PORTLAND, Ore. - City commissioners decided not to vote Thursday night on whether the homeless camp Right 2 Dream Too can move from near Chinatown to a new location underneath the Broadway Bridge in the Pearl District.
Mayor Charlie Hales ended the nearly five-hour public hearing saying he hoped to work a little more with the groups involved to hammer out a solution agreeable to all.
"We'll try to make some stone soup with the parties involved," he said just before adjourning.
He said the council will vote on the resolution Wednesday, Oct. 16 unless changes are made to it. In that case another public hearing will be held.
While opting for a delay in deciding the future location of the camp, Hales praised it and said he respected what it is doing.
"This unique community, Right 2 Dream Too, is doing valid work in a special way that no government agency ever thought of, and I respect that," he said, adding that the camp is the least of the city's worries.
Thursday's public hearing at City Hall got underway at about 2:30 p.m. More than 170 people who fell on all sides of the issue signed up to speak.
The controversy centers over whether the camp can legally move from its current location to the proposed location under the Broadway Bridge.
The question at the heart of the controversy is whether the proposed site is zoned for "community service use" for something that's temporary, nonprofit and technically doesn't involve camping.
Many who came before city commissioners had harsh words for them, particularly Amanda Fritz, who orchestrated the deal to move the camp. They were residents of the Pearl and people who work there.
They feel their safety will be in jeopardy if Right 2 Dream Too is allowed to move into the Pearl. They feel Fritz made a lot of decisions that should have gone before the public long before now and that the zoning discussion should have happened before the plan was announced.
"Putting R2D2 into that lot really is compromising our safety and our security," said Barbara Weerth, a neighbor to the proposed site. "Ms. Fritz is right when she says we do not get to choose our neighbors, but there's a distinct difference between a neighbor who doesn't keep his yard up, is noisy, etc., and having 100 strangers sleeping in your backyard."
Michael O'Callahan, who said he's a founder of Right 2 Dream Too, said the camp's move will help the city come up with a long-term solution to ending homelessness.
"Right 2 Dream provides a safe place for people, OK?" he said. "Let us be safe just like you all are, OK? And Right 2 Dream is a good neighbor, OK, I live there. We didn't have pests. We didn't have all these problems. It's a good clean community."
One person told commissioners that organizations like Right 2 Dream Too is what helped him get off the streets. He encouraged them to "not be mean" and pass the resolution.
Some developers believe if the city allows the homeless camp to move, the city will be breaking a development agreement with them. And they've threatened to sue.
After the mayor said he wanted to delay the vote, Fritz said she would have preferred to have voted on the resolution Thursday.
"I do think (the resolution) does encapsulate the rules that should apply to this site and other sites," she said.
While Fritz said she was happy to continue the discussion and review what was said during the day's public hearing, she said she doubted she had heard anything that would change her mind about the legality of moving the camp to its new location.
She said the hearing was the most memorable for her and has "helped everybody understand that people who live outside are people, and that they are the most qualified to help find a solution, to propose solutions."
One moment of lightheartedness came at the end of the hearing when Hales first proposed the Council come back to the issue Oct. 17. The clerk informed him he was out of town that day.
Hales then checked his calendar on his smartphone before settling on the sixteenth.
KATU's Public Records Request
Initially, the city wanted to charge KATU $9,000 after the TV station filed a public records request for emails regarding the camp. On Thursday the city attorney apologized and said it shouldn’t have become such an ordeal. And for all the email and no hard drive search, the city will now charge the TV station, $122.
KATU Web Producer Steve Benham contributed to this report.