City Parking Enforcement official tells of ‘camper’ pursuance woes

MEETING VIDEO INCLUDED | Find out why it’s so difficult to get ‘concrete campers’ to move along – or even remove burnt-out, abandoned RVs – off our outer East Portland streets …

Before the June Lents Neighborhood Livability Association is called to order, attendees are treated to a warm Mexican supper.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

While their other meeting location on Mt. Scott is being remodeled, the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association (LNLA) was again held in the Lents Activity Center the evening of June 8.

Char Penne welcomes all and makes brief announcements as the meeting begins.

This meeting, featuring the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) Parking Enforcement division Supervisor John Wheeler, drew 33 attendees, who all enjoyed delicious Mexican cuisine of Mexican Street Tacos and chips by Birrieria PDX 82nd before the meeting got underway.

-3 PBOT Parking Enforcement division Supervisor John Wheeler tells begins telling about the work of their division, specifically dealing with “residential vehicles” parked on outer East Portland streets.

Supervisor Wheeler started off by defining the mission of Parking Enforcement: Ensuring equitable and convenient access to parking in the public right of way.

“I’ve been in the bureau for about the last seven years; and working as the supervisor for three of the last four years,” Wheeler noted. “We have seven enforcement officers handling all of the city limits,” he added.

He noted that the parking code enforcement officer under his supervision are to provide assistance as special police officers in the enforcement of parking regulations as provided by Portland Title 16 chapter 16.10, and other related work under the direction of the Bureau Director.

Their division triages work in the following order:

  • Lived-in vehicles and camps, in coordination with the Street Services Coordination Center
  • Vehicle Inspection Team
  • Safe Routes to School
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Parking meter enforcement


Wheeler then told how to report abandoned vehicles, saying a good option is using the online form.  CLICK HERE to open that City of Portland webpage. “Or, to speak with a staff member, during business hours, call 503-823-6814,” he informed.

Explaining why some vehicles can’t be towed on a timely basis is PBOT Lead Parking Code Enforcement Officer Christopher Nero.

Lots and lots of tows
Of the 18,000 vehicles officers “tagged” to be removed, many of them get “double tagged” before they’re finally towed away. “We towed about 250 recreational vehicles last year and is a significant number,” enumerated Wheeler.

PBOT Lead Parking Code Enforcement Officer Christopher Nero, at the meeting with Wheeler, chimed in, “We are on-track for towing 600 this year.”

Several people at the meeting ask if his division were aware of vehicles in their locations. Officer Nero looked up the stated locations on his IPad. And, sure enough, many of the sites of been reported.

This “5th-wheel” trailer on SE Foster Road has been “tagged” for towing, but remains until space becomes available in a tow yard.

Many of these lived-in campers under I-205 have been “tagged”, but will likely be drive or towed to another location before being confiscated by the PBOT – only to soon return – in a never-ending game of “Whack-A-Mole”.

Whack-A-Mole enforcement
“Part of the problem that the tow yard to which we tow the vehicles is frequently filled to nearly capacity, which means they’re only allowed to accept perhaps one or two vehicles per day,” Wheeler said. “Some days they don’t accept any vehicles; which means these abandoned vehicles can’t be towed.

“And, lived-in vehicles is our world’s biggest game of Whack-A-Mole,” he went on. “These vehicles are driven – but more frequently towed – from Clackamas County, to Foster-Powell, to Lents, to Brentwood Darlington,” Wheeler observed. “Over the years I’ve got to know the ‘owners’ by name, and they know me by name.”

Several of these vehicles have been “tagged”, and may, or may not be towed to a yard for storage – at taxpayers expense.

Wheeler reemphasized the need to store the towed vehicles. “We easily need 300 to 400 additional RV sized slots to store them,” Wheeler said. “Right now, our department pays for every tow we make. If it’s an RV or a trailer, they get stored for 30 days. We pay for the toe there, the storage fee for 30 days – and if it is not claimed, it goes over to Rockwood and gets dismantled.”

But, it’s not only the vehicles, Wheeler pointed out. “We need places to ‘host’ the people who live or lived vehicles.”

One attendee asked “can neighbors be deputized?” This query drew a round of applause.

“Do not confront people camping on the street,” is the advice of John Wheeler.

“One of our officers was being chased by a person with a machete and they had to get police involved; so, I do not, not, recommend dealing directly with people who are camping on the street,” Wheeler replied.

“The main difference between me and you is that I get paid to deal with this,” Wheeler explained. “I build relationships with a lot of them; some of the people who are houseless actually have my back and will come to help me,” he added.

There were many more questions and answers at this meeting. Watch the entire meeting via YouTube, courtesy of the LNLA:


Lents Neighborhood Livability Association meeting on July 13

This live and in person LNLA meeting is from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.

This month: FREE dinner will be served starting at 6:30 p.m.; enjoy great Mexican cuisine by Birrieria PDX 82nd.

JUST ADDED: Meet Senior Multnomah County prosecutor Nathan Vasquez, who has declared his candidacy for district attorney against Mike Schmidt. And, their featured speaker, Kristin Brown, the “311” Communications Coordinator, will tell about the City of Portland’s new Artificial Intelligence call intake program.

NOTE the location: Lents Activity Center, 8815 SE Woodstock Boulevard, 97266. The gate will be open at 6:15 PM and the parking lot is available for parking. For more information, email

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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