The Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp moved closer to being evicted Wednesday after Mayor Ted Wheeler turned down a neighborhood association plea to allow it to waive an approaching deadline for it to leave.
The Portland Development Commissioner has agreed to buy the property where the camp is located on April 7 if it is free and clear. Wheeler oversees the PDC. His position means the sale, which is intended to help revitalize the aea, could fall through.
The camp is located at Northwest 4th and Burnside. On Monday the Old Town Chinatown Community Association that represents the area wrote Wheeler and asked him to allow the sale to proceed even if the camp is still there. The association said it was confident the city will eventually find a new home for the camp.
Wheeler rejected the request in a March 15 letter to the association from Kyle Chisek, his director of bureau relations. In the letter, Chisek said that the PDC's board of directors has been clear about not purchasing the property unless R2DToo is relocated. Chisek also said there is liability associated with the camp at the location because two Old Town developers are suing the property owners, saying it has reduced their property values by $900,000.
"The Mayor appreciates your concern for R2DToo and your confidence that the City will be able to find a new location for it. He shares your view that R2DToo provides valuable service. He is committed to expanding the City and County response to homelessness to include alternatives to homelelessness and traditional shelter," the letter says.
Although the City Council had agreed to find a new location for the camp by April 7, 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," the association said in its March 13 letter.
If the PDC does not buy the property on April 7, the owners are obligated to repay approximately $320,000 they have received in monthly payments since the purchase was approved.They knew of the condition when they approved the sale and began accepting the payments.
The owners also knew the 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 in Southeast Portland 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 Wheeler objected to it . Relatively little of the original money for the move remains.
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 response from Wheeler's office here.
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story with a link to the association's letter at tinyurl.com/j9vghro.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.