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Bend camping code feedback prompts city councilors to slow, adjust goals — but press ahead

(Update: Adding video, comments from councilors)

Councilors also approve short-term rental rule changes, contract for SE 27th St. outdoor shelter

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Last week, Bend city councilors received plenty of feedback at two roundtables to discuss the draft codes to regulate camping by the homeless. The roundtable brought up concerns about needing more resources, safety, storage and enforcement.

City councilors sat down Wednesday evening to tackle the issues and concerns brought up at those roundtable sessions and chart a path forward for regulating unsanctioned camping on city property and public rights of way.

Much of the work session focused on city staff and Mayor Gena Goodman Campbell's recommendations, including a possible move to push back approval of a code past year-end to next March, which would mean a handoff to a new council, with three of the seven seats on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Mo Mitchell said, "The feedback we've been given is to pause, slow down and create the structures of support then do it. That's what a lot of people are saying."

Mitchell added, "Let's do it differently than all the other cities are doing it. Why not? Let's be brave."

But as they wrestled with the details, there was talking of slowing down to make changes reflecting the feedback from the roundtables. But others wanted to keep moving forward, not wanting to lose momentum on the progress already made.

Goodman Campbell said, "We would like to improve the living conditions for people who are sheltering in the public right of way."

There also was a lot of discussion and direction to staff about adopting a "companion resolution" to further commit to support services for those living on the street, from a "gap analysis" for basic needs, from restrooms to storage, and to explore a one-stop referral center and require coordination with the new city-county homeless response process for removing larger campsites.

"I don't feel a rush to pass this," Goodman Campbell said, but she and colleagues said they do want to keep working on the details, such as whether to restrict campsites in terms of time (part of the "time, manner and place" restrictions allowed under state law and court rulings).

Goodman Campbell added, "I think we want to keep working on it. So let's keep working on improving it. Let's not stop talking about it."

Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Broadman said, "What we've seen is what other cities struggle with is similar to what we have. And that's what we have is when you're dealing with the Eighth Amendment and when you're dealing with your own morals, and ensuring that people to shelter where they're trying to survive -- it's not that easy when it comes to public space."

Cheyenne Purrington, the new houseless strategies and solutions director, a joint Deschutes County-cities position, noted issues with possible time restrictions running into the currently limited availability for coordinated entry into the system designed to help them connect with resources.

"These systems of care exist, and we should make efforts to connect the dots," Purrington said. She suggested a public health approach, offering a referral to services rather than a citation. She also noted the county is looking at similar camping regulations for its public property and right of way.

Broadman and others supported a "safe harbor" provision to not having such firm deadlines for people with disabilities or other valid reasons they cannot move so soon.

City Attorney Mary Winters said, "We're keeping track of all your inputs and concerns to reflect that in the code, so that it reflects those changes."

City Manager Eric King said a special meeting is likely needed, if the council holds to its desire to pass a camping code by year's end.

Here is the full presentation on the camping codes.

Here is Councilor Megan Perkins' housing update from Wednesday night :

As one piece of a comprehensive plan to address houselessness, the Bend City Council has been working since June to develop a code to regulate how, where and when people can camp in the public right-of-way, like streets and sidewalks.

Last week, the Council heard from several important community stakeholders about our proposed camping code. These stakeholders included City advisory committees, the Coordinated Homeless Response Office--which is a joint effort between the City and Deschutes County--nonprofit leaders, people with lived experience and who are camping for survival, not recreation, the business community and other public agencies.

The Council was grateful to be able to have this conversation in a new format, which allowed more of a dialogue between us and the community than traditional public comment.

We received an expansive amount of feedback, but here are a few highlights.

We heard that more resources are needed to support the code, such as more shelter beds and designated camping spots, as well as basic needs like washing stations and bathrooms and mental health supports.

We heard how important it is to make sure that whatever regulations we pass have safety in mind, for those who are unsheltered as well as for businesses and their employees and housed neighbors.

