NW Examiner: Civility Collapses on North Park Blocks

Civility collapses on North Park Blocks- Sept 2015
Civility collapses on North Park Blocks- Sept 2015 – click to enlarge

The September 2015 issue of the NW Examiner details this summer’s dramatic decline of the North Park Blocks.
Click here for PDF of article

Our lovely park has become home to vagrants who openly do drugs, have sex, fights and regularly urinate and defecate in public. … This is affecting my business and more importantly, Portland’s prosperity in the long run.” ~ Michelle Cardinal, CEO of the R2C ad agency located on the North Park Blocks.

“Everyone I speak to is talking about the city being out of control… It’s very scary what happening to the city right now … younger ‘road warriors’ with aggressive, unleashed dogs began taking over public spaces.  I have so much compassion of the truly homeless people, but they are not the problem.” ~ Stan Penkin, co-founder of Friendly Steers and a member of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association (PDNA) Livability Committee.

 

North Park Blocks Recommendations to Mayor Hales

City_Hall,_Portland,_Oregon_in_2012On Sept 1st Mayor Hales hosted a 90 min meeting at City Hall to hear the concerns raised by residents and businesses of Portland’s historic North Park Blocks (NPB). Over two dozen were in attendance including Portland Police, representatives from city and county agencies, outreach program managers, and DAs office. The NPB neighborhood was represented by Michelle Cardinal (R2C Group), Tom Manley (PNCA), Bob Packard (ZGF), Peter Pappas (resident), Jessie Burke (Society Hotel), Edie Rogoway (Rogoway Law), Jean Fleming (resident) and Ed Blackburn (Central City Concern).

Mayor Hales opened the “listening session” and stressed the need to address the immediate concerns of the North Park Blocks while being congruent with larger initiatives to address needs of Portland’s public spaces.


Then Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz lectured the group that “parks are for everyone – the last place for people,” and announced that she would only be able to stay for the first 20 minutes of the scheduled 90 minute meeting.

The North Park Blocks neighbors are disappointed that Park’s Commissioner Fritz could not find the time to listen to our concerns and contribute to the discussion  for improving the safety and livability of the city parks that she oversees.


On behalf of the NPB neighbors, Michelle Cardinal presented the following four recommendations:

1. Enforce existing laws/ordinances on books:

a. Drug Free (School) Zones Under Oregon law. Under ORS 475.904 it is a Class A felony “for any person to manufacture or deliver a schedule I, II or III controlled substance within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising a public or private elementary, secondary or career school attended primarily by minors.” The entire North Park Blocks falls within 1000 ft of the Emerson School

1000 ft Emerson School Drug Free Zone extends the full length of Park Blocks
1000 ft Emerson School Drug Free Zone extends the full length of Park Blocks

b. Impounding Dangerous Dogs (ORS 609.090) allows the police to impound a dog if it is a “public nuisance,” which includes a dog that is deemed to be a “potentially dangerous dog” further defined as a dog that: . . . “Without provocation and while not on premises from which the keeper may lawfully exclude others, inflicts physical injury on . . . a domestic animal . . . .” ORS 609.035(5).

c. Illegal Camping on Public Property (14A.50.020) – “campsite means any place where bedding, sleeping bag or sleeping matter is placed or established.” Illegal camping. There are no Oregon or federal cases stating that Portland’s “no camping” ordinance is unconstitutional. To the contrary, in Anderson v. City of Portland, No. CIV. 08-1447-AA, 2011 WL 6130598, at *4 (D. Or. Dec. 7, 2011), federal Judge Anna Brown rejected a host of constitutional arguments against the ordinance but noted that the plaintiffs’ issues “cried out for a political rather than a legal solution.” Recently, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong found the same ordinance to be lawful and constitutional.

d. No smoking in Public Parks Ordinance (July 2015)

2. North Park Blocks oversight is not working:
Two entities share responsibility (Park Rangers in park / Clean and Safe surrounding streets).  Aggressors know and simply cross the street when confronted.  Residents are confused on who to contact.  We request return to Clean and Safe jurisdiction. Only two teams of Park Ranger assigned to entire downtown. Their primary mission of Park Rangers is “diplomats.” Security is secondary. Since Park Rangers have assumed responsibility, park security has declined.

3. Neighbors need one point of contact
Who do people call when reporting incidents. The current system is a confusing collection of phone numbers and jurisdictions.

