‘Nickelsville’: Highland Park Action Committee gives mayor, council a deadline for move-out date

After almost two unsanctioned but unchallenged years at the West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way site where it was founded, the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” is coming under increasing scrutiny, particularly after its open admission of turmoil last month, first reported here. After again discussing the encampment at its last meeting (WSB coverage here), followed by a letter to the city, the Highland Park Action Committee community council has just sent a formal letter to Mayor McGinn and the Seattle City Council with a deadline:

To Mayor McGinn, his staff, and members of Seattle City Council,

The Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) would like to request a move out date for the homeless encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” at 7116 West Marginal Way at the base of Highland Park Drive. HPAC represents the Highland Park and Riverview Neighborhoods in Southwest Seattle. It has come to our attention that it has been difficult for the residence of Nickelsville to keep order in the camp and the management technique used to try to restore order recently included the “Show of Force Team” removing the Porta Potty Service. As the residents of Nickelsville wrote:

“The reason for this decision (to remove the Porta Potty Service) was our inability at Nickelsville in preventing the overrun of our community by meth dealers and barred, violent former campers. Progress was made yesterday, but the situation is still teetering on the brink.”

A new letter has been released from the encampment stating that things are “returning to stability.” The intent of their letter was to express dismay with the Seattle Police for not helping them with security. The Seattle Police are in a bind because the entire encampment is squatting illegally, so they cannot enforce one group’s illegal presence there over another group. The situation at Nickeslville has gotten out of hand, we have noticed a shift in the population from what was originally there, and this has been verified by campers living in Nickelsville. We were surprised, however, at the threatening management technique. As we have continued to hear stories of how the camp is currently being run, we were struck by the realization that there really is no oversight whatsoever for this encampment- it is illegal after all, and we have a lot of concerns with how it’s being managed at this point.

The City’s blind eye / hands off approach has not worked for the residents at the encampment, or for the neighborhood. If the City were running the encampment or had any official presence there, they could help get people the services they need. In fact, the existing management is actually intimidating campers into not seeking help or services, and pressuring residents to not call police so as not to create problems for themselves. Since the police were called in for this most recent incident, it has come out that there have been several violent and angry outbursts that have come from barred campers. These are the campers that are now living in our backyard woods, these are the police reports that are very carefully written without the words “Nickelsville” or “encampment.” Between this recent incident, the management techniques that are coming to light, the recent rat infestation reports from the Health Department, and the flooding tendencies the site presents in the winter months, the conditions at Nickelsville warrant a closure.

Nickelsville has been at its current location for almost 2 years as a “self managed” community. We were asked by Deputy Mayor Smith at a December 7, 2011 Community Meeting if we would like to seek eviction. Although some residents were calling for a forced eviction at that time, we did not feel that we, as a community organization, were comfortable asking for that until there was a place for the residents of Nickelsville to go, and we were told that there were not any. At that point we felt like legislation was just a few months away and a City Sanctioned Encampment with adequate health and safety measures were within reach. We requested more patrols in the greenbelt as a lot of barred campers were ending up there. We were told there were not sufficient resources for that, but if we call in with specific locations they would be cleared. The police have advised us not to use the greenbelt for recreation anymore because campsites can be guarded with aggressive dogs, which make it difficult to call in with specific locations in order to get to use our greenbelt again. We have met with Nick Licata twice since that December 2011 community meeting to discuss the Mayor’s Transitional Encampment Interim Use Amendments, drafted in April of 2012. We understand that Nick Licata has not moved on it for several reason, one being that Share/Wheel and Nickelsville expressed opposition to it at those meetings.

We conducted a survey of our community in August of 2012, 165 people responded. One of the biggest problems that came up was the increase in the number of people living in the greenbelt (such as the barred meth dealers and violent campers Nickelsville alluded to in their letter). The other important piece of the survey was that the majority of people wanted the encampment to move within 6 months. We took the results of that survey, a summary, and all the comments to our meeting with Licata’s office in August of 2012. We sent the results of our survey to Mayor McGinn as well, I just received a reply back from him- 8 months later, it thanked me for my concern.

