Downtown Portland’s “Perfect Storm” of Cr!me, Pandem!c Relief, and Other Challenges

While downtown Portland faces a homelessness issue and attempts to recover from the effects of the recent epidemic, Don Mazziotti has a vested interest in the city’s future as a member of the Oregon Alc0hol and Dr*g Commission.

β€œWhat I see is a city that’s been hit by a perfect storm,” Mazziotti said. β€œWhether it’s homelessness, the pandemic, or any of several other issues that hit downtown in terms of participation by shoppers, which is down dramatically.”

Besides leading the Portland Development Commission, Mazziotti has served as a senior development vice president at Schnitzer and volunteered for five years with the homeless aid organization Harbor of Hope.

Downtown Portland's "Perfect Storm

β€œFrom my standpoint, there’s one key to the whole thing, which is public safety,” Mazziotti said. β€œI think we can start certainly by increasing, doubling the number of officers we have on the street. We have about 300 patrolmen right now. I’d like to see that at 600 citywide and with a substantial deployment that can fight the vandalism which persists in downtown Portland.”

Concerns about public safety have been at the forefront as several downtown companies have opted to relocate. Mazziotti describes the recent announcement of REI’s intentions to shutter its Pearl District site as “the canary in the coal mine.”

β€œWe’ve got to look at this very carefully because sports, sports apparel, sporting, is a key piece of Portland, of our identity, our brand. We cannot lose that brand. And REI leaving is a real difficulty, a mountain to climb, and we need to climb it,” Mazzioti said.

Mazzioti argues that the city’s post-pandem!c recovery, the opioid epidemic, and the sh0rtage of affordable housing must all get attention. As a result of the epidemic, many workers were forced to work from home, and many workplaces were left empty.

He adds, “I would say that a key to our recovery downtown β€” aside from the public safety issue, which is paramountβ€”is to focus on developing more housing in the downtown area.” Mazziotti is in favor of converting empty buildings into apartments.

Mazziotti thinks the dr*g epidemic is more pressing than the housing situation in Portland. He claims that Measure 110, which legalized several narcotics formerly considered !llegal, has exacerbated Oregon’s dr*g problem. According to Mazziotti, the Commission on Alc0hol and Dr*g Policy has created a strategic plan that he would want the governor and lawmakers to review.

β€œI think we have to keep in mind that Measure 110 decriminalized small amounts of commonly used dr*gs, including recreational dr*gs. The problem is it put the cart before the horse. Measure 110 comes up with a solution without fully understanding the nature of the problem and without the infrastructure in place to implement it,” Mazziotti said.

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Mazziotti predicts that the new $800 million Ritz Carlton hotel now under construction in the west end of downtown Portland will be a game-changer for the city’s economy. Even while the pandemic and the departure of certain businesses weren’t taken into account by the hotel’s designers, “I think it can be a catalyst but it can’t be the only thing,” Mazziotti said.

β€œWe were in a bucolic, wonderful urban area that has been hit, as I said, by the pandemic and public safety issues simultaneously which has had a profound effect. I think it will bring that part of downtown back.”

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Sophia Willmer is a skilled content editor who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role at With a keen eye for detail and a passion for crafting compelling content, Sophia ensures that every piece of content on the site is polished, accurate, and engaging.Sophia's love for writing and editing began at a young age, and she pursued a degree in journalism and communications to further her knowledge and skills. She has worked in a variety of roles in the media industry, from writing and editing for magazines to producing digital content for websites.

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