Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, announced late Friday that as part of city efforts to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is ordering PBOT to stop towing abandoned vehicles.
Eudaly's announcement follows on the heels of Mayor Ted Wheeler declaring a state of emergency on Thursday.
"I have instructed Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to cease all ticketing and towing of abandoned autos as long as the City is in a declared State of Emergency—this is effective immediately," Eudaly wrote on her Facebook page.
"My office is working with the Mayor's Office to identify opportunities for the City to support vulnerable tenants, workers, small businesses, and the arts community—we will have more information to share early next week. I know it's difficult to be patient in a time like this, but I want you to know that we are working as quickly as we can to develop opportunities for direct community support."
Margaux Weeke, Eudaly's spokeswoman, explained Eudaly's thinking. She notes that per city code, a vehicle is considered abandoned after being parked illegally on a city street for 24 hours or is wrecked or unlicensed.
"Vehicles classified as 'abandoned autos' often belong to individuals who are living in their vehicles," Weeke said in a statement. "Our protocol for working with people living in their vehicles is to connect them with available public services and support. However, since available public services are currently stressed, Commissioner Eudaly wants to minimize unnecessary interactions and prioritize city functions that are critical to public health."
In short, Eudaly wants to avoid throwing people living in their cars into further chaos amid a pandemic.
"While we will continue to address the health and sanitation issues—and are working directly with other programs to ensure we remain responsive if health hazards are present—Commissioner Eudaly does not want to risk further destabilization of individuals who are living in their vehicles during this public health crisis when it's unlikely we'll have resources to assist them," Weeke said.