City Council to allow homeless camps in greenbelts, under overpasses

The Seattle City Council is revising proposed legislation for how to manage unauthorized homeless camps.

SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council released amended legislation on Wednesday, for how to handle the hot button issue of unauthorized encampments.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said the legislation came after task force reviews of the issue, and criticism of the city's response to so-called "sweeps.”

The legislation now identifies areas for where camps can and cannot set up:

"Improved areas of City parks, including restored natural areas actively undergoing restoration, and public sidewalks in front of house and dwelling units are per se unsuitable.  Sidewalks in commercial areas are prohibited to sitting and lying during certain hours...

“Examples of public space may not be unsuitable for purposes of removal, depending on the circumstances, may include portions of greenbelts, portions of unimproved City lands, safe space under certain overpasses, bridge and structures, portions of surplus City property not currently subject to active use and those locations formally identified by the City of Seattle for use as temporary encampments."

The language drew immediate concerns from councilmembers Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell, who questioned whether the legislation would open up the doors for camps in public parks, like Greenlake.

There was no change to the other controversial clause, which would give encampments a 30 day notice, instead of the current 72 hours.

"The people of Chinatown don't want to see those people suffering, but they also don't want to be the victims of crime," said Charles Martin, who owns the Seattle Pinball Museum on Maynard Avenue South. 

Martin says numerous small business owners have suffered from the proliferation of camps, including those that have popped up underneath Interstate 5. Roughly 20 business leaders wrote letters to the council asking them to put the brakes on the legislation. The Wing Luke Museum claims it almost shut down in July because of problems with the camps, and tourists are afraid to visit.

"I think if the city council goes with this plan as written, they are not going to like what happens,” said Martin. “Their hands will be tied, and they'll start writing checks.”

Martin also believes that some people are afraid now to walk outside. 

"The people in this community can't, and that's not right,” Martin said. "The city needs to give this community some love that it deserves, and until it does I'm not going to be stop being quiet."

Bagshaw says she hopes to have final legislation on encampment regulation by October 10.

Copyright 2016 KING


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