PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A dispute is growing over one of the few bottle drop locations that is still open to the public in Portland during the coronavirus pandemic.
After first taking steps to possibly evict the bottle drop next to the Lowes in North Portland, on Monday, the landlord put up a fence to keep customers off a grassy area.
Jared Campbell is like so many others who line up at the bottle drop location — when they arrived on Monday, they were pointed in a different direction.
“I pick up cans to get food,” said Campbell. “I was asked to wait at the sidewalk out there.”
The move caught the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative off guard when they found out.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” said Jules Bailey of the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative. “We showed up this morning and there’s some new fencing the landlord put up. And now we have the landlord security that’s asking people to line up out on the street, so we’re trying to figure out what’s happening.”
Security guards redirected customers out of the parking lot to wait on the sidewalk until the line died down. The landlord said the new fencing was because they were finding needles on the lawn.
The move comes after the landlord, TMT Development, sent letters to the OBRC that said the location was in “default” on its lease for violating the governor’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” social distancing requirements to stay six feet apart. One letter said the line was so long, it was blocking other tenants’ access to sidewalks and entrances.
“All retail locations have stopped taking back containers, so people are coming here,” said Bailey. “It’s their option of last resort to return containers. We’ve been in discussions with the landlord and we’re trying to find a common ground, workable solution, but today we see something different.”
When asked why the escalation, Bailey responded, “We’re not sure. We’ve had conversations with the landlord. It’s their property. They can do what they want with their property. We just lease that portion.”
TMT Development said eviction is a last resort, but said in a statement the bottle cooperative has “made no effort to make the situation better or safer.”
The cooperative said the new conditions make it more difficult for them to control the crush of customers.
Read the full statement from OBRC:
OBRC and BottleDrop are committed to providing safe access to bottle and can returns. Since most retail stores stopped accepting returns on March 15, people who rely on bottle and can refunds to meet basic needs have simply had fewer options. We are their last lifeline in this crisis. During this time, BottleDrop has taken immediate and extensive measures to follow the guidance of state and federal health officials so that we can safely remain open and even expand safe access for those who rely on it.
We have effectively implemented measures for cleaning, sanitizing, limiting the number of people in our redemption centers, and managing social distancing. We have even provided a whole new way to return containers so we can reduce the number of people that need to go to our Delta Park location. We opened an emergency return site at our headquarters with access from downtown via free bus service through a partnership with TriMet and we are providing over $15,000 a day through that site already. We have also actively cooperated with our landlord’s security service and remain willing to consider any feasible ideas that improve safety and security for everyone.
We continue to demonstrate our willingness to work collaboratively to balance the increased demand for our service and the safety of our customers and our neighbors. The actions taken today by our landlord, like other proposals they have offered, are not collaborative, make it harder for people in need to access an essential service, and reduce safety for everyone visiting the shopping center.
Read the full statement from TMT Development:
This morning, TMT Development installed a fence around the grassy area near the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative(OBRC) Delta Park Redemption Center as a safety measure. With an increase in customers lining up outside to use this facility, TMT Development has had to increase its monitoring and assessment activities at Delta Park Center in light of public health and safety priorities and regulations tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and in response to neighboring tenants’ complaints. TMT Development has seen a large uptick in the number of used syringes and needles scattered throughout the public areas near OBRC at Delta Park Center. These syringes and needles are particularly difficult to see in the soft surface of the grassy area, where children regularly play. These syringes and needles are creating an added public safety issue for OBRC’s patrons and patrons of nearby businesses, so we have fenced the area in an effort to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
TMT Development has suggested several ways for OBRC to help address ongoing issues surrounding crowd control and large groups of people not abiding by the Governor’s physical distancing requirement. These have included alternate areas to queue that do not block traffic or impede on the rights of the other tenants. Our suggestions have been met with continual resistance. We want all of OBRC’s patrons and our tenants to stay safe, as well as to have OBRC’s patrons have clear direction on how to return bottles and cans during this time. We cannot have OBRC’s patrons queuing in right-of-way areas and using property that is not part of their lease agreement. OBRC received notice to fix the violation of their lease agreement within a reasonable time frame, and that time has passed without the issues being addressed. The uncontrolled congregation of customers leads to increased risks of COVID-19 transmission at a time when public health and safety should be the priority.
TMT is focused on finding a long-term solution that prioritizes everyone’s health while adhering to our obligations to all tenants so that they can operate safely during this pandemic. An eviction action is a last resort, and we are doing everything we can to avoid it.
Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather