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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Right 2 Dream Too Will Dismiss Lawsuit; Attorney Says Pearl Site Still Very Much Alive

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Right 2 Dream Too, the homeless rest area that's been operating for more than two years at NW 4th and Burnside, has formally agreed to drop a lawsuit filed against the city as part of legal agreement with the city that would move the site to a lot on the fringes of the Pearl District.

Attorney Mark Kramer announced in a statement today that R2DToo is still actively negotiating a "use agreement" for the land promised in the legal deal, part of a Portland Development Commission-owned parking lot beneath the Lovejoy off-ramp of the Broadway Bridge.

That promise was brokered in September by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, with the close blessing of Mayor Charlie Hales. But it's been on hold since October 3 when Hales, siding with friendly developers Homer Williams and Dike Dame, agreed to hold off on approving a zoning letter clearing the way for R2DToo to take over the site.

Williams and Dame, along with Williams' stepdaughter, Tiffany Sweitzer of Hoyt Development, have joined with the Pearl District Neighborhood Association in pre-emptively challenging that zoning letter in front of the Land Use Board of Appeals. To sweeten that promise of legal action, the Pearl group has agreed to help find an alternative, indoor site for the outdoor rest area. Hales, going over Fritz's head and complicating the lawsuit Kramer will dismiss, gave them 60 days.

The Pearl group's efforts actually make Kramer's disclosure about continued work on the Pearl site particularly interesting. The Mercury exclusively reported last Friday that Hales, before heading to China, personally assured Dame in an email that he wouldn't let anything happen with the Pearl lot or any other city lot until a deal was reached or the 60 days expired.

Fritz criticized the mayor the next day, writing, "the only way Right 2 Dream Too does not move to Lot 7, is if they are offered and agree to a deal that changes that agreement. Or, if Mayor Hales breaks the City’s previous promise."

The back and forth comes after the Pearl group announced the framework of a deal with Right 2 Dream Too—an announcement that neither Fritz or R2DToo organizers said they knew was coming. Kramer, in today's statement, said the pronouncement of progress last week was all talk.

"Although there has been much talk about such alternatives, no feasible site has been formally presented to R2DToo," he wrote.

He also confirmed that the site will be able to stay on their current land and that the current landlords aren't receiving compensation. Property owners Dan Cossette and Michael Wright, part of R2DToo's lawsuit against the city, have agreed to let the rest area remain. The Pearl group had reportedly offered some kind of compensation—I've been told by several people that it was several thousand dollars a month—but only if R2DToo agreed to formally swear off a move to the Pearl.

That's clearly not the case.

Check Kramer's full statement after the jump.

Update 2:26 PM: Right 2 Dream Too has also issued a statement. It's on the jump, too.

Right to Dream Too (R2DToo) and the Owners of the property located at 4th and Burnside in Portland (where R2DToo is currently located), in fulfillment of their Settlement Agreement with the City of Portland will dismiss their lawsuit against the City today at 1:30pm at the Multnomah County Circuit Court. The Settlement Agreement requires the dismissal as well as the negotiation of a Use Agreement as a condition precedent to the negotiated relocation of R2DToo to Lot 7 under the Broadway Bridge. The Use Agreement is in draft form and the details of it are currently being negotiated between R2DToo and Commissioner Fritz's office.

R2DToo, notwithstanding the Settlement Agreement, remains open to alternative sites for relocation provided that such sites are affordable; accessible to transportation and public services and otherwise meet the mission of R2DToo. Although there has been much talk about such alternatives, no feasible site has been formally presented to R2DToo. Meanwhile, R2DToo remains on the 4th and Burnside site based upon the goodwill and generosity of the site's owners who are currently not being compensated for such use.

“We are prepared to complete the settlement and dismissal and move to the location at the Lovejoy overpass,” explained R2DToo board member Trillium Shannon. “Not only does the cold and wet weather make a delay in the move increasingly difficult, but we currently do not have a lease agreement with the property owners.”

City of Portland officials and R2DToo are in the process of finalizing a use agreement with Commissioner Fritz's office for the new site. Even with the case dismissal imminent, R2DToo will continue to negotiate in good faith in consideration of viable alternative sites and reasonable compensation to the current site owners if R2DToo needs to remain at the current site during the interim. R2DToo co-founder and board chairman Ibrahim Mubarak urges those who oppose the agreement that has been reached in good faith with the City to also act in good faith rather than trying to manipulate the process, “There is an epidemic of homelessness in Portland and throughout the country. The powers that be need to start working with the people who are affected and organizations like ours that are providing sensible and effective solutions. Otherwise, people who oppose the relocation will be perceived by the community as perpetuating the unjust economic and social system that so many people are victims of.”

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