We've been in Portland for almost 2 years now and we would not live anywhere else. It's an amazing, wonderful place to live--we really love it!
Feel free to PM me if you like. We live in Southeast Portland and love that too--very crunchy, lots of great neighborhoods, not super pricey compared to some areas (depending, obviously, on how close in--close to the river/city--you are: the further out, the cheaper). We rent a 3-br house with a big finished basement and a lovely backyard, walking distance to ds's adorable elementary school, on the bus routes into the city (we both teach at Portland State U), for less than $1,500/month (PM me if you want specifics). We're near Mt Tabor, if you want to look it up on the map. Personally, I wouldn't live anywhere in Portland other than SE or NE (I'd definitely avoid the suburbs), but it all depends on what sort of vibe you're looking for.
You should know that the rental market is VERY competitive (apparently Portland has one of the tightest vacancy markets in the country) and you'll be up against lots of other qualified applicants. And yes, you'll need to sign at least a year-long lease.
ETA (after reading your list again): our neighborhood--and most in SE if you stay in the right areas--is definitely clean, safe, walkable, and not cookie-cutter :) Our house, like most in our neighborhood, was built in the 1920s. And Portland is an hour from Mt Hood, if your dh needs to be near mountains!