The Portland Bureau of Transportation is part of a massive effort to clear campers from the shoulders of Northeast 33rd Avenue between Columbia Blvd and Marine Drive. This is a very popular route for bicycling and there are bike lanes on both sides of the road.
We’ve fielded concerns from many people recently about how dozens of cars, trucks, RVs, and campsites have spilled over into the bike lanes. This is a relatively large street with high driving speeds, and people have to leave the bike lane to get around various hazards and obstructions.
Local news outlets starting covering this effort on Thursday and some people thought it might be related to a PBOT project to restripe bike lanes. We asked PBOT what was going on and here’s what we found out…
According to spokesperson Hannah Schafer, PBOT parking enforcement began towing RVs and other vehicles from the shoulders of NE 33rd Thursday morning. The impetus is two-fold: The location falls under Mayor Ted Wheeler’s emergency declaration that bans homeless people from living alongside major roads and highways; and an edict from the Port of Portland to clear the area.
The land adjacent to this section of 33rd is owned and managed by the Port and is part of the Portland Airport flight path. Schafer said the Port asked PBOT to clear the campers to avoid violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Safety concerns are another reason PBOT is towing vehicles. With all the people living out there, a lot of folks are crossing the road in areas where there are no crosswalks and car drivers don’t expect humans to be present. In July 2021 a man who is believed to have lived in the area was hit and killed while walking across 33rd.
Schafer also said that one week before they began towing vehicles, PBOT crews canvassed the area to talk with people and warn them about the towing operation. “Each impacted camper who was present was offered shelter,” Schafer shared with BikePortland.
Asked if a bike lane restriping project had anything to do with the clearing effort, Schafer said no.
This isn’t the first time the City of Portland has done a focused camp clearing at this location. In 2020 it was on a prioritized list of sites that crews addressed.
Read more about this on KGW.com.
About restriping, though I realize that’s not the focus here; restriping sorta happened on Gladstone recently. But PBOT didn’t send out a mailer to residents, or if they did, they didn’t really care to get parked cars moved off Gladstone and sent the striping truck down the street anyway. So there are clear gaps where the stripers couldn’t paint because parked cars were in the way. What they ended up doing was a totally half assed job and IMO a waste of time and money. Just like street sweeping…it’s only truly effective if you get all the f’ing cars off the street. Do it right or don’t even bother.
I want clear bike travel lanes too, but I hate that Wheeler is using that and pedestrian safety as an excuse and justification for treating our most vulnerable neighbors so horribly. Where are folks supposed to go? Until the city actually gives folks a safe and legal place to park their vehicles for sleeping, folks will find someplace else. And now the mayor is pulling other bureaus into these terrible sweeps too. It’s inhumane.
> “Each impacted camper who was present was offered shelter,”
Whether its a permanent shelter or a temporary one that kicks you out in a few months…
“Most vulnerable neighbors”
Come on with that malarkey. It’s mostly entitled white men high on drugs, refusing to get help. Tow ‘em!
What a disgusting thing to say, Matt
I simply don’t get camping in the city, it’s something you’re supposed to do in the country or the mountains and not the city.
The world is your flop house.
The city is where resources up
Can’t find drugs (except maybe some mushrooms) up in the mountains.
Why do those “vulnerable neighbors” treat their neighbors so poorly?
Why do they create health hazards that I’d never get away with on my property?
Once upon a time “camping” was allowed as long as someone didn’t setup until after 9 PM? and cleared out by 7 AM? (I don’t remember exact times). I’d be happy if we went back to that requirement.
The campers motto “Leave no trace”
It’s inhumane to allow people to wallow in their own filth.
It’s inhumane to allow people to live in squalor
Why are Humans so Inhumane to Humans?
Happy to see this happening finally.
A good start. Maybe it could be expanded to MUPs.
I miss Jamie Reiche (Sp)? The police chief before Lovell. She had blonde hair. I actually had some hope when she was in charge giving out nightly calm updates.
For the duration of when people were living there, PBOT should have operated the street as a residence district, with slow speeds and crossings accordingly, even if temporary. Might have saved a life here. If they would start doing that everyplace where people are living their lip service about caring would be a lot more meaningful. There is nothing in the residence district standards that says people living in tents or vehicles don’t count.
Have you ever seen these “residence district standards”? If not, how do you know what’s (not) in them? Do they even exist?
Look under the heading which has the word “wonkish” in it. Kocher explains and links to the relevant ordinances and statutes – and also street classifications and SZOs.
I stand corrected. I have been chastised by PBOT officials for using similar terms in the past, but I now see what Scott was referring to, and I was wrong to question the term in the way that I did. I should have researched it first.
