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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Car-Free "Entertainment District" in Old Town Will Wait a Few More Weeks

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 1:14 PM

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A hoped-for cease-fire between cars and cabs and the expensively clad drunk people spilling out from Old Town nightclubs on weekend nights will have to wait until early next year to take effect.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, during today's marathon city council meeting, refused to bless a pilot project for a pedestrian-only “entertainment zone” in the neighborhood on an "emergency" basis that would have let cops and city transportation workers start in on it immediately.

The program, which we reported on way back in October, would close the blocks between NW 2nd and 4th Avenues from West Burnside to NW Everett to all vehicle traffic from 10pm to 3am every Friday and Saturday. And because this isn't Bourbon Street, public drinking would remain banned.

Cops and neighbors mostly like it, at least enough to try it out for 90 days, but Fritz wanted to wait to gather a bit more information and assurances that the freedom of a pedestrian zone won't make noise and other woes like hooliganism any worse.

"What I like about it is it's a proposal. It's a trial," Commander Bob Day of the Portland Police Bureau's Central Precinct said. "I'm not married to the idea. But you have to take risks once in a while."

Mayor Sam Adams said he expected removing cars would make cops more visible and, thus, make people "less boisterous." He also, seemingly invoking the specter of yesterday's shootings at Clackamas Town Center, expressed his disappointment that the plan wouldn't be in place for New Year's Ee.

"We have a lot of guns around right now," he said. "I don't want to mess around."

The interim between today's hearing and when the proposal was first aired did result in some changes. The cops had wanted the zone to start at 9 PM, but neighbors told them to change it to 10 or take a hike. Anyone of the area's disabled residents, or anyone who needs special care, will be able to have cars pick them up no matter the time. And cops will also be trained on noise control and will carry meters.

The final vote is next week.

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