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Right 2 Dream Too camp move legal? Hearing Thursday on proposal

(Image is Clickable Link) by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - City officials say the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp set up in Old Town can legally move to a city-owned parking lot under the Broadway Bridge. A hearing on the proposal is planned Thursday afternoon at City Hall.The director of the Portland Bureau of Development Service has determined that zoning codes allow a controversial homeless camp to move under the west end of the Broadway Bridge — the same homeless camp that has incurred more than $20,000 in fines for city zoning code violations.

The City Council will hold a hearing on the determination on Thursday afternoon. The hearing was requested by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who is in charge of BDS and has brokered the deal to relocate the camp from its current site at Northwest Fourth Avenue and Burnside.

Fritz has requested six hours for the hearing. She is asking the council vote to support the determination.

That position is likely to be challenged by opponents to the move, including representatives of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association.

In a Sept. 26 letter, BDS Director Paul Scarlett says the city-owned land under the bridge is zoned EXd, which stands for Central Employment. Although the property is being used as a parking lot, Scarlett says a homeless camp is also allowed as a Community Services use. Scarlett, who refers to the camp as a "rest area," says no land-use review is required.

"My recommended determination is that the proposed rest area is a Community Services use that is permitted outright in the EXd zone without a land use review or design review," Scarlett says in the letter.

The letter was written in response to questions raised about the zoning by two people on opposite sides of the dispute. One is Ibrahim Mubarak, who is involved with the non-profit organization called Right 2 Dream Too that is operating the current camp. The other is T.B. Dame, president of Williams/Dame & Associates, a development company that opposes the move.

The move is part of a settlement in a lawsuit between the city and the owners of the property where the homeless camp is located. BDS has fined the owners more than $20,000 for violating city codes. The owners sued to have fines dismissed. The city has agreed to drop the fines if the camp will move to the location under the bridge.

Under the deal struck by Fritz, Right 2 dream Too will operate the new homeless camp. Scarlett's letter says permits will be required for water and electricity, and any permanent structure, such as a fence, will be subject to a city design review.

Scarlett's letter can be read at www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=50265&a=465264 .