- Denis C. Theriault
- Maybe the new home of Right 2 Dream Too.
Owner Michael Wright has been going back and forth with the city, and Commissioner Amanda Fritz, over whether he can put food carts or another homeless camp on his land at NW 4th and Burnside. But despite reports that the talks have "crumbled" because of that dispute, sources on all sides tell the Mercury that negotiations have yet to stop.
"Negotiations will continue to try to reach a settlement," attorney Mark Kramer, representing both Wright and Right 2 Dream Too, said early this morning.
Late Tuesday night, Kramer had told me, "I'm still in the game. There's a lot of goodwill." That echoes what I've been hearing all along from Fritz's office, as recently as last night, and from R2DToo spokesman Ibrahim Mubarak. Both have said the talks are ongoing.
Not that they still won't actually fall apart today or in the next few days. The issue Wright is pressing isn't an easy one to solve. Though Fritz and the city attorney's office were willing to remove language explicitly banning Wright from hosting more homeless Portlanders on his land, they still insisted, as I reported, that whatever he did next would comply with current city codes, rules, and laws. The city's view was that language would still rule out knowingly hosting campers or food carts on the lot.
Wright and Kramer, on Tuesday morning, said they had heard of the first part and were bullish on a deal. But they said they didn't realize theirs and the city's differing interpretations of the last part—essentially what would be "legal"—until it came back in writing from the city attorney's office. Hence the talk of a setback later that night.
Kramer says Wright wanted the city to be completely "silent" on what Wright could or couldn't do with the land—with the understanding that if he tried to put more campers there, the city could come back with code inspectors and levy more fines on Wright and start the legal process all over again. That "silence" was one three options Kramer presented the city—and seemingly the cheapest to consider.
The second idea was to have the city or PDC buy Wright's land, on a very desirable corner. The third was to let him pave his lot and host food carts for a couple of years, to make some money—waiving the city's moratorium on adding new surface parking lots downtown.
The impasse on what Wright can do with his land doesn't leave much daylight for the two sides to wriggle through. The city presumably would be loath to see another rest area return to the site after the effort and expense of moving Right 2 Dream Too and also would be unwilling to concede total victory to Kramer in the legal settlement of his lawsuit.
The dispute leaves R2DToo's board and clients in the lurch. The site needs Wright's buy-in because he's a co-plaintiff against the city and because its organizers have agreed to hold Wright harmless for the code enforcement fines his property has accrued, more than $20,000 worth. Money for other services has gone into escrow and could be spent helping people if the fines are waived. The city won't waive the fines if it can't agree with Wright on the future of his current land.
Oh, and not to mention? The city also has Pearl District neighbors on its back—never mind that R2DToo has been a better neighbor in Old Town than most people are in any neighborhood.