Pedestrian Plaza Zones

Mayor Ted Wheeler has designated eight new blocks of downtown sidewalks as Pedestrian Use Zones, which would prohibit anyone from sitting down on them. The designation means the sidewalks are only for pedestrians, defined as people who are in movement between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.They included sidewalks near the Galleria on Southwest Morrison, outside the Safeway on Southwest 10th, and outside Columbia Sportswear’s flagship store on Southwest Broadway. “This sidewalk is for pedestrian movement only. Please keep clear.” Sitting there during the day is punishable by a fine of up to $250.

Here the Pedestrian Plaza Zones, are reminiscent of the ‘Sit and Lie’ ordinances from close to a decade ago.Tensions between downtown business owners and people who sit and sleep on sidewalks have immersed itself into Portland politics for years. Many of the downtown houseless are utilizing these spaces. In part they are close to services, used for panhandling or because there is not another option.

In the 2009 case, Judge Stephen Bushong ruled that sit-lie was overridden by the state’s ban on disorderly conduct. A 2009 ruling followed where the city adopted regulations that allow people to sit on sidewalks outside of a 6- to 8-foot pedestrian zone.

Sarah Armstrong, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Oregon said in a 2010 statement to the Oregonian; “Instead of trying to push people out of the downtown shopping district, the City of Portland should focus on addressing the root causes of homelessness.” The City of Portland is addressing the problem of houselessness as a way to sweep away and criminalize anyone who is not a business patron or working in these areas. Public spaces are meant for public use, not for restrictions of our constitutional rights.

Reading more into the 17.43.020 Pedestrian Plaza, it is defined as follows:Pedestrian plazas are places designated by the City of Portland as unique places where licensed businesses and pedestrians come together.  They are not parks.  Therefore, sitting or lying down is not allowed.  Travel through pedestrian plazas should be unfettered, however, conduct incidental to travel, such as speech or expression, is allowed if it is performed in a reasonable amount of time that does not detract from the enjoyment of the plaza by all persons and if it is done in a manner that is consistent with the use of the plaza as a unique place conducive to pedestrian enjoyment.