The ongoing quest to move Right 2 Dream Too has been in hurry-up mode since October, when the well-respected homeless rest area blew a deadline for leaving its long-term home at NW Fourth and Burnside.
R2DToo now has until April to get out, after an extension was granted by the Portland Development Commission, which is looking to purchase the land.
Still pressure's been building. The rest area's landlord, Michael Wright, has threatened to evict R2DToo. And last week, two property development companies sued Wright and other owners of the R2DToo plot [PDF], saying the camp was flouting city zoning regulations and hurting the ability to run a successful hotel across the street.
(The suit is somewhat oddly timed. Not only are there indications that R2DToo will be gone well before that hotel, called The Grove Hotel, opens in November, but the city's zoning code for mass shelters has been largely moot since city officials declared a housing emergency in October 2015.)
Anyway, those developments don't make it any easier to find the encampment a new space—something Commissioner Amanda Fritz has been working at for years. So it was interesting on Friday when the Oregonian reported Fritz may have found a solution: a parking lot on SW Naito Parkway owned by Portland Parks and Recreation, which the commissioner oversees.
Fritz's office won't comment on its plans in detail, saying only: "Commissioner Fritz has always been committed to finding a new home for R2DToo that will meet the April 7 date that R2DToo needs to be off of the Wright property. We intend to meet that date."
Still, people in City Hall confirm the property has been one relocation possibility that's been on the table for a month or so.
As the O points out, the lot sits just across Naito from a Mercedes dealership, and it's not hard to picture outcry if this moves forward. But the land also has a "central commercial" zoning designation that might be beneficial for R2DToo. According to the city's zoning code, that designation allows mass shelters "by right" in certain instances, which would mean opponents of the move would be hard pressed to challenge it. (Remember, it was Central Eastside business opposition that wound up derailing R2DToo's planned move to a lot near the east end of Tilikum Crossing, and Pearl District developers' ire that railroaded a planned move before that.)
But, as with all things involving R2DToo's fate, this lot comes with complications. Well before the parking lot emerged as a potential site for the homeless, the Portland Water Bureau planned to use it for its $56 million Willamette River Crossing project, which would send a supply pipe below the river to ensure the West Side has water when The Big One hits.
Not only would the Water Bureau want the lot for staging while the project was built, but
it's also been tapped as the place where the pipe would emerge from the ground there during construction (and subsequently be buried). And since construction is slated to begin next year, R2DToo could be looking for a home again pretty quickly if it does wind up moving to SW Naito.
Who knows what happens next? It's possible the camp could move to the lot, find another temporary home while the water pipe project moves forward, then move back. Or officials could find some other workaround. If there's one thing we've learned in the homeless camp's ongoing quest for a home, it's that circumstances can change very quickly.