A Bare Fight

Hayden Island battles powerful developers over strip joint.

The prospect of a strip club on Hayden Island in a building owned by Portland real-estate power couple Katherine Durant and Gordon Sondland has residents of the island up in arms.

They have gathered more than 600 signatures on a petition urging the building owners, who also own the elegant Hotel Lucia and Hotel deLuxe downtown, not to lease the 5,500-square-foot space on Hayden Island to a strip joint. Mayor Sam Adams told residents in an email that he shares their concerns but the city has no "legal means of intervention to stop the proposed strip club."

The space just west of Interstate 5 was previously home to Newport Bay, a family restaurant in plain view of both the Jantzen Beach mall and Jantzen Beach Moorage, a gated community of 170 homes.

"They wouldn't put this up next to their hotels," says Pat Dunegan, a resident of the gated community and owner of an adjacent private mailbox rental shop. "So why here?"

The Hayden Island Neighborhood Network, the neighborhood association for the island's 2,000-plus residents, has been in contact with the building's owners for more than two months.

The Neighborhood Network is dealing with two well-connected people.

Sondland and Durant are large charitable donors who last year quickly raised $50,000 to help Commissioner Nick Fish save the Washington Park Summer Concert series. They have sat on numerous local boards, including those of the Portland Art Museum and OHSU Foundation.

Durant is in her second term on the powerful Oregon Investment Council, which invests the state's pension funds. Sondland, an informal adviser to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, chairs the Oregon Film and Video Office Board. Sondland is also part of the Aspen Group, a local investment firm that garnered negative press earlier this year for predatory lending practices.

Neighborhood Network Chairman Roger Staver says association members have had an amicable face-to-face meeting with Durant, who confirmed to them that she and her husband had been approached by the owner of a "gentlemen's club."

No lease has been signed, and potential tenants are increasingly difficult to come by with the threat of demolition for the Columbia River Crossing project, Staver says, adding that "the entire center is under the proposed bridge."

But Staver says residents are "theorizing that [Durant and Sondland's] motivation is compensation from eminent domain," because occupied space would get a bigger payout upon condemnation than an empty building.

Sondland's assistant says Sondland and Durant are traveling out of the country until September and are unavailable for comment.

In a July 23 letter to Sondland and Durant, Staver calls the strip joint "completely inconsistent with the image that you have earned as community supporters and benefactors."

Dunegan considers the club "a slap in the face" given that the Harbor Shops, a mini-mall owned by Durant and Sondland across the street from the possible strip joint, is already filled with video-poker bars and blacked-out windows. He says the bars have attracted a lot of crime, and he's worried what a strip club would add.

"They're turning this place into a skid row or border town," Dunegan says. "People come down to Oregon, and the first thing they see are poker bars and strip clubs."