The City has been ignoring our repeated pleas for political leadership, and our multiple requests for another neighborhood to take a turn hosting the encampment at a more adequate site that does not present such public health risks. We were happy to do our part to help share the responsibility of homelessness with city for a 6 month period of time. The City has disrespected and taken advantage of our neighborhood for long enough by keeping it here for 2 years now. The City is turning a blind eye to the huge public health risks at the encampment and to the threatening management techniques used on its residents, allowing for considerable risk to the campers and to the surrounding neighborhoods. The City has set a dangerous precedent of condoning permanent encampments, without due process from neighbors or community members, to be set up over night in any neighborhood in Seattle. Nickelsville has already written that a priority in finding a new site is that it is available for 2 years- the precedent has now been set for them, thanks to this unwillingness to act on the City’s part. We feel completely stunned at the lack of leadership and the lack of respect for our neighborhood from both the City Council and the Mayor’s Office.

HPAC, as representatives of the Highland Park and Riverview neighborhoods are requesting:

1. a move out date no later than June 13th (1 month after Nickelsville’s May 13th two year anniversary for this site.) We would like for the encampment to be evacuated prior to the swell in population that occurs in the summer months there.

2. at least 1 month notice be given to the campers, and that every measure possible be taken to ensure that each person at the encampment is offered shelter or housing.

3. a commitment to regular sweeps through the greenbelt for the next 8 months with aggressive bag-and-tag operations, and prompt action thereafter to remove any encampments that are reported by the community.

4. This is the second time that HPAC has had to galvanize against the city- the second time the city as forced our fragile community to spend valuable time and energy that communities like ours don’t have, fighting the city. We would like assurance that you will begin to treat Highland Park and Riverview with the same respect that you would for other neighborhoods in Seattle.

Should we not hear a move out date from the City by the encampment’s 2nd Anniversary (May 13th), we will be forced to take action which will include more media, a lot of e-mails and visits to your offices from our community, and legal action. This call for a move out date is independent of the Food Lifeline decision which should be made in the next couple of weeks. Our community does not want to see the encampment at its current location through the summer.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter,

Carolyn Stauffer
Chair, Highland Park Action Committee

We will be checking on the mayor and council’s response to HPAC’s letter.

11:27 AM P.S. Last night, hours before this letter arrived in the WSB inbox, we received a copy of an open letter from Stauffer’s predecessor as HPAC chair, Dan Mullins. Breaking news kept us from publishing it overnight but you can read it here now.

41 Replies to "'Nickelsville': Highland Park Action Committee gives mayor, council a deadline for move-out date"

  • Hilari April 2, 2013 (10:40 am)

    Yay for HPAC! Thank you, Carolyn, for your thoughtfulness and reason. Your letter represents so many in HP and Riverview who feel the city needs to stop taking advantage of an already challenged neighborhood.

  • EPanther April 2, 2013 (10:51 am)

    Safety and health concerns aside – I have one small issue. This portion: and that every measure possible be taken to ensure that each person at the encampment is offered shelter or housing.

    How would you like that to happen? We have an extreme LACK of shelter and housing space in King County. I work for an organization doing as much as we can – the resources aren’t there.

    YES help people find a better solution than squatting in Highland Park. But…don’t promise to help them find housing – there is not enough out there.

  • Brian M. April 2, 2013 (10:52 am)

    I don’t blame HPAC for their stance. The City of Seattle has taken a laissez-faire approach to an encampment that has been present in that current location for two years. On the other side of the coin, it feels like the residents of Nickelsville deserve a better alternative. It is fair time for the City to step up and take care of this situation in a PROPER way.

