Update on Montavilla Park Petition and City Response

Montavilla Initiative launched a petition on May 2nd, 2018 based on growing concerns around public safety and public health issues at Montavilla Park. The petition was very successful, garnering hundreds of signatures overnight and media attention from multiple outlets, which resulted in immediate corrective action by Parks Staff to address the unacceptable level of trash and stolen items that had accumulated in the Park. Additionally, Rangers and Portland Police for a three day period had high visibility day and night at Montavilla Park. This helped abate the public safety concerns at the Park. The petition remains popular and continues to grow in signatures.

On May 3rd, 2018 we received the following response from the Portland Police Bureau via Public Information Officer Peter Simpson:

I was asked to send you a response to the petition by the Montavilla Initiative regarding problems at Montavilla Park.

The Portland Police Bureau encourages the continued reporting of park safety issues to police and/or Portland Parks & Recreation Park Rangers. Officers respond to reports of criminal activity and livability issues that are often frustrating for area residents and park users. Officers are encouraged to be creative in solving problems and to work with City and service-provider partners to find solutions to challenging problems and those who are resistant to help.

We would continue to encourage working with the East Precinct Neighborhood Response Team to address livability concerns in the neighborhood.

On May 3rd, 2018 we received the following response from Portland Parks and Recreation from Community Relations Manager Jennifer Yocom:

I wanted to follow up with you regarding the petition we received on Montavilla Park. Safety is our top priority and we too share the neighborhood goal of a safe and vibrant park at Montavilla Park. We hear your frustration—please know that our efforts have already increased at this site.
Recently we have:

• Completed a significant cleanup of the site and we continue to perform daily work emptying trash cans etc.
• We have increased Ranger Patrols during the day and night at this site. This afternoon, two rangers were on site and reported that there were no structures/camping. Please note that as part of their regular protocol when talking to people who are experiencing homelessness, Rangers provide shelter location information and other resources for those seeking shelter. (See below for description of Rangers program)
• We will be reviewing the site for any improvements we can make from a CPTED lens (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) – e.g. lighting improvements etc.

For observed drug use and other aspects of what the petition describes, we coordinate and will continue to coordinate with Portland Police Bureau. Below is information on our Ranger program and the scope of work that Rangers perform.
We appreciate the neighborhood’s help in continuing to encourage people to report issues. Here is contact information:
What do I do if I see a crime in a park?
· If there is a crime in progress, if a serious threat or problem is developing, or if there is an emergency, please call 911.
· For non-emergency park-related problems or special situations, call the Park Rangers at 503-823-1637.
· For dog attacks or other serious situations involving animals, call Multnomah County Animal Control at 503-248-3790 or call Police Non-Emergency at 503-823-3333.
For park maintenance problems, report using http://parkscanpdx.org/ or call 503-823-1600.
PP&R’s Park Rangers serve as goodwill ambassadors and provide a positive presence in Portland parks and park facilities. Rangers serve multiple roles by providing information, helping solve park user conflicts, and enforcing City Code such as dog leash/scoop laws, proper use of park permits, prohibitions against camping, alcohol consumption, and other park rules.
We like to say the rangers are the eyes and ears of our parks. Portland Park Rangers work closely with our maintenance crews and other PP&R staff such as those in Customer Service. They maintain relationships and contacts with the Portland Police Bureau and other criminal justice agencies, Multnomah County Animal Control, neighborhood associations, youth services providers, and other social service agencies to identify, prevent, and address concerns within parks.
Rangers are unarmed and non-sworn (law enforcement) officials who are given the authority under City Code to enforce park rules and issue park exclusions, if necessary. All Rangers are trained to assess a given situation and use verbal persuasion and problem solving skills to gain voluntary compliance. If warranted, they call police or other responders to address the park concern.

On May 9th, 2018 we received the following response from the Office of Mayor Ted Wheeler via his Policy Advisor Seraphie Allen:

Thank you for including the Mayor’s Office in your petition. Please consider this email, our formal response. We hear from constituents every day about these kinds of public safety and public health concerns. We would like you to know that we also share those concerns.

