block ambassadors as well as offer local support. So far, about 30 block ambassadors have made themselves known but we would like to hear from more. On the map, the blocks of known ambassadors are identified with a thin white line around their adopted block. Your contact information will not be shared publicly, but knowing about you will allow our Cleanup Coordinator to privately connect adopters of neighboring blocks if they both choose.

To make yourself known to the SNA as a block ambassador, or if you ever need help with disposing of excess trash, dealing with larger items that have been dumped, needles or biohazard cleanup, please contact Vincent Dawans, SNA Cleanup Coordinator at [email protected].

More information about Adopt One Block (including an updated map) is available at under the Volunteer menu.

Seeking Feedback: New public trash cans coming to Sunnyside and SE Portland

This autumn the City will be adding 182 new public trash cans throughout Southeast Portland. The city is actively seeking feedback from people who live or work in Southeast Portland on where the new cans should (or shouldn’t) be located.

As a Sunnyside resident or business operator, there are two ways that you can provide feedback. Ideally you should use both:

  1. Fill out the Sunnyside neighborhood online survey.* This will allow us to compile the information for Sunnyside and present a unified voice to the city. This survey is only for locations within Sunnyside.
  2. Fill out the Southeast-wide online survey provided by the city.* We do not control this survey. It can be used to nominate the same intersections within Sunnyside or other intersections in larger Southeast Portland.

As of May 14th, about 30 Sunnyside residents have provided feedback on our survey, but we would like to hear from more. 

* A link to the surveys and more information is available at under the Give Feedback section in the sidebar.

Sunnyside DEIA Committee

The Sunnyside Neighborhood Association (SNA) has started a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Committee and we invite the neighborhood to help shape what this committee will provide for the Sunnyside Neighborhood. Please come to our upcoming meetings on Tuesday, June 1st and Tuesday, June 15th at 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. to help us plan a campaign for the upcoming Neighborhood Association Board elections. We aim to apply a DEIA lens towards the campaign to be inclusive, equitable, diverse, and accessible. Bring your curiosity. Come with an openness to have meaningful conversations and an eagerness to make a supportive impact on our neighborhood at-large. We look forward to building this committee together! 

SNA Community Care (SNACC) Committee Update

SNACC’s May meeting was well attended with approximately 15 guests ready to hear from, and talk with, Pat Schweibert of Beacon PDX and County Commissioner Sharon Meieran. Pat Schweibert talked about her multi-decade work serving houseless residents, the work of Beacon PDX in Sunnyside and surrounding areas, and the exciting possibility of engaging with a new community to provide a tiny home village and day center.

Commissioner Meieran presented her vision for a “harm reduction” approach that would create a coordinated network of outdoor shelter sites to provide safety, community, and basic hygiene services to people currently experiencing unsheltered houselessness. She emphasized the urgency of the problem; houselessness is a real and growing crisis for people living on the streets and for housed neighbors in all of the city’s neighborhoods. We were all very excited to hear from her because her vision really captures these missing “medium-term” solutions that all of us have been both advocating for and wanting (and ready) to get involved in.

Unfortunately, the county budget is going to be voted on June 3rd and her approach is not included in the current draft budget. Watch your news sources to see whether she is able to gain the votes needed. 

Please note that the SNACC Committee is on hiatus for the duration of the summer.  Visit the website for ongoing volunteer opportunities or reach out to [email protected] with questions or concerns.  See you in the Fall!