As-it-happened coverage: City Council committee takes up encampment-location issue – Nickelsville and elsewhereMay 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm | In 'Nickelsville' encampment, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 44 Comments
(TOPLINE, 4:12 PM: Council discussion’s over; next step, public hearing June 25th)
(Editor’s note: What was the “live” video, above, has since been replaced with archived video of the meeting in its entirety)
We’re in the City Council chambers at City Hall downtown, along with more than 100 people, as the Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee prepares to take up two hot topics – encampments and marijuana.
We’ll be updating live, mostly on the former topic, because of the Nickelsville issue. We also hope to add the live-video window here in a moment (the 2 pm meeting is running a bit late). More to come.
2:13 PM: Public comment is about to begin. Council chair Nick Licata says each speaker will be limited to a minute and a half. First, Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness says he supports Licata’s proposal. “What we all agree about is that we need to keep working on remedies to enable interim survival plans,” he says. Next, a woman identifying herself as a Tent City 3 resident, who says excluding campers from residential areas would be discrimination. “Because I’m homeless, you don’t want me in the residential areas where kids are and stuff like that … (but) I don’t want to hurt kids.” Another Tent City 3 representative speaks next, about discrimination. “We support our friends at Nickelsville and want a good solution to their current dilemma,” but this is not it, he says.
A Nickelsville resident who says she is living there with her son and two cats is next. She says more than 125 people are there now and last summer peaked at more than 180 people. She says conditions and order are OK – except for the lack of running water, sewer, and “little police protection … We are doing great but our preference is to be moved someplace” where they would have such things. She says they “hope to move within next 2 months” without any new city codes and that they oppose the ordinances because they are not necessary.
Another Nickelsville resident, Trace DeGarmo, brings up the newly proposed Nickelsville “Option 7,” which he says would work within the current religious-encampment ordinance. They would move to two sites under control of religious organizations with whom they would sign contracts, he says. “This plan is now entirely doable” and would enable Food Lifeline to take over the current site
He is followed by Carolyn Stauffer of Highland Park Action Committee, who mentions the petition they have circulated with more than 200 names.
“We would like to see you act now and enforce the existing land use codes, because that’s your job … That it’s taken the council two years to have this conversation is shameful and disappointing,” she says, reiterating their demand that the encampment be moved before “it begins a third summer” there.
CLICK AHEAD TO READ THE REST OF OUR DETAILED AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE:
She is followed by Linda Nageotte of Food Lifeline, who expresses appreciation for the City Council’s work on the issue, “but we also ask that you act expediently.”
2:27 PM: The next man says, “There is a crisis of unmet need in our community” and brings up the most recent One Night Count of people sleeping on the street. “The tent cities meet a dire need out there” including a need for safety, he says, next alluding to Nickelsville’s limbo, “tolerated but legal .. an unworkable solution.”
HPAC co-chair Billy Stauffer speaks next, recalling the Highland Park fight against a proposed city jail several years ago, and now their challenge leading a community that has been “at times looked over, at times abused … But this time it’s different. It’s not solely about our community. It’s about the homeless community too, and other communities around Seattle.” He refers, as did Carolyn Stauffer, to the precedent that Nickelsville’s unsanctioned 2-year presence seems to have set. “Let’s not allow our egos to get in the way of a multi-pronged approach” involving all parties. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” and get in the way of a solution, he exhorts.
Kay Kirkpatrick, also from Highland Park: “We are calling on you in our petitions and letters and comments via the press to please move the Nickelsville encampment.” She talks about having donated to the camp and supporting its people, but that it’s not a fit site – “how un-perfect this site is to hold a camp of this type,” including its adjacency to “our 10 miles of West Duwamish Greenbelt,” where people “move to” if they are not allowed in the camp. “Hence, we are hosting not only Nickelsville but also the suburbs of Nickelsville.” She runs overtime and is heckled as she returns to her seat.
The next man says he has a challenge to the City Councilmembers in attendance: “Tonight, I want you to try to find a bed in a shelter.” And/or, see how many of the people on the streets get beds: “Every single day (as a worker at an emergency shelter) I have to turn people away.” He says he is “not seeing any solution other than Nickelsville and tent cities” for the overflow – and gets the loudest applause of the meeting.
