BottleDrop: Leaders respond to alarm

St. Johns-area residents have bombarded local government officials with concerns about the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC) plan to take over the former Dollar Tree store near the St. Johns town center. The site would be used as a redemption center similar to the one currently at Delta Park.

Nearly 500 people participated in the St. Johns Neighborhood Association meeting on March 11, in person or via Zoom, to voice concerns and vote to oppose the facility.

A more complete summary of the meeting including comments by residents is available in the March 13 article Massive turnout to oppose BottleDrop on N. Lombard.

The groundswell of concern has resulted in responses from city and state leaders as well as candidates for city, state and county races. Both city and state staff are involved in approving the site.

City planners must determine if BottleDrop is a proper use within the zone,  and walk the project through early stages prior to construction. City Commissioner Carmen Rubio leads the Planning and Sustainability Bureau in charge of that process. Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) from the state must also approve the plan.

Below are the political leaders and a candidate that responded to the community concern prior to deadline:

City Commissioner Carmen Rubio

Last night I joined the St. Johns Neighborhood Association to hear their concerns about a new BottleDrop location proposed by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative. This is the information I shared:

My office first learned of this proposal exactly two weeks ago, and I share the concerns raised by community members. I am extremely disappointed that city officials were not given a heads-up, especially in light of active conversations regarding other redemption centers in Portland. 

The very next day, the city asked the state for the decision-making process to include community voices—and we learned that the application to the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission includes a 30-day comment period. That’s important, because OLCC is the deciding authority here.

In addition to expressing concerns with state leaders, I have directed my staff to begin conversations with the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative about alternative locations in North Portland.

The initial administrative decision related to the proposed site, known as a Land Use Compatibility Statement, is only a zoning check and isn’t coming anytime soon.

State Representative Travis Nelson

Many constituents have raised concerns about the proposed Saint John’s Bottle Drop. I’ve heard your concerns and, together with Representative Dexter, met with the Bottle Drop folks a few weeks ago to express your voices and to find alternative solutions. Additionally, I participated in the Saint John’s Neighborhood Association meeting to directly hear community perspectives. Addressing this issue remains a top priority for me. I encourage you to keep making your voices heard to the city council. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on developments as I know them!

State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward

The Oregon Bottle Bill aims to give every Oregonian access to bottle recycling in a convenient location to them. I have heard from constituents in St. Johns about their discomfort with having a Bottle Drop location in their neighborhood, and I commend them for their community involvement in the public process of this proposal. Those living in this neighborhood are the best voice for the needs of their community, and it is my duty to amplify their concerns.

However, I think we all know that responding to the drug crisis is about more than just bottle drop locations—immediate, transformative action is needed to get people into treatment and keep our communities safe from these deadly drugs.

In the most recent legislative session, the legislature passed House Bill 4002 which included reforms to intervene on public drug use, increase access to and help connect people with treatment, and enable law enforcement to confiscate hard drugs. We also took action to make it harder for drug dealers to target people in our communities, especially those in our parks, homeless shelters, and treatment centers. I believe that as we see the implementation of House Bill 4002, we will see a difference in our communities.

Sam Adams, candidate for Multnomah County District 2 for N, NE Portland

This very system, OBRC, is broken. As we seek another place for it to go, keep in mind it needs reform before it moves anywhere.