Today the emergency ordinance to close SW Ankeny between SW 2nd and SW 3rd to vehicular traffic and allow the businesses along that block to set up sidewalk cafes came before City Council. You can read the ordinance (item #611) here.
Jeri Jenkins of PBOT laid out the basics, that each business would be granted a sidewalk cafe license and those serving alcohol would have to comply with OLCC regulations. Bruce Carey, co-owner of the new restaurant opening on the corner of SW Ankeny & 3rd (across from Voodoo Doughnuts) also spoke to the desire of all the businesses to be able to expand their seating areas and create a European-style atmosphere. Jenkins also said there are plans to put a bike corral in at one end (the south end, I think?), which would serve as a visual and physical buffer making it clear that the street is no longer open to traffic.
Amanda Fritz had some concerns about traffic, and then about equity (specifically with regard to the Sidewalk Management Ordinance), which is and always has been my concern. Then I testified (see below) on behalf of Sisters of the Road and Fritz indicated support for our issues with all this. She said she would not vote for it unless some provision is made for seating being available for people who are not customers of the businesses along that block. Jenkins and Carey and a guy who I think owns(?) Voodoo Doughnuts then conferred and decided they didn’t feel comfortable agreeing to that change without consulting the other businesses, though neither Carey nor the other fellow had a problem with the idea of some seating being available to anyone, even if they weren’t customers. So everyone is coming back at 2pm (myself included) to see if everybody agrees. Because this is an emergency ordinance, the Council needs to pass it unanimously.
At this point, the options are:
1) The configuration is changed a little and it passes this afternoon (all the other Commissioners seemed happy with it as is).
2) The configuration is changed and it comes back next week. But it does get changed, and it gets passed next week as an emergency ordinance. This would set the projected start date of June 20th back a week.
3) The configuration is left as is, it comes back next week as a regular ordinance. Fritz votes against it but is outvoted by the rest of Council, and it has to wait 30 days to take effect, which would set the start date back to late July.
So we’ll see. More to come.
This is the text of my testimony:
City Council Agenda item 611: Emergency Ordinance to close SW Ankeny between SW 2nd & SW 3rd
My name is Michael Moore and I am on the Board of Directors of Sisters of the Road.
Commissioner Fritz and Mayor Adams, you conducted last month’s well-attended public forum about the new Office of Equity. I hope you were able to convey to the other Commissioners the palpable sense of frustration in the room over longstanding city policies and practices that continue to promote inequity. These policies continue to push low-income Portlanders and people of color out of their neighborhoods at alarming rates, as documented in 2010 Census, and are responsible for the 17-year decline in affordable housing stock in the central city – a decline that even the opening of the Bud Clark Commons does not stem. Time and again that evening, one message came through loud and clear: Promoting equity starts with city government policy itself, which must put equity foremost in all applicable decision making. We at Sisters do not believe this ordinance, as currently conceived, does that.
Our concern about the ordinance as proposed is that it walls off what is currently public space for the exclusive benefit of a handful of business owners, while making no provision for the benefit of anyone who can not afford to patronize these businesses. We’re concerned that we will see the same problems here we see in Pioneer Courthouse Square, one of the three locations where people experiencing poverty and homelessness are most frequently cited for violating the Sidewalk Management Ordinance. We’re concerned because of the classicist message that the city will send when signs indicate that sitting or lying anywhere along the rest of SW Ankeny is forbidden, while this stretch will provide outdoor seating and relaxation only for those of economic means. We’re concerned that this will be another in a growing list of ostensibly public spaces around Portland in which the Equity Forum’s message is lost, and a different message comes through loud and clear: “If you don’t have money, you aren’t welcome here.”
I’d like to quote from the conclusions of Commissioner Fritz’s September 10, 2009 report on the Sharing Public Spaces Community Forum:
“The Council cannot solve the problems alone. Multiple agencies, community partners, and individual citizens are needed to participate constructively. In fact, every Portlander, every business owner and worker, and every visitor must be part of the solution, to support actions that allow sharing public spaces equitably, compassionately, and responsibly. ”
We feel strongly that it is not too much to ask that the City Council live up to the goals identified in that report. To support actions that allow sharing public spaces equitably, compassionately, and responsibly, we request that the Council require that a portion of the seating in this revamped public space be made available for the use of anyone who would like to use it, even if they cannot afford a gourmet crepe, and that it suspend enforcement of the Sidewalk Management Ordinance for people using that seating as a place to rest.
UPDATE: From my perspective, it didn’t go too well. Ms. Jenkins came back, Mr. Carey and Trace (the owner of Voodoo Doughnuts) did not. The owners of three of the affected businesses are out of town, so they’re position remained that they didn’t feel comfortable agreeing to any changes until they could speak to them. Totally understandable, IMO. Fritz wouldn’t vote for it without some provision for truly public seating (as opposed to customer seating only, which is what the current plan calls for). Randy Leonard is all for it the way it is and said adding some provision for public seating would create “issues,” according to the City Attorney’s office, whom he said he spoke with during the break. He did not specify what those issues might be. My guess is that it might have to do with liability. Leonard also said some things that I feel mischaracterized our position and insinuated we were trying to make the whole thing into some kind of conflict between “the homeless” and the business owners, which is not at all the case. We simply want public space to welcome all of the public.
So the vote went 4-1 and because it was an emergency ordinance, it failed. Leonard changed his vote to ‘nay’ so he could reintroduce it as a regular ordinance. Today’s events constitutes the first reading. Next week it will come before Council again for another reading and a vote, and because it won’t be an emergency ordinance anymore, it will pass 4-1 (probably). Then it goes into effect 30 days later. That means the whole thing gets pushed back a month and it won’t get going until late July, instead of June 20th as originally planned. Not, I don’t think, what anyone wanted.
There may be some chance of meeting with Carey or Trace or some of the others between now and next week, but we’ll have to see. I did get to talk to Jenkins for a few minutes outside chambers and my impression is that she felt blindsided by all of this coming up at the last minute. Again, totally understandable, but I wish there had been a process or forum where we could have raised these issues in advance. I raised them at the last Sharing Public Sidewalks meeting earlier this month, but no one from PBOT was there (Rich was called away for a meeting with the Mayor). Fritz also indicated, if I understood her correctly, that she felt left out of the loop on this. It seems like Tom Miller pretty much worked things out with the business owners and didn’t involve anyone else, but that might also be mischaracterizing things. That’s just what it looks like from where we sit — and we were certainly never invited to the table, never given an opportunity to offer input. Anyway, I felt bad about anything I did that may have seemed like an ambush to Jenkins.