We have been informed that Portland Parks and Recreation has responded to you about their efforts. We appreciate their dedicated work and will continue to allow the bureau to respond to issues with individual parks.

I am sorry that you feel that the Mayor and City of Portland is not doing enough to help create solutions for homelessness and housing – I can assure you we are all working tirelessly to come up with long-term solutions that benefit both our housed and un-housed populations. The Mayor has declared the city is in a housing and homelessness emergency, due to the rapid influx of new residents in Portland, combined with federal disinvestment from the complex issues of homelessness and housing.

The City of Portland is taking a compassionate and comprehensive approach to address homelessness, including increased renter assistance, enhanced shelter options, improved community mental health services, addiction treatment and more permanent housing. As the federal government retreats from its commitment to housing and mental health, we cannot stand by and do nothing. While the local level can’t solve this issue, we are investing record resources to address homelessness.

To be clear, homelessness is not a crime. To conflate the two is irresponsible.. The City is not criminalizing homelessness, but are instead finding viable solutions and creating policies that help address concerns.

Overall, the City is taking a multi-faceted approach to addressing the issues of livability and safety. Families, children, businesses and employees should not be exposed to criminal activity, such as drugs, waste and theft. Criminal activity is unacceptable and we continue to build the organizational capacity and funding to respond to these issues.

I’d like to share some of our current and past efforts in addressing homelessness and public safety:
Over the past year, we have worked to further align the work of the City’s various bureaus to better service the community’s livability concerns, including closer coordination with Portland Parks, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Police, Office of Neighborhood Involvement and the Joint Office of Homeless Services. This coordination has included:

• Increased investments to remove trash (including needles and other biohazards) through the Clean Start Program.
• Increased the number of rangers to patrol parks.
• Increased our capacity to post and clean problematic and impactful encampments. We have the capacity to address 40-50 camps a week compared to under 10 previously.
• Approved overtime funding for Portland Police Bureau to run mission driven efforts to address
• Created the Community Caretaking Tow Program to address abandoned and derelict occupied vehicles, including RVs.
• Launched a PILOT project for increased safe syringe disposal options.
• We have increased walking and biking beats for officers to build positive relationships and address public safety issues in six key areas: the Springwater Corridor, Laurelhurst Park, Oldtown/Chinatown, North Park Blocks, Ankeny Alley, and the Hawthorne Business District. Launched the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which we hope to help expand in the coming years.
• Successfully advocated for the state legislature to pass House Bill 4054, which allows the city to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation to help address the impact of camping on public property.
• Implemented a weekly call to discuss and prioritize encampments to better coordinate social service engagement and clean-up activities with close coordination between the local agencies responsible for monitoring and maintaining public spaces and the non-profits that work directly with clients, connecting them with shelters and housing services. This engagement approach addresses concerns of public health and safety created by some encampments, while minimizing the negative impact on individuals, their belongings and to get them connected to resources.
• And many more efforts underway.

Additionally, the Mayor’s proposed budget includes record investments for homeless services, increased measures to build affordable housing and funding for 48 additional police officers to address public safety concerns, while working a build a community-centered policing model.

Highlights of the proposed budget include:

• Investing a record $31.2 million into the City of Portland and Multnomah County’s Joint Office on Homelessness, representing a 10.1% increase compared with last year.
• Significantly increases resources for housing placement, particularly those who are transitioning from shelter by an additional $3 million.
• Investing in more than 700 newly affordable units currently under construction and slated to open in 2018, and an additional 1,322 units that are beginning construction and will be opening their doors in 2019
• Enhancing the Behavioral Health Unit to respond to individuals experiencing mental health issues. The officers and mental health professionals on the Behavioral Health Response Teams work proactively with individuals who have mental health issues and are identified as having multiple or high-risk contacts with police.
• Restoring ongoing funding to the Service Coordination Team, a program that offers treatment and housing to repeat and frequent drug and property crime offenders.
• Authorizing 49 additional patrol officers to help the bureau curb increasing response time for 911 calls, reduce the bureau’s reliance on overtime, reduce officer fatigue, and pivot toward a community policing model over the next several years. That means more time spent meeting with residents, business owners, attending community meetings, and building trust with the residents of Portland.

