CHARLIE HALES had practically donned a cape and tights. The mayor's self-imposed deadline for ending a fight over Right 2 Dream Too's move from Old Town was nigh, and his staff had called reporters to heroically pitch his solution.
Hales, without buy-in from those residing in the Old Town homeless rest area he was trying to help, had gone in hot and heavy for an empty warehouse on NW Hoyt. With a little work, Hales cheerily figured, and with the city paying the rent for the next 15 months, he'd settled on a compromise no one could refuse.
Until, that is, last Thursday, January 9. Amid stalling negotiations with Right 2 Dream Too (R2DToo), Hales' office announced it was pulling the plug. R2DToo will stay on the vacant land it's been leasing for more than two years while the search for a new home continues.
"We're continuing to look," Josh Alpert, one of Hales' senior policy directors, told the Mercury. "Right 2 Dream is looking, too."
Beyond continued resistance from R2DToo, whose model is based on being outside with low-cost tents, Hales had balked at the $335,000 rough cost of renovating the warehouse. More nettlesome, his office acknowledged, were zoning challenges that could have kept R2DToo out of the site until deep into the summer. The Hoyt warehouse, it turns out, is too close to another mass shelter, the multimillion-dollar Bud Clark Commons.
The decision amounts to an uneasy armistice in a frustrating and contentious issue. Hales' office stepped in last fall after Pearl District developers and neighbors flooded city hall with complaints over a relocation plan previously worked out with Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
Fritz, settling a code-enforcement lawsuit filed by R2DToo, worked with Hales and the Portland Development Commission to promise a city-owned lot beneath the Lovejoy ramp of the Broadway Bridge. That agreement also wiped away more than $20,000 in code fines for R2DToo.
Tensions, building for weeks in private meetings, frothed over publicly the day before the Hoyt warehouse was pulled off table. Members of R2DToo confronted Hales during a city council meeting about what they felt was a lack of communication. A heated conversation followed up in Hales' warren of offices in city hall.
"We stormed his office," says Ibrahim Mubarak, a co-founder of R2DToo. "We threatened to bring houseless people into city hall."
Alpert, when speaking with the Mercury, acknowledged that communication has been a sore spot. And he took pains to sound a more conciliatory tone.
"Right 2 Dream needs to be part of that conversation and join in that search," Alpert says.
Mark Kramer, R2DToo's lawyer, confirmed the continued hunt for a location. But Kramer also believes the city's promise of the Lovejoy lot remains valid.
Pearl developers Dike Dame and Homer Williams have since offered to buy that lot, a revelation first reported by the Mercury. The Portland Development Commission, which owns the lot, has ordered up an appraisal, and Fritz and Alpert confirm the city is hoping to use the potential proceeds for R2DToo's relocation.
R2DToo's also in line to receive a substantial anonymous donation, the Mercury has learned, managed by Stephen Janik of prominent land-use law firm Ball Janik. Neither Fritz nor Alpert would comment when asked if the money is coming from the Pearl group. R2DToo wants to use some of that money to pay its current landlord, Michael Wright.
"If we can't talk together, instead of them dictating to us, it's not going to work," Mubarak says. "That was the promise, working with us, side by side."