  • cs in hp April 2, 2013 (11:04 am)

    just want to nip this in the bud- EPanther, this was included after discussion with the Mayor’s office that this is possible to have offered – it may not be chosen, but at least to have it offered.

  • Mike April 2, 2013 (11:09 am)

    HPAC is right. I am not persuaded that we owe the professionally-homeless a piece of public property, utilities, etc.

  • Cheryl April 2, 2013 (11:16 am)

    I think the one line that had the most impact on me above is this one;
    “We sent the results of our survey to Mayor McGinn as well, I just received a reply back from him- 8 months later, it thanked me for my concern.”
    Typical. And totally UN-acceptable response from the City of Seattle to residents who live in this area of West Seattle.
    If I lived in the neighborhood that is most effected by “Nicklesville”, I’d be *very* concerned about the City’s lack of interest or attention to this issue. Since when do illegal homeless camps (or the few but problematic crack heads that are causing trouble in them) take precedence over the rest of us? You know, the tax payers, home owners, renters, and otherwise “responsible” city residents who are doing their best to take care of their families, homes, and city.
    Sorry, but no. I think HPAC (and West Seattle in general) are well within their right to ask for, and receive, a prompt and decisive response from the City of Seattle.

    • WSB April 2, 2013 (11:31 am)

      For those who read this shortly after we published it and are checking back on comments – please note that we have added a postscript; last night, hours before this came in, former HPAC chair Dan Mullins cc’d us on his own open letter to city leaders (and all else interested). The overnight Luna Park/Delridge shooting coverage kept us from publishing it at the time but we have published it to a separate stream now and linked it above. Here’s a direct link:

  • Dave April 2, 2013 (11:16 am)

    I live in Highland Park and I support this message from HPAC.

  • coffee April 2, 2013 (11:27 am)

    10 year plan to end homelessness, guess it might not be working?

  • Lesley April 2, 2013 (11:46 am)

    I too am ready for Nickelsville to move on. After 2 years it has gotten out of control and is negatively affecting the nearby neighborhoods. Nickellsville has always taken pride in not disturbing the residents and is no longer being effectively self governed.

  • Stephanie April 2, 2013 (12:06 pm)

    As of late, I’ve noticed the encampment growing quite a bit. I’d even venture to say its grown a lot in the past 6 months as is. I’m more than ready for them to move on- every time we drive by at night, there’s always shady-looking people hanging out in between the bus stop and where the campers park their cars. I often wonder how many of them are trading/selling drugs??

  • Dave April 2, 2013 (12:10 pm)

    Councilmembers Clark, Licata and O’Brien are taking questions in conjunction with Council outreach. See http://council.seattle.gov/2013/04/02/the-opportunity-is-yours-ask-city-councilmembers-your-questions-4/

  • HP Parent April 2, 2013 (12:25 pm)

    I would rather see a warehouse for Foodlife than the tents that i have seen for 2 years. I too have donated to them but it is time for them to go to another neighborhood.

  • West Freattle April 2, 2013 (12:26 pm)

    Sounds like the Nickelodeons have homeless-phobia!

  • J April 2, 2013 (1:06 pm)

    The more we cater to the homeless, the more homeless we will attract. That is why San Francisco has such a huge homeless population.
    Nicklesville needs to be disbanded before another location is offered. Why wish them on any other neighborhood.
    I did notice the outer encampments were cleared out and graffiti was painted over. The graffitti was back two days later and people still living under Cloverdale overpass.
    Saw what appeared to be two new arrivals yesterday emerging from the
    Interurban trail pointing in the distance towards Nicklesville….the end if their journey.

  • jiggers April 2, 2013 (1:07 pm)

    Nickelodians can move into a number of shelters that are available through out the city. SHARE/WHEEL already has about a dozen or so church sponsors with immediate access who can place several NV residents here and there to fill up their nightly qota count. There also is City Hall, DESC, Union Gospel Mission and Bread of Life. All would accept them under their roofs.

