Terminal Chaos Forces Bolt Bus To Street Corner

Bolt bus depot

Dear Mayor Hales and City Commissioners,

I know that some other residents of my building (The North Park Lofts at 300 NW 8th Ave.) have written complaining about the Bolt Bus “stop” (read: depot) that has been moved from SW Salmon St. to NW Everett St. at 8th Ave.  I won’t add to the litany of complaints but suffice it to say that the noise pollution, traffic congestion, illegal parking, litter, etc. from this has had a materially negative impact on the livability of our homes.  And most likely the property values as well.

I met with Joe Darden, Senior Operations Manager of Bolt Bus, yesterday to get their side of the story and to share our concerns with him.  I met him at the Greyhound bus terminal on NW 6th Ave. and it was evident immediately why he would want to use a city street as a depot rather than the modern facility they own; a facility with seating, bathrooms, concessions, garbage receptacles, etc. that was completely deserted and in lockdown at 2pm.  Outside were probably 25-30 presumably homeless people who had taken over the sidewalk and mall surrounding the terminal.  I am a 6’1”, 195lb. man and it was very uncomfortable for me to walk the length of the terminal.  I was twice asked if I was “looking” and one man glared and spit at me.  I cannot imagine a woman, an elderly person, a family, or anyone really who would feel safe going near the terminal.

Joe is a very reasonable man who was sympathetic to our concerns.  He agreed to implement a no-idling policy which, although less than 24 hours in effect, has already made a big difference in the noise.  I didn’t even bother asking him the question why Bolt would use a city street for a depot, with all the attendant issues that creates, because it was painfully obvious that the terminal has been rendered virtually unusable.  His frustration with the situation was palpable, and as someone who endured the similar and horrible situation on the North Park Blocks last summer, I shared his frustration.

When will this City Council do something concrete and meaningful about this?  This is not a Bolt Bus problem, it’s a city-wide livability problem.  The “temporary” moratorium on enforcing the no-camping ordinance is only going to make matters worse. Perhaps we could take a “temporary” time-out from creating bike lanes, couplets, and extending the Streetcar and Max lines to seriously address this.  If the city’s scarce financial resources could be redirected to create one or two permanent camps/shelters with concentrated services and drop-off/triage centers for the police, then maybe the city could find the spine to enforce our laws and make the city inhabitable for tax-paying residents.  The PBA and downtown business owners would no doubt enthusiastically support this and possibly contribute financially.  Even groups like Mercy Corps and Medical Teams International might be willing to offer help in addressing what amounts to a humanitarian crisis in their own backyard.

I know that homelessness is not a crime, and my heart goes out to those who are in that condition through no fault of their own, but what has happened to the once-fair city I grew up in and have lived in for nearly 60 years is a crime.  Doing nothing is not compassion and only enables, nay exacerbates, a tragic problem for all of us.  Thank you for listening and I look forward to your response.

Eric Stromquist
North Park Lofts

City Neglect Closes Another North Park Blocks Business

First, Glyph (another North Park Blocks eatery) closed in Sept 2015. Now Remedy.

Remedy Wine Bar featured huge windows that overlooked the North Park Blocks. A park-side location should be an asset to a gracious wine bar. But not when it’s adjacent to a space that city neglect has turned into a de facto homeless encampment.

Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz lacks an appreciation for public perceptions of safe and livable spaces. In a KGW interview she stated “Every neighborhood in Portland will be asked to find a spot to put a homeless camp.” 

We wonder what’s ahead for Portland in 2016.

Remedy wine bar interior

Pearl District Wine Bar Leaving Neighborhood Because of Homeless People From Willamette Week 1/20/2016  by Matthew Korfhage 

Pearl District wine bar Remedy, at the edge of the North Park Blocks on Broadway and Everett, is closing after three years.

Owner Michael Madigan says the problem is the neighbors.

Specifically, he believes that city sweeps of camps on the east side last June caused the houseless population to explode near his wine bar, and that the city has made a “conscious decision” not to solve the crime and drug use he says had become a problem in his neighborhood.

“One day last June when the city swept the inner Southeast,” he says, “Everybody showed up on the North Park Blocks. It was literally overnight.”

The city of Portland conducted a series of sweeps of east-side encampments beginning in May 2015.

“I counted 42 people between Everett and Flanders,” says Madigan, who is also owner of KitchenCru commissary space, CorksCru wine shop, and Bowery Bagels. “It had an immediate impact.”

Madigan says his business was down this summer by a significant margin year-over-year, after gains in the springtime.

He says that the problem was the crime he and his employees consistently observed near his wine bar, a second story space looking out on the park blocks that serves $15 wine flights, along with kale Caesar salad, and cheese and charcuterie plates including a $35 five-charcuterie platter.

Madigan says area hotels stopped sending customers to his neighborhood, and that the city was ineffectual in stopping drug use nearby, even when the city parked a police van outside the area. Remedy was named after a hundred-year-old pharmacy that once occupied the building.

“It was like the an episode of The Wire,” Madigan says of the North Park Blocks area. “As soon as the cops left, the drugs and the crime showed up again.”

He also says that people frequently urinated in the stairs that lead up to his wine bar.

“Every day those stairs are used as a latrine. There are public restrooms two blocks,” he says. “I remember asking people why. Why aren’t you going to those restrooms? They said, ‘The drug dealers won’t let us in.'”

Madigan says he talked to a police lieutenant about enforcing laws against camping, and smoking in parks, but that police were unable to do so.

“‘There’s a no smoking ordinance,'” Madigan says he told a police lieutenant. “‘Why aren’t you citing them for smoking?’ We were told that only park-rangers can cite people for park related ordinances.”