I made a request that they reduce the speed limit to 20 mph per ODOT’s “commercial street” criteria. I was told the process takes a long time. 6 to 8 months? It should be coming up sometime soon.
Anyone who has cycled this stretch of 33rd in the last couple of years knows what a hellscape it is. I did it once and vowed never again. It’s probably the most egregious example of the depths to which Portland has sunk. Good for the Port in making the city do its job.
Last time I rode that part of 33rd I got not one but TWO flats. Stupid me my patch kit had dried glue, but at least I had two spare tubes with me and prayed I wouldn’t flat out again before I got home. There was so much glass and debris I’d never ride that road again.
I used to ride 33rd pretty regularly, but have been avoiding it due to all the RVs. A friend of mine once quipped that there are so many homeless along that street that you have to watch out for getting flats from all the needles. lol. I wouldn’t get your hopes up that the city is going to clear this area out permanently. The Ladies Professional Golf Association annual visit to Portland is going on this week at Columbia Edgewater, which is adjacent to 33rd. Last year they moved the tournament to Tualitin because of all the RV campers on 33rd. The golfers like Columbia Edgewater better because it is flatter and complained about the move, as did the spectators. The 33rd street homeless camps is about the biggest I’ve seen in East Portland, bigger than the one out on Marine Drive by Blue Lake.
Thank you for the golf info, you might have a point there.
I could see the golf event spurring the cleanup, based on a recent experience (but with ODOT, not PBOT). I asked ODOT why they woke up the neighborhood doing dawn mowing on a traffic island they normally do during they day, and only do every several months. ODOT replied it was for a “track event”. I told them there were no track events in Portland that day. They replied it was to get ready for the World Track Championships–in Eugene (!) and three weeks later (!). They were doing a big push from Portland to Roseburg.
In comparison to ODOT prioritizing mowing an island in Portland for an event three weeks later and 120 miles away, PBOT clearing 33rd for a golf event sounds totally believable.
I went thru there on 9/17 afternoon. Only a small section, likely the area Port was concerned about, had been cleared. There were still camps near the access to the LPGA parking field.
But what kind of shelter? Where would they be expected to go, and what if they can’t go there?
What if it doesn’t allow them to do meth?
And what if you acted like a compassionate human being?
Enabling self-destruction isn’t compassionate—not to the people you see yourself as defending, nor to the community members hurt by their antisocial behavior.
Agree with you Mark! Yesterday an acquaintance had their car stolen along Columbia. They found the car near 33rd (gee I wonder why??) The worst part is the thieves who acted like it was their car was let go by the police after a lengthy discussion. There aren’t many solutions to deal with these people. Even if you offer them housing, most of them don’t want it.
Usually the problem is they don’t like to follow “rules”. And like the bad parents we are we just throw our hands up and walk away.
I’d suggest they go to a city that’s more affordable. One that would allow them to live indoors.
Do think the status quo is acceptable? If not, what’s your solution?
Just returning to point out that defenders of urban drug camps *never* respond to those questions.
Anyone know where Coast Auto Supply used to be off SE 2nd Ave? Th SE Oak St dead-end is a regulated parking space. “No parking” and “Area parking permit” signs have been ripped off by vandals; however PBOT has been dragging their feet. It’s been many months since it was reported to them about torn off signs and they still haven’t fixed it and they refuse to address parking code violations.
So, you know what the sweep on NE 33rd means. They will flood regulated parking spaces, and downtown streets. They are going to park in regulated parking spaces and metered space without payment. PBOT will deprioritize parking enforcement requests such that it doesn’t get finished by end of the day which means it gets cleared from the queue and essentially cancelled. They will refuse to fix signs vandalized by campers so they can have plausible deniability.
I suspect the underlying reason behind this is so campers don’t migrate into unrestricted street parking spaces that are plentiful in wealthier neighborhoods like Eastmoreland, Alameda, Historic Irvington and such.
I as a homeless 61 year old female try, forget tried…I do stride to be invisible and leave where ever I park for the night,the way I found it. Even while I was housed, I often wondered why when people do come into a homeless situation.Why or What makes it right to be slobs. But on the other hand, I get it now that I’m out here in the elements… Most towns have removed trash cans,and it’s okay for everyone,even people that live in a house,to piss/shit,everywhere… And when someone tells me how hat I’m not allowed to put my trash in a can,I ask th if they prefer it on the side of a highway, or would they like to take it home, and put it out on trash pick-up day. And one last word, Before you silently judge someone,ask them what their story is….
And BTW,I’m not a drug addict,I have a squeaky clean record,and am disabled. And right now…society scares me! God Bless All
With Biden’s spending it only going to get worse.