Neighborhood Ethics

Our neighborhood should be a refuge (haven?), a place where we feel comfortable and safe at all hours. Whether homeowners or renters, we are neighbors living in close proximity and we share certain rights and responsibilities with respect to one another. The way we live together in our neighborhood is dictated in small part by city and county ordinances, and in large part by common sense and courtesy. Families with children, senior citizens, and college students may seem to have different expectations and standards for behavior, but they need not be in conflict. Agreeing on a basic set of guidelines can be a good start toward creating and preserving harmony in our diverse neighborhood.

Similarly we are neighbors with urban wildlife, including the fish that swim through our city. Being fully aware of their needs and our impact can help us choose more nature-friendly lifestyles.

Noise and Soundscape Guidelines

Please observe Quiet Time. Title 14: Public Peace, Safety, and Morals defines Quiet Time as 10pm to 7am. Families with young children would appreciate earlier hours on weekday nights during the school year.

Operate a leaf blower no later than 7PM or earlier than 7AM in residential areas! Title 18 Noise Control. About Noise complaints and inspectors [LINK]. There is a complaint form on line. You may submit a complaint confidentially. The key factor is decibels. (The mapping function seems to be broken.)

Do what you have to do. Everyday sounds of power tools, chainsaws, leaf blowers, stereos, musical instruments, and auto horns may be necessary, within reason and within hours.

Minimize noise from cars and pickups. A frequent guest honking on his arrival, revv-ing his engine, and squealing his tires on take off can be annoying.

Keep parties quiet. Outdoor parties are OK, but once Quiet Time begins, parties should move indoors, off porches and decks. Mostly quiet with outbursts of shouting or laughter doesn't qualify as quiet. Nighttime shouting and laughing can be as annoying as loud music.

Turn down your stereo. Your Bass should not be audible in our house.

Hold the fireworks. Fireworks are are legal a few days before July 4th, through two weeks after. Illegal fireworks late at night are not only illegal, they violate the basic Quiet Time rule, and constitute a fire threat to the neighborhood during the summer. Ref: City of Portland Noise Office, 503-823-7350.

Air Quality

Mind or reduce your smoke. Cigarette and fireplace smoke can drift into open windows across property lines. No laws regulate this. Please be considerate, especially in the summer.

Recycle yard debris. Backyard burning was banned in the urban area in the 1980's. Yard debris is picked up at the curb every [other] week. Larger amounts must be chipped, composted, or disposed of via Green drop box.


The city has extensive code (Title 29.20) dealing with Property Nuisances, including child traps, rat harborage, emergency access routes, trash and debris, disabled vehicles, and so on. The Neighborhood Inspection Center administers Title 29.

Keep your weeds down. Noxious weeds and vegetation are considered a nuisance. City Code 29.20.010, Outdoor Maintenance Requirements, applies. Use only safe garden chemicals.

Dispose of Your Garbage legally. Pay for garbage pickup or take it to a Metro facility. Visit, or call 503-234-3000 to find out who your hauler is. Don't dump garbage elsewhere. Recycle litter or put it in your garbage can. Fetch your garbage can and recycling bins from the curb on pickup day.

Don't litter the neighborhood or your yard. Recycle litter or put it in your garbage can. Compost or recycle clippings curbside. Cut up tree limbs and use on-site or recycle. Use concrete rubble on-site or dispose of properly.

Control Mosquitoes Used tires and other containers left in the rain create long-lasting breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Cover rainwater barrels with mesh or screen. West Nile virus has made standing water a deadly negligence. Can breed in only 1/4 inch of water. google: standing water mosquitoes tires.

Maintain your fleet. The disabled vehicle ordinance that may apply to cars parked semi-permanently on the street or private property. We assume vehicles in our neighborhood are not abandoned.

Keep outdoor light on your property. See the International Dark Sky Association help sheets on your own lighting [Outdoor Lighting Basics] and your neighbor's [My Neighbor's Lighting].

Dispose of chemicals properly. Don't dump motor oil, paint, or other chemicals on ground. Don't leave antifreeze in open pans where animals may ingest. (All are fine-able offenses. No code reference yet).


Keep driveways and easements passable. Some of us share a common easement that must be kept clear. The back lot must not be made inaccessible to vehicles. There is no parking on an easement.

Safety & Civility

Drive carefully when coming and going. Other cars, bikes, pedestrians share the streets and may use the same driveways.

Join the Neighborhood Watch Group. Our Watch Group looks out for one another's property, pets, gardens, mail, newspapers. The Watch Group captain keeps a list of occupants, phone numbers, vehicles, and landlords.

Help clean up. If you walk or bike in Greenwood Hills Cemetery, please consider supporting the maintenance association through a donation or by joining the spring or fall cleanup parties.


Keep dogs from barking excessively. Dogs will bark, but should not be barking for long periods of time, day or night.

Keep dogs leashed. Cemeteries are not city parks, off-leash areas, or doggie toilets. Dogs may be off-leash in the Greenwood Hills Cemetery, but should be kept under control. Riverview Cemetery prohibits dogs altogether.

Clean up after your dog... in the neighborhood and in your yard. No one wants to see it or worse. Greenwood Hills provides doggy bags.

Outdoor cats should be sex neutral. They'll get along better with other outdoor critters if they are neutered or spayed.

Discourage Vermin and Predators Pet food left out may attract raccoons or rats. UN-secured garbage can be opened by raccoons. (Cats left out may be caught by local coyotes. Raccoons may tear up foam items left in your yard, fish in your pond, etc.) Coyotes can be reported as predators.


Resolve disputes. Minor problems between neighbors can usually be worked out one-on-one. If the problem involves a renter, the landlord may be contacted.

Use a mediator. Mediation is available for problems that can't be resolved between landlords, tenants, and home owners. The Neighborhood Mediation Program is available via 503-595.4890.

Call the police. If partyers or visitors are rowdy, for their own safety neighbors may not try to give any warning before calling the Portland Police. Landlords prefer that neighbors call police rather than call them in such cases. The Portland Police NON-EMERGENCY phone number is 503-823-3333. Don't call 9-1-1 unless there is a fire, medical, or other emergency.


Neighborhood Law: FENCES, TREES, BOUNDARIES & NOISE; by Attorney Cora Jordan; Nolo Press Self-Help Law.

© 2003, JoHN MiLLeR, Portland, Oregon. 12/2/2003, 6/18/2018.
Please notify me if you plan to adapt this to your neighborhood. I would like to track all derivative works.