The powers that be in Portland are getting increasingly insistent in their demands that Portland shut down both of its thriving tent cities: Occupy Portland in Chapman and Lownsdale squares, and a homeless rest area in a private lot at NW Fourth and Burnside, according to emails and letters sent to city hall in recent days.
KPTV reported last night that the Portland Business Alliance, after leaning hard on Mayor Sam Adams to reopen Main Street, has now formally called on Adams, in a letter, to pull all the tents from the Occupy Portland camps. Their reasoning echoes Nick Fish's, in his open letter to the camp on Monday.
In our view, allowing tent camping in a downtown park is not integral to protecting free speech rights, and we respectfully request that you immediately ask the Occupy Portland participants to remove all tents and other camping equipment from the parks, in compliance with the city's camping ordinance.
In the Mercury's latest batch of emails from Adams' office, obtained yesterday, the mayor's community advocate says calls and emails have begun tilting against the mayor's embrace of the occupation.
After council this morning, the mayor told me he's still taking things day-by-day. And when he leaves tomorrow for a 10-day business and cultural trip to Asia, he'll be in cell phone contact "as much as technology allows." Meaning, he says, any big decisions, like rousting the camp, would "absolutely" not be made without his consent.
Meanwhile, the Mercury has also obtained a series of emails along the same lines from the office of Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Saltzman oversees the city's code enforcement arm, the Bureau of Development Services. Those contacts show a heavy press by Old Town and Chinatown neighbors and big-shot developers to drive out the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp.
Loudest is the voice of David Gold, developer of the soon-to-be rehabbed (and renamed) Grove Hotel across from the site. Gold and his partners, including execs from Ace Hotel and Wieden + Kennedy, are fixing up the site with the help of a $2.46 million city loan.
We are about to invest over $4 million across the street in the new Grove Hostel. While I can’t say that this homeless campground will kill the Hostel, my partners and I are understandably upset. I think you realize that the Old Town/Chinatown community will strongly oppose any type of accommodation. It would be unfortunate to go through an unnecessary neighborhood mobilization process if the City is going to deal with the issue immediately. Can you give me an idea of Commissioner Saltzman and the City’s position and what action will be taken?
That email came on the camp's first day, while city inspectors were already on site. Saltzman's team and the BDS have been in incredibly close contact with critics of the homeless camp. Saltzman policy aide Matt Grumm offered a sympathetic reply:
When I have more details on the violations and enforcement steps planned to be taken by BDS staff, I will let you know. The understandably frustrating situation for neighbors of a property violating the code is the "due process" that must be taken and the time involved in this. If it was public property, that's a different animal. But private property has very rigid procedures and steps that are mandated by all levels of government.
Rest assured that the city will do everything within its means to make sure the city code is complied with on this and all private property in Portland.
Gold isn't the only one concerned. He's been strategizing with the Old Town/Chinatown Neighborhood Association, other business owners, and Chinese-American leaders upset about the homeless camp's proximity to the Chinatown gate. In an October 12 to the claque—later passed on to Saltzman’s office—Gold complained about a neutral quote from a BDS spokesman in a news report.
We need to make sure the City doesn’t try to promote the idea that there is no opposition. From what I have heard, Saltzman’s office must have received 20 calls. Based on the KOIN story, including the following quote, those complaints didn’t register.
Gold also got in touch with Fish, in his role as housing commissioner. But Fish, according to emails quickly punted the issue over to Saltzman's office. He suggested the tent camp in Old Town, because it's on private land, would be out of his portfolio.
Here is what Gold said about his contact with Fish in a letter eventually shared with Saltzman's office. The email also raises questions about the city's stance regarding the Occupy Portland site, which code enforcers eventually raised with the parks and transportation bureaus.
I just spoke with Nick Fish and he says his hands are tied. It’s not public land or money, and the property owner has rights. He is in contact with Saltzman’s office and encouraged them to move quickly.
He also said that the City’s tolerance of the Occupy Portland camp presents some interesting issues. What if the 4thand Burnside folks put up a “99%” sign? How will the mayor distinguish between a homeless camp and the political speech camp?
I asked if there wasn’t some public safety issue that would justify immediate action; i.e. hundreds of campers without restrooms. He said that the property owner’s rights would still require going through the BDS code violation process
The Portland Business Alliance, meanwhile, is paying close attention to both issues. A letter from Shane Abma, Clean & Safe's president.
Yesterday the Clean & Safe Board of Directors sent a letter to Mayor Adams requesting that Main Street be reopened as soon as possible. This morning the Mayor ordered that the street be reopened in time for rush hour traffic. A number of individuals refused to respond to the police request to vacate the street and, as a result, approximately 10 individuals were arrested for disorderly conduct. Sandra McDonough has remained in steady contact with the Mayor regarding this issue, and we are also working closely with the Portland Police Bureau to see how we can assist. The Portland Police bike officers are patrolling the area to prevent protesters from closing the street again.
As for the new homeless encampment at 4th & Burnside, yesterday the Bureau of Development Services issued a letter to the property owner regarding suspected city code violations. The Bureau gave the owner 10 business days to respond. We will continue to monitor both of these situations. Please let us know if you have any questions.