Unhappy Campers

A stickler for City Hall process, Amanda Fritz takes a new tack with Right 2 Dream Too.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has always demanded that City Hall follow its own rules. She often railed against ex-Commissioner Randy Leonard's backroom maneuvers and held up the City Council over the tiniest of procedural details.

But now in her second term, Portland is seeing a new, different approach in her decision to move the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp from an Old Town block to city property under the Broadway Bridge.

The move may violate city code that prohibits camping on city property, provides no long-term plans for the estimated 100 people who will camp under the west end of the bridge, and flouts the city's strategy to combat homelessness.

Fritz says she cut the deal to settle a lawsuit against the city brought by the Old Town landowner. Confidentiality was needed to reach the settlement, she adds.

"I don't appreciate public involvement when it really doesn't matter," Fritz says. "People have been angry and say, 'Even if we don't want it, you're still going to do it.' Yeah, that's true."

But her decision promises only to create a new homeless camp on city property (Dignity Village still operates on city land in Northeast Portland), inviting a new lawsuit.

As reported on wweek.com, the Pearl District Neighborhood Association plans to sue the city, citing code that prohibits using city property for camping.

Land-use lawyer Christe White sent Fritz and Mayor Charlie Hales a letter dated Aug. 28 describing the objections of the neighborhood association; Williams & Dame, the development firm run by Homer Williams and Dike Dame; design company Ziba; and condo developer Hoyt Street Properties.

"It's just unconscionable," White says. "It is a direct hit on the regulatory structure that every other property owner has been forced to go through by the very city who is exempting itself."

Fritz says she doesn't yet know what the city needs to do to make the camp legal.

"We will be announcing everything every step of the way," she says. "It was very unfortunate the owner decided to go to the press before the settlement was finished because that raised a lot of questions I don't yet have answers to."

The settlement waives $25,000 in city fines levied against Michael Wright for the current Right 2 Dream Too camp on his property at Northwest 4th Avenue and West Burnside Street, the former site of Cindy's, an adult bookstore.

Fritz acknowledges her strategy deviates from the city's long-term plan to address homelessness. (She also concedes she did not engage Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the city's Housing Bureau, in the discussions about Right 2 Dream Too.) 

And she says it's not yet clear what will happen to the camp when a one-year stay granted by the city runs out.

"We have all been very clear that we want most funds to go toward permanent housing," Fritz says. "Everyone on the council is committed to that. There are a finite amount of resources."

Steve Rudman, executive director of Home Forward, Portland's housing authority, says Fritz's deal with Right 2 Dream Too is a temporary fix.

"I'm not suggesting it's the right answer, but you can probably think of worse options," Rudman says. "We'll see what happens next. That's the fundamental problem: There's really no end game until we figure out how to help people.”