PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Just weeks after a class action suit was filed against the City of Portland, citing homeless encampments blocking sidewalks for those with mobility challenges, the same attorney is also representing people in the Laurelhurst community about camps in their neighborhood. 

A letter addressed to the city cites concerns of encampments along Laurelhurst Park, but in this case, they’re not calling out ADA-compliance concerns. Instead, their arguments call nature into question — trees, to be specific.

“They fear that there’s going to be a disaster at some point,” said John DiLorenzo, the attorney representing them.

They hired DiLorenzo — who is also involved in a class action suit against the city for camps and the impact on sidewalk access for the disabled — but rather than focus on ADA compliance, their argument calls trees into question.

In a letter to the city, DiLorenzo, on behalf of neighbors, cites concerns for 14 city-owned trees within an encampment along SE Oak between 37th and Cesar Chavez, running adjacent to the park.

First, it calls into question safety concerns, writing, ” the branches and limbs of the trees are at risk of falling and pose a significant threat of severe bodily harm or death to anyone in their target zone.” 

The letter also addresses the impact on the trees, themselves, saying, “the structure of trees are at risk of declining further, and becoming even more dangerous, due to chemical spillage from the tent encampments, as well as from fires maintained by their inhabitants.”

DiLorenzo says while this isn’t a lawsuit, it is a notice to the city for potential suits — either from bonfires getting out of control and burning nearby homes, or from family members if a tree limb falls and kills someone.

“I think this is a risk management issue for the city and is something to help shape its priorities,” said DiLorenzo.

Portland Parks and Recreation tells KOIN 6 its arborist did a report and says beyond one tree that should be removed soon, saying “it did not identify tree emergencies on the side of SE Oak Street where people are living outside.” 

The bureau adds it wants to “do a more comprehensive inspection on those trees, and have scheduled one pending the absence of people living below them.”

KOIN 6 recently spoke with people living in the encampment about neighbor concerns as they continue to set up camp along SE Oak.

“It’s a community you know upwards of 30 people that are always here,” said Dan Plimmer, a camper. “They view it as their home, that’s why they keep coming back here, specifically.”

KOIN 6 also spoke with the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association who tells us while they share concerns with neighbors about the damage to trees and subsequent risks posed to those in encampments, they did not commission the arborist report and have not sought legal counsel for this. The city says another camp removal is planned for next week as they prepare for a full arborist inspection.