Murmurs: Palms Motel Could Become Apartments

In other news: National Republicans jump into governor’s race.

PALMS MOTEL COULD BECOME APARTMENTS: The Palms Motel on North Interstate Avenue, famed for its towering neon sign featuring palm trees, could soon get new tenants staying for longer than a night. The property is likely to be redeveloped into an apartment complex with 223 housing units, including retail and parking space. The seven-story development was first reported by independent real estate reporter Iain MacKenzie, and the property is owned by Green Lotus Investments. The development plan is currently under review by the city. Dirgesh Patel, manager of Green Lotus, tells WW he intends to keep the sign. “I would never take that sign down. I wouldn’t think of it,” he says. The property has been owned by Patel’s family, albeit under a different company until recently, for 30 years. Patel says as of now, the development, if approved, will offer market-rate housing.

NATIONAL REPUBLICANS JUMP INTO GOVERNOR’S RACE: Christine Drazan, the Republican Party’s nominee for Oregon governor, received an early and notable donation May 22 to her general election campaign: $40,000 from the Republican Governors Association. The donation—an in-kind contribution for surveys and polls—is an early indication the group may invest heavily in the race. It’s the earliest the association has given to a Republican nominee in Oregon since at least 2010. In 2018, the group gave $3.4 million to Knute Buehler’s campaign and, in 2010, $2.5 million to Chris Dudley. Says Drazan campaign manager Trey Rosser: “The Republican Governors Association’s early investment in this race is a testament to the strength of Christine Drazan’s candidacy, as well as a reflection of the unique opportunity we have to elect a Republican governor in Oregon this year.”

OFFICIALS SQUANDERED VETERAN HOUSING DOLLARS: Portland City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero slammed the Joint Office of Homeless Services this week for paying a landlord $858,762 to house poor veterans in a squalid, mold-ridden apartment building on Northeast Sandy Boulevard for 16 months. The problem came to light last year after a building inspector discovered bed bugs, roaches, loads of black mold, faulty plumbing, holes in the walls, and a collapsed ceiling. KOIN TV did a special report on the Sandy Studios in April 2021. As is customary with investigations like this, Shannon Singleton, interim director of the Joint Office, responded to the auditor, thanking her for her work. As is less customary, Singleton hammered the report for what she said were glaring errors. “We disagree with some of the statements made regarding the work conducted by our office and provider partners,” Singleton wrote. Case in point: The auditor wrote that “conditions had been devolving for almost two years without action from the Joint Office.” Singleton says the Joint Office started working to relocate the veterans in 2020, before the KOIN story and way before the auditor’s report, work that counts as “action.” Singleton went on to say that accountability can be strengthened in Portland “without the inaccurate statements and inflammatory language used in this hotline report.”

PRIDE AND BLM MURAL DEFACED: A parent of a student at James John Elementary in North Portland noticed June 3 that a Pride and Black Lives Matter mural created by students had been defaced at the school. A brown substance had been smeared across the entire mural, which depicted a rainbow flag and a raised fist. The parent alerted school administrators of the vandalism, but the substance was not cleaned up until Monday afternoon after another parent reported the mural’s condition to the school. On June 6, the principal’s secretary said the school was “investigating” the incident but declined to comment further. June is Pride month.

NONPROFIT SUES OVER OREGON COAST ACCESS: Public access to Oregon’s coastline is a proud state heritage dating back to Gov. Tom McCall. This week, an environmental nonprofit filed suit over it. In March 2021, the lawsuit alleges, barbed wire and a gate installed on Coos Bay property owned by the Jay O’Leary Living Trust made the trail to Lighthouse Beach impassable. The Surfrider Foundation filed a lawsuit June 6 to restore public access to the beach. Mike Sargetakis, an attorney for the foundation, says the nonprofit’s Coos Bay chapter needs access to conduct beach cleanups and monitor water quality. “We’ll get into some talks with them and get the path opened,” Sargetakis tells WW. “But we are fully prepared to litigate this one and get the path opened up for the public to enjoy.” The trust did not respond to a request for comment.