Pearl District developers, residents say they have a list of indoor sites for R2D2

By Andrew Theen, The Oregonian, Oct. 31, 2013

Image: KATU

Image: KATU

A group of developers and concerned Pearl District residents say they have a list of potential new homes for Right 2 Dream Too, but that’s news to the lawyer representing the homeless community.

The Pearl group issued a press release Thursday with a headline touting a “tentative deal” with the city.

Mark Kramer, a Portland attorney representing R2D2, said he’s been involved in meetings with the Pearl group and the city, but he’s yet to have been presented with a list of potential sites.

Late Thursday, Commissioner Amanda Fritz responded to the latest developments directly calling into question the Pearl group’s motives. Fritz said no sites were under review and no agreements were in place. “They want to look good,” she said.

Ultimately the Pearl group wants a different solution from the proposed temporary site, a city-owned property known as Lot 7 and located underneath the Broadway Bridge. The neighborhood advocates want an indoor home for R2D2, one that meets the city’s codes and land use regulations.

John Mangan, president of MAP Communications and a spokesman for the Pearl group, said the “tentative deal” means the parties will eventually offer an “alternative solution.”

What that is, he’s not definitely saying.

That alternative proposal includes a building, and help deferring the financial costs needed for R2D2’s eventual move. “There are resources that can be brought to bear,” Mangan said. Other assistance could include donated materials and labor to help the homeless community rebuild inside a new home.

The Pearl group has a “short list” of indoor sites they suggest to move the homeless community.

Mangan said not all of the sites are on the west side of the Willamette River. None, to his knowledge, are located in the Pearl District. But the group is still working to secure a final location for R2D2.

Kramer reiterated that he hadn’t seen any list, and that negotiations are still ongoing. “I am not aware of any agreement,” he said.

Fritz said the Pearl group was told Thursday afternoon that their last potential site wasn’t a possibility.

Commissioner Fritz brokered a deal with the homeless camp earlier this fall. That settlement waived city-issued fines of more than $20,000 and helped relocate the group to a city-owned lot under the Northwest Lovejoy onramp to the Broadway Bridge. The camp is currently on Northwest Fourth Avenue and West Burnside Street.

The Bureau of Development Services issued a zoning decision in September that authorized the move. That document, penned by BDS Director Paul Scarlett, designated the camp as a community benefit exempt from building permits or design review. The decision infuriated some neighbors and a prominent land use attorney who argued the zoning ruling was without merit.

Tempers flared at a five-hour hearing on the matter in early October, and Mayor Charlie Hales delayed a vote after pleas from prominent developers Homer Williams and Dike Dame for more time. The decision to move the camp was pushed to mid December, 60 days.

Dana Haynes, Mayor Charlie Hales’ spokesman, said conversations are ongoing almost daily. “The city is going to try every way possible to make sure that if the building is sound, we can figure out a way to put these people inside,” Haynes said.

If the Pearl group and R2D2 find a building that works, Haynes said the city’s goal would be to move people inside to get them out of the elements. “There may be a path forward where you can have an exception to the zoning,” he said.

Kramer said another deadline is approaching. R2D2 has a November 6 deadline to dismiss its lawsuit against the city over the outstanding fines. “I need to see some movement, some real movement on behalf of the Pearl group to extend that,” Kramer said.

Fritz said the Pearl group continued to insist that R2D2 drop any potential move to Lot 7 prior to having a new home secured. “Until one is found,” Fritz said of a new location, “We are not going to promise that we won’t us Lot 7.”

UPDATE: Commissioner Fritz said there are no potential sites on the table, and the last potential site was eliminated Thursday afternoon. Fritz said the group wouldn’t agree to ditch the Pearl District site without having a firm second option in hand.