The official Portland neighborhood association that represents the area when the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp is located has asked Mayor Ted Wheeler to allow it to remain there past the April 7 deadline for it to be moved.
The Old Town Chinatown Community Association sent the letter to Wheeler on Monday, March 13. The mayor's office confirms it has received the letter and is preparing a response.
The Portland Development Commission, which is overseen by Wheeler, has agreed to buy the quarter-block parcel where the camp is located for redevelopment for $1.2 million, on the condition that it be cleared by April 7. Although the City Council had agreed to find a new location for the camp by then, it has not yet done so. Two possible locations have fallen through, one after Wheeler raised objects just two months into his administration.
"Taking this into consideration, we strongly urge the City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission to waive the condition that R2D2 vacate the property before closing. We know why the condition was put in place, but at this point it will be better for R2D2, the City, and the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood to have this critical gateway property in public ownership," reads the letter.
In not, the PDC could cancel the purchase and force the property owners to repay approximately $320,000 they have received in monthly payments since the purchase was approved.
The camp is located at Northwest 4th and Burnside. The owners knew of the condition when they approved the sale and began accepting the payments. But they also knew the City Council was working to relocate the camp with approximately $846,000 provided by Old Town/China Town developers who wanted it moved.
But the council's first plan to relocate the camp to a piece of industrial property was blocked by the state Land Use Board of Appeals following a legal challenge from area residents and businesses. And a more recent plan by Commissioner Amanda Fritz to move the camp to a city-owned parking lot on Southwest Naito Parkway fell apart when Mayor Ted Wheeler objected to it last week. Relatively little of the original money for the move remains.
In the meantime, two Old Town/China Town developers have recently sued the owners owners, claiming the presence of the camp has reduced their property values by around $900,000.
Although city officials have supported some homeless camps with portable toilets and other resources, except for Dignity Village in Northeast Portland, they have never officially established or moved one. Negotiations about creating a city permit for the Hazelnut Grove homeless camp fell apart when former Mayor Charlie Hales staff stopped meeting with representatives of the Overlook Neighborhood Association, which represents the area where the camp is located.
You can read the letter here. Although dated March 20, it was sent and received on March 13.