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Planters placed, later removed in Portland neighborhood where homeless camps were cleared

Several people spent last Saturday installing planters between the road and sidewalk on SE 37th Avenue near Laurelhurst Park, but they were removed within a day.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland neighborhood of Laurelhurst has been the center of many battles over homeless camps, and it saw another one within the last week. People installed dozens of large troughs, or planters, between the sidewalk and the roadway over the weekend — seemingly to deter camping in that location. But they were dumped out and taken even faster than it took to put them in place.

All that remained on Tuesday afternoon were several piles of dirt and gravel. Neighbors living nearby had varying opinions on whether this type of action is an acceptable solution — both putting the planters up and tearing them down.

"On Saturday morning, I actually saw a bunch of people," said Alex Linsker. "I didn't interact because it looked kind of shady to me."

Linsker did take photos of the installation as he passed by the scene. As first reported in Willamette Weekseveral people spent Saturday morning putting dirt into the planters — said to be the neighborhood's latest attempt to prevent camping.

"This is definitely not the way to deal with it," Linsker said.

The landscaping project of sorts did not last long. Within hours of their installation, other people swooped in to dump them out and whisk them away.

"It's disheartening," said neighbor Erin Miller, who said she didn't know who was behind the project. "I really though that it looked good. I was happy that there was going to be something beautiful here."

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) told KGW they did not receive any applications for permits for planters in the area, nor did they remove the planters. 

"Planters and other privately owned infrastructure in the public right-of-way, such as the area between a sidewalk and the curb, generally require a Revocable Encroachment Permit from PBOT," explained Dylan Rivera, a spokesperson for PBOT, in an email Tuesday afternoon. "This is the case whether the adjacent property is private, such as a house, or public property, such as a park."

While some are glad to see the planters are gone, others consider it to be an acceptable solution. 

"I am 100% for it," said Ann Masters. "Because, the people that are on the street that are causing the problems will not live by the rules — that's the bottom line — yet we cannot do anything to keep them off of our property."

KGW was unable to reach the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association to independently confirm the purpose or origin of these planters. Homeless camps and resulting sweeps in and around Laurelhurst Park have created tension in the neighborhood for years.

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