City Slow to Act on Hill “Bum Squat” Site

Transient Occupying "Bum Squat" This Summer

Transient Occupying “Bum Squat” This Summer at 15 Washington Avenue

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,606)

15 Washington Avenue, once Lovejoy’s Barber Shop, has been an eye sore for many years.  In the past several years, it has become a source of safety concerns for neighbors, who include the East End Children’s Workshop.  It’s become a “bum squat” for transients looking for a place to hang out.  It’s a place where they drink beer and do whatever they do until they move on to another place.  And yet, the city appears to have turned a blind eye to the safety problems at that site for no good reason.

According to city documents, on June 3, 2013, the property underwent an inspection by the Department of Planning & Urban Development.  The property was then found to be in violation of city code; both on the interior of the building and its exterior. The property was to be re-inspected in 14 days.  Then on June 4th, Janine Kaserman, Community Services Coordinator on Munjoy Hill, filed a report with the City’s Inspections Division expressing concern about the property for “safety” reasons. Officer Ney of the Portland Police Department had reported concerns to her about the instability of the building as well as transients who stayed there.   On August 1st, 2013 reported  on  a transient  who’d been living in the small, hexagonal structure at the corner of Washington Avenue and Congress Street  for several days.  Carpenter, sitting among his empty Bud beer cans, said it was a great view and no one bothered him  while he “squatted” there.

In response to an email inquiry, a city official responded today that it was “going to continue to work  with the property owner, Alec Altman, of Bingas Wingas fame,  to get resolution to this issue.  There have been communications that indicate he is serious about taking the building down in the not-too-distant future.”  This is the same message that has received verbally from another city official on several occasions since August, the date of the article.

In the past, the Inspections Division has been severely criticized for its inefficiency, disorganization and rudeness with the public.  The Division has undergone several reviews and analysis of its procedures.  The first report blamed the lack of an effective computer system for problems, stating that employees made notes on scraps of miscellaneous paper. Poor record keeping was the problem. The last report was concluded on April 11, 2013 and was prepared by the Government Consulting Group and the City and gave recommendations to the City.  No formal presentation was made.