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Business group may challenge R2DToo move

COURTESY COMMUNITECTURE - The concept plan for the new R2DToo shows both permanent and temporary structures.After years of discussion and delays, the City Council approved moving the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp from Chinatown to Southeast Portland last Wednesday.

Now the Central Eastside Industrial Council, which opposed the move, is considering whether to legally challenge it on zoning or land-use grounds.

“We support what R2DToo is doing to help people, but this is the wrong location. The new location is in an industrial zone next to a plating company that uses hazardous chemicals,” says CEIC President Brad Malsin, president of Beam Development.

The council vote was 4-to-1, with Commissioner Nick Fish casting the lone “no” vote. The relocation was approved after the council adopted a restriction proposed by Commissioner Dan Saltzman that no one under 18 could spend the night at the new camp.

The Portland Development Commission has bought the camp’s current site at Northwest Fourth Avenue and Burnside Street for redevelopment. The new location is a parcel purchased by the city from the Oregon Department of Transportation at Southeast Third Avenue and Harrison Street.

Resolutions approved by the council say the new camp can accommodate up to 100 people at a time for as long as 10 years. The city purchased the site and will pay for such improvements as showers, toilets and laundry facilities with around $900,000 from developers and others used to buy an earlier alternative location in Old Town.

Those who stay at the camp will have to sign a code of conduct that says they will not use alcohol or drugs, or fight or possess weapons. But Malsin says the camp is likely to draw many more homeless people to the area to use the showers and other facilities, even if they do qualify to stay there.

“Where are they going to go? There’s already a disproportionate number of homeless campers in Southeast Portland,” says Malsin, whose company is nationally recognized for converting older buildings into newer uses. It is a major player in the Burnside Bridgehead development project.

The Feb. 23 council vote was delayed from the previous week after Commissioner Steve Novick unexpectedly said he needed more time to consider it. Novick admitted he did not have an alternative site before Wednesday’s vote, however.

Hales argued the relocation of the R2DToo homeless camp is not a solution to homelessness, but a safer sleeping option for those without homes.

“Until we reach our goal of having a permanent home for all Portlanders, our short-term approach is to balance the need for people sleeping outside to be safe, with the entire city’s need for health, safety and livability,” Hales said.

Housing policies online

Mayor Charlie Hales has announced a new city website with centralized information about the city’s evolving homeless and affordable housing efforts. It includes a link for reporting problems with campsites.

“My office has received countless phone calls, emails, and social media messages from Portlanders who want information about our efforts to manage livability in the City,” Hales said. “We heard them, and we responded with an easily accessible warehouse of information.”

The website is titled the Homelessness Toolkit. It is at: portland oregon.gov/toolkit.