The Alliance supports the right to peaceful civic engagement, but the safety and welfare of the community, including residents, visitors, businesses and employees must not be compromised. Vandalism and violence have no place in constructive public discourse.
The holiday season is upon us, and that typically brings more people downtown. It’s vital the city remain open and accessible to everyone and that people can come and support local businesses. (November 2016)
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The Alliance’s campaign, Portland Can Do Better, is now a year old and continues to call on local leaders to find safe, humane solutions for those experiencing homelessness and to improve livability for Portland. Recent campaign outreach has acknowledged the good work by Multnomah County to find new shelter space and calls out the ongoing dangers of illegal camping. Most recently, we urged moving forward with a cleanup of the Springwater Corridor, which now holds one of the nation’s largest homeless encampments. Mayor Hales originally announced a clean up on Aug. 1, then moved the date to Sept. 1 citing pressure from advocates to find the homeless a place to go. This situation underscores the Alliance’s long-standing positon that we need safer, indoor emergency shelter space in the Portland area right now. Go to www.pdxcandobetter.com.
On April 20 the Safe and Livable Coalition, made up of businesses and neighborhood associations, filed a complaint in Multnomah County Circuit Court against Mayor Charlie Hales’ Safe Sleep Policy. The policy allows individuals and groups of up to six sleep on sidewalks or in tents on city rights of way or remnant properties between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. It also allows larger encampments to be permitted by the city. The lawsuit contends the mayor does not have the authority to issue such a policy without City Council action and that the policy is inconsistent with state law and city ordinances. The coalition does not believe tent camping is a solution to the city’s homelessness crisis and that the policy has created health, safety and livability issues for all Portlanders. For more information, go to www.facebook.com/Safe.Livable.Portland/.
The Alliance worked closely with the Barry Menashe family, Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s office and Transition Projects Inc. to facilitate the opening of a temporary men’s shelter at SW 4th and SW Washington. The shelter space, which was donated by the Barry Menashe family, opened on Monday, Jan. 18, moving from idea to reality in a remarkably short period of time. The shelter will house 100 men, with priority given to veterans, those over 55 and those with disabilities. Clients can stay for three to six months, gaining access to services at Bud Clark Commons during the day. The Alliance also worked with Commissioner Saltzman’s office and Transition Projects to ensure the shelter operations will use best practices and minimize impact to the surrounding neighborhood and businesses.
The Alliance asked Mayor Charlie Hales to clarify the city’s policy regarding illegal camping in Portland’s public spaces. Camping on public property or public right of way is illegal under to Portland city code. It has been reported that the mayor’s office directed the Portland Police Bureau not to enforce the camping ban unless there is a clear nexus to illegal activity, which is a departure from past policy and city code. The Alliance asked Mayor Hales if those reports are true. There has been a proliferation of illegal camps in neighborhoods throughout the city. The Alliance has consistently advocated that camping is not a humane response to the city’s homelessness crisis.
The Alliance is urging the Multnomah County Commission to explore a near-term pilot project to use a portion of the vacant Wapato jail facility as a homeless shelter. The Alliance responded to a memo from the County outlining barriers to the use of Wapato as a facility-based shelter with services, including financing restrictions, operating costs, land use compatibility and accessibility. The Alliance recognizes that, while Wapato may not be a perfect solution, it makes no sense for the building to be sitting useless after more than a decade, especially given the pressing need for homeless services in the community. Read the letter and the Tribune Op-Ed.
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For months the Alliance has been voicing its concerns about the lack of concerted city effort to address homelessness and illegal behaviors in parks and open spaces. In addition to finding safer and more humane solutions for people who sleep outside, the Alliance is urging for more tools to address illegal behavior. As such, the Alliance is asking Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick to designate certain sidewalks within the business improvement district as high-pedestrian zones, a critical tool to ensure the issues are addressed in a holistic manner. The Alliance has repeatedly asked Portland City Council to extend high-pedestrian zones – like the one that governs sidewalks around City Hall – to other areas of Portland because it is a tool that can work to address safety issues and illegal behaviors. Read the letter.
