City Negotiating Deal to Move Right 2 Dream Too Under Broadway Bridge

UPDATE: Lawyer says talks have "fallen apart."

UPDATE, 7:25 pm: Mark Kramer, the attorney for Right 2 Dream Too, tells WW talks between the homeless camp, property owner Michael Wright and the city have broken down.

"The breakthrough I thought we had achieved in negotiations has apparently fallen apart," Kramer says. "Looks like we're back to square one. There is no agreement. There is no breakthrough."

Wright says city officials called Kramer tonight to say the deal was off.

ORIGINAL POST: Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz have offered to move Chinatown homeless camp Right 2 Dream Too to a city-owned property under the Broadway Bridge, WW has learned.

Michael Wright, who owns the empty lot at Northwest 4th Avenue and Burnside Street where Right 2 Dream Too currently sits, says Hales and Fritz have indicated that they would place the camp on a property owned by the Portland Development Commission, under the west ramp of the Broadway Bridge.

He says the city discussed waiving nearly $25,000 in fines for an unpermitted campsite, in exchange for him dropping his lawsuit against the city.

But Wright says the city's offer hinges on one condition: that Wright signs an agreement promising to never place another homeless camp on his property.

"If I were not to sign," Wright tells WW, "my understanding is [Right 2 Dream Too] would not have an offer from the city to go to the Broadway Bridge. I didn't particularly feel like signing that I would never help the homeless again."

Fritz tells WW discussing the negotiations could jeopardize the deal.

"I have agreed with R2D2 not to talk on the record until we have an agreement," Fritz says. "It is unfortunate that Mr. Wright has not abided by that agreement."

Right to Dream Too has been operating next to the iconic Chinatown gate since 2011, sheltering 80 to 100 homeless people in tents each night.

Wright allowed the homeless camp to lease the site for $1 a year after former Commissioner Randy Leonard forced the closure of his business, Cindy's Adult Bookstore.

He says he wants a promise he'll be allowed to use the lot for some kind of business, like food carts.

"I told Mr. Hales if I could establish some kind of cash flow and pay my property taxes, and if I could find a place for the homeless, then I would consider it," Wright says.

But he agreed to talk to WW after seeing city emails suggesting he wouldn't be granted permits for food carts on the lot.

"I think we might be at a loggerheads," Wright says, "and it might help to shine a little light on it."

Wright also confirms what several sources have told WW: Hales and Fritz are in a hurry to move the camp partly because the Portland Lee Family Association—a major property owner in Old Town/Chinatown—is hosting the National Lee Family Convention this weekend, Aug. 30-31.

The sight of a homeless camp next to the Chinatown gate is a PR debacle the city wants to avert.  

UPDATE, 12:02 pm: Wright tells WW that Fritz has agreed to change the wording on the deal so it doesn't prohibit him from hosting another homeless camp.

"That will not be a dealbreaker," Wright says, "and the deal will probably move forward."

UPDATE, 3:45 pm: Mark Kramer, attorney for Right 2 Dream Too, says his clients are close to a deal, but the camp likely won't move under the Broadway Bridge for several weeks.

"It seems like we've reached a breakthrough," says Kramer. "I would say we're about 90 percent there."

Kramer confirms the terms of the deal WW reported earlier today: The city will lease Right 2 Dream Too the PDC property beneath the Lovejoy on-ramp, and drop all outstanding fines. The camp and Michael Wright, who owns the property at Northwest 4th Avenue and Burnside Street, will drop its lawsuit against the city.

Wright will not have any restrictions on how he uses the property. (The deal now leaves open the possibility of Right 2 Dream 3.)

Kramer says the deal will take at least a week to finish, however.

"If the movement toward a tentative agreement is formalized," he says, "Right 2 Dream Too would move shortly, probably within 30 days."