4. Program the Parks
Team with PNCA, Park Blocks neighbors , businesses, and CCC to flood the park with positive events.

The meeting continued with many ideas shared among attendees. Mayor Hales concluded the meeting by noting that while Portland has multi-layered governmental system, that is not an excuse for inaction. He asked that attendees follow up by sending him specific recommendations. He is planning a follow up meeting for this group as well as hosting a meeting of west coast mayors to address common concerns of homelessness. He closed by citing the successful summer at Portland’s Holladay Park which organized a summer of positive programing.

Image credit: Wikimedia

KATU-TV: Park Safety Concerns Heard by Mayor Hales

By Emily Sinovic, KATU News Reports Sept 1, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Charlie Hales met on Tuesday with a group of community leaders and concerned North Park Blocks neighbors who gathered to address concerns for safety and livability in the city’s historic park. The mayor’s office called today’s meeting more of a “listening session.” 

NPB NW8th-Davis Aug 27-15
NPB NW 8th and Davis Aug 27, 2015

 

KATU-TV: Park Safety Concerns Cloud School Opening

Here’s the latest report from Jackie Labrecque, KATU News Published: Aug 29, 2015  Aug 25th KATU report here

PORTLAND, Ore. — Parents whose kids attend the Emerson School in North Park Blocks are joining in the chorus of concerned voices for all the crime happening there: People camping out, doing drugs, and having sex all in a school zone. And the area is home to Art in the Pearl, a huge art festival over Labor Day weekend.

It was a reunion after summer vacation on the playground outside the Emerson School. The annual school picnic means school is about to begin.

“This year is decidedly different than any other year,” said Principal Tara O’Neil who had gloves on, and was carrying a sharps container as we talked with her. “I’m walking around making sure there’s no needles on the playground or in the grass around the park.”

Emerson is right along the North Park Blocks in the Pearl District.

“Just the numbers of street campers of people who are out in the park sleeping, or living all day long — it’s ballooned, it’s more than doubled than from what I can see out our window,” said O’Neil.

The kids have noticed, too. Their parents told them to share.

“It’s kind of crazy how many people are around, and it seems kind of unsafe,” said Max Pettit, who is in middle school, and graduated from Emerson two years ago.

“I see some fighting, getting arrested, it’s a very big issue,” said Enzo Ungar-Gutierrez.

“We’ve seen people shooting up, people having sex, we’ve seen people peeing, and the other thing in our doorways,” said Jean Fleming, who lives near the park.

Neighbors collectively say they do not feel safe.

Crime in Pearl's Parks

“This is a crime, nuisance, and quality of life issue. This is not a homeless issue,” said Fleming’s husband, Mic Fleming. “This is all new people, this is all new activity, this is a level we have never seen before.”

No one at City Hall would talk on camera, but we learned Portland park rangers are increasing visits at the park as frequently as possible, including an extra evening patrol. Over Labor Day weekend, when vendors have permits to set up shop for Art in the Pearl, police officers will work with park rangers to move the campers out.

Parents know that is just a short-term solution.

“We have a lot of people who can’t afford a roof over their head, or drug treatment, or good mental health counseling. I believe it’s really indicative of a much larger problem,” said an Emerson parent.

Take Back the Block: Emerson School Picnic – Aug 27th

Emerson School takes back the park
Emerson School takes back the Park Block

The folks at the Emerson School have extended this invite for the neighborhood to join them tonight Thurs Aug 27th

“I wanted to put out the information that The Emerson School is having our Back To School Picnic tonight, on the playground block, with ~100 families and children coming to play and take over the block for an hour or so. It begins at 6pm.

I had to send a notice to all our families to please bring chairs or plan on standing – the practice of laying out a blanket and eating picnic style on the ground was solidly discouraged by one of the park rangers, and I agree wholeheartedly—it’s just gross out there right now. Any of our neighbors are welcome to join us and just be part of a “take back the block” event for the hour (though you must have a tolerance for children running around)! I will be scanning the ground and playground for needles or any other safety hazards beginning at 5pm, if anyone wants to be available to help with that : ) —I’ll also have a name tag if anyone just wants to come and introduce themselves so we can make connections.

If you can help with attendance, it would be greatly appreciated!!!

They also wanted to let people know about their school schedule and daily use of the Park Blocks, in case that helps with any of our communications to the city. Their first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 1. They have Daily P.E. in the park blocks from 10-10:30 EVERY MORNING – 150 students pour out into the park blocks for various large motor movement activities. They usually use the playground as well as grassy areas in a number of the blocks, starting with the “elephant block” and ending with the basket ball courts.

They intend to go out unless it’s really raining HARD. Their teachers walk the grass as needed to scoop dog poop each morning, and put cones around human (or questionable) waste. Then they use the playground for recess every day from 11:45-1:15, and then their After School program uses the playground from 3:15-4:15 when weather permits.