ODOT's anti-camping tactics split opinions in Goose Hollow
The rosebuds planted on the slope of a bustling on-ramp have blossomed into boulders. The large rocks are an anti-camping tactic that has divided opinions in Portland's tony Goose Hollow neighborhood.
Beginning in mid-June, the Oregon Department of Transportation studded the wooded area near Southwest 14th Avenue and Montgomery Street with rocks, which borders an entrance to Interstate 405.
ODOT says the "disincentive landscaping" and several similar projects will cost around $1 million, though the agency expects to save money over time.
"There's an awful lot of money spent to clean up these parcels," said ODOT's Don Hamilton. "It's a very, very effective technique for keeping people out of harm's way."
ODOT will pay Portland up to $2 million annually to clean up state property along interstates 405, 205, 84 and 5 and near state highways. The hand-off begins July 1.
Before the boulders landed at Gander Ridge, campers were accused of committing home invasions, using and selling drugs, having sex in public, making threats while carrying weapons, car break-ins, burglaries and bicycle theft. There have been propane tank fires as well.
"Boulders were not favored by the neighbors at first, but they acquiesced when they saw that the roses they planted weren't working," according to Tracy Prince, president of the Goose Hollow Foothills League neighborhood association.
It was Tiffany Hammer's idea to plant the rose bushes.
The mother of three and local property owner paid about $700 for the 80 thorny plants, but campers returned and tore up much of it. "We all shared that helpless feeling of being a victim," she said.
Other residents think the boulders are no more than a Band-Aid. Michael Mehaffy, an internationally known urbanist and architectural theorist who lives in Goose Hollow, said Portland has failed to deal with the root causes of homelessness.
"We're making these places unpleasant for human beings," Mehaffy said. "That really isn't a solution. It's a sorry state to be."
ODOT says it's stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Complaints regarding property owned by ODOT — a state agency — often end up misdirected to Portland City Hall. The state agency historically has followed a set rotation for cleanups, rather than putting priority on hot spots. It doesn't provide campers with connections to shelters, outreach or other resources.
"ODOT is not a social services agency," said Hamilton, the spokesman. "We are not a police agency. We are a property owner in this world of illegal campers."
Hard rock display
In the past year, ODOT has expended roughly $1 million on hostile architecture on its property to deter camping. Here's where:
• Southwest 14th Avenue at Montgomery Street
• Northwest Couch Street at Interstate 405
• Southwest Terwillger Boulevard at Interstate 5
• Between Southwest Market and Clay street at 13th Avenue
• Boulders also were placed along Foster Road near I-205 several years ago.