Settlement in ADA lawsuit says City should clear more campers from sidewalks

Image from Tozer v City of Portland complaint.

A settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed against the City of Portland over tents and other personal belongings that block sidewalks.

The suit was filed by Portland lawyer John DiLorenzo back in September on behalf of 10 plaintiffs who claimed their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were being violated because they are “being deprived of city services” when homeless encampments block city sidewalks.

According to KGW, the parties agreed to avoid a trial and have worked out a settlement through a mediation process. As part of the agreement, the City would not have to admit that they violated any ADA laws.

Here’s what the settlement entails:

The city will prioritize removal of camps on sidewalks by making sure those camps account for at least 40% of overall removals each year for the next five years. The city will also commit to removing at least 500 campsites from sidewalks each year unless there are too few to hit that target, and devote a minimum of $8 million to removals for the 2023-24 fiscal year and $3 million per year for the following four years.

Other terms outlined in the settlement document:

  • The city will establish a 24-hour sidewalk camp reporting option through 311 and an online portal, with a streamlined process for people with mobility disabilities to request ADA accommodations.
  • The city will be required to send a staffer or contractor to assess a site within five business days of a report, and all report data must be consolidated in a single tracking database of reported sidewalk camps.
  • The city will not provide tents or tarps to homeless residents except under certain specific circumstances, effectively agreeing to continue a policy that Commissioner Rene Gonzalez put in place earlier this year. 
  • The city will post “no camping” signs in areas where there have been at least three campsite removals and at least one ADA accommodation request in a given month.
  • The city will pay each plaintiff $5,000 in compensatory damages plus attorney fees, and will provide quarterly written reports on its compliance with the agreement.

This settlement will still need to be adopted by the Portland City Council and they are expected to vote on it at their 9:30 am meeting this Wednesday (5/31).

The timing of this agreement should sit very well with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who’s made significant progress toward a camping ban and has recently allocated funding to speed up sweeps. Wheeler camping ordinance update will be at Council the same day as this settlement.

Tiana Tozer, the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, told fellow plaintiffs and supporters in an email on Tuesday that the settlement is, “Not everything we wanted” and that “it won’t happen overnight, but we are confident that it will help people with disabilities get a faster response when sidewalks are blocked, and eventually deter camping on the sidewalks.”  Tozer also said the settlement will need unanimous support from Portland City Council members to pass on its first reading next Wednesday.

“We need the settlement to be approved on May 31. If it gets a second hearing it will allow the opposition to mobilize and potentially delay the resolution,” she warned.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Todd/Boulanger
3 months ago

Watching this issue (through the lense of a ADA PRoW consultant, etc) fester from an acute to now a chronic one in every city (US but not in Europe) I have visited in the last 3 years…I have been wondering when such legal cases [and settlements] would arise collectively. [IMTO: per Portland, the 5 day period to inspect is way too generous to meet the original intent threshold of ADA accessibility*.]

I wish this had gone to court* (in any city in the district of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) to see where the line in the sand would be post pandemic and the Boise / 2019 Supreme Court non-decision decision: reinforcing that federal and state ADA laws would take precedence legally (in most cases except martial law and other state declared emergencies) or not. I have been contiually surprised that Portland, Vancouver (WA), Honolulu, Seattle, etc. had not made a better effort to balance these two important issues (protecting ADA access vs emergency living spaces for the unhoused in year 2+ of the pandemic) with at least a legally defensible effort to mark and enforce keeping the minimum ADA clearance…as ‘the city’ would do for outdoor seating etc.

Now my follow up question for any council settlements in any city, would be: as many of our communities bike lanes and protected bike lanes also perform as secondary ADA route ways for most wheelchair operators due to poor sidewalk conditions (not campers) then WILL this agreement also keep our bikeways clear for a minimum ADA passage (and cyclist passage)? I can see – in a year’s time – where this settlement could go for Portland…campers cleared from narrow sidewalks into the adjacent bikeway. [In some ways I am glad that I have worked for 3 decades to establish bikeways on our streets (to give emergency protected spaces for pedestrians to step around limited obstacles)…but chagrined that now these same facilities are so degraded by the collective mismanagement of our common sidewalk facilities even before the pandemic.]

https://www.capradio.org/articles/2023/02/16/sacramento-faces-class-action-disability-lawsuit-over-homeless-camps-blocking-sidewalks/

https://time.com/6105909/sidewalk-accessibility-lawsuits/

Mark Patterson
Mark Patterson
3 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Excellent points. I find it HIGHLY disappointing despite the city of Portland having an entire bevy of disablity “advocates” on their payroll, they have done virtually nothing to keep our sidewalks clear.

