HAPPENING NOW: Cleanup begins along Spokane Street, five days after bike-path attack

(WSB photos)

That’s the scene along Spokane Street a short distance west of East Marginal Way, as the city-promised cleanup begins, five days after a bicyclist was attacked along the bike path in the area. While there to see what’s happening, we caught up again with Sgt. Eric Zerr from the SPD-led Navigation Team, which is on scene along with workers from departments including SDOT, Seattle Parks, and Human Services.

Sgt. Zerr told us that the cleanup is starting there and heading east under Spokane, all the way to Airport Way, over the next few days. The area where heavy equipment is digging right now had been used as a dumpsite – he believes the campers in the area were told at one time that if they took their trash there, it would be picked up, but that apparently didn’t happen or stopped happening.

The RV campers – whose site, unlike the tent sites along the bike path, is not slated for sweeping yet – have been told to get their trash out to curbside and it will be picked up as part of the operation. We also saw individual cleanup workers closer to the low bridge; they, according to Sgt. Zerr, are picking up individual pieces of litter such as needles/syringes. As for detours, the bike path was still open while we were there, but be aware of possible detours later – the tent-camp sweep did not appear to have begun. We’ll be checking back this afternoon. We’re also checking with City Light about the plan to repair the lighting in the area; Sgt. Zerr mentioned they were expected on scene too.

BACKSTORY: In case you’re just tuning in to this – which is happening just east of West Seattle – our previous coverage:

*Friday, March 24 – Bicyclist’s warning after attack on path; city’s response
*Monday, March 27 – Interview with Navigation Team leader as city gets ready for cleanup, sweep
*Tuesday, March 28 – Update on cleanup plan

42 Replies to "HAPPENING NOW: Cleanup begins along Spokane Street, five days after bike-path attack"

  • North of Admiral March 29, 2017 (11:00 am)

    So it sounds like the RVs can stay for now. Interesting there was no followup on the RV fire death that happened there. 

    RV Count on Harbor Ave this Morning: 10

    • WSB March 29, 2017 (11:10 am)

      The RV fire death was further east of there, in the 1st to 4th Avenue area. And yes, there was followup. The person died of smoke inhalation. I checked the Medical Examiner reports. And updated our story:


      Outside our coverage area – as technically, this also is – but people asked us about it, and so we went. – TR

      P.S. The discussion of “OK, where will they go, and does this mean they’ll all head west?” came up at last night’s WSBWCN meeting, report to come.

      P.P.S. And before someone else mentions it, something that also came up at last night’s meeting, the blue tent at Harbor/Spokane, is gone this morning. I’d heard police dispatched to the scene yesterday, though the captain and lieutenant at last night’s meeting didn’t mention that in response to the person who asked.

      • North of Admiral March 29, 2017 (5:25 pm)

        Just drove by Harbor and Spokane. The blue tent is rolled up and on the ground in the same spot with the poles on top. We shall see if they are really gone or just left their belongings. 

    • WSB March 29, 2017 (2:20 pm)

      Somebody left. We just drove Alki/Harbor from 63rd to the bridge and counted 9.

  • West Seattle since 1979 March 29, 2017 (11:13 am)

    When the cleanup is done, will they be able to install the lights, or has that already been done?    

  • wetone March 29, 2017 (11:20 am)

    Hopefully city is going to put some porty potty’s down there if there allowing Motorhomes to stay. Many are not in running condition, licensed or insured, therefore emptying of holding tanks IF they have them goes where ?  This area is like a small town being there over a year. Crazy how Mayor Murray and city counsel have allowed and continue to let  human waste and garbage be dumped freely into green areas and water ways.   

    • Fiwa Jcbbb March 29, 2017 (12:38 pm)

      …and there is a Porta Potty company right next to the RV camp. Better to spend $135,000 a year on a do-nothing City Director of Homelessness, apparently…this Mayor has GOT TO GO!

  • bolo March 29, 2017 (11:27 am)

    “… he believes the campers in the area were told at one time that if they took their trash there, it would be picked up, but that apparently didn’t happen or stopped happening.”

    This statement bears further research. Could that have been a private company (possibly CleanScapes?) contracted to pick up trash at that location?

    • WSB March 29, 2017 (11:39 am)

      There’s a LOT that bears further research. Making a list and doing the best we can. In the meantime, the purpose of this story is just to say … they said they’d be cleaning up, we checked, they are cleaning up. Many more followups to come.

  • sgg March 29, 2017 (11:44 am)

    Thanks for reporting on this WSB!  I know it’s not in WS technically, but for those of us who commute by bike, it sure feels as though it is.  There are no practical alternative routes for bicyclists off the peninsula.

  • Ted March 29, 2017 (11:54 am)

    When are we going to start holding our elected officials responsible for keeping our city safe and clean?

    I’m beyond frustrated that it takes a potential assault and outright abuse of laws to get the attention of the city. You can bet your behind if you cut