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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office of the Ombudsman

A division of the Portland City Auditor's Office

phone: 503-823-0144

email: ombudsman@portlandoregon.gov

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 310, Portland, OR 97204

Parks & Recreation

Year

Problem

Resolution

2018

A Parks Board’s subcommittee on off-road cycling met in violation of Oregon’s public meetings law, which requires notice, the taking of minutes, and public access. 

The Ombudsman recommended Parks immediately bring the subcommittee meetings into compliance. Parks changed the reporting structure to exempt the subcommittee from the public meetings law requirements.

2018

Urban Forestry ordered a property owner to remove a dead tree in the public right-of-way on a slope behind their house. Urban Forestry determined that the tree met the legal definition of a "street tree" and therefore removing it was the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. The property owner objected, saying it was not a street tree because it wasn't in front or on the side of their house. 

The Ombudsman questioned Urban Forestry’s interpretation of Code requirements and brought the matter to the attention of the Commissioner-in-charge. The Commissioner directed Urban Forestry to rescind the citation. 

2017

A community member complained about a Portland Parks & Recreation community center allowing a church group to rent space. The community member believed that allowing the church to use the community center as its place of worship instead of the church buying or renting space on the private market amounted to an improper public subsidy of religion. The community member noted that the church used the community center’s address as its permanent physical location and used pictures of the community center on its website.

The Ombudsman’s investigation included a broader survey of Portland Parks & Recreation’s rental policies, rate schedules and advertising. The Ombudsman found that Portland Parks & Recreation’s practices differed by community center. Some practices raised potential Constitutional problems by subsidizing religious organizations and suggesting a preference for the activities of certain religions.

Portland Parks & Recreation accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendation to develop a standard rental policy that encourages equal inclusive access to community centers, that is applied consistently to all users and is adhered to by every community center.

2016

 

Portland Parks and Recreation ordered three Southwest Portland homeowners to remove nine trees located on a steep slope of publicly-owned property behind their homes. The estimated cost of the removal was $3,500. The owners objected to the City’s determination that they were responsible for removing trees in a public right-of-way far beyond their property lines. The homeowners wanted to appeal their cases to the City’s impartial Hearings Officer, but the Tree Code required them first to each pay $110 to file an administrative appeal to the City Forester.

Because the bureau had predetermined that it would reject the appeal, the Ombudsman recommended that the fees be waived so the property owners could present their cases to the Hearings Officer. The Ombudsman also raised questions about the bureau’s expansive interpretation of property owner responsibilities under the Tree Code. The bureau eventually agreed to waive the appeal fees and later rescinded the citations and removed the trees at no cost to the property owners.