Citing property destruction, harassment, and the fallout of Mayor Charlie Hales' push to sweep campers from the sidewalks outside city hall, Portland's parks bureau is planning to fence off Chapman Square "sometime this weekend" according to a memo sent this morning from Commissioner Amanda Fritz's office.
The email first went out from Fritz's chief of staff, Tom Bizeau, to his counterparts in each of the other commissioner's offices. It was then sent out to other staffers. It says parks officials need to be able to make repairs without, it claims, having workers get into scraps with campers and protesters. The claims echo the city's comments during the eviction of Occupy Portland in 2011.
The memo says the decision is coming from Fritz (who's currently in talks to move Right 2 Dream Too from Old Town into a legal location on city land in the Pearl). It also promises some kind of additional enforcement proposals that would come before the city council "in the following weeks" so that the city can have "better tools to manage the situation once the fences are removed." It's unclear, right now, what those changes might entail.
Fencing would come days after fences came down at Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, which had been closed for landscaping after campers set up there during the day. Campers had moved back to Chapman Square while the fences were up across SW Madison. It's unclear if or why the city has stopped the sweeps it used to roust campers from Chapman Square late last month and earlier this month. It's also unclear how campers will react.
We'll update as this develops.
Here's the email (emphasis on any particular phrase is all mine):
As discussed at our weekly executive meeting there are obvious problems occurring in Chapman Park as a result of recent moves to push homeless sidewalk users away from City Hall. Some of the issues that have arisen are:
destruction of parks property (bathrooms, irrigation system, trees, grass),
abusive behavior to staff and pedestrians,
Inability of Parks Staff to maintain the park without being accosted
presence of weapons (batons, pepper spray, knives),
aggressive and out of control dogs,
a consequent inability to properly enforce Camping on Sidewalks,
Because of these constant issues and lack of compliance by the homeless to maintain the Park and Sidewalk in a peaceful and lawful manner for all users of the Park, the Commissioner has decided to close off the park and sidewalks surrounding the park to all users in order to make repairs, perform needed maintenance and maintain and deescalate the situation. To that end, a fence surrounding the park similar to that which was up around Terry Schrunk Plaza will be erected sometime this weekend. This strategy may be repeated in other Parks if necessary in the future. We are hoping that this inconvenience to the public will be limited in duration. We are also hoping to bring some additional enforcement changes to Council in the following weeks to provide the City with better tools to manage the situation once the fences are removed.
If you have any questions, feel free to call.