Disability Program | Portland.gov

David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Of course, there’s a large area of the city without sidewalks at all, often (but not always) in poorer parts of Portland. Is this just another policy to unfairly shift the burden of housing the homeless from the center to the poorer periphery?

Randi J
Randi J
3 months ago

Looks promising. The city council vote on this will be very telling. It will point to whom
of the City Council supports the disabled in our community.

Myth Dispulsion
Myth Dispulsion
3 months ago

Such a difference from an earlier time, and:

homeless encampments block city sidewalks”

What about other uses that block them, too?

SD
SD
3 months ago

Cars blocking sidewalks
Cars in bike lanes
Bushes, gravel and construction signs in bike lanes

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

Also see-
No sidewalks
No safe routes to schools
No sidewalks to schools

Chris I
Chris I
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

These all sound like things that are also an issue and also should be worked on.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

The motivation behind this lawsuit is clearly the removal of homeless people from specific areas. Context matters. To suggest otherwise is to forfeit credibility.

Dwk
Dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

Context matters…
You are comparing gravel in a bike lane that cyclists have to navigate to a tent blocking a sidewalk that someone in a wheel chair has to get around.
You apparently don’t know the meaning of “context”

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

Not sure what bike lanes you are riding, but people with disabilities frequently use bike lanes with mobility devices other than bicycles and I know several people with disabilities that rely on cycling because they can not drive. The gravel in the bike lanes is problem for more than people without disabilities on bikes. It is clear what is motivating this narrow subset of disability access.

Dwk
Dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

Its called the Americans with Disability act, that is what is motivating this.
You want to defend people blocking sidewalks, go ahead , but stop implying we don’t get the “context”.
People defending the complete trashing of a nice city for whatever your reason is , is tiring and most people are done with it.
Thats why the city settled this.
Stop implying otherwise.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

The actual motivation is more likely the fact that John DiLorenzo, the lawyer for the plaintiff, co-owns an apartment building downtown and wants unhoused people out of sight at any cost for the sake of profit.

https://www.opb.org/article/2021/12/01/rise-of-private-security-firm-downtown-portland/

dwk
dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

Most normal people do want the unhoused off the streets and out of sight.
In other words, we want to see the problem be fixed and for it to go away.
You relish it, you seem to thrive on houseless people living as they do. There is no other explanation for your posts here.
Are you going to stage protests and break windows when the city council bans daytime camping?

jakeco969
jakeco969
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

You should consider letting go of your ableism and to see how difficult it can be on the best of days for people (like my brother who fortunately leaves up in Vancouver BC and doesn’t have to deal with this insanity) to maneuver sidewalks and other shared spaces. When those spaces aren’t shared than it is even worse.

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Not sure where the ableism is in my comment. Access for everything/ everyone accept for cars and trucks has been tremendously neglected throughout the city. I would love to see this passion for ADA access ALSO when homeless people aren’t the targeted obstruction.

Dwk
Dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

They are not targeted.
They camp and trash and have destroyed the city. They have got away with it fir 5 years and people are DONE.
I am traveling in Europe. The best social democracies in the world do NOT put up with this crap.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

Pretty sure “the best social democracies” in Europe also provide social housing and free medical care. Oh, and have also decriminalized drug use.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/jun/03/its-a-miracle-helsinkis-radical-solution-to-homelessness

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radical-drugs-policy-is-working-why-hasnt-the-world-copied-it

dwk
dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

You clearly don’t or have not traveled much.
There are no tent cities, they would not allow it. The few people you see in major cities are in doorways like they used to be here and they are promptly escorted elsewhere in most cases.
They don’t have masses of anti social people walking around trashing the place.
The safety nets are better, but Europeans for the most part take immense pride in their cities and countries.
Ireland has a nationwide contest every year for the “tidiest” city in the country and they take it seriously!!
They don’t have a lot of people excusing and encouraging the anti social behavior like in Portland since it’s not in their DNA or in their own interest to do so.
Your arguments are just not rooted in any but your own reality. You seem to enjoy houseless people’s misery…..

Dwk
Dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

Social housing in France is for the working poor, children and people with disabilities and you need to apply and the rules are fairly strict.
35 year old able bodied drug addicts that is mostly the Portland demographic would never get free or subsidized housing.
I have no idea where you get your information.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

Pure nonsense.

The highest income ceilings would admit 80% of tenants (who make up 46% of households in France), so one third of households in France…”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781118412367.ch8

Happy to provide PDF.

Dwk
Dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

You have no idea what you are talking about.
I have relatives in France, I know the country well. i spend time there.
It requires months of applications ,they subsidize working poor, not street drug addicts.
Europe requires you be a decent citizen and then you get help.
Its not Portland.

dwk
dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

BTW, your link confirmed everything I posted.
Do you actually read stuff before you cut and paste your reply?

