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Portland property owner installing bike racks to deter camping

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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – After months of camping, crime, and drug use outside one of his buildings in downtown Portland, real estate mogul and philanthropist, Jordan Schnitzer, is using bike racks to clean up the sidewalk.

Schnitzer installed about two dozen metal bike racks along the block of Northwest Broadway between Northwest Flanders and Glisan Street. He’s not the only local business owner to do so in the downtown area. Planters and bike racks have been popping up in front of businesses in the “Furnishing Zone” of sidewalks. That’s the area between the curb and the pedestrian thorough-way that tends to have mailboxes, plants, and trash cans. It’s also a zone where many of the unhoused pitch a tent. Schnitzer’s bike racks take up the zone and the goal is to keep the space from being used to camp.

“It’s one way for us to promote bikes to people who ride bikes and two to help clean up the streets so tenants will look at this building and want to be here for their business,” Schnitzer said.

Schnitzer donates millions each year to help the unhoused get back on their feet. He owns the property Bybee Lakes Hope Center sits on. It houses 300 people and in its first year, the center saw 500 people experience homelessness walk through its doors. Schnitzer believes more investment in centers like this one will help make an impact on the crisis instead of encouraging camping on city streets.

“The bike racks are one solution, planters are another but the key is really helping people get off the streets and into facilities like the Bybee Lakes,” Schnitzer said.

Schnitzer admits he didn’t get permits for the bike racks because he didn’t know one was required. The Portland Bureau of Transportation said they were not aware of the bike racks and are looking at “next steps.” Schnitzer said he filed for a permit last Friday.

Schnitzer said there needs to be a fine line between helping those on the streets and remembering tax-paying stakeholders. In Schnitzer’s eyes, a successful and vibrant city starts with the real estate market and a vibrant downtown core. So the bike racks area small part in trying to bring Portland’s image back.

“We use to be a jewel nationally,” Schnitzer said. “Every other month the New York Times used to have an article about us being a foodie city or to visit, or about the mountains, or about the beach, or about all things we love. How this has gone down the sinkhole to be one of the embarrassments nationally, is staggering.”