The fate of a controversial ballot measure to reshape the Portland area’s approach to homelessness lies largely in the judge’s hands. But a host of companies are willing to offer a lot nonetheless.
Last week, more than two dozen donors, many of them real estate developers, donated to the new PAC, “Everyone Deserves a Safe Shelter.” PAC has raised $320,000 so far to support a November ballot measure submitted by People for Portland, a nonprofit political group trying to increase the number of shelters in the area and get cities to enforce anti-camping laws that are on the books. .
A judge is expected soon to rule on the constitutionality of the ballot measure proposed by the group. Lawyers for Metro, the regional land use government, said the proposed measure does not pass constitutional mobilization.
Real estate company Killian Pacific is one of the largest donors to the new committee, donating $50,000 to support lobbying for more shelters. This donation comes as the company is suing to park a shelter in its backyard.
Killian Pacific filed a lawsuit against Multnomah County last month over the location of a women’s shelter in the middle of the East Side, which was in the middle of a cluster of five office buildings they owned. The company alleged that Multnomah County officials erred in the public engagement process and defied zoning rules with a refuge that would sink millions of dollars in the company’s investment in the area.
Adam Tyler, the company’s president, said at the time that he agreed to the call to build more shelters to address the area’s homeless crisis, but believed that the industrial east side was the wrong area and would isolate homeless people from needed social services.
Killian Pacific is one of three entities that cut $50,000 checks from PAC to support People in polling in Portland. The measure seeks to redirect the bulk of the money generated from a new tax on wealthy Portland-area residents away from services to help people stay in their homes — rent support, addiction treatment, and mental health services — and toward emergency shelter. Holding the ballot would also require governments in the Portland area to impose a ban on public camping to receive homeless services funds.
Voters in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties established the tax in 2020. This action was advocated by a coalition of business groups, nonprofit organizations and elected leaders known collectively as HereTogether.
Angela Martin, co-director of Here Together, said Killian Pacific’s large donation to the campaign raised “red flags” about the company’s motivations.
“Given all the billboards and advertisements calling for a rush to open shelters, it is baffling that one of Portland’s largest donors have filed a lawsuit protesting the opening of a women-only shelter in her neighborhood,” Martin said in a statement. The more accurate name for people at the new PAC in Portland would be ‘Everyone deserves a safe shelter elsewhere.’
Tyler, president of Killian Pacific Corporation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Metro People’s attorneys refused to hold the Portland ballot twice. Metro’s attorney, Carrie McClaren, said the wording and intent of the measure violated the Oregon Constitution.
People for Portland regulators appealed the decision to Multnomah County Circuit Court, criticizing Metro’s analysis as “completely against Oregon law” and accusing the agency of trying to run out of time.
Dan Lavie, a political strategist for the campaign, said the new PAC was a sign that People for Portland would not wait for a judge’s decision to act.
“In the face of the disruption caused by the metro, our campaign is moving forward to prioritize shelters and end the deadly camps on our streets,” he said. “These first contributions are a strong sign that citizens are stepping up to change failed policies that politicians are stubbornly pushing away from reaching out to the people they represent.”
It is the second business-backed PAC to appear in Portland this month. A group of developers and real estate interests have also poured money into a new commission called Portland United. Organizers of this group say they plan to spend $700,000 to support city council candidate Vadim Mozersky, a centrist running against Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, and re-election Commissioner Dan Ryan, who faces a challenger from the left. The group, so far, has reported 18 donations totaling over $220,000, mostly from real estate developers.