Metro and City Revive talk about using part of the expo center parking lot as a car camping site

Metro and City of Portland elected officials are calling an emergency meeting on April 18 to discuss using part of the Expo Center parking lot as a permitted camping site for people living in their vehicles. It’s a resumption of a year-long conversation that disintegrated last fall after the two governments could not agree on which piece of property to use.

Subway President Lynn Peterson told WW in an interview on Wednesday that she and City Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Dan Ryan would jointly ask the seven-member Subway Expo Recreation Committee to which oversees the operations of the Expo Center, to allow negotiations to begin for the use of part of the Expo parking lot. (Which lot or lots are on the table is not yet clear.)

Peterson first said WW that the city would pay the cost of paving the requested lot, or several lots: “Hardesty will be there because they have found the money to pave the parking lots that we have requested from the MERC, and we will talk to the MERC of how to set up a safe park,” Peterson said.

Peterson then took over the statement and clarified that what she meant was that Hardesty had pledged to help cement a deal and could potentially find the money if needed – not that Hardesty had offered the funds for it. .

The city’s estimated cost of restoring the gravel lot last year was $1.5 million.

If approved by four of the seven MERC commissioners, Metro and the city will begin discussions about which parking lot could be used. While clarifying the idea with MERC is a hurdle, another major hurdle still exists: Metro and the city for a year couldn’t agree on which part of the land to use.

Ryan applied to Metro in 2020 for paved land at the Expo Center for a car camping site. Metro would only offer gravel land, which Ryan felt was too expensive to rehabilitate.

In September, after a year of correspondence, the city and Metro stopped negotiating with each other.

It seems that for Ryan’s office, paved parking is still a requirement.

“[We] will continue to plead for a cobblestone [parking] location at the Expo Center so that we can act with urgency – and with responsible fiscal management – ​​to connect Portlanders living in their vehicles with vital services, Ryan’s spokeswoman Margaux Weeke told WW .

The reunion provides a second chance for what many saw as a mutual failure of the city and the metro to lock down a plot of land to safely house the homeless that was seen as low hanging fruit; the Expo Center is a financial albatross for Metro, and it’s been trying to offload it for years.

Ryan’s office announced earlier this year that a secure car camping site would be located at 9827 Northeast Sunderland Ave., land owned by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, an office overseen by Hardesty. But Hardesty tells WW that a single car campsite “won’t match the scale of the need”.

“My office has had conversations with Subway Chairman Peterson and Commissioner Ryan’s office to advance another safe parking area and we hope that by working together we can find a solution for this needed resource,” said Hardesty. WW.