Exactly two months ago today, Mayor Murray announced two “safe lots” would be set up for RV/vehicle campers within one month, one in Ballard, and one at West Marginal Way SW and Highland Park Way SW. As we’ve been reporting, the local one is more or less on hold. And we’ve continued to learn more about the situation, including the latest community-council briefing by Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Ron Smith. Asked about the West Seattle RV-camper situation at Thursday night’s Alki Community Council meeting, he explained a site we’ve been asked about lately, on the west side of Myers Way a few blocks south of Olson:
RVs that are awaiting the “safe lot,” said Lt. Smith, are “staged” at the Myers Way spot. (At another recent meeting, he had said police had found nine RVs eligible for the future “safe lot,” which is more than were at Myers yesterday/today.) He explained that the campers there “turned out to be very cooperative” and have been cleaning up – they’ve used city-supplied garbage bags for that. Some RVs in the area have been towed, though – making the distinction between “cooperative” and towable, Lt. Smith said, “”If it’s a criminal enterprise, they’re not homeless, and that’s our interpretation unless we’re told otherwise.” They’re not towing those who seem to be truly homeless, but they are offering services. “If they’re honestly trying to make an effort, we’re going to provide every service we can. … I hate to paint all of them with the same brush – you meet a broad spectrum of people living in the RVs, as you do when you’re walking down the street.”
But SPD is still wondering when the “safe lot” will be cleared to open – they’re waiting on “downtown” to give the word. The Human Services Department told WSB three weeks ago that it’s waiting until it can benefit from “lessons learned” at the Ballard lot, which did open a month after the mayor’s declaration. But that lot is maxed out, Lt. Smith noted, with 16 RVs at last check determined to be the most it could hold. That’s about how many we counted, taking a quick look while passing through Ballard last weekend:
That’s less than half what the city had originally said they’d hoped the Ballard lot would hold.
Meantime, some at the ACC meeting thought RV residents might need some help with how and where to store their belongings, and offered ideas – Lt. Smith suggested they talk to both the mayor and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. Meantime, the SW Precinct’s Community Police Team remains the primary point of contact for the local RV/encampment issues.