New Vintage Grille chef brings Portland buzz to the Hood

Interesting news for foodies from The Vintage Grille, operating the dining room inside the Hood River Hotel. They’ve had a struggle finding someone to lead the kitchen, but appear now to have landed a keeper. Jason Barwikowski, with experience at Portland restaurants Paley’s Place, Gotham Tavern, Simpatica Dining Hall, Gotham Building Tavern, Clyde Common and The Woodsman Tavern, and celebrated for his previous work by the Portland food media, has joined the Hood River kitchen. Good news for the hotel, its guests and walk-in diners looking for local options.

City planners, council to discuss report on housing needs

Does Hood River have enough land to meet the housing needs of residents, now and into the future? Big question, with complex answers.

Moving beyond cocktail party chatter, the City of Hood River has embarked on an ambitious effort to take a landscape view and drive a conversation that will help fine-tune its comprehensive plan for the next 20 years.

The conversation goes public at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, when members of the city planning commission meet with members of the city council and consultant Beth Goodman to review data in the City of Hood River Housing Needs Analysis.

Prepared at a cost of $55,000 by ECONorthwest (funded in part by the Department of Land Conservation and Development), the study contains some startling — although not all that surprising — numbers.

Joel Madsen, director of the Mid-Col Housing Authority and Columbia Cascade Housing Corp., sat on the technical advisory committee that helped during the research phase. He says two findings from the report jumped out at him:

  1. We have an undersupply of affordable housing across most income levels, not just one particular population.
  2. About 8% of our housing (269 units) has been sequestered for seasonal or recreational housing. That’s more than twice the statewide rate of 3.3 percent.

If those numbers seem striking, note that 14 percent of housing in Newport and 54 percent in Cannon Beach is dedicated to seasonal and recreational use.

In a separate calculation (which left the Buzzer scratching his head, because it seemed to address the same uses), the consultants identified 190 short-term rentals and 150 secondary homes in Hood River. That number comes to about 9.6% of the city’s housing stock.

Either way you slice it, Madsen concluded, “If you look at how housing stock is being used, we don’t have adequate lands to address future population growth.”

“The city desires to have an inclusive community, so people who are working in the community should be able to live there.”

So, how do we get there?

According to the report, Oregon cities — guided by a landmark law passed in 1974 — must “encourage the availability of adequate numbers of housing units in price and rent ranges commensurate with the financial capabilities of its households.”

The report looked at land inside the city limits, and just beyond, in the area defined by what’s called the “urban growth boundary.” That line can be expanded to meet justified growth needs.

Affordability and access are difficult in these parts. According to the census, Oregon’s median household income through 2013 was $50,229. Statewide, the median price of an owner-occupied home was$238,000. That led to a statewide home ownership rate of 62 percent.

Not so much in Hood River. Our median income of $48,858 is less than the statewide average, but the median value of owner-occupied housing was $314,200. Those numbers may suggest a bit why our home ownership rate dips to 51 percent.

The research shows that Hood River has about 1,128 acres zoned for residential use, almost half dedicated to low-density (single family) use. Because single family structures occupy 62 percent of city residential land, the property on which some such structures sit might be converted to higher-density dwellings.

For people who don’t want to remove an existing structure before building, they’re looking at limited inventory. Only about 16 percent of residentially zoned land is vacant, and not all of it for near-term use.

By another calculation, the report says the city has about 318 build-able residential acres. Of that, only 124 acres are inside the urban growth boundary. The other 194 acres lie in residential zones outside the UGB.

Madsen says the advisory committee settled on three broad tactics to address the need for affordable housing. No discussion mentioned limiting or banning vacation rental uses.

  1. Planning for more efficient use of land.
  2. Better understanding the short-term rental market.
  3. Developing affordable housing.

“The process the city has gone through and where we are, it’s exciting,” he said.

“It’s more than just talking about it. It’s getting to the numbers and data to better inform the city about its policy recommendations.”

Plan now for 4th of July parade, other activities celebrating Independence

It’s the event of the season — the 4th of July parade, organized by the Hood River Lions Club. As anyone who has seen one in the past surely knows, the parade includes two kinds of people: 1- Those who are in the parade; 2- Those who are watching the parade.

The Independence Day festivities begin with the 40th annual Kollas-Cranmer Run/Walk from Odell to Jackson Park in Hood River. Registration starts at 7 a.m. at Mid-Valley Elementary School. Walkers start at 8 a.m. and runners begin their contest at 9 a.m.

The parade, with the theme of “Beautiful Bounty,” will start at 10 a.m. with the line up on Eliot Drive beginning at 8:30 a.m. To speed up the registration, forms and instructions can be obtained by linking to “” The parade fee is $10 and there will be monetary prizes for the best entries.

The grand marshal will be the people associated with Fish Food Bank, which opened its new facility last month. The “Beautiful Bounty” theme describes the wonderful area of the Hood River Valley and Columbia River Gorge and the assistance that is given to our neighbors by the Fish Food Bank. Organizers are asking people to bring a can of fruit or soup to Jackson Park that will be given to the Fish Food Bank.

