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Fat Cobra Video Being Targeted

Portland, Oregon- More than 100 North Portland residents are preparing a battle against an unwanted neighbor: an adult-video store called Fat Cobra Video, under construction across the street from Ockley Green Middle School. Neighbors say they’re worried about the appearance of the storefront and the possibility of more crime in the neighborhood that is sandwiched between North Interstate Avenue and Interstate 5, an area they’ve been trying to clean up.

“It’s just an inappropriate spot,” said Joe Malone, Ockley Green’s principal. “A lot of kids pass; they travel that way going home. They come and go from the school. The kids ride the MAX. It’s just not a good spot for the kids in the vicinity of the school.” Owner Pat Lanagan, who sent a spokesman to a neighborhood meeting, told the Tribune that his business – which he says will rent and sell adult videos – will be discreet and professional. It will bring above-minimum wage jobs to the area, will be maintained as an “immaculate and orderly establishment,” and will not allow any loitering, drugs, alcohol or obscene language, he said. “The store will be a quiet and unobtrusive contributing member of the community,” Lanagan promised, noting that he doesn’t yet have a timeline for opening. The scenario is similar to those that have played out repeatedly in the city and suburbs in the past decades. The city has no zoning regulations for adult businesses near schools. The city did have one in the 1980s, but the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional. In the past decade, the state Legislature has made three attempts to bring back the restrictions through constitutional amendments, all of which have failed. Now, neighbors are stuck writing letters opposing the business to city officials and state lawmakers, hoping something can be changed in the future. Leaders at Ockley Green and Portland Public Schoolsalso are opposing the business. They have been discussing plans to picket the shop, keep a street patrol of activity there and try to establish a Good Neighbor Agreement with the owner. Tracy Blakeslee, owner of six Fantasy Video stores in the Portland area, said the community complaints are not surprising. He said he also encountered some opposition when opening his shop on West Burnside Street, but it eventually died down and the business has co-existed peacefully with its neighbors. “Everybody encounters resistance, but it’s mostly based on apprehension and not on fact,” Blakeslee said. “We just don’t have any problems. It’s like any other well-managed businesses. It’s a function of management.” Still, neighbors said they’re determined to take action.

“We don’t need this kind of business in our urban corridor,” said Kurt Haapala, chairman of the Humboldt Neighborhood Association. “It doesn’t support any of the community vitality in neighborhood. You could argue it’s bringing revenue and perhaps jobs, but are those the kind of jobs we want?”

Lanagan said it’s that kind of sentiment that he thinks is unfair: “It’s OK for individuals to not like the content, but they should recognize the right to do business within a commercial zone. With children watching beheadings on the Internet, is seeing a well-maintained building, lacking anything suggestive or lewd, really going to pose a threat?” The exterior of his business, he said, “will have nothing suggestive or inappropriate whatsoever. The windows have been tastefully frosted; ‘Must be 18 years old to enter’ will be professionally lettered on the door. This will be a quaint turn-of-the-century building with nice landscaping.” Regarding security concerns, he said: “If we see anybody talking to or approaching children, certainly we’ll call 911 immediately, as I would if I were to see anybody approaching a child on the street unaccompanied.” Lanagan said he chose the site to serve residents of North and Northeast Portland who currently have to drive across town to pick up what he called “alternative” videos. “I wanted to locate on either Interstate or Lombard, due to forecasted growth,” he said. “Extreme effort was made to secure many other locations before I offered on this one. This location is not perfect, but it was the only one that I could procure.”


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