We heard about the importance of having storage for folks who often don’t have a safe place to store important items during the day while they go to work or look to have their basic needs met.

We heard the need to create a centralized system that shows when and where shelter beds are available, as well as the importance of a system that ensures continuous improvement.

We heard that this code needs to be regularly reviewed and adjusted as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t. 

More than anything, we heard a call for clarity. Where people can camp needs to be as clear as where they can’t.

We were asked to consider 1,000 foot buffers around recycling centers and the Rainbow Hotel, while also hearing from the Bend La Pine School District a similar buffer would not be an effective solution given that children walking to school walk a distance longer than the buffer zone to get to and from their homes.

In addition to the roundtables, we also heard from the community in a variety of other ways, including through emails and informational open houses.

Community members told us their concerns about the need for having safer options for sleeping and living, as it is not healthy for anyone to sleep in the public right of way.  

We heard concerns about what enforcement will look like, such as who will enact it and how to avoid bias. There were also concerns around allowing vehicles to be used for overnight stays in residential neighborhoods.

Above all, we heard from a community that is interested in and committed to finding solutions. We face a challenge that is complex in nature. Solutions to address it will need to be as expansive and diverse as the community we serve.

Earlier tonight, during our work session, Council focused on three of the big concerns that came out of all of our public feedback: the concept of time in the code (how long can people camp), the plan for enforcement or compliance, and the supportive structures that need to be in place so that this code can be followed. A majority of Council agreed with the Mayor’s recommendations for moving forward which include a companion resolution and a focus on voluntary compliance among other items. The discussion of time proved to be more complicated and we directed the City Manager and the legal team to prepare some time options and criteria for a future special meeting, roundtable and/or a subcommittee meeting.

Our community will have  further opportunities to provide input by joining for public comment at our business meetings and likely a public hearing in November on this very topic.  You are also always invited to write us with your thoughts at councilall@bendoregon.gov.

-Councilor Megan Perkins 

After plenty of testimony from supporters and opponents, councilors also approved changes to short-term rental rules. Here's the city news release on the details;

Bend City Council approves changes to Short Term Rental rules

In a 6-0 unanimous vote, the Bend City Council approved code changes that increase the buffer between Short Term Rentals and provide flexibility for property owners.

Changes include increasing the buffer zone between permitted Short Term Rentals from 250 feet up to 500 feet in residential zones, as well as in portions of the Mixed Riverfront zone. The proposed changes would also allow Short Term Rental permit holders to rent out their properties as a long-term rental without losing their short-term rental license for up to three years.

These code changes were informed by results from a Short Term Rental property owner survey that was conducted earlier this year.

Based on the survey results, property owners were supportive of incentives to rent long term, including waiving the proof of use requirement to keep the Short Term Rental operating license. Currently, the Bend Development Code doesn’t allow a property owner to keep their Short Term Rental license if the property isn’t rented out as a Short Term Rental for more than 12 months. 

Under the previous 250-foot buffer, 66% of residential zoned properties were eligible to become a Short Term Rental.

With the buffer increasing to 500 feet, the percentage of residential zoned properties that can qualify for a Short Term Rental permit is reduced to 46%.

The intent behind these changes is to address one of the Council’s 2021-23 biennium goals to “reduce regulatory barriers for housing development, with an emphasis on incentivizing rent and price restricted affordable housing, middle income housing, and housing that serves vulnerable community members.”

A second reading will take place on Oct. 19. Then, the new rules will take effect on Nov.18.


Councilors also approved the city’s first temporary outdoor shelter contract, a three-year $1.5 million agreement with Central Oregon Villages, for a site on SE 27th Street next to Desert Streams Church.

Central Oregon Villages plans 20 fiberglass units, with a fence around the space. The village will be “high-barrier,” meaning no drugs nor alcohol, and residents must participate in case management. Women and children will be given priority.

After plenty of input from the Larkspur neighborhood, the operators agreed to have a trained person on-site full-time.

Here's the issue summary:

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