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  • illustration by levi hastings
Mayor Charlie Hales' office says it's pulling back on a proposal to move Old Town homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too into a rented warehouse just blocks away on NW Hoyt—in part because of the high cost of rehabbing the building and some unanticipated zoning challenges that could have kept the group out for several more months.

And even that presumed Right 2 Dream Too was willing to move into the building—something that's been up in the air ever since Hales' office went public with the Hoyt site (first reported by the Mercury) late last year. Right 2 Dream Too has resisted moving indoors, seeing tents as part of its low-cost mission of helping the homeless, and wanted a longer commitment for a least at Hoyt.

Josh Alpert, the Hales policy adviser whose time has been devoted to the relocation, says those talks were waiting until more information came back about the Hoyt site. Between the unspecified zoning challenges and a "ballpark" cost estimate of $335,000 for repairs, he said "those two things combined led the mayor and Commissioner [Amanda] Fritz to say that's not the best option." The city already was prepared to pay $10,000 a month in rent for 15 months.

"We're continuing to look," for another location, Alpert says. "Right 2 Dream is looking, too."

For now, Alpert says, the site will remain at 4th and Burnside, where it's been since October 2011. Hales' office stepped into the relocation issue last fall after Pearl District developers and neighbors flooded city hall with complaints over a plan previously worked out with Fritz. Fritz and the Portland Development Commission promised a lot beneath the Lovejoy ramp of the Broadway Bridge as part of a settlement that cleared more than $20,000 in code fines for Right 2 Dream Too.

UPDATE 5:50 PM: The announcement comes after tensions between Hales' office and Right 2 Dream Too flared publicly during citizen comment at yesterday's Portland City Council hearing. Those tensions, about feeling like they've been kept in the dark, have been fed by the sometimes frustrating back-and-forth among the parties but also by reports shared by activists close to Right 2 Dream Too that police have been continually clearing out spots where homeless Portlanders have camped and collecting their property.

Messages left with Fritz, with Mark Kramer, the attorney representing Right 2 Dream Too, and with Ibrahim Mubarak, a co-founder of the site, have yet to be returned. Alpert acknowledged that communication has been an issue in the relocation talks but that Hales and his staff are heeding concerns like those expressed yesterday.

"Right 2 Dream needs to be part of that conversation and join in that search," Alpert says. "We have made a lot of progress and are all working together."

Kramer has mentioned previously that he still thinks the city's promise of the Lovejoy lot remains valid, in the event another option can't be found that pleases the Pearl, making it unclear how much more time he'll allow before he reconsiders his legal options.

The Pearl group has filed a preliminary state appeal of a move to that lot—at the same time as they offered to help the city find alternative sites and kick in some money. Developers Dike Dame and Homer Williams have since offered to buy that lot, a revelation first reported by the Mercury. The Portland Development Commission has ordered up an appraisal, and the city is hoping to use the potential proceeds for the relocation.

Further, a substantial anonymous donation has been set aside for Right 2 Dream Too, the Mercury has learned, earmarked for purchasing equipment and paying the site's current landlord, Michael Wright. Wright is also in talks to sell his land to the PDC. His land at the busy intersection beneath the Chinatown gate has been valued, in an appraisal Wright thinks is too low, at $1.2 million. The PDC has called that a starting point for discussions.

Alpert wouldn't comment on the potential source of the donation when asked. The Pearl group, as I've reported, had been in talks with Right 2 Dream Too and Kramer previously about paying Wright for the rest area to remain where it already is a bit longer.

"That's an ongoing discussion," Alpert said.

Given Hales' office's interest in spending money on fixing up a building—and with the possibility of revenue from a Lovejoy lot sale (pending, of course, assent from Right 2 Dream Too)—Alpert says it might even make sense to look for buildings not only to rent, but also to own.

"Those are the kinds of questions we're asking now," he says.

He also wanted to stress Hales' commitment to working on homelessness issues this year. Hales' calendars already show a handful of meetings with the housing bureau, the Portland Business Alliance, House Speaker Tina Kotek, and Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman. (Hales' office announced this week, citing the difficult politics, it wouldn't push for a bill that might help along a sit-lie revival for another year at least.)

"This office and this mayor are dedicated to really working toward all houseless people finding shelter, including not just Right 2 Dream," Alpert says, "but the other 1,800 [people without shelter] on any given night."