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R2DToo vote set for Wednesday

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PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Mayor Charlie Hales says the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp must move out of Chinatown by the end of October.The City Council postponed last week’s vote on moving the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp to Southeast Portland in the face of heavy opposition from area businesses and residents last Thursday.

The council is now set to take it up again at 2 p.m. this Wednesday, Feb. 24.

It is unclear what will happen if the council does not approve the move. The Portland Development Commission has purchased its current location at Northwest Fourth Avenue and Burnside Street for redevelopment. Mayor Charlie Hales, who supports the move, says the property needs to be vacated by the end of October. Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who also supports the move, has said there is no “Plan B” if the move does not happen.

Complicating the decision, Hales also disclosed during the hearing that the city and Multnomah County are considering a deal that would transfer the issue of homelessness to the county. The city would work on affordable housing. Details have yet to be finalized, including who will be in charge of serving homeless campsites.

The postponement seemed to catch Hales by surprise. Earlier in the four-hour hearing last Thursday, the council easily approved “vacating” a portion of a city street next to the proposed location to increase the size of the city-owned property where the camp would move.

But when Hales called for the vote, Commissioner Steve Novick said he wasn’t ready.

“I would feel more comfortable if we waited on a vote. There are some conversations I would like to have with staff,” Novick said.

Although Novick did not offer any specifics, there were many issues raised during the testimony by supporters and opponents of the move that could concern him. They include how long anyone would be allowed to stay at the camp and the effect on nearby businesses and neighborhoods.

The move would relocate the camp from its current location in Chinatown to a city-owned parcel at Southeast Third Avenue and Harrision Street. The new camp could house up to 100 people at a time for as long as 10 years. The move is supported by homeless advocates, but opposed by many eastside businesses and residents.

Brad Malsin, a developer who is president of the Central Eastside Industrial Council, testified the proposed move would violate city zoning codes and conflict with future plans for the area, which classify it as an industrial sanctuary. The move was also opposed by the board of the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, which is nearby.

Hales argued the move is not a solution to homelessness, but a safer sleeping option for those without homes.

“You can’t just snap your fingers and make (permanent housing) come out of the ground. We can’t just chase people around. We have to have places where they can sleep,” Hales said.

Hales also said the city plans to spend $67 million on affordable housing in the foreseeable future.

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