For safety to children and adults and to keep the parade route litter free, the Hood River Lions ask that no candy be passed out or thrown from the entries. The Hood River Rotary Club and Heights Ice Cream are again teaming up to offer ice cream at a discounted price in Jackson Park for the children after the parade.

Onlookers will be treated to about 50 local entries but also a Portland band called “The Beat Goes On” with its musicians and baton twirlers. They will also perform in Jackson Park for 40 minutes, starting at noon with the raising of the American Flag.

At 11 a.m. the Hood River Fire Department will begin serving its annual BBQ lunch. Around 1 p.m., entertainment begins with the Willy & Nelson band. Also in the park will be ice cream, two bounce houses, face painting and some games for the children.

The patriotic celebration ends with a grand fireworks display over the Columbia River starting at 10 p.m. That stellar event is organized by the Hood River Eyeopener Lions Club. Donations for the fireworks program are needed and can be mailed to Eyeopener Lions, 1767 12th Street #136, Hood River, OR 97031.

We’re No. 7! We’re No. 7! (Is there a foam finger to go with that chant?)

We love lists, and love the love that lists deliver when they list Hood River high if not higher in their rankings.

So it was nice to see the folks at again ranking Hood River among the top small towns (under 20,000 population) in the U.S.

Their list includes 100 towns, but you don’t have to scroll too far down from No. 1 (not us) to find Hood River ranked 7th. Last year, we were 4th.

Other Oregon cities on the list? Newport at 35, Astoria at 47, La Grande at 60 and Coos Bay at 75.

First was Lebanon, N.H., and last was Papillon, Nebraska.


Nutritious snacks designed to boost your business smarts …

Gorge Grown Food Network has received a $20,000 grant from the Jerome S. and Barbara Bischoff Discretionary Subfund of The Oregon Community Foundation. The grant will fund a new Veggie Prescription pilot program this summer. Its goal will be to reduce food insecurity by providing vouchers to low-income community members. Under the program, healthcare and social service providers will identify people facing food insecurity, then write a prescription that patients will fill at local farmers’ markets and select grocery stores for fresh fruits and vegetables. Several local healthcare providers are providing matching funds specifically for the fresh produce (vouchers) including Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, Skyline Hospital and the Columbia Gorge Health Council. The Tofurky Company is also providing funding support. “A recent survey shows that even those receiving food stamps and other help are not able to acces the food they need, especially fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Sarah Sullivan, Executive Director of Gorge Grown Food Network. …

Interesting report from GoLocalPDX showing trends in growth — and decline — of poverty around Oregon counties during the last 30 years. Hood River County is doing relatively well. Wasco County?Not so much. Check various counties with roll-over map, then use slider to compare years from 1980 to 2010. …

Envirogorge, the environmental web site maintained by Susan Hess, is challenging conscientious consumers to employ reusable cups during June. Take your own mug to Doppio, Ground, 10 Speed et. al. , and avoid the paper (or foam) disposable cups. Take a selfie of your responsible cup use, and submit it at the envirogorge web site to qualify for prizes …

Did you know that wine will help the health of your marriage? Yes, according to the number crunchers at Naked Winery

Make note of two forthcoming business development workshops, “Understanding Your Brand” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 15, and “Marketing Planning” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., both at Gorge Innoventure, 1000 E. Port Marina Drive (east end of the Port of Hood River building). The Brand workshop is presented by Emily Reed, who has work as a brand strategist for 20 years. The Planning workshop is led by Becky Brun of Pitchfork Communications. Cost is $45 per person per class. For more info or to register, go to the Innoventure web site. Or call 541-436-0797. …


City planners give OK to look and layout of new Sheppard’s facility

Artists' rendering of proposed new facility for Sheppard's on the Hood River waterfront.

Artists’ rendering of proposed new facility for Sheppard’s on the Hood River waterfront.

The Hood River Planning Commission this week signed off on plans for the new location of Sheppard’s, the longtime Hood River supplier of orchard and vineyard equipment (John Deere etc.).

Based on conceptual drawings prepared by Surround Architecture of Portland, the site at the northwest corner of North Second Street and Riverside Drive will offer an outdoor showroom that showcases the valley’s agricultural heritage.

sheppards_downtownv2Craig Sheppard said the project to move all its operations from downtown Hood River (First and State streets) is “still a work in progress.”

Once it’s complete, the new facility will include 20,000 square feet of space for an equipment showroom, service and repairs.

Sheppard said the family has no plans now for what to do with the site it will vacate.

He said the construction timeline will firm up in the next couple of weeks, but the company is tentatively looking at completion of the new facility and relocation in 2016.

Sheppard said the relocation became imperative because the company needs parking for large trucks making deliveries, and for its customers.

“The business has been expanding over the last several years, a result of the farm economy,” Sheppard said. “The farm economy has been good, and that affects us directly.”

