Tomorrow, Mayor Ed Murray will announce an emergency order creating two new “safe lots” where people living in RVs can park, as long as they agree to abide by certain rules and follow all city laws, according to a city hall source. The lots will be in Delridge and Ballard. Additionally, later this week, the mayor has tentative plans to announce another tent encampment, also under an emergency order, on privately owned land somewhere in the city.
The two lots and potential new tent city would have to be approved, retroactively, through legislation, but could open immediately under the emergency order. As I noted when I broke the news about the RV-camp proposal last week, angry, vocal residents of several west-side neighborhoods, including Magnolia and Ballard, lit a fire under city officials with their relentless campaign against RVs parked on the edges of their neighborhoods, along Nickerson near the Burke-Gilman Trail and on Thorndyke on the eastern edge of Magnolia. Neighbors blamed the RVs for drug dealing, trash piles, theft, and “mobile meth labs,” although a Seattle Police Department spokesman said he had seen no evidence or verified reports of mobile meth labs operating from RVs in Seattle.
King County will also reportedly be announcing a new RV parking lots, or lots, in the coming weeks.
In addition, the city will begin “patient and consistent” enforcement of laws governing parked vehicles and other laws, the source says. That includes the 72-hour rule, which requires vehicle owners to move their vehicles every three days, as well as laws requiring owners to keep their vehicles in running order and their tabs up to date. This could lead to a rise in impoundments of vehicles whose owners can’t afford to pay their tabs or keep their RVs gassed-up and running, which could in turn result in homeless people losing the only shelter they have, their vehicles. The city source says SPD will work to help people who just need a jump-start or some gas or air in their tires get their RVs running so they can move them around, but acknowledges that strict enforcement could result in more tickets (which homeless people are unlikely to be able to pay) and impoundments.
The city, which is moving with alacrity to address the RV problem after pressure from by a group of disgruntled, vocal homeowners, will ultimately have to get council approval for the “safe lots.”
It strikes me as unlikely, based on the massive uproar when the city sited a tent encampment in Ballard, that residents who don’t want unregulated RVs in their neighborhoods (who have demanded a “moratorium” on RVs in the city) will welcome long-term RV encampments in those same neighborhoods. Nor am I particularly optimistic that the protesters will be happy with the city’s refusal to entertain the notion of simply outlawing RV parking on city streets (homeowners with campers, of course, generally have plenty of room to park those on private property), which the source says is not even on the table.
I have a call out to the mayor’s office and will update with any information from Murray if I hear back from him tomorrow.
The Neighborhood Safety Alliance, made up Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Ballard residents, will meet again to discuss the city’s response at 6:30pm on Thursday, January 28, at Seattle Pacific University.