  • Julie April 2, 2013 (1:12 pm)

    Thanks to Carolyn and Dan for articulate, compassionate and realistic letters. This issue affects not only our neighborhoods and the people of Nickelsville, but our whole city. We (elected officials and the people of Seattle) need to figure this out – it is not going to solve itself.

  • nick April 2, 2013 (1:26 pm)

    I totally agree another neighborhood should have to take a turn or the city should enforce their own ordinances. I was supportive of nickelsville but only as a temp solution. Now I feel the city is treating us as a dumping ground. This encampment would not last one day in ballard

  • Ex-Westwood Resident April 2, 2013 (2:25 pm)

    Here we go AGAIN!!!
    Posted in two earlier NV threads:
    Maybe someone will see this start looking in to it. I would but I work 40-50 hours a week and just don’t have time to dig in to it.
    All SHARE/WHEEL cares about is media attention and how much they can fleece the city/county/state/public out of money for themselves. They are NOT a sound advocate for the homeless. There were MANY times in the past that they were offered land by the county to locate camps, but instead of accepting the land, which although was not in the middle of established neighborhoods was close to transportation and amenities, they CHOOSE to continue to place these homeless camps in areas that did not want them.
    All SHARE/WHEEL is interested in is keeping their self-inflated egos satisfied and face time in the media, NOT about the homeless!!!
    This issue will only go away when we get the activists to ACTUALLY desire to do something to help the homeless instead of grandstanding.
    In Seattle there are a group of buildings that will house over 1000 people in SAFE, CLEAN, DRY, WARM rooms. These rooms vary in size and can room up to 8 comfortably. There are bathroon facilities for both sanitary needs and showers.
    Included in this group of buildings is a dining facility that is more than able prepare and provide a place for these people to eat hot meals three/four times a day.
    There is also buildings that will provide water; hot and cold and power.
    The city has had possession of these buildings for over 15 years and have let them fall in to disrepair. But that disrepair can easily be corected by using the funds currently going to these various “homeless camps.”
    But instead of looking for solutions all “Share Wheel” and their ilk are interested in doing is continuing their plight to stroke their self-inflated egos.
    Some more information on where these buildings are???
    They are on a MAJOR bus line.
    They are close to NUMEROUS job oppurtunities.
    They are close to medical facilities.
    They are within the city limits.
    There is also the old Navy Housing at what was once Ft Lawton on West Point, that I believe was also turned over to the city. I believe there are about 50-60 HOMES that could be used.
    But the issue here is if the city and the homeless advocates are willing to do what is neccessary to get these buildings repaired and the surrounding neighborhoods to accept it.
    One thing that MUST be stipulated is that the maintenance of these rooms/homes is up to the residents and if they can’t keep them clean and in a decent state of repair they are kicked out.
    And YES I have posted this information in other places where there has been this type of discussion.

  • Anonymous April 2, 2013 (2:42 pm)

    Agreed on all fronts, and thankful the HPAC has come forward as a voice for the community. Keep us informed if the city does not act. We will protest.

  • westseattledood April 2, 2013 (3:41 pm)

    re: Fort Lawton fyi

    Old housing was torn down and has been completely reforested. The officers’ homes which remain have been declared Historical preservation and are all up for sale with massive use caveats and restrictions.

  • HPP April 2, 2013 (4:58 pm)

    In the entire time I’ve lived in Highland Park I’ve experienced *no* distress due to the homeless encampment living at the base of the hill. It is nowhere near most houses – it’s in an industrial area. I walk in that green belt on a regular basis and yes, there are tents far off the main path. No one has ever bothered me. Obviously it is not ideal for any people to have to live outdoors but I really can’t think of a more ideal place for this homeless encampment – it is near a bus stop and is mostly hidden from view behind tall grass and shrubs. I see the HPAC’s letter as thinly veiled classist NIMBYism, frankly. It is distasteful for them to know that they share the edge of their neighborhood with homeless people, and the recent concern of Nickelsville with meth dealers is a good excuse for HPAC to get the homeless encampment out.

