Mayor Ed Murray just announced the location of the two RV parks I reported on last night–one in Ballard on Shilshole Ave., and one at the WSDOT-owned “Glass Yard” property on the east side of Delridge.
From the mayor’s office:
The Ballard site, the Yankee Diner parking lot at Shilshole Ave. NW and 24th Ave. NW, is owned by Seattle Public Utilities. The Seattle Department of Transportation has been in negotiations with the Washington State Department of Transportation to acquire the Glass Yard lot at West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way SW for the Delridge site. The City and WSDOT are discussing the terms of the sale of the property and will likely require future legislation to finalize the purchase and sale agreement. But to accommodate the Mayor’s emergency order, WSDOT has agreed to allow the City to use the site as a safe lot in the intervening period during these negotiations.
The “Glass Yard” property is the former home of Nickelsville, the longtime tent encampment; Nickelsville residents were moved from the lot because of concerns about environmental contamination of the property and complaints from neighbors about “public safety concerns.” In fact, the entire city council said there was a “public health and safety emergency” that required the immediate relocation of Nickelsville back in 2013. The new location is directly adjacent to the former Nickelsville, and is on a paved lot, rather than dirt, which Murray’s spokesman Viet Shelton says is safer from environmental contamination.
Shelton says the RV parks will open within the next 30 days, and will be operated by a provider to be determined. (The homelessness advocacy group and former Nickelsville operator SHARE, which operates Tent City in Ballard near the proposed RV park, is an obvious potential operator).
That’s a strikingly quick timeline compared to Tent City, which finally opened after many months of public meetings and over the strenuous objections of neighboring homeowners and busiensses. So what has changed? The obvious answer is: Residents of several west-side neighborhoods (Magnolia, Ballard, and Queen Anne) have complained loudly about homeless people living in RVs in and near their neighborhoods, and officials see the parking lots as an interim solution.
Two council members, Mike O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw, acknowledged to me that “screaming” neighbors were part of the reason the new RV parks are happening on a warp-speed timeline. Shelton cited two other reasons for the expedited process: The city has declared homelessness an emergency, and SHARE has demonstrated that city-sanctioned tent encampments can be sited in neighborhoods without endangering public safety. “This is about helping individuals exp homelessness find a safe place to stay while they move toward long-term housing,” Shelton says.
Shelton says the process for people to actually relocate to the RV camps remains to be determined.
I have a call out to Catherine Lester, head of the city’s Human Services Department, for more details about the parking lot proposal.