Not content with having hollowed out downtown Portland through rioting, the city’s unchallenged radicals have now turned their attention to dismantling their progressive predecessors’ other, complementary success, the area’s parks system.
Amanda Fritz was supposed to be retired. On Jan. 1, she completed her third and final term on the Portland City Council, her 12 years distinguished by her efforts to expand the city’s parks system into eastside neighborhoods with little greenspace.
But last Wednesday, she was back—alarmed that a new city policy could turn her beloved parks into outdoor homes.
“The city has invested millions in development, maintenance and restoration of parks and open spaces,” she warned. “Allowing people to live there and harm the resources will waste taxpayers’ money.”
Her concern: a line of regulatory language, buried in an overhaul of the city’s zoning code, that would allow people to erect “temporary shelter” in any open space in Portland—including parks, wetlands and trails. The shelter would have to be managed by a public or non-profit agency and gain prior city approval.
The sentence is a small part of the Shelter to Housing Continuum, an ambitious plan to ease the creation of homeless shelters across the city. Sanctioning people sleeping in parks, with supervision, is a detail of the larger plan, crafted by staff at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. But the idea has drawn remarkable outcry, including from leaders who helped build the city’s park system.
Fritz has been joined in her opposition by two former directors of Portland Parks & Recreation, the founder of the private foundation that funds park improvements, and Mike Lindberg, a onetime city commissioner who, like Fritz, once oversaw the parks bureau.
The return of Fritz to testify before her former colleagues displayed how upset parks advocates are…
Portland: Neighbors Welcome, the housing nonprofit that has championed the zoning changes, tells WW it wants to use appropriate outdoor spaces to create permanent organized shelters while low-income housing is built.
“I don’t just want people to go camping on Mount Tabor. That’s not what we’re advocating for,” says Trisha Patterson, a board member of Portland: Neighbors Welcome. “We’re saying remove that blanket ban so that the city isn’t taking potential good sites off the table and limiting our ability to respond.”
A “blanket ban” on camping in city parks is to be replaced with an allowance for it when, as indicated in boldface above, it’s “managed by a public or non-profit agency” and approved by the city. Camping in parks, on sidewalks and in any available greenspace such as along freeways is already widespread. Chapman Square and Lownsdale Park–but not federally-administered Terry Schrunk Plaza –between the embattled downtown police precinct and City Hall now host clusters of tent encampments and even one of Portland’s now ubiquitous open-air stolen bicycle chop-shops.
As it stands now long-term encampments will take over, say, a section of sidewalk in the city and persist for months before they are cleared out–something that’s increasingly hard to do as antifa now routinely shows up to oppose homeless sweeps. Perhaps antifa’s most successful action of the last year was their forcing the retreat of police from an attempted sweep of a foreclosed home and adjacent lot and their subsequent creation of the Red House autonomous zone.
Among the Shelter to Housing Continuum goals is the elimination of zoning codes standing in the way of increased density and the placement of homeless shelters, halfway houses, home over-crowding and the like. Along these lines the new more radical progressives led by Jo Ann Hardesty are effecting the defunding and eventual elimination of Portland’s neighborhood associations.
Portland became a desirable place to live by creating a safe and pleasant downtown amidst a landscape of safe and pleasant parks. A progressive success story the undoing of which the city seems wholly unable to oppose. That undoing is being effected by the next generation of “progressive” leadership, buttressed by the new religion of “equity” and “racial justice” and by increasing numbers of homeless–drawn from throughout the Northwest to take advantage of the city’s indulgence, generosity and, now, near-lawlessness.
People continue to move in and drive up real estate values and rents despite it all, further exacerbating the homeless crisis.
The new code revisions will level a variety of restrictions, such as those on the new scourge of vagabonds living in RVs, and the placement of half-way houses, which will no no longer be identified as such to remove the “stigma”:
An “alternative or post incarceration facility” is a Group Living use where the residents are on probation or parole, but not subject to on-site supervision by sworn officers. To remove unnecessary stigma, the conditional use requirement for these facilities is being eliminated. These facilities will be treated like any other residential use. A facility in a dwelling unit with eight or fewer bedrooms will be classified as a Household Living use and a facility in a congregate living facility or a dwelling unit with nine or more bedrooms will be classified as a Group Living use. Situations where people are under judicial detainment and the direct supervision of sworn officers still fall under the Detention Facilities use category and are not Group Living. Detention facilities are either prohibited or require a conditional use approval depending on the zone.
There is currently a moratorium on laws against sleeping in cars and RVs as long as they’re on private property; the new code would eliminate that. The city has been “de-emphasizing” enforcement generally and clusters, sometimes hybrids of tents alongside parked cars and RVs, can appear anywhere now, including downtown.
The passage of the code overhaul seems inevitable.