Field Notes

Fritz was right: Plan to move homeless camp falls through over costs

Plans to move the Right to Dream 2 homeless camp to a warehouse on Hoyt Street are dead.

As it turns out the costs to renovate the warehouse and make it usable would have topped $335,000 – an amount Dana Haynes, the mayor’s spokesman, termed “far beyond what we had expected.”

Haynes said it was actually worse than that.

“What we got was a first look analysis of what the costs could be and the fact is that was not the all-in number,” he said. “The total could easily have been higher.

“It was much more than we are prepared to spend for a building that we won’t ultimately own.”

The city has been looking for a place to relocate the camp – currently ensconced at Fourth and Burnside for months.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz thought she had come up with an answer when she brokered a deal that would have moved the camp to a lot owned by the Portland Development Corporation under the onramp to the Broadway Bridge.

It would have given the camp a new home and had the added benefit of ending some long-running litigation.

One problem turned out to be that the new home was a little too close to the Pearl District, which that neighborhood association objected to.

Haynes said that while the opinions of residents deserve consideration, there was more to the opposition than just that.

“In the end, the problem there is similar to what we’re having now,” he said. “It would not have been a permanent solution.  Our understanding is that PDC is looking to sell that property. Also, it is not indoors so there still would have been problems.”

The Pearl Neighborhood Association and a pair of developers offered to help find a new location for the camp and the mayor and council agreed to delay voting on the Broadway Bridge location as as a good faith effort was made to find the camp a new home.

Last month, the Hoyt Street warehouse came into the picture.

The mayor gave members of the press a tour and announced that the city was prepared to sign a 15-month lease for $150,000.

Commissioner Fritz – who was noticeably absent from the tour – had nothing good to say about the proposal.

She said it was way too much money for a building the city would never own (and at that point the cost was less than half of what would come back as a “first” estimate on what the city would need to put in to the building).

She pointed out the building was in no condition to house a homeless camp of men, women and children. It had no showers. It was a warehouse. Not a home.

Her comments were pretty much dismissed as city officials said this was a way to get people off the street.

“The mayor at the time said this was about getting 80 people off the street as the weather was starting to take a turn for the worse,” said Haynes.  “The key was let’s get them out of the cold and rain and then work out the other issues.”

Haynes says that the Commissioner Fritz, the mayor’s policy director Josh Alpert and others are continuing to look for a solution.

“In the end, Commissioner Fritz was right about the costs,” says Haynes. “And that was before we knew just how high the costs could be.”

And while much was made of trying to get people off the streets as quickly as possible, here we are one month later and while things may not be back at square one, little has changed.

Except for the weather.

It is colder than it was and KATU forecaster Dave Salesky is predicting “buckets of rain.”