Lloyd District park programs' demise triggers blame game
For the past four years, summertime in the Lloyd District has meant story circles in the grass, sweaty workouts to a dancing beat, and dedicated patrols from the city's park rangers.
"There's questions, and a bit of disappointment," said Kevin Modica, who retired as an assistant chief after 31 years with the Portland Police Bureau. "Why is this a quiet conversation?"
The theory goes like this: A park that is left unattended — say O'Bryant Square, at Southwest Washington Street and Park Avenue in downtown Portland — tends to attract a crowd that might cause trouble. But a park that is "curated," or filled with activities — think Director Park, at Southwest Taylor and Park — is too occupied for a criminal element to settle. Through an agreement with the city and Cypress Equities, Holladay Park became more "curated."
But mall managers say the Holladay Park Partnership was never intended to be permanent. The abrupt announcement this spring of the program's demise left civic leaders and local law enforcement struggling to bridge the gap.
The police bureau unveiled its new Holladay Park Safety Plan during a community meeting Wednesday, June 12, though a spokesman says the plan is "not a written plan." It appears to be aspirational in nature.
"Community involvement is the key piece to the success of it," said Capt. Anthony Passadore of the Portland Police Bureau. "We've asked all of our partners in the community to come together and to commit to being involved throughout the summer in this area of the city with pro-social activities."
As part of the plan, the Holladay Park Community Involvement group has been meeting weekly in order to lead walks and plan other activities.
There were 2,236 calls for service in the Lloyd District in 2018, according to PPB, with more than 1,000 classified as disturbance or disorder calls and about 650 involving property crimes.
"That number is probably pretty low," Passadore said.
In 2019, 761 calls for service were recorded through mid-May. Sounds of gunfire drew a police response to the park June 16.
The 16-by-six block patrol area includes Holladay Park, the Lloyd Center mall, and a highly trafficked MAX stop near Northeast 11th Avenue.
Born of a handshake by City Hall and Cypress Equities, the death of the Holladay Park Partnership has left both sides pointing fingers.
Neither party agrees on how much the programming cost.
Bob Dye, who managed the mall from 2015 until May of this year, described their costs as a "million-dollar investment" that added up to $150,000 to $200,000 per year.
Mark Ross, a spokesman for Portland Parks & Recreation, priced the direct cost of programming at about $100,000 annually, which included paying for seasonal staff and patrols by the city's park rangers.
While the Lloyd Center paid for all that, Ross said the bureau had to foot the bill for its full-time staff, who produced and coordinated the events and activities, such as Zumba classes.
But with the parks bureau overspending its $94 million budget by $6.3 million, the cost apparently became untenable.
"(The bureau) did discuss with HPP the option of contributing additional funds to cover a greater portion of the costs of the program, but please know this was not presented as a condition of continuing the program," Ross said.
Dye relayed a different version of the discussion.
"The City said, 'We want you to pay $40,000 towards our administrative costs, or we're not going to provide any manpower for the programs,'" Dye told the Business Tribune, sister publication of the Tribune. "That was the frosting on the cake. We decided to discontinue funding and reallocate those resources to the mall."
Despite the lack of programming, Parks & Rec officials say the rangers' patrols will continue.