It's on: Pearl District heavyweights initiate homeless camp legal action

It's on: Pearl District heavyweights initiate homeless camp legal action »Play Video
The Right To Dream Too camp here at its current location at Fourth and Burnside plans to move to a new spot under the Broadway Bridge in the Pearl District.

A group of Pearl District investors has initiated legal proceedings over plans to move the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp to a parking lot under the Broadway Bridge.

An attorney representing Pearl Hotel Investors LLC and Hoyt Street Properties LLC notified the Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development arm, that using the parking lot as a homeless camp violates a development agreement between developers and the PDC, triggering arbitration and potentially a lawsuit.

In a Sept. 30 letter, Stoll Stoll Berne Lokting & Schlachter attorney Keith S. Dubanevich said clients Pearl Hotel Investors, which is associated with Williams & Dame Development, and Hoyt Street Properties wish to arbitrate the matter under terms of their agreement with the agency. If the city presses ahead with the camp, the developers will turn to the courts for an emergency injunction.

Pearl Hotel Investors is constructing a 225-room Residence Inn by Marriott one block north of the proposed homeless camp. Both it and Hoyt Street Properties are parties, along with the development commission, to a legal agreement that spells out how the parking lot is to be used.

Last week, Paul Scarlett, the city’s development director, issued an opinion that the camp is a legitimate use of the parking lot under current codes.

The city council will hold a hearing starting at 2 p.m. Thursday. It is widely expected to approve the homeless camp move to the Pearl District.

Dubanevich said the agreement requires the city and PDC and all parties to consent to any change of use. Pearl Hotel Investors and Hoyt Street Properties do not consent, he said.

If the PDC does not cure the default, the investors will initiate arbitration under terms of the agreement.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz wants to move the camp from its current location at Northwest Fourth and West Broadway to settle a separate legal dispute.

The Pearl camp would house about 100 people per night for about a year.

The Right 2 Dream Too issue has brought the issue of homelessness and investment to a head in the Pearl District, where developers who invested tens of millions of dollars say they are not unsympathetic to the issue of homelessness, but resent being cast as bad guys for insisting the city hold itself to its own code and development requirements. In addition to violating the city's own procedures, businesses say the camp will harm the neighborhood.

More than 2,869 people in Multnomah County were homeless during a census conducted by 211info, the Portland Housing Bureau and Multnomah County in January.

Of those, 2,361 were individual adults, 474 were families with children and 24 were unaccompanied youth.

The report noted that half of Portland’s unsheltered population had been homeless for a year or less, but that chronic homelessness increased 27 percent.

Stay tuned for more on this story as it develops throughout the week.

Sidebar: City says records request will cost $9,000
By Erica Nochlin, KATU News

KATU News has made a public records request for all the emails sent over the last three months about the camp.

The city said it would cost nearly $9,000.

It is reasonable for a government agency to charge a small fee – it's typically not more than $200.

For example, hundreds of documents KATU received about the U of O football sanctions earlier this year cost $128.85. And Multnomah County compiled thousands of emails and records surrounding the Jeff Cogan affair for free.

The only other time in recent memory a government entity asked for a large amount of money was again the city of Portland in 2009.

It asked for $1.5 million for records about former Mayor Sam Adams' relationship with intern, Beau Breedlove. That is until KATU fought it. The city then reduced the cost to less than $200.

In surrounding states, Washington, California and Idaho do not allow any fees for providing public information to the public. And Alaska and Nevada have strict rules for the rare circumstances fees can be charged.

Oregon doesn't have any law like that.

KATU will continue to fight to see they city's emails.