Local business owners took to documenting evidence of lawlessness on a website, northparkblocks.org. and formed an organization led by Michelle Cardinal—an owner of multiple properties and founder of boutique ad-firm R2C—to lobby the mayor and City Council.

“We took pictures of people having public sex in the parks,” he says. “One of our employees took a picture of a dealer injecting drugs into someone’s neck.”

In response to a video Cardinal produced, Mayor Hales and Commissioner Fritz visited the neighborhood, and the Oregonian published a series of articles documenting the “summer of lawlessness” in the park blocks. But Madigan says that this did not give him the results he needed to stay in the neighborhood.

He plans to re-open Remedy in an undisclosed space, after declining to renew his lease for an additional four years.

Glyph art cafe, also on the North Park Blocks, closed last September, citing similar concerns, although former owner Sandra Comstock said she believed that the situation had improved by the beginning of September. Madigan says the same, but that he thinks it will worsen again.

“When we moved in we knew the neighborhood was transitional,” he says. “We said all right, this will be a good thing to do.”

The last day of business at Remedy wine bar will be January 30.

Business Damaged “Beyond Repair” by Influx of Homeless Campers

BY KATU.COM Staff and Lincoln Graves, KATU News
PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland wine bar is closing its doors after being damaged “beyond repair” by the “influx of homeless campers … drug use and other crimes.”

Remedy Wine Bar, which has been located on Northwest Everett Street by the North Park Blocks for three years, made the announcement on Facebook Tuesday.

Bar owner, Michael Madigan, first noticed the issue last summer.

North park block scene

“It was literally one day last June,” said Madigan. “I turned the corner and there were over 40 people camping right in this one block outside.”

Madigan says the problem only grew as the summer went on. KATU News reported on the issue several times during August and September.

“Along with the camping came drug deals and drug use and people having sex,” said Madigan.

As colder, wetter weather began to settle over Portland, the issue faded. But for Madigan, the damage was done.

remedy wine bar“Basically, our guests stopped coming because it became a very uncomfortable environment,” he said. “We never really recovered from that. Our business dropped by over 50 percent year to year and it still hasn’t recovered because people stopped coming to this part of town.”

Madigan knows homelessness can be a complex issue. He says his real issue is with how he believes the city is responding to the growing problems.

“The solution to the homeless problem is greater than what’s happening here on the park blocks,” he said. “The issue we had as a business community last summer is that the city didn’t do anything to correct it and for months it was a campground and free-for-all down here.”

Madigan plans to reopen Remedy Wine Bar in a new location in the future. Their last day at the Everett Street location is Jan. 30.

Park Behavior Drives Out Business

Remedywinebar
Remedy Wine Bar ~Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian

A historic city park should be an asset to adjacent businesses. But the city’s failure to address the deterioration of the North Park Blocks has claimed another causality. Remedy Wine Bar announced that it will close on January 30th.

In an announcement Remedy writes:

We’re sad to announce that Remedy Wine Bar will be closing at the end of this month, but we do intend to relocate! We have decided not to renew the lease at our current location overlooking the North Park Blocks due to the pervasive camping in and around the park throughout summer and fall of 2015, and the related crime issues, that went largely unaddressed by the city. We have little confidence things will be different this summer.

This past September, Glyph – a North Park Block’s cafe closed after deteriorating conditions in the park negatively impacted their park-side business. Glyph’s owner noted in the PDX Eater:

In the past, we’ve had homeless people and everything was fine. This summer was different. Palpably different. And I don’t know why that was. It had a different element… that is, a new more difficult element moved in… .

Mayor Hales and Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz ignored the conditions in the North Park Blocks for most of last summer. Their failure to address growing concerns about safe and livable parks has consequences.

Conditions in North Park Blocks Documented in Research Study

Dr Bruce Stephenson
Dr Bruce Stephenson

Dr. Bruce Stephenson is dedicated to the art of city planning. A Rollins College Environmental Studies professor, his research and teaching reveal how history informs the intersection of regional planning, sustainability, and urbanism.

He started studying the North Park Blocks in early June as part of a project to document the livability of the Pearl District. He used a systematic approach to assess public life by counting users and categorizing uses in the North Park Blocks in four activities

  1. Sitting on Benches
  2. Walking through the Park Blocks (along north / south  axis to experience the park, rather than along east / west axis to cut through park)
  3. Hanging Out
  4. Possessing Camping Gear

He also counted individuals playing basketball and bocci, and listed the number of children using playground equipment and the number of adults supervising them. His counts were made at the lunch hour (12 pm-1:30 pm) and the early evening (5:00 pm to 6:30 pm), and he also recorded the temperature.

North Park Blocks August 2015

His findings support the claims made by the North Park Blocks group regarding the behavior of park visitors. Dr Stephenson’s data shows the summer users with camping gear intensified, increasing by 29 percent from July 10 to August 30. The block between Glisan and Hoyt experienced no change, while the remaining blocks had increases that ranged from 20 to 100 percent. The blocks between Burnside and Couch, and Flanders and Davis Everett and Flanders had highest aggregate numbers, averaging nearly 13 users with camping gear.

He writes:

In sections where campers congregate, extremes tend to be the norm: loud voices, drama, and expletives.  Homelessness is not a crime, but city parks were not intended to shelter the indigent. Ideally, parks should function like a college campus, environments to better ourselves, attune our senses to nature, and engage in civility. … The North Park Blocks illustrate the issues a progressive city with a welcoming public realm encounter.  The solution to homelessness belies a single policy; it requires a civic investment that demands time, money, and resources.  In return, Portland can elevate its public life and public spaces—a manifest sign of a civilized people.

For Dr Stephenson full analysis, see his blog.
His Oct 6th editorial in the Oregonian.