Following him, a man who says it’s “incredibly embarrassing” that the city of Seattle, “so beautiful a city,” has “a growing number of people” without a roof over their head. “We’ve got to do something about this – we have such creativity about other things, but these people are invisible, too much of the year.”
Next, another Highland Park resident who says its “hosting” of Nickelsville for two years is long enough. Her brief comment is followed by a man who says he believes “a win-win is possible” in moving Nickelsville. And he says “the religious community” wants to help find a location. (No one has mentioned a specific location, to our knowledge, so far.)
The next commenter has moved on to the cannabis-zoning issue that’s also on today’s agenda. (And after a second related comment, that is the first item on the council agenda, so we won’t be updating again until the encampment-related discussion begins. Present, by the way, along with Councilmember Licata, are Council President Sally Clark and Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell.)
3:22 PM: Now, to the encampment items (after the marijuana-zoning measure, with amendments, was approved for moving out of committee – it’ll go to full council week after next).
The first ordinance that comes up – the Licata legislation – is scheduled for a public hearing June 25th, a council legislative assistant notes. Councilmember Mike O’Brien is at the table now too, by the way.
It’s noted that non-church properties in this bill would have a one-year time limit – six months with an option to renew for another six months; church properties would not have a time limit since it’s simply “an allowed use.” There would be public-notice requirements included, too. Licata notes there will be “no votes today – just discussion.” And he says his legislation was changed based on discussion with SHARE/WHEEL and ‘Nickelodeons.’ Among the changes, a minimum lot size – 5,000 square feet instead of previously proposed 7,500 square feet. Harrell is asking, “Is that SAFE?” O’Brien points out that there’s a minimum of 100 square feet per occupant, so if it was a 5,000-sf lot, that would limit it to 50 people. DPD would have to review the plan, points out a staffer present for the presentation. The review would take a couple weeks, he says.
The legislation also would allow an encampment to return to a site it had used for a year – after a year away.
3:44 PM: Now, they’re discussing the mayor’s proposal, which specifically would set up an environmental study regarding the current Nickelsville site. Staffers from the mayor’s office and Finance and Administrative Services join the group at the table for this. Bagshaw asks why this is even being discussed if Nickelsville itself says it has a plan to move. Staffer says this would be due diligence even for the Food Lifeline sale, given everything that’s happened on the site previously. (It should be noted, that’s not what the draft ordinance says – it says “an environmental assessment must be conducted in order to determine whether the
Glassyard property is potentially a suitable site for providing temporary shelter and
The assessment could be done with Nickelsville still on the site, says staff; it could take 12 to 16 weeks. “Seems like it’s the right thing to do either way, I suppose,” says Harrell. Discussion continues to try to clarify where everything stands. Licata and his staffer mention claims filed by an adjacent property owner and by HPAC over Nickelsville being there now. Licata observes this is a complicated situation. Now his staffer Lisa Herbold mentions Nickelsville’s own proposal, finding religious entity/ies to host them so they could move off the current site. That would NOT require a permit process. But, “they are looking for property,” says Licata, in response to Bagshaw’s question.
A few minutes later, she says pointedly, that while everyone is expressing concern about Nickelsville residents’ health and safety today, it looks like they haven’t for the past two years. “We really ought to be looking at a whole network and system here and not just leave people out in the rain,” she says, following up on a concern expressed by Harrell previously, what might be done toward “rapid re-housing” of the NV residents rather than just letting them stay or move to another encampment site. She then said she’d like to know what their plans and intentions are.
With that, the discussion ends, and there’s a smattering of applause, as the committee goes on to its final, unrelated item.
POSTSCRIPT, 4:10 PM: We just talked with Herbold from Licata’s staff to be sure we’re clear on what happens next. Nothing will happen until the June 25th public hearing on the proposed encampment legislation – 30 days’ notice is required for the hearing, so that’s why the discussion was scheduled here today. After that, it would go to the council. Stay tuned.
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