Friday, October 21, 2011

R2D2

Here's a sign made in collaboration with Mark Lakeman to be posted at the R2D2 site,  similar to the plans typically posted by developers on new development sites.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Implications of Occupy Portland

On October 6, a mass of citizens in Portland, Oregon stood in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.  Known as Occupy Portland, the protestors claimed two square blocks of downtown Portland: Chapman Square and Lownsdale Square.  It was not long before tents filled the green space and a fully functioning village began to evolve.  General assembly meetings are held each evening where anyone can come to form proposals and voice their opinions, including how the camp should be run.  Many have generously donated food to the cause.  A kitchen, staffed by volunteers, distributes the food to anyone who is hungry.  The camp also includes areas designated to the provision of information and medical assistance, and there is even an engineering committee that works to improve the physical structure of the camp.  All services are free, there is no form of currency exchanged.


While the camp is in direct conflict with the city's anti-camping ordinance, Mayor Sam Adams has allowed the tents to stay without setting any time limit for eviction.

It is no coincidence that just a few days later a tent city, known as Right 2 Dream Too (R2D2), was formed.  A group of the city's homeless community has moved swiftly to set up a camp of their own at the corner of 4th and Burnside, just a dozen blocks north.   However, R2D2 is on private land.  The land owner, who has attempted to use the property for several other purposes but to no avail, has decided to endorse a homeless camp on his vacant gravel lot.  The move is being supported by the non-profit Right to Survive and headed by Ibrahim Mubarak, one of the founders of Dignity Village, a sanctioned tent city on the outskirts of the city.



Occupy Portland, along with several other protest camps that have been allowed throughout the country, sets an interesting precedence for public camping.  How can a city allow protestors to break an anti-camping law often by choice, yet enforce the very same law on those who have no choice?  As seen with the case of R2D2, the city recognizes this hypocrisy and police have been instructed to turn a blind eye to these violations, allowing the tent city to exist for now.  The Occupy Wall Street movement has now spread to over 100 cities throughout the country. It seems only a matter of time before more tent cities emerge.  A tent city revolution!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Planning Magazine Article

"Inside Tent Cities" was published in this months issue of Planning magazine.  I wrote the article to introduce the issue to professional planners around the country with hopes of improving relations between local governments and these informal communities.

"As planners, we should make a greater effort to include the needs and concerns of members of tent cities in our plans. At the same time, we must be careful not to further isolate these communities or to infringe too far on their autonomy in the process."

It is a difficult balance to find.