The St. Johns Boosters organization convened a community listening session on March 22 to sound the alarm about the recent challenges in St. Johns from both a business and community standpoint. Local business and nonprofit leaders in the district shared their stories and concerns with local elected officials about the escalating level of crime, vandalism and mental health challenges that have plagued the community.
“While we understand that the entire city is currently facing a similar rise in these issues, we are deeply concerned that our corner of the peninsula is not getting the attention needed to withstand the damage being done,” said James Armstrong, Co-Founder of Cathedral Eye Care.
The general feeling of the small business community is their voice is not being heard. In the last year, of the many businesses in St. Johns that have experienced crime and vandalism, a sampling of 32 businesses have reported over $660,000 in costs with most businesses being hit multiple times throughout the year.
“The St. Johns neighborhood does not have the same level of high-profile local businesses that exist in Central Eastside and Old Town,” said Tanya Hartnett, Venture Portland’s District Manager for St. Johns. “We have the largest concentration of single owned small businesses in Portland with 54% women owned and over 25% BIPOC owned. North Portland is also one of the few remaining communities in Portland that has affordable housing options for low- and middle-income families. Unfortunately, the safety concerns that we are addressing are affecting those more vulnerable businesses and community members the most.”
Group sets goals for City and County with 90-day reset plan
The St. Johns Boosters introduced their roadmap for a number of actions they’re demanding the City and County attend to. It includes goals and actions around increased police patrols, greater services for mental health and better enforcement of violations to commercial spaces and vacant buildings and more.
Some specific elements of the plan include:
- At least 1 Portland Police officer patrolling St. Johns’ business district during business hours
- Police response within 7 minutes to all emergency calls
- Multnomah County to implement mental health response teams including one mental health professional patrolling the St. Johns business district to address mental health issues on the street
- Multnomah County to locate District Attorney office in St. Johns
- Funding for additional lighting (e.g., streetlamps or outside business lights) in St. Johns on Lombard from N Richmond to N. Burr
- Abandoned vehicles removed from public parking areas within 24 hours
- PBOT/City of Portland to clean debris left behind by homeless individuals in businesses doorways, the Plaza, sidewalks and bioswales daily
- Create an alternative place for RVs & camping so individuals do not switch streets after a sweep
- Launch a pilot program in St. Johns for a security firm funded by City of Portland
“We understand there are many reasons that Portland has gotten to where it is today,” continued Hartnett. “We are not expecting a silver bullet to solve our problems. However, we do need our leaders to see how hard the small business community in St. Johns is working to survive, and if something does not change, there are many businesses that will not. Today is the start of what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue with the City and County of how to meet these goals and how to get to a better place.”
Source: St. Johns Boosters