Clackamas Review: Oregon City code exempts county's homeless-veterans project
Author: Raymond Rendleman, Pamplin Media Group
Posted: August 18, 2017

Read the original story in the Clackamas Review

PSU architecture students transforming Pickathon music stage into 'sleeping pods' in Clackamas County

On Aug. 16, Oregon City commissioners unanimously declared an emergency to exempt Clackamas County from the city's code requirements as county officials oversee volunteers who are constructing modular tiny homes at Red Soils.

City commissioners approved the resolution declaring an emergency while requesting promises from county officials that the county would never again embark on a construction project without contacting the city to make sure code requirements are followed.

City staff discouraged future resolutions exempting any entity from planning process and standards, but recommended that city commissioners pass this resolution for the county, because the tiny homes will help achieve the city's goal to work with regional partners to identify tools and programs to increase affordable housing and housing affordability.

On Aug. 3 at its Red Soils campus in Oregon City's Hilltop area, Clackamas County put up chain-link fencing, behind which are now approximately 700 trusses and cargo containers to become 30 modular tiny homes for homeless veterans. Once constructed, the tiny homes are anticipated to be transferred to a county-owned property at 115th Avenue and Jennifer Street, in the unincorporated Clackamas Industrial Area. The county anticipates volunteers will construct the homes at Red Soils through Oct. 31, thereby making the homes available before winter. The Red Soils site would then be returned to its pre-existing conditions that don't violate the city code.

Vahid Brown, the housing policy coordinator for Clackamas County, said he was confident the project will secure the necessary paperwork.

"It's a process to get permits," Brown said on Aug. 9. "The county is committed to see this village come together and see people sleeping in the pods."

The pieces for the modular homes have a unique history, and county officials said that they didn't fully review the necessary codes, due to how quickly the unique project came together. Happy Valley's Pickathon Music Festival ending Aug. 6 marked the beginning for its Treeline Stage. 

Architecture students from Portland State University's Center for Public Interest Design (CPID) are transforming the stage from a venue for 18 musical artists into the sleeping pods for homeless veterans.

The students, led by assistant professor Travis Bell and the director of the School of Architecture, Clive Knights, began designing the stage in early March with the goal of maximizing its social impact after the festival.

The result was an intricate piece composed of 690 trusses — giant reinforced wooden triangles.

"It really plays into the ethos of sustainability with the festival," Bell said. Pickathon uses a re-usable dish and utensil system as well as solar-powered generators. "This gives the stage a full life cycle."

And this isn't the first time the CPID has taken on such a project.

Last fall, the center collaborated with homeless advocacy groups and architecture firms like the Catholic Charities, Communitecture and the Village Coalition to address Portland's homelessness crisis. That initiative produced 14 sleeping pods that became the Kenton Women's Village in North Portland.

Working with the same organizations, the pods made from the Treeline Stage will follow a similar path.

"While Travis Bell and Clive Knights and their students worked on the design of the trusses and the Treeline Stage, I worked with partners like … Clackamas County on the development of the village those trusses would eventually build," said Todd Ferry, a senior research faculty member at the CPID who worked on the Kenton Women's Village.


Kaylee Domzalski of Oregon Public Broadcasting contributed to this report.