Mark Kramer, representing R2DToo, confirmed the proposed sites were "on both sides" of the Willamette River—meaning some are close to Old Town and its important gathering of social services. That's a major priority for R2DToo. It wants its sleeping space available and nearby, day and night, for people who are already downtown for appointments or to take free meals at relief agencies.
But Kramer, in an interview yesterday, said it was "premature" to know whether any of the sites might work and that R2DToo organizers had yet to review each of them deeply. But those site visits have already begun. And the Mercury this morning has learned that some of the sites include both indoor and outdoor space.
Kramer also had sharp words for Mayor Charlie Hales and his role in the negotiations to date—and his openness with R2DToo.
"On a scale of one to 10, the rating is zero," Kramer says. "On a scale of one to 10 with the back channels... that's a different story."
News about the list of potential sites follows another day of tense public statements in the talks between the Pearl group (which is working with Hales) and Right 2 Dream Too (which has been working with Commissioner Amanda Fritz).
Kramer yesterday dropped the rest area's (and its landlords') lawsuit against the city challenging camping fines—and said he and Fritz were still actively working on a Pearl move, despite objections.
Fritz offered to settle the suit in September by waiving some $20,000 in fines and promising to move the rest area to a new, city approved site. She eventually promised, with Hales' blessing, a portion of a Portland Development Commission parking lot beneath the Lovejoy off-ramp of the Broadway Bridge.
R2DToo was supposed to have moved by now, under the original agreement. But the Pearl group, led by political financiers and developers Dike Dame and Homer Williams, has filed a pre-emptive state appeal of the move, saying the city broke its zoning rules and violated the developers' contractual rights to the parking lot. Hales agreed to pause the move during a council hearing October 3—agreeing to let Williams and Dame find an alternative site.
The Pearl group announced last week that the hunt had led to some kind of legal pathfor a new site—a revelation disputed at the time by Kramer, Fritz, and R2DToo. Zoning issues have been sticky—with the group running up against the same issues it had complained about in the Pearl site.
John Mangan, a spokesman for the Pearl group, has since explained the legal workaround as such: "The interim homeless facility, such as a warehouse, we are proposing could qualify as a legal temporary activity," he said in an email. "Under the code, such interim activities are permitted as deviations from the code on a short term basis. No permanent use rights would result."
That process started out with high hopes for mutual agreement. It quickly dissolved into tension. Hales went above Fritz's head by suggesting a 60-day timeline that neither Fritz nor Kramer ever formally accepted. Kramer, in fact, told me it was an "artificial construct."
And communication has long been an issue. Kramer says the negotiations have all been done through "back channels" and not through the open meetings some of R2DToo's organizers envisioned. Hales, as we reported, was emailing Dame his personal assurances he wouldn't help the site move to the Pearl in those 60 days.
He confirmed that the Pearl group had inserted a "poison pill" into the talks, at one point: Agreeing to pay the rest area's current landlords to host the site a bit longer, if they agreed to give up on the Pearl site.
"That's when negotiations, even in the back channels, died," Kramer says.
Keeping the Pearl site in play appears to have been key for getting to the current list. Kramer says the "move can occur soon," maybe within 30 days, and that an unfinished "use agreement" between the city and R2DToo needs only "minor tweaks."
But Kramer also acknowledged Hales' power to step in—holding out the technical help of the city's Office of Management and Finance or the PDC. "If the mayor wants to throw a monkey wrench in this process, he can."
Hales' office hasn't replied to Mercuryrequests for comment on his email. Nor would his office address it specifically in an Oregonian story yesterday that cited the email.
Mangan and Kramer have both accused each other of mischaracterizing the tone and pace and specifics of the negotiations. Mangan told me Kramer kept a Pearl member out of a meeting between Right 2 Dream Too and Fritz; Kramer responded that the assertion was "false," and that they didn't welcome the representative in because that person wasn't "Dike or Homer" or someone else with standing in the group.
Mangan, meanwhile, has sent me a response to some of Kramer's comments, here and in the Oregonian. He said Kramer tried to run all communications through his office and confirmed the short list proposed yesterday was part of last week's pronouncement that an agreement on a framework for an agreement (yes, I meant to write it that way) was close.
He also said the group would continue to challenge a move the Lovejoy site if necessary—both in front of the Land Use Board of Appeals and, if necessary, in court.
“The Pearl Group has been meeting with R2D2 and the City without any lawyers from any side. These are the stakeholders, talking directly, trying to find an alternative site together. Thus, Mr. Kramer has no basis or standing to require that all communications run through him. Further, the Pearl Group is not part of Mr. Kramer’s lawsuit. He sued the City. Therefore, his request to control all of the Pearl Group’s communications, even though these private citizens are not a party to his lawsuit, is just simply wrong.
We have met with Right to Dream three times. We requested a fourth meeting but they declined to meet with us, which we understand came at the direction of their attorney. We have worked hard to put forth a positive alternative. Just to recap what we stated in our news release last week:
We have culled a list of possible sites and conducted multiple site visits to assess them.
We have worked on an analysis of how a temporary rest area indoors could meet the zoning code, thereby protecting R2D2 and property owners in the City.
We have offered financial assistance for up to 60 days while we search for an alternative indoor site.
We have reached out to private businesses and trade unions to provide tent platforms and four-walled community tents on the current site while we continue our search.
We have offered to provide a free handicapped accessible bus for use in accessing services from an alternative site.
We have presented multiple indoor alternatives which are now being vetted by the City, and to date no fatal flaws have been identified in those alternatives.
We have offered to continue to put forth our time and resources to find longer term solutions.
Finally, our position remains that if there is an attempt move the homeless camp to Lot 7, we will proceed with the legal challenges we have previously outlined."
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