December 20, 2023

❄️ It's Wednesday, and also our last newsletter of the year.

  • We're taking time off to rest and recharge. We'll be back in your inbox on Jan. 2.

Today's weather: Sunny with some wind. High 52, low 41.

🎂 Happy birthday to our Axios Portland member Crystal Hubbard! And happy early birthday to member Christopher Carter!

Today's newsletter is 962 words — a 3.5-minute read

1 big thing: How Parkrose teens helped win $25,000 to fix a street

Parkrose High School senior Vanessa Mederos explaining her team's ideas to a group of school and city officials earlier this year. Photo: Courtesy of Kiley Yuthas, The Pathfinder Network

Portland teenagers tapped to help redesign a dangerous intersection near their school say they now think differently about ways to make their community safer — and not just from traffic.

Why it matters: The Argay neighborhood project introduced Parkrose High School students to crime prevention through environmental design — an approach Portland has used in public housing and more recently in the Mount Scott neighborhood to slow traffic and reduce drive-by shootings.

Context: Liz Bella, a junior, told Axios she felt "adrenaline and panic" after she and her brother once witnessed a drive-by shooting in the area.

  • With the design project, "I really wanted to focus on changing that" sense that shootings are normal, she said.

Flashback: Attempts to lower crime by changing how public spaces are laid out, lit, painted or planted date back to the 1970s.

Threat level: According to police data, more than 100 shootings have taken place over the past five years in the Argay neighborhood — at least a dozen within a block of the project, including three homicides.

What they did: Students applied to join a 15-person cohort for two months of weekly after-school sessions where they heard from traffic engineers, design experts and people directly affected by gun violence.

  • They came up with ideas ranging from adding speed bumps, concrete islands and basketball court lines in the street to installing benches and bushes that attract butterflies.
Proposed street calming project addition
Data: Axios Research; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

What they're saying: Parkrose senior Vanessa Mederos' team designed a mural in the middle of the intersection that included the initials of neighbors impacted by violence.

  • Junior Kai Salazar said her team added a spot to pick up free books or hygiene supplies and a place to dispose of needles, which people who use them for drugs leave "on the streets because they have nowhere else," she said.

Meanwhile, "I found it interesting how tiny details" like roundabouts and speed bumps "can make a big impact" on driving speed, said sophomore Raheem Andrews-Johnson.

Read more

2. Enjoy an Oregon hazelnut this holiday season

Oregon is home to nearly 100,000 acres of hazelnut trees. Photo: Courtesy of Northwest Hazelnut

Nearly all of the hazelnuts produced in the U.S. are grown in the Willamette Valley.

  • The crop is one of Oregon's most valuable agricultural products, and the industry is in the middle of an upswing thanks to new investment and sustainable harvesting techniques to stave off blight.

Driving the news: Hazelnut farmers are likely to take home $300 million in sales this season, according to Eric Groves, the chief financial officer of George Packing, a processor based in Newberg.

  • Nearly 100,000 acres of hazelnut farms are in Oregon — up from 30,000 acres in 2007, according to Groves.

In the past, the winter holiday season meant peak sales for hazelnuts, with the vast majority being shipped to China for Lunar New Year celebrations, he said.

  • But now with more nuts, orchards and distributors, "sales are much more spread out."

What's happening: Confectionery manufacturer Ferrero, which produces Nutella, is also planning to increase its hazelnut sourcing from the state, Marco Botta, Ferrero Hazelnut's CEO told Axios in an emailed statement — giving a nod to the region's "climate, soil, and most importantly the ingenuity and commitment of hazelnut farmers."

Flashback: A fungal disease caused widespread blight throughout Oregon orchards in the early aughts and was responsible for dwindling sales and slow growth.

  • Since then, hazelnut farmers have teamed up with Oregon State University to combat the spread by removing older trees and interplanting blight-resistant varieties developed by local researchers.

Tell a hazelnut lover

3. Rose City Rundown

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🚄 Dreams of a high-speed train from Portland to Vancouver, Canada, are not dead, but Oregon and Washington got smaller grants than expected when the Federal Railroad Administration doled out billions for improving rail systems across the country. (Oregon Capital Chronicle)

💰 City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez wants to use funds from the Joint Office of Homeless Services to bankroll Portland Street Response indefinitely. (Willamette Week)

🍄 In its inaugural year, over 700 people sought services from Oregon's legal psilocybin program for issues ranging from trauma to addiction. (The Oregonian)

4. Phoenix guide for snowbirds and Fiesta Bowl fans

A cowboy welcoming visitors to Old Town Scottsdale in Arizona. Photo: Patricia Marroquin/Getty Images

With the University of Oregon football team landing their first New Year's bowl game since 2019, a lot of Ducks may be joining the flock of winter snowbirds who drive to Arizona from here each winter.

If you plan to travel to see the Ducks take on Liberty University in the Fiesta Bowl — or just going for the sun — here's an insider's guide to Phoenix, courtesy of Axios Phoenix reporter Jessica Boehm.

👀 Can't-miss attractions

Nightlife and hikes

5. Portland's 2023, wrapped

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As 2023 comes to an end, we wanted to reflect on the biggest stories of the year.

Driving the news: Damian Lillard left the Blazers for the Bucks, marking the end of an era, lawmakers passed dozens of new laws despite the historic GOP walkout, Portland Public Schools teachers went on strike for the first time and we're pumping our own gas now.

What's next: In the coming weeks, we'll be mapping out our coverage for 2024, and we'd love to know what you want to see.

  • What topics or issues would you like to see us cover? More city politics and business? What about food, sports and reviews?
  • Reply to this email and let us know!

Our most-viewed stories

🤩 Meira is honored to be included in this year's "Year in Eater" — where she got to share her favorite go-to food spots, restaurant trends she hates, and what closures broke her heart.

🍽️ Emily is proud of Meira (and a fan of her recommendations).

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Steven Patrick.