PORTLAND, Ore. – A group of neighborhood associations and businesses is suing the city of Portland and Mayor Charlie Hales for the mayor’s “misguided and unlawful” policy on homeless camping in the city, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
The group of plaintiffs includes the Portland Business Alliance, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Oregon, the Central Eastside Industrial Council, Overlook Neighborhood Association, Pearl District Neighborhood Association, Clean & Safe District and the food cart pod Cartlandia.
The group argues Hales’ camping policy, which allows homeless people to sleep on sidewalks and other public land between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., is unlawful and not enforceable because it violates state law limiting the number of camps in a city and it was not approved by the Portland City Council.
Hales enacted his camping policy in February 2016.
"It’s a bad situation, but the overriding issue is the people on the street that shouldn’t be there," said Susan Steward with BOMA. "They don’t deserve that. They deserve to be treated better."
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction barring Hales and the city from enforcing the policy.
“The Mayor’s Camping Policy is a legislative act, which exceeds the mayor’s authority,” the suit says. “If a camping policy on Portland sidewalks and on rights of way other than sidewalks is allowed at all, it can be enacted only by a majority vote of the City Council.”
Hales was in Europe on Wednesday. Hales' spokeswoman, Sara Hottman, said the mayor would not comment on ongoing litigation, per city policy.
Hales has made addressing homelessness a priority in his last year in office. In September 2015, Hales announced a housing and homeless emergency in Portland, which after approved by the city council, allowed the city to convert city-owned buildings into shelters.
“We don’t normally delegate the authority to one man to come up with, frankly, a poorly thought out strategy for dealing with this problem,” said Chris Trejbal with the Overlook Neighborhood Association.