Freeway access will let the company better serve its base of specialty crop growers in Hood River and Wasco counties.

“One reason for the move to the Port is that we do a lot of business east of here, in the cherry orchards and wine grapes,” Sheppard said.

The site, once planned for a Burger King, covers almost two acres. Michael McElwee, executive director of the Port of Hood River, says the Port entered into an agreement with the Sheppard family late last year. Under the agreement, they can buy the property if they meet a host of requirements.

At a meeting with the Port commission June 16, the Sheppards will detail progress on planning, toward lining up financing and permitting. Once all the pieces are in place, the property sale can close. McElwee said that would likely happen this fall.

“Everything we’ve seen looks good so far,” he said.

Gorge homes are selling 32% faster than a year ago, at higher prices

Real estate is rockin’, to judge by the numbers in the April market action report from the Regional Multiple Listing Service for the Mid-Columbia region.

Thanks to Washington appraiser Steve Gibson for passing along the numbers. The survey covers Skamania and Klickitat counties on the Washington side, and Hood River and Wasco counties on the Oregon side.

To date this year, the big leader in median sales price is … (wait for it) … no, not Hood River.

Answer? Trout Lake, with four sales and a median of $422,500.

Rowena, on the Oregon side, topped median and average sales numbers at $1 million — for one sale.

That’s a tilted view of this world, however. To get a real fix, you need more closings at all price levels to get a real picture.

The most active market this year has been The Dalles, with 78 sales. Prices on average are up 4.8% compared to a year ago.

In the city of Hood River, brokers closed 40 sales through April, at prices up 7.6% on average compared to 2014.

Across the region, average sales prices (which can be skewed mightily by one sale of $1 million) are up this year by 21.2%.

Median prices — with half of all sales above and below the number — are up 11.1%.

Comparing county numbers, Klickitat County led the pack with an average year-over-year price rise of 9.2%.

Following seasonal summer upswing patterns, sales activity has depleted the number of houses on the market.

At the rate of April activity, the listing pool would last six months. That means houses were selling 32% faster this April than in 2014.

Time to call your broker?

Emporium pop-up shop debuts first of summer weekend series on First Friday

You’ve heard of First Friday (coming up this week, on June 5), but thanks to pop-up thinking, you might also want to think about First Weekend.

Yep, a new business, Emporium at Butler Bank, will debut its Northwest-centric, hand-made product line on First Friday, then welcome customers on first Saturday, and first Sunday — every month from June through October.

A concept of the Union Event Co., Emporium will feature clothing, jewelry and home furnishings made in the Pacific Northwest.

Organizer Stephanie Laur says the Emporium will also feature entertainment and refreshments, with something different every night. To find out what, you just have to pop in … to the pop-up.

Emporium is open only to adults from 5 to 8 p.m. First Friday, because of the tasty menu of beer, wine, cider and sake, shoju and champagne cocktails. All ages are welcome during open hours on the weekend, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Curious about who’s jumping into business? Here’s the hot sheet

For your curiosity, herewith a list of recent Hood River area business filings with the Oregon Corporations Division.

Because filings have limited information, we can’t offer more than what appears here. But as per our practice, anyone on this list with more information to share about their plans and enterprises is invited to contact The Buzz.

Now, for the business names and filing agents of record (if any).

  • Worth the Wait Foods, Cynthia Brunk
  • Bee Buds Inc, Melanie Noble
  • Incite Product Design Group, Kevin Murray
  • Hood River Barley Co.
  • Wilde & Co.
  • Cuate’s Burgers and Tacos, Ricardo Lopez
  • The Clothing Outlet, Erick Viramontes
  • 64 Oz.
  • Northwest Play Sales, Patricia Lenz
  • Play Northwest, Patricia Lenz
  • The 506 Gallery, Rita Rathkey
  • Giuseppe Boat Works, Joseph Castaldi
  • Columbia Gorge Home Staging, Shawn Johnson
  • A-1 Hotels, Vijay Patel
  • Cathy’s Kids Daycare & Preschool, Cathy Frazier
  •  Pruitt Construction and Excavation, Timothy Pruitt
  • Wyeast Family Farm, Molly Olsen
  • Gorgelicious Dog Treats, Natasha Markovich
  • Fresh Current, Jake Olson
  • Big Herm’s BBQ, Catherine Herman
  • Rutledge Rentals
  • Columbia Gorge Visitors Guide
  • Heidi Venture Consulting
  • Galindo Brothers Maintenance, Sonia Lachino
  • Jesse James Trucking, Jesse Meadows
  • Pick Me! Popcorn, Jackie Campbell-Geary
  • Hanalei Boys, Mohammad Ayach
  • Nichols Hotel
  • Chronic Warrior, Nathan Ohlson
  • Got Life, Nathan Ohlson
  • Nichols Office
  • Olness Construction, Michael Olness
  • 12 Ciders, Chip Dickinson