A major installation of what appears to be hostile infrastructure has popped up on NW Broadway in downtown Portland.
Someone has erected over two dozen staple bike racks on the public sidewalk right-of-way on Broadway between Flanders and Glisan in what is likely an attempt to prevent people from erecting tents and creating an encampment. The industrial building is owned by Schnitzer Properties, which owns 27 million square feet of real estate in six western states and is headquartered in Portland.
The company’s website claims their approach to business is “Local. Personal. Neighborly.”
Wikipedia defines hostile architecture as, “an urban-design strategy that uses elements of the built environment to purposefully guide or restrict behaviour. It often targets people who use or rely on public space more than others, such as youth, poor people, and homeless people.”
Schnitzer Properties President Jordan Schnitzer is a very influential local businessman and philanthropist who has been an outspoken critic of Portland’s response to the homelessness crisis. Last year he expressed support for People for Portland, a political lobbying group that funded candidates who promised to take a more heavy-handed approach to addressing camps downtown.
Before these racks appeared, someone had strung a heavy-gauge chain between trees in the same location in an attempt to accomplish a similar goal.
When we covered the City of Portland’s new bike lanes on this section of Broadway in 2020, we noted the presence of many people living on the sidewalk in this same location.
The building itself isn’t an active destination on that side of the street, so there has never been demand for that much bike parking.
After a reader shared the photo with us Friday, we asked a spokesperson for the Portland Bureau of Transportation if they were responsible for the installation. Interim Communications Director Hannah Schafer said they were not even aware of the racks before we reached out. Schafer also clarified that PBOT did not permit the installation.
Asked what PBOT will do about it, Schafer said, “We’re still determining next steps.”
We’ve reached out to Schnitzer Properties and will update this story when we hear back.
UPDATE, 6/3 at 8:14 am: This post originally referred to People for Portland as a “dark money group”. While I believe that’s a factually accurate description, it seems to have distracted a lot of people. So I changed it to “political lobbying group”.