Portland mayor preparing daytime camping ban for city council consideration

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and his staff held a news conference Thursday to outline details of a proposed ordinance to ban daytime camping throughout the city. Wheeler said he plans to bring the plan to the city council next week.

The ban would apply to all city property from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day and would be in force 24-7 in areas within 250 feet of certain designated places including schools, parks, existing shelters and sidewalk spaces intended for pedestrians.

The ordinance also sets restrictions on the amount and location of personal items and garbage in proximity to tents. It also bans the use of gas heaters or fires at campsites and also prohibits digging, excavating, and damaging vegetation.

The ban is intended to codify some of the city’s existing policies, according to Wheeler’s office, and to bring the city into alignment with Oregon House Bill 3115, which was adopted in 2021 and requires cities to update their camping ordinances by July 1 of this year to meet a new set of state standards.

HB 3115 is intended to align Oregon with the 2018 court ruling Martin v. City of Boise, in which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that municipalities can’t criminalize sleeping in public places if there aren’t enough shelter beds.

The law still allows cities to impose “reasonable” time, place and manner restrictions on camping, and Wheeler’s proposed ordinance uses those exact terms to categorize many of the restrictions that it would add to the city’s code.

Under the new rules, first- and second-time violators would receive a written warning. A third-time violator could receive a fine of up to $100 or a prison sentence of up to 30 days.

“My goal is to have enough shelter, housing, and treatment access available so that we can fully eliminate unsanctioned, unsheltered camping in Portland,” Wheeler said in a statement. “We must continue to develop workable, and compassionate means to connect people to the services they need to get off and stay off the streets. These changes are critical to the City’s compliance with state law and vital to our community’s ability to return to the vibrant place we all love.”

Separately on Thursday, Wheeler’s office confirmed that the city has reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit brought last year by residents who claimed the city’s failure to keep sidewalks clear of camps violated their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in an email that Wheeler’s camping ban ordinance was not one of the terms of the settlement, but that it would “work hand in glove” with it. The settlement, which still needs to be approved by the city council, would require the city to prioritize the removal of camps from sidewalks, among other commitments.

Wheeler announced a plan last year to develop six sanctioned mass camping sites and then phase in a total ban on camping everywhere else in the city. None of the sites have opened yet, although Wheeler’s office released some details about the first planned site earlier this year.

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