It's a tough time for public space advocates in Oregon.
No sooner do the feds finally roust one group of entitled land-grabbers from their perch in a bird sanctuary, than we have another group of entitled land-grabbers trying to claim our property as their own.
This time, it's happening to city property in Portland.
According to KGW, the association representing condo owners at McCormick Pier Condominiums enjoy the benefits of a subsidized greenway near their condos on the Willamette, but no longer want to share this public land with by-passers.
Understand: This is that strip of sidewalk north of the Steel Bridge, which runs along the Willamette, getting as close to the water as possible along the western shore anywhere north of Hawthorne. It is a very pretty area, which is why people like to jog there.
The McCormick Occupiers/Portland Committee For Safety has beef with the homeless people, apparently.
"We love the plantings here. We love the nature. We love the wildlife," says Marilyn Hoffman, who did her interview from behind the gate blocking access to the occupied greenway as a KGW reporter stood outside. "Six months ago it was a trash, a lot of trash… they've been destroying our landscaping."
Uh, lady, you live in the center of a large urban environment. You are less than a mile from most of the city's homeless services. If you don't want an occasional asshat to tear up your petunias, perhaps it's not the right place to make your home.
"What gives them the right to infringe on everyone?" asks a random dog-walker on the video, who is very wise indeed.
Sadly, this is an all-too-common story in the Portland area.
Despite the macro-level liberalism of this area, homeowners and interest groups wield an unconscionable amount of control over our public lands.
Oswego Lake, in the center of the suburb of Lake Oswego, is a public waterway, and yet the wealthiest members of the city, represented by an association that controls most of the shoreline, conspired with city officials to block access to a public lake from a public park. That case is still in court.
In Portland, a group of boaters actually posted a security guard at the dock southeast of Hawthorne Bridge to deter public access to the public dock. (You have your friends at Willamette Week to thank for pushing to maintain open access to this area.)
Here's the really ridiculous rub in the McCormick Pier Condominium situation: The Greenway was already closed between 10 pm and 5 am.
Yup, a public right of way was already closed part of the day for the convenience of these folks. Which is an obvious problem. Public right of ways should never be closed for the convenience of entitled landowners. And when you start down that slippery slope, you get what we have here today. It's really not so different from when we allowed Cliven Bundy's supporters to point guns at federal agents during the Bunkerville standoff.
We cannot abide this occupation of our
land non-possessory property right to use this land. (See note below.)
Members of the McCormick Pier Condominiums board, please immediately do the right thing and unlock our public lands before stronger action is needed.
This is a complex and rather dry legal issue. Easements are one instrument that allows for the installation of power lines and sidewalks. Sidewalks in Portland are public spaces, which homeowners city-wide are responsible for maintaining, but which they cannot exclude others from. In fact, not only will the City of Portland force a homeowner to "immediately" repair a broken sidewalk that he or she technically owns, but will make him or her buy a permit costing no less than $60 to do so.
This is true everywhere in Portland—you could get a sidewalk repair notice tomorrow!—although several commenters have alleged that McCormick Pier previously requested that the city to use public funds to make repairs to the walkway that they are responsible for maintaining—just like homeowners across the city. This dispute preceded the illegal occupation.
Call it socialism run amok, but nowhere in Portland will the city allow law-abiding homeowners to block others from using the sidewalk that they technically own (the one they paid their own hard-earned money to fix after being served a repair notice!) even if some of the people using that sidewalk are of questionable repute.
Apologies for the imprecise language.