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The Alliance is urging Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and District Attorney Rod Underhill to restore the Illegal Drug Impact Areas (IDIA) program, which created a coordinated approach to police enforcement and county prosecution on lower-level street crimes in designated areas. The Alliance is concerned about the safety and livability in our parks and on our streets due to lack of enforcement of illegal activity such as camping, theft and open air drug dealing. The Alliance is urging that the IDIA program to be restored as an effective approach to enforcement and prosecution of illegal activity. Read the letter.
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The Alliance is urging Mayor Charlie Hales and members of Portland City Council to find safer and more humane solutions for people who sleep outside and to prioritize the safety, cleanliness and livability of our city’s public spaces. For years, the Alliance has been talking to city leaders about the need to provide more services for the city’s homeless population and have tools available to ensure our public spaces are safe for everyone. The Alliance is taking a more public approach now because the need is so great and the response has not measured up to the problem. Through an online community petition, the Alliance is urging city leaders to prioritize more social services for people who need them. The petition also calls on the city to enforce existing laws and actually use the tools available to them to ensure our parks, public spaces and sidewalks are livable for everyone. If you are concerned about this issue, please join more than 2,900 people who have signed and share our petition at www.pdxcandobetter.com.
The Alliance commented on a proposal to update the floor-area-ratio (FAR) bonus and transfer provisions of the Portland zoning code. These FAR bonus and transfer options are meant to prioritize affordable housing development and support other targeted public benefits in the central city. The Alliance expressed concern for housing affordability, but cautioned that any policy must be structured so that there is an incentive to use the bonus. In addition, the Alliance suggested that any affordable housing bonus program apply to households up to 100 percent of median family income (MFI) and that the 3:1 cap on bonus FAR be raised for affordable housing. Portland City Council approved the resolution; further analysis will be conducted before specific FAR bonus and transfer modifications are voted on by City Council this fall. Read the testimony.
The Alliance submitted its comments on a report regarding central city floor area ratio (FAR) bonus and transfer options for new developments. The Alliance supports the focus on housing affordability, and urges that any proposed affordable housing bonus program apply to households up to 100 percent median family income. As our recent Middle Income Jobs report found, housing affordability is a growing concern for middle-income families as well as low-income families. The Alliance is concerned that well used bonus and transfer options may be eliminated. Instead, the city should explore mechanisms to incent and make the affordable housing bonus more attractive to ensure its use, which ultimately will lead to progress on affordable housing. Read the letter.
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On March 12, at a Senate Human Services and Early Education Committee hearing, the Alliance voice opposition to Senate Bill 629, the “Right to Rest” bill. The bill proposes that homeless individuals may sit, lie, sleep or camp in public spaces as long as they are not impeding vehicular or pedestrian traffic. The bill also makes it a violation for law enforcement or other security to “harass” homeless individuals for exercising the rights afforded them in the legislation. Opposing the bill, the Alliance advocated for solutions, such as additional shelters and services, to issues related to homelessness rather than enabling living on the streets. The committee has not scheduled a vote on the bill.
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The Alliance has long supported construction of a new Multnomah County Courthouse in the downtown core. The current building is inadequate for the services it houses, and it falls short of several safety standards. The Alliance feels strongly that the courthouse must remain in the downtown core due to the infrastructure that has been developed around it, including a police headquarters, a county jail and several law firms. In response to Multnomah County’s selection of two final potential downtown sites, the Alliance wrote a letter to Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and her commission colleagues. The Alliance reiterated its longtime support for construction of a new courthouse in the downtown core, while expressing concern over the need to evaluate and minimize the impact to nearby small businesses, such as the Veritable Quandary, if the Hawthorne Bridgehead site is selected. Read the letter.
In testimony to Portland City Council, the Alliance urged the city to focus on increasing capacity in emergency shelters, creating additional day storage facilities for unsheltered individuals to store their belongings, and conducting more outreach to individuals suffering from mental illness and addiction who are living on the street. Additionally, the Alliance is advocating for the city to designate areas of downtown as high-volume pedestrian zones, much like what was established for the blocks surrounding City Hall. Read the letter.
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