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  dwk

It requires months of applications

Where have I ever stated otherwise?

BTW, your link confirmed everything I posted.

Provide a quote, Mr. Hyperbolic Claims Without Any Evidence.

dwk
dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

I know what I am talking about, you don’t.
I don’t need to cut and paste quotes, I am in Europe right now.
I am in Galway Ireland, Pop. 90,000, I have been here 3 days , walked miles and have seen ONE person sleeping in a doorway.
It is so nice to be in a normal place where people are not trashing the city.
‘Ireland has taken in 70,000 Ukraine refugees which they do provide free housing for. it’s remarkable for a country this size.
The Refugees are already working and contributing to society.
They know who to help out and it’s not drug addled anti social idiots you patronize.
American society is just sick right now to put up with what we do, Europe doesn’t have enablers, they value their society and their cities.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

Who is claiming France is one of “the best social democracies” lol

jakeco969
jakeco969
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

a·ble·ism
/ˈābəˌliz(ə)m/
noun
discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.

In a conflict between disabled people having a lot of difficulty using sidewalks and other public thoroughfares that are blocked by able bodied people you seem to think the able bodied should have precedence which is the literal definition of ableism.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Yet you seem fine with discrimination against those people with disabilities who make up half the unhoused population.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/toolkit/article/562207

dwk
dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

Aw yes, not wanting people sleeping on the sidewalks is discrimination…Your idea about the social contract human beings for the most part accept is so warped… it’s almost like you take your own civic pride in how crappy things can be.

jakeco969
jakeco969
3 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

Those disabilities the report mentions are self reported and most likely of a mental nature. Not the same in any regard to people needing some kind of mechanical assistance to navigate life and the thoroughfares.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

So it’s okay to discriminate against people with mental disabilities. Got it.

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Weird. I try to make the case that we should do more to clear paths and sidewalks than just remove tents and we should care just as passionately about sweeping monster trucks off of sidewalks and somehow this is ableism. Do I need to carry a torch and a pitchfork to post peacefully in the BP comments?

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

Do I need to carry a torch and a pitchfork to post peacefully in the BP comments?

If you want to fit in with the crowd, yes.

jakeco969
jakeco969
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

Is it any surprise you start referencing violence (metaphorical though it is)in regards to other posters who do not share your views? After all, mob rule has had great success in Portland these last few years.

Myth Dispulsion
Myth Dispulsion
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

“Whataboutism” the term and its typical use is more kids’ stuff.

The start of some interesting Progressive Metro Haiku, better.

Cars blocking sidewalks
Cars in bike lanes
Bushes, gravel and construction signs in bike lanes

No sidewalks
No safe routes to schools
No sidewalks to schools

David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

In the middle of the sidewalks blocking ADA users:
Telephone & light poles growing the middle of sidewalks (East Portland)
Sandwich boards
Sidewalk cafes
Bike racks
Signage
Trees and shrubbery
Broken sidewalks & cracked pavement
ODOT signs blocking sidewalks and crossings
out-of-date ADA ramps

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
3 months ago

A mere three blocks from where the above photo was taken is a city-owned parking lot occupying an entire city block (plus another half block across the street) that could be turned into permanent supportive housing for less money than the public currently spends on policing and emergency medical services for the same number of chronically unhoused people.

IMG_20230301_135534~2.jpg
Dwk
Dwk
3 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Fuller

So you support Wheelers massive ghetto villages, good to know.
We will see how those work out. I am not as optimistic as you are that 500 drug addicts can get along, maybe you can volunteer to help out?
If you are talking permanent real housing, that is years away, do you have a temporary solution since that is the current problem we are talking about.

Matt P
Matt P
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

You clearly do not know what a concentration camp is either.

Simon G.
Simon G.
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

That is super offensive to those of Jewish heritage.

Divine Princess
Divine Princess
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

Daniel – please stop desecrating and insulting victims of actual genocide and ethnic cleansing by referring to these sites, where able-bodied adults are free to do fentanyl in the open, as “concentration camps.”

You Portland leftists are beyond deranged and seem quite motivated to burn down social order because of your own personal shortcomings.

Daniel Fuller
Daniel Fuller
3 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

My solution is to stop criminalizing poverty and homelessness. Sorry if that means you have to see a poor person on your way to pick up your morning latte. Making homelessness illegal doesn’t make it go away.

SD
SD
3 months ago

Cars are the most frequently abused Disabled Person Parking Permit.

Drivers are taking away spaces from the people who really need them.