When city officials decided last month not to enforce park regulations that prohibit camping in city parks and allowed Occupy Portland protesters to stay in Chapman and Lownsdale Sqaures for more than five weeks, they opened a historical can of worms.
On Oct. 12, according to emails WW obtained from the City of Portland, a central Oregon man named Randy Panek emailed Mayor Sam Adams with his concerns.
Panek says the deed conveying the land to the city in 1870 allowed for gatherings for political speech but not camping. When Panek did not get a reply, he upped the ante in an Oct. 15 email:
I am a direct descendent to the Chapman family who deeded Chapman Square to the City of Portland. Please let me know what the City is doing about removing the people that have taken up residence in the park. Allowing this violates Deed Conditions.
Randy L Panek
Mr. Mayor, If I do not hear back from you or your staff by Monday 5pm, I will have my attorney file a default against the City.
That threat of legal action drew a response from Chief Deputy City Attorney on Oct. 17. Auerbach asked Panek for a copy of the deed conveying the property to the city.
Mr. Panek-- Could you please send me a copy of the deed (email is best) so that I can help make sure we do not violate any of its restrictions? If you have a lawyer representing you on this matter, could you please either tell me who that is or have that person contact me? Thank you.
Panek told WW he was pretty certain the city had a copy of the deed and told Auerbach the same thing via an Oct. 18 email.
I am sure the City has the Deed in archive recorded in the 1850’s. I am a direct descendent to William W. Chapman. My family took the Panek name in 1900’s. If you review the file on the property from the 1960’s you will find these restrictions were discussed in a meeting with the City which at that time had proposed to build a underground parking structures. Because of these restriction the City decided against and withdrew their interests. I wish to cooperate with the City to remove these homesteaders. Please let me know what the City is doing to accomplish this.
Eight days later, on Oct. 26 Panek again raised the prospect of legal action.
Mr. Auerbach,Auerbach was not cowed by that threat and responded the next day.
I have not heard back from you nor have I seen any changes in Chapman Square. If I do not have a favorable response soon I will begin default proceeding against the City.
The history surrounding ownership and dedication of these blocks is complex, and we are still sorting through it. The Mayor and the Parks Commissioner are attempting to balance a number of competing concerns in the ongoing process of assessing how best to respond day-to-day to the occupation of Chapman and Lownsdale Squares. Your concerns are among those. Our current thinking, though, is that, as a legal matter, you would not prevail should you bring legal action. You, of course, should seek your own private legal advice, and are free to take whatever action you feel is consistent with your rights.
Over the weekend, of course, the dispute became moot when Portland police cleared the camps in both squares.
Panek says he's happy with the result, although he wishes it hadn't taken so long.