Saturday, December 3, 2011

A citizen and citizens who occupied Portland going in opposite directions. Who will ultimately pay the price for Occupy Portland?

Starting Monday I will share with you various photos I've taken over the years of both Lownsdale and Chapman Squares. I need to see the parks as they were. I need to see people enjoying all sorts of activities in two of my favorite downtown places.

Monday morning on the way to work, November 14, 2011. I waited on the corner across the street from Lownsdale and Chapman Squares to the north and Terry Schrunk Plaza across the street, east of where I stood. The three parks occupied headlines because someone or someones in Occupy Portland decided to put up tents and take away these glorious outdoor spaces in the heart of downtown Portland, to take them away from more than 99% of Portland's citizens. The woman walks east on SW Madison; the other two are heading west. It is the intersection of SW 4th and SW Madison. The trees of Chapman Square are in the background.

In another photo of the same intersection which I took that morning, across the street you see Chapman Square glowing in the street lights and in the giant temporary lights brought in Saturday night by authorities. The golden leaves on the ground are beautiful but are an allusion. Nothing is as it was.

The day before I took the two photos, after midnight and during Sunday, police and protesters managed to make the Occupy Portland exit from the parks relatively peaceful. I sat up all night Saturday watching events unfold on TV--the mayor had announced that the parks would be officially closed at midnight. Hours passed with tension building and waning. Finally I couldn't stay awake in the recliner in front of the television. But I did wake up now and then to see fewer and fewer people and police on the streets. Then I went grocery shopping with Lamont and came back home to put it all away and fall asleep some more in the recliner. By the time I woke up for good, both parks were cleared and lots and lots of trash and garbage was being tossed into huge city dump trucks. Each park was enclosed in extra-tall cyclone fence segments. The damage done to Terry Schrunk Plaza, a federal park, was minimal compared to the two city parks. Nevertheless, it is also fenced.

Now all citizens have learned the expected costs to restore Chapman and Lownsdale Parks. Here is an article about it from the November 30, 2011, Oregonian:

Headline: Occupy Portland: Costs to fix parks now more than $85,000, city says

Restoring Chapman and Lownsdale squares after the 38-day encampment of Occupy Portland will cost more than $85,000, with much of that going toward repairs in the bathrooms at the northern and southern ends of the squares.

Portland Parks & Recreation also estimated that it spent an additional $45,000 for labor and materials during the political demonstration that began Oct. 6 and ended with a police sweep Nov. 13. At its height, the encampment sheltered and fed about 500 people living in tents.

"City professional staff in ecology, turf, and structural engineering assessed the damages and needs for repairs," a city statement said. Also on the survey were arborists, plumbing contractors, electricians, risk management employees and other experts.

"Workers did not encounter any evidence of obvious soil contamination," the statement said. The impacts on the squares' trees will not be known until the spring or later.

The item of greatest cost is repair of the Lownsdale Square restroom – removal or replacement of three destroyed toilets, one pedastal sink, plumbing in the walls, wall-mounted braces and floor attachments. The city estimates that task alone will cost about $28,000.

A yet-to-be-determined cost is a possible sewer repair in the Chapman Square restroom.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is still assessing the damage to the public art and war memorial and has not put in a cost estimate yet.

The bureau now will work on a timeline for repairs. The squares have been fenced since Occupy's eviction and will stay that way for now. Once the parks are reopened, grass areas will remain fenced until the turf has recovered.

The bureau says it is eager for volunteers to help. A planned leaf-raking last week had to be postponed due to heavy rain, but the bureau had more than 60 people signed up – about a third of them former campers – to help.

The nonprofit Portland Parks Foundation has set up the Restore Our Historic Squares Fund to help defray costs.

Umpqua Bank has contributed $25,000, and nearly 100 private donors have given $8,000.

Here's the city's itemized list:

Repaint restroom interiors, exterior trim at Chapman and Lownsdale: $2,200

Steam clean surfaces - restroom interiors, benches, poles: $3,000

Replace two park benches, repair seven benches: $16,500

Replace five chain stands, one chain section: $4,000

Power wash paths: $1,600

Soda blast exteriors of bathrooms to remove graffiti: $1,100

Rake turf to remove leaves and debris: $600

Install erosion control for turf: $1,000

Winter turf care: fill low areas, hydro mulch, lime, fertilize, seed, enzymes: $8,100

Spring turf care: fine grade, slice seed, top-dress: $3,800

Prune shrub beds to correct damage, replace damaged plants, fertilize, mulch: $4,000

Inspect, monitor trees: to be determined

Place soil to cover exposed tree roots: $750

Chapman restroom, clean sewer, inspect, repair as needed: $600

Chapman restroom, repair sewer as needed: to be determined, potentially up to $7,000

Chapman restroom, tile and grout repair: $700

Chapman restroom, reinstall door, jamb and frame: $2,500

Both restrooms, refurbish octagonal windows, includes frames, reglaze: $2,300

Lownsdale restroom: remove or replace three destroyed toilets, one pedestal sink, repair plumbing in walls, wall-mounted braces, floor attachments: $28,000

Lownsdale restroom, repair door lock: $100

Lownsdale restroom, tile and grout repairs: $1,800

Temporary fencing: $3,200

-- Anne Saker

A view of the same intersection five days after the occupiers took over the parks, taken on October 11.

And here it is again, in a photo that I took on November 3.

To answer my own question, I believe it will be the citizens who pay the price. Whether or not the various occupy events around the country make an economic and/or cultural difference remains to be seen. After all, change takes time.


Melissa said...

Glad to see that you've gotten your beautiful park back. I have been confused by the need to pitch a tent on public property. Is a tent supposed to be an amplifier for free speech? Like a bullhorn? I'm living in Davis, so we've had our share of time in the news over this. If they were able to clear your park out peacefully that that's such good news.

brian stout said...

quite a bit of repairs to do, good to hear the local businesses contributing to it. it was a beautiful park, i love the fall and seeing the falling leaves and colors.

Lois said...

I think you are right. Fortunately, we didn't have much a protest here.

Rick said...

Occupy Portland themselves are (or did) contribute to paying the bill too:

Somehow this fact keeps getting glossed over.

mcl said...

The very important Occupy Portland was and is still needed to bring attention to the great disparity in Portland and across the nation. The 85,000 is a very, very tiny fraction of the city half billion dollar budget. Umquaw bank has donated 25$K and Citizen have overwhelmingly have started donating. Somehow this is never mentioned. Nor the fact the city parks dept has a annual maintenance budget for these parks that is not figured in. SUPPORT Occupy Portland.

Randy said...

Wow, ours was in no way this large. I really hope some good comes from it. That second photo is so beautiful.