We urge constituents with any public safety concerns to voice their support for this proposed budget. Your voice in this conversation is essential, and we urge constituents to either submit written testimony, contact city commissioners or attend our upcoming community budget event:

Budget Committee Hearings
May 10, 2018, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, hearing to receive public testimony
Council Chambers, Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Ave., Portland, OR 97204

Thank you again for reaching out to our office and we look forward to further partnering with your neighborhood to address these difficult issues facing our entire community.

Lastly, we are proud of communities such as Montavilla and Lents that have stepped up to the plate and volunteered to help keep our community spaces clean. On June 22nd and 23rd, we will kick off Mayor’s Second Annual Pick it up, Portland! which is a collaboration between SOLVE and the City as a city-wide clean up event. We’d be happy to help support Montavilla’s efforts and create further community action and attention as well!

We have to date, unfortunately, not received any response from Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who has and continues to oversee the Parks Bureau. You can read our response to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s Office below:

Seraphie Allen,

Thank you for your quick response to my email regarding the safety and public health issues we are facing at Montavilla Park. The members of Montavilla Initiative and the residents of Montavilla appreciated the attention the Portland Parks and Recreation Department paid to the park after our petition was covered on several local news outlets. The clean-up definitely made a difference, and along with several members of our group and other residents of Montavilla doing foot patrols three times per week, we are upping our efforts to make sure the problems don’t reoccur.

We do agree that homelessness is not a crime. However, we do feel you are in some ways missing the point of our petition. We actually petitioned you concerning problems of crime, health hazards, and safety issues in our park, and your response seems to address these issues as a matter of “homelessness.” We urgently plead with you, do not conflate these issues. The problems of sanitation, safety, access, gang-related sex and drug trafficking, and other crimes cannot be addressed by housing proposals. Most of the illegal campers we have spoken to during our patrols have been homeless for many years, and these individuals seem resistant to housing and/or other services. We alerted you to a staggering decline of the standards of livability and access in general, which has substantially affected our city park. We weren’t alerting you to a housing crisis. The general citizenry isn’t in the business of solving a housing crisis. It is beyond our abilities. That is your job. What we can directly affect is the condition of our parks and our neighborhood.

On our neighborhood foot patrols, we are still seeing extensive violations of Title 20 of the Park Code, specifically:

  1. Tobacco Smoking (20.12.110 Fires, Fireworks and Smoking Prohibited.)
  2. Marijuana Smoking (20.12.040 Unlawful Acts Involving Alcohol, Controlled Substances or Prescription Drugs.)
  3. Unlawful Urination and Defecation (20.12.030 Unlawful Urination or Defecation.)
  4. Unlawful Sales of Drugs (20.12.040 Unlawful Acts Involving Alcohol, Controlled Substances or Prescription Drugs.)
  5. Tents structures (20.12.080 Structures in Parks.)
  6. Trash and Food Debris Left in Park (20.12.090 Disposing of Rubbish.)
  7. Vandalism of Benches and Tables (20.12.100 Vandalism; Protection of Park Property and Vegetation.)
  8. After Hours Use (20.12.210 Hours of Park Closure.)

We have also witnessed the following criminal violations:

  • Theft by Receiving (Bikes) ORS 164.095
  • Theft (bikes) ORS 164.015
  • Drug Sales
  • Consumption of Drugs in Public Spaces

Thank you for your continued attention to this matter. We look forward to your response concerning our immediate needs and concerns in both Montavilla Park, as well as the neighborhood of Montavilla as a whole.

In closing, we invite neighbors to continue to utilize non-emergency 503-823-3333 and reporting via pdxreporter.org and also utilizing Park Rangers by calling 503-823-1637 in order to report crime and issues at Montavilla Park. These issues are also occurring outside of the Park and utilizing non-emergency and pdxreporter.org will help address out of park issues too. We will continue to leverage our collective voice as a neighborhood to address these livability issues in our neighborhood.

Montavilla Initiative Board of Directors

By |2018-05-16T00:09:49+00:00May 15th, 2018|Public Safety, Updates|Comments Off on Update on Montavilla Park Petition and City Response