City Attorney’s Office Seeks to Mediate in Lawsuit That Alleges City Violates Americans With Disabilities Act by Allowing Sidewalk Camping


Last month, 10 Portlanders with disabilities sued the city of Portland over the hundreds of tents on sidewalks across the city, alleging the tents impede their access rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to court documents filed by the City Attorney’s Office on Tuesday morning, the city is seeking to mediate with the lawyers representing the plaintiffs to resolve the case outside of court. The plaintiffs are not opposing the motion.

The city requested a 85-day extension for its response from the courts so the two parties can continue mediation discussions. According to the city’s court filing, lawyers for the plaintiffs and the city’s lawyers have already met three times to discuss a resolution.

“Defendant seeks this extension of time because the parties are currently conferring on a resolution in this matter, which may render a responsive pleading or motion unnecessary,” the city’s filing reads.

The request is the first public signifier of the city’s approach to the lawsuit, which could have massive implications for how the city addresses camping on its sidewalks. It shows that the city will attempt to settle the lawsuit outside of court, helping them avoid drawn-out, expensive litigation—and seek a middle ground that pacifies both parties.

In the class-action lawsuit filed on Sept. 6, the 10 plaintiffs asked the court to mandate that the city clear all sidewalks of tents and also make shelter available to all those swept, even if it means immediately constructing shelter for everyone to avoid running into problems with a 2018 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that prohibits cities from criminalizing homelessness if there are not adequate beds to shelter people.

Last Friday, the mayor’s office outlined a plan to build three massive sanctioned campsites across the city that each have capacity for 500 people, coupled with a phased-in ban on unsanctioned camping. (The mayor’s office tells WW these plans have been in the works for over a year now and are not related to the lawsuit.)

Locations for the sites aren’t locked in yet. But two brought up early in discussions—a lot abutting the Oregon Zoo and a lot nearby OMSI on the Central Eastside—have both been ruled out, according to the mayor’s office.

Mediation between the city and lawyers is expected to begin after Election Day.


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