City Halts Light Pole Removal in Its Parks After Already Removing 116 of Them

Less than a month ago, the city cited unsafe structural bases for its impending removal of 243 lights across 12 city parks.

Light poles in Mt. Scott Park. (Mick Hangland-Skill)

Last month, Portland Parks & Recreation announced it would remove 243 light poles across 12 city parks, citing a 2022 study that found structural deficiencies in the bases of those light poles.

But after removing 116 of the poles across four parks on the east side of the Willamette River, the city abruptly halted the project March 29. Instead, Parks Commissioner Dan Ryan said, the city will wait to take down the remaining poles until the city has the replacement poles ready. (The city had said it did not expect replacement lights to be available for 16 months.)

“In the four parks where light poles were removed, the city will explore temporary lighting,” Ryan’s office said in a statement. “Once the light poles are replaced in those four parks, the bureau will communicate the planning for removal and quick replacement of light poles in other affected parks.”

Ryan plans to bring an emergency order before the City Council this week that would codify the new approach, which includes a $2 million funding pledge from regional government Metro to help purchase replacement lights for the four parks where the city already removed light poles. The city is also eyeing $2 million in federal funds for light pole purchases.

In the meantime, the parks bureau says it will place signs on the remaining poles telling Portlanders not to attach anything to them. (Doing so would likely reduce the city’s liability if a light pole were to topple and injure someone.)

Last summer, a woman attached a hammock to one of the light poles and it fell, partially crushing her legs. An attorney for the woman sent a tort claim notice to the city July 18; such a notice is a heads-up that legal action is likely forthcoming.

The city launched its study because of that incident and used the results of the study to inform its decision to take down all 243 light poles across 12 parks. What it advised, however, remains a secret closely guarded from the public. This month, the city declined to release the study to WW, citing exemptions under Oregon’s public records law of “litigation” and “internal advisory communications.”

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