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Shovel your sidewalk or face a fine in Seattle this winter

Homeowners who don't shovel their sidewalks after a storm could be fined $50. Businesses could be fined $250 up to $1,000 for multiple violations.

SEATTLE — Seattle city leaders say they’ll start enforcing penalties if homeowners or businesses don’t clear their sidewalks of snow and ice after a storm.

Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan and Transportation Director Sam Zimbabwe both reinforced Thursday that there is a legal obligation to do so, and people can be fined for lack of clearance. 

"Shovel your sidewalk," said Mayor Durkan. "I think one of the things that people don't realize is that's their responsibility." 

Councilmember Lisa Herbold cited the recent change to the code with the passage of Council Bill 125945 last September. The bill outlines the fine for ignoring a warning to shovel sidewalks as $50 for homeowners, and $250 for businesses for the first violation. Businesses would be fined $500 for the second violation and $1,000 for the third. 

The change to the bill comes after several complaints, especially from the disabled community, that the city didn’t pay attention to the issue during the February 2019 snowstorm that trapped people indoors.

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Zimbabwe also claimed Thursday that there is better coordination with the Seattle Public School District, as there were also issues last year with clearing main arterial streets near schools, leading to class cancellations. 

The Human Services Department says it will open additional shelter space, beginning with the Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center on Sunday night, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

King County Metro also created a new website for winter-related issues, so riders can stay up to date. 

The city of Seattle has distributed educational materials about the changes in 10 different languages and also worked with utilities to include those materials in utility bills. 

City leaders said if enforcement personnel see uncleared sidewalks, they will first provide businesses with those educational materials. But if warnings are not sufficient, businesses and homeowners can expect to be fined this winter season. 

RELATED: Did Seattle earn a passing grade during one of the biggest storms in years?