A resolution has been attained in a collective legal action initiated against the City of Portland due to obstructions on walkways caused by tents and personal belongings.
Portland-based attorney John DiLorenzo launched the lawsuit in September on behalf of 10 complainants, who asserted that the encroachment of homeless settlements on city sidewalks was impinging on their Americans with Disabilities Act rights as they were being denied access to city services.
KGW reports that both parties have mutually consented to bypass a trial and have reached an agreement via mediation. As part of this settlement, the City is not required to confess to any violations of ADA regulations.
Here are the main points of the settlement:
The city is committed to prioritize the dismantling of sidewalk camps, ensuring that these make up at least 40% of total removals annually for the next five years. Moreover, the city pledges to clear at least 500 sidewalk encampments each year, provided the number of such camps is sufficient to meet this figure, and will allocate a minimum of $8 million for removals in the fiscal year 2023-24 and $3 million yearly for the subsequent four years.
Further terms detailed in the settlement agreement are:
The city will introduce a 24-hour reporting option for sidewalk encampments via a 311 line and an online portal, with a simplified procedure for mobility-impaired individuals to request ADA accommodations.
Within five business days of a report, the city must send an employee or contractor to evaluate a site, and all report data should be amalgamated in a unified tracking database for reported sidewalk camps.
Tents or tarps will not be supplied to homeless citizens by the city, except in specific instances, thereby effectively maintaining a policy introduced earlier this year by Commissioner Rene Gonzalez.
The city will place “no camping” signs in areas where at least three campsite clearances and at least one ADA accommodation request have been made in a particular month.
Each complainant will receive $5,000 in compensatory damages plus legal costs from the city, which will also provide quarterly written reports on its compliance with the agreement.
This agreement is pending approval by the Portland City Council, which is expected to vote on it in their 9:30 am session this coming Wednesday (5/31).
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is likely to view the timing of this agreement favorably, having recently made headway toward a camping ban and allocated funds to expedite camp clearances. Wheeler’s update on the camping ordinance will be presented to the Council on the same day as this settlement.
Tiana Tozer, the primary complainant in the lawsuit, informed other complainants and supporters via email on Tuesday that while the settlement is, “Not everything we wanted,” it is expected to enable a quicker response for those with disabilities when walkways are obstructed and eventually discourage camping on sidewalks. Tozer also mentioned that unanimous approval from Portland City Council members will be required for the settlement to pass on its first reading next Wednesday.
Tozer emphasized, “We need the settlement to be approved on May 31. If it gets a second hearing, it will allow the opposition to mobilize and potentially delay the resolution.”