  • cruzer April 2, 2013 (5:46 pm)

    I agree with Jiggers! Time to raze the illegal encampment and for SHARE/WHEEL to relocate their Nickelsville Tent City campers to other existing legal homeless shelters.

  • Lura Ercolano April 2, 2013 (5:53 pm)

    re the Sandpoint Housing that ex-westwood posts about; it is being managed and developed by Solid Ground:
    There has been a plan/agreement in place for 20 years to develop part of that site as homeless housing. No, they aren’t housing thousands, 8 to a room, and all that. It is more limited residential development designed to fit into the existing neighborhood, and one could argue whether Solid Ground should be being more ambitious or housing more densely, etc.
    But it’s really not like nobody is aware of the site,

  • GenHillOne April 2, 2013 (6:07 pm)

    Ex-Westwood, I think you’ve brought Sand Point up before, but I really doubt it’s a viable option. There’s actually quite a bit going on with/interest in the property. Oh man, and can you imagine how THAT neighborhood would react?? The same one that complains, for one, about construction at Children’s?! I can’t see them welcoming NV neighbors.

  • Mike April 2, 2013 (6:56 pm)

    If I had an ounce of faith remaining in McGinn it is now officially gone after he blows off citizens like he did as mentioned in the HPAC letter. Nick Licata has lost my respect as well. I hope he gets a serious challenger in the coming election. He has become to entrenched.

  • Come on April 2, 2013 (7:34 pm)

    This is what happens when you have an empty desk in the mayor’s office

  • Jordan April 2, 2013 (7:38 pm)

    I live and own property in South Park and am happy to make regular efforts to support the homeless living in Nicklesville. I also completely support the position of the HPAC in this matter.

  • WsEd April 2, 2013 (8:32 pm)

    No freebies,
    No new encampments,
    This has been going on too long. Take a page out of Bellevue’s book and have the police drop them off on the other side of the bridge.

    Maybe we should outsource this decision to Giuliani since no one in this town seems to have the huevos to deal with it.

    Maybe when they are gone the panhandling at Westwood Village will go with them.

    Get them out.

  • Alan April 2, 2013 (9:28 pm)

    I’ve posted on previous discussions, so I will not repeat myself here. I do want to say that I am a Riverview neighbor and I support HPAC’s position. I am just sorry that Carolyn has to put her name on this and that the neighborhood is forced to hold the city’s clumsy feet to the fire.

  • Boone April 2, 2013 (10:33 pm)

    Why push this burden onto another neighborhood? We’ve become a dumping ground for anything the city considers too ugly or dirty too look at. Why should any other neighborhood eventually feel the same way? How long are we as a city supposed to pay into supporting these people? Often in the least efficient ways possible?
    Any capable adult residents there should be ashamed for the work, time and money spent on them when they should be taking care of themselves.

  • JoB April 3, 2013 (12:53 am)

    Well.. we are showing them, aren’t we?
    West Seattle can’t be the dumping ground for a homeless encampment.. not even if it is at the bottom of the hill behind a berm in the middle of an industrial neighborhood…
    let the city hand the residents who will choose short term housing over the biggest source of overnight beds in the city … housing vouchers for a week or a month or 6 months and we can wash our hands of the fact that there are people who aren’t served by our city’s services for the homeless…
    after all.. they should be ashamed for the work, time and money spent on them when they could be taking care of themselves…
    even if taking care of themselves means they can’t keep their minimum wage job or keep their family together or keep their pet or ….
    Are we to believe that moving the problem along is a solution for those whose housing needs are not being met elsewhere?
    Do we really believe that moving nickeslville along will eliminate the homeless problem in the green belts along Arbor Heights?
    Shuffling the problem along without contributing to the solution will only land this back on our doorstep sooner or later..
    unless we contribute to a better solution… it’s more likely to be sooner.. than later.

  • M April 3, 2013 (7:18 am)

    Well then JoB why don’t you let a few of them live with you. Solutions start at the guy in the mirror..

  • Anonymous April 3, 2013 (8:46 am)

    JoB, why then do you shame hard working residents who HAVE HELPED and been tolerant of the encampment up until now? What are your ideas for a more meaningful solution? I think it has been said over and over here. There is real concern for the NV residents, but there is more concern when people are considering the safety of their own families and children. It’s human nature.

  • Patriot April 3, 2013 (8:51 am)

    “after all.. they should be ashamed for the work, time and money spent on them when they could be taking care of themselves…”
    Why yes, they should be trying to take care of themselves. There’s help available to train them if need be, as well as other programs for a “hand up”.

  • stephanie April 3, 2013 (12:55 pm)

    JoB, I totally agree with you. These are people who are trying to get into housing but can’t afford it. They DO have jobs. I live just up the hill and I feel bad for them. I have gone by and dropped off what I could to help. Nothing will be done to help them unless the City gets of their a** and does something. There are so many other empty buildings so why aren’t they doing something. I wish HPAC would have sent a letter asking for help in getting them housing instead of throwing them out like trash. I don’t want to join that group now.
    And no, I can’t take them at my house; I only have 640 sq ft with two people and two dogs. Why don’t you?

  • CR April 3, 2013 (1:04 pm)

    JoB, just another soap box preacher. I would love it if everyone had everything they needed, and it was sunny everyday, and that there was no disease, war, famine. It’s really easy to dream, but some of us have to be realists.

  • hp resident April 3, 2013 (5:06 pm)

    JoB- i find it ironic that your post in the forums section about the porta-potties was the catalyst for the decision for HPAC to request a move out date. Their letter seems very clear that the management at Nickelsville is a problem, not the campers…. seems like that is right in line with your message.
    And Stephanie, HPAC has been keenly involved in helping NV residents locate dignified shelter. They just tend to do this through avenues that typically have the power to make the needed changes (The Mayor). HPAC’s main complaint is that although the mayor and city coucil have the power, they so far lack the political leadership and ability to assemble an effective team to do so. If NV had a savvy PR resident they’d be smart to change the name to McGinn-ville…..and one more thing, Stephanie, 640sf is luxury compared to a 40sf tent, surely you have a couch and a warm shower. C’mon, have a heart, or do even you have your boundaries?

  • JoB April 3, 2013 (5:54 pm)

    I have no soap box.. just a lot of compassion for people who don’t have the opportunities everyone assumes they do.
    I once thought that Seattle had great programs for the homeless. heck, one glance is enough to tell you that we do a great job here.
    it’s when you take that second glance and try to help someone who will die on the street if they don’t find housing that you find there is a big difference between what you thought was available and what is actually there.
    every lesson i have learned I have learned the hard way by standing next to a homeless person trying to navigate the system.
    no M.. i don’t have a guest room with a revolving door. I don’t have a guest room, but even if i did the need is so great that i don’t know how i would choose who got to sleep in the safety of my home or yard and who didn’t.
    but on almost any nice day you will find a past or present resident of Nickelsville taking their lunch break on my deck.
    We have sit down family style meals… and if you are willing to work for your supper you are more than welcome to join us.

  • JoB April 3, 2013 (6:11 pm)

    those resources you assume are there?
    not so much.

    and a whole lot less now

    from a friend…
    Bad news out of Olympia. WA Low Income Housing Alliance just announced the legislature cut ABD (Aged, Blind, Disabled) funding entirely. Also reduced funding for HENS and THOR programs.

  • mom April 12, 2013 (8:04 pm)

    THE Problem seems to be that ShareWheel has too Many friends with in City offices… Mayor and Councilman office human services Much more on the side of believing what consultant says not tax payers.. TIME to Vote for some who cares for the city…

Sorry, comment time is over.