Portland law now says no one can sit on the sidewalk outside of Columbia Sportswear's flagship store on Southwest Broadway from 7 am to 9 pm daily. So of course Portland's Resistance is holding a sit-in.
The local activist group announced last night it's organizing an action Saturday in protest of the recent expansion of no-sit sidewalk zones at the behest of downtown businesses. As we reported this week, in the face of outcry from business owners like Columbia Sporswear's Tim Boyle, who say downtown feels unsafe, Mayor Ted Wheeler pushed for eight new block faces to be designated with expanded "pedestrian use zones," meaning it's illegal to sit down on them during the day (most sidewalks downtown have a small ribbon near the curb where sitting is allowed).
According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) those block faces are:
•SW Broadway (westside) between SW Taylor and SW Salmon
•SW Taylor (southside) between SW Broadway and SW Park
•SW 10th (westside) between SW Jefferson and Columbia
•SW Jefferson (southside) between SW 10th and SW 11th
•SW Columbia (northside) between SW 10th and SW 11th
•SW 10th (eastside) between SW Alder and SW Morrison
•SW Morrison (northside) between SW 9th and SW 10th
•SW 9th (westside) between SW Morrison and SW Alder
"This Saturday (12/2) at noon, we are calling for Portlanders to sit-in solidarity with our houseless neighbors, precisely where Ted Wheeler and Tim Boyle declare that no person shall be able to sit," says a statement from Portland's Resistance. "We are demanding that Ted Wheeler repeal 'no-sit' policies, stop favoring his own donors and stop criminalizing houselessness."
On Twitter, Wheeler has rejected the notion the sidewalk designations are about homelessness.
It’s irresponsible to conflate homelessness and crime. We can address safety issues with common sense enforcement. We can address homelessness with compassion. That’s our plan.— Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) November 30, 2017
Under city policy, the decision to prohibit sitting on downtown sidewalks is rooted in sidewalk design. PBOT Director Leah Treat is allowed to make the designation in cases where "sidewalks are not to the preferred width, or have complex topographical constraints and the sidewalk does not safely support the main use of the sidewalk, due to other competing uses."
Such decisions in the past have been deliberative. Whereas the Portland Business Alliance called on PBOT to prohibit sitting on roughly 90 new block faces in 2014, the bureau wound up designating only eight. Here's a map [PDF] of current designations (minus the recent additions).
PBOT and Wheeler's office have said in recent days there is an easier way for PBOT to approve no-sit zones. It's as simple as the Portland Police Bureau asking them to, they say. That move has precedent—former Mayor Charlie Hales used it to outlaw daytime sitting outside of City Hall in 2013—but it's not clear from ordinance language where the authority comes from.