The city of Portland, Oregon, needs a great many things.
Homeless people given the right to camp on the property of its residents isn’t one of them.
Yet, here we are.
According to KATU-TV, the city’s Planning and Sustainability Commission approved a plan that would involve people room to “rest” on private property downtown.
“Just one of the realities of Portland right now is that we have a lot of folks who are unhoused who benefit from some of these spaces that provide weather protection,” Councilwoman Oriana Magnera, who introduced the idea, said.
Which is, um, accurate? However, accuracy doesn’t exactly provide the full picture here.
“What does it mean to rest? Am I providing a place to sleep?” Commission Chair Katherine Schultz asked.
For obvious reasons, members of the commission were unsure of what exactly they were voting on.
“I’m concerned that this is going to become quite controversial,” Jeff Bachrach, attorney and commission member, said.
“I think for us to put into design review some loaded words that suggest we want some design commissioners to think about people resting for hours, pitching tents, I think we’re just putting too great of a burden on design review.”
In a statement to KATU, Schultz said that “[t]he discussion around ‘Guideline 6: Provide opportunities to rest and be welcome’ was one of the most robust of the Planning and Sustainability Commission’s November 12 work session on the Design Overlay Zone Amendments (DOZA) project. Commissioners discussed how private development can provide places for people to feel welcome and safe, as well as allow space for people to rest, especially in light of our current housing shortage.”
According to Schultz, there will be further discussions about the proposal in their next work session and the commission “will provide suggested language to the Design Commission that helps clarify the intent of the word ‘rest.’”
“The City design review program and guidelines that are the subject of DOZA affect the design of new buildings but do not control the use of properties,” she added.
The city of Portland gave KATU a letter from the commission that read, “Understanding we are talking about private property here, we still want to ensure the openness and welcoming factors contribute to the development.”
“Specific to the phrasing of the guideline itself, we suggest making it even more clear that development should provide supportive space for people to feel welcome and safe and should allow space for people to rest, especially under our current housing shortage,” it said.
“The definition of “rest” was quite involved. We think the background should address this more fully and clarify the intent of the word. The PSC will talk about this further at its [Dec. 17] work session and will provide suggested language to the Design Commission after our discussion.”
So, what does this mean, logistically? Portland is totally unwilling to take any sort of action against people who were going to “rest” in places where they were thoroughly unwelcome.
Pretty much everything here was done in the sort of language that suffices when everything meaningful has been exhausted. Want to pretend this isn’t homelessness? Sure, why not? Let’s just pretend Guideline 6 is about resting where you want as if it’s some expression of the First Amendment.
That’s obviously rubbish. So is Guideline 6. My guess is Portlanders will start hating this when they find out it could allow people to camp out on their lawn.
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