Pearl District group, campers fail to agree on proposed locations

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Right 2 Dream Toos move to a parking lot beneath the Broadway Bridge has been delayed as organizers meet with Pearl District representatives hoping to find an alternate site for the homeless campers.Pearl District developers and Right 2 Dream Too homeless advocates might seem strange bedfellows, but they’ve been talking, mostly about an alternate site for the homeless camping facility that for two years has settled in on West Burnside Street.

The unfolding drama of Right 2 Dream Too culminated in a deal struck last month between city Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Right 2 Dream Too representatives. That deal would move the homeless facility from its high-profile Old Town site next to the Chinatown Gate to a shadowy piece of property owned by the city under the west end of the Broadway Bridge.

On Monday, Fritz announced a 60-day extension of a settlement agreement between the city and Right 2 Dream Too, giving both sides a chance to look for suitable sites for the camp. As part of the agreement, an attorney for Right 2 Dream Too will postpone the group’s court fight with the city, and the city will hold off any new fines.

Violating a contract

During an Oct. 3 City Council hearing, a number of Pearl District developers, business owners and residents objected to moving Right 2 Dream Too into the neighborhood. Having organized as the Pearl Group, they have told city officials they will sue if necessary to stop the move.

The proposed site of a new Right 2 Dream Too camp is a block from a senior citizen affordable housing apartment building and a new Residence Inn by Marriott, scheduled to open in spring 2014.

Investors in the new hotel, including Homer Williams, one of the initial developers of the Pearl District, say their contract with the city’s Portland Development Commission specifically spells out that the land beneath the Broadway Bridge will remain a parking lot. Putting a homeless encampment there, they say, violates that contract.

Which is why in the past two weeks the Pearl Group has met with Right 2 Dream Too officials, hoping to entice the camp to move to another site. Some of the proposals, according to Pearl Group spokesman John Mangan, involve properties where Right 2 Dream Too can set up tents. Other possibilities would have Right 2 Dream Too campers moving inside.

None of the proposals so far has drawn much interest from the Right 2 Dream Too side, according to organizer Ibrahim Mubarek. Mubarek says Right 2 Dream Too is open to moving to another site, but it wants a new site to be near Old Town so its residents can access that area’s social services. Sites suggested by the Pearl Group, Mubarek says, were not near Old Town or the Pearl District.

“I don’t like being passed around to different districts,” Mubarek says. “If they really care about us like they say they do, meaning it’s bad for us to be under the bridge, why can’t they find us land or a vacant building in the Pearl?”

Need to feel safe

Negotiations between the Pearl Group and Right 2 Dream Too are taking place against the backdrop of a pending city offer for the West Burnside property that has hosted Right 2 Dream Too since its inception. That property is co-owned by Michael Wright, who has told the Tribune he would accept no less than $2 million. City officials have said they would get an independent appraisal on the property and make Wright and his partners an offer.

If the city buys Wright’s property, Right 2 Dream Too would have to move, and that could occur within weeks. But Mubarek says he doesn’t feel any pressure to accept a deal from the Pearl Group.

“The pressure is on them, not us,” Mubarek says. “We’ve signed an agreement.”

The deal to move Right To Dream Too beneath the Broadway Bridge has been signed, but the move has been delayed by city officials in hopes an alternate deal could be struck. Mangan says the Pearl Group’s intent is clear: If the city follows through and moves Right 2 Dream Too beneath the Broadway Bridge, they will pursue mediation and possibly take legal action against the city. Also, the group would appeal the city’s decision to the state Land Use Board of


Mangan says the new Residence Inn, less than a block from the Broadway Bridge site, expects up to 40 percent of its guests to be single female business travelers. Many of those women would walk by the new Right 2 Dream Too site on their way to Union Station. That would not be good for business, especially if social media travel sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp spread the word, according to Mangan.

“In order for people to be drawn to a hotel property, they need to feel safe,” Mangan says.

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