Update: “Derelict housing” bill passes City Council committee

(Photo from April tour of problem spots in the Delridge neighborhood)
We reported here yesterday on two measures going to Seattle City Council committees this week, both providing potential tools for problems like the ones viewed on the North Delridge tour joined by those committee’s chairs last April. The proposals have both been approved by those committees – today’s action on the “derelict housing” bill was reported by Councilmember Sally Clark herself, in comments on yesterday’s story:

PLUNC just approved the derelict housing legislation. It will go to the Full Council (Dec. 7). The North Delridge tour was a great motivator. It gave us great examples of where the policy change could make a difference. Thanks!

During the April tour, many participants were surprised to hear that city rules kept many rundown structures from being demolished before there was a plan to replace them; it was suggested that an empty lot might be safer. City leaders explained there had been a fear at one point that the city’s “affordable housing” stock might be depleted too rapidly if that sort of demolition had been allowed to run rampant. Meantime, here’s a news release sent by council staff about both votes – read on:

Two Council committees voted this week on legislation to improve
neighborhood safety.

The Council’s Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee voted this morning to
amend the land use code to allow expedited demolition of derelict properties that
too often become magnets for criminal behavior in neighborhoods. Council Bill 116642
provides an exception to city land use laws requiring plans and permits for
replacement structures before demolition is allowed in single-family zones.

Unfortunately, poorly maintained buildings can become harbors for illicit and even
dangerous activities,” explained Councilmember Sally Clark, “Our neighborhoods need
a built environment that encourages safe and healthy communities.”

On Tuesday, the Public Safety, Human Services and Education Committee approved
legislation that allows the city to take action against property owners who
knowingly permit repeated criminal activity on their premises. The Chronic Nuisance
Property ordinance (Council Bill 116667) establishes clear criteria for a
determination of nuisance by the court and a step-by-step process for the city to
work with property owners to abate the nuisance. Owners will be subject to civil
penalties of up to $500 per day as long as the nuisance continues, along with
suspension or revocation of any business license associated with the property and an
additional fine of up to $25,000 if they do not cooperate.

“These two ordinances are major steps forward in our efforts to make our
neighborhoods safer,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess. “The Chronic Nuisance Property
ordinance gives the city a well-defined mandate to identify problem properties that
harm our neighborhoods. This new law will be a very effective crime-fighting tool in
our belt.”

The Full Council will consider the Chronic Nuisance Property ordinance on Monday,
Nov. 30. Derelict housing legislation will go before Full Council on the following
Monday, Dec 7.

6 Replies to "Update: "Derelict housing" bill passes City Council committee"

  • mark November 18, 2009 (2:48 pm)

    2653 39TH AVE SW Is the poster child for a house that is a disaster waiting to happen. Its beyond repair, drunks and drug addicts know its empty and its close to other homes. Its when, not if there is a real problem there.

    Check that. I see the house was just sold 10/1, I hope the new owner does something with the property.

  • no meato burrito November 18, 2009 (5:33 pm)

    I wonder about dilapidated houses that are currently owner occupied. I have complained to the City numerous times about the house at 2636 47th Avenue SW which has been slowly degrading for over 10 years now, but DPD says there is nothing they can do about it. The roof has large open holes in it allowing rain into the structure. I shudder to think about what it’s like inside now. Also the gutters are falling off, some windows are broken, and the site is completely overgrown with shrubs, trees and weeds. Most troubling though is that the top of the brick chimney fell over onto the roof after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and is still sitting there waiting to either fall through decomposing roof or slide off and kill a neighbor. Then the rest of the chimney collapsed during the windstorm (!) in December 2006. But still the city says that these things are not in violation of the building code. It seems to me that this house has numerous violations of Seattle Municipal Code 22.206 and 22.208.

  • cherylc November 18, 2009 (6:05 pm)

    In the posted photo, it makes me sad that there is still furniture, and it looks like, china in the built-in? Does anyone know the history of the property?

  • CandrewB November 18, 2009 (6:44 pm)

    Interesting there is nothing DPD can do. Last Summer (during the current budget crisis) I had three Japanese Maples hanging six inches into the sidewalk and the DPD lady came out three (3) times to make sure they were cut to her satisfaction. Admittedly they were out of compliance, but nothing near what a quarter of the houses in WS have. I believe their real point is they do not believe they can collect fines from your neighbor.

  • David November 18, 2009 (7:30 pm)

    Very few of them are owner-occupied. Most of them are owned by wealthy people who bought them as an investment, speculating that the property values will eventually go up. However, these are the houses that make that make neighborhoods like Delridge look bad, keeping the property values down (relatively).

  • delridgion November 19, 2009 (2:03 pm)

    Wonderful news!

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