A coalition of Portland business groups, neighborhood associations and a food cart pod are suing Mayor Charlie Hales and the city.
They claim the mayor’s new policy allowing homeless camping on some public property violates state law and city code.
“The city of Portland has a number of ordinances regulating sleeping on sidewalks, pitching tents on city property, and fire safety. None of those are consistent with the mayor’s current policy,” said Tonkin Torp attorney Paul Conable, who is representing the plaintiffs.
Earlier this year, Hales said the city would allow homeless people to camp in tents on some city property. He called it the “safe sleep policy” and issued guidelines that limit camps to six people. The policy also requires tents to be taken down by 7 a.m.
That came after Portland’s City Council declared a state of housing emergency and gave Hales the power to waive some city laws.
Conable argues the safe sleep policy wasn’t authorized by that emergency declaration.
“It doesn’t give the mayor carte blanche to do anything he wants by the stroke of his pen,” he said.
The groups filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County circuit court Wednesday. It claims the Portland City Council should have voted on the camping policy, and asks a judge to issue an injunction forcing Hales to withdraw it.
The groups suing the city include the Portland Business Alliance, the Overlook Neighborhood Association, the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, and the Central Eastside Industrial Council. A commercial real estate trade group and the Cartlandia food cart pod, located at 82nd Avenue, have also signed on.
Hales is traveling in Europe and was not immediately available to comment. His spokeswoman Sarah Hottman said the city does not comment on pending litigation.
In the past, Hales has said it is inhumane to sweep camps and force homeless people to move when the city doesn’t have enough shelter space to house them.
“We are going to tolerate some level of street homelessness until we have enough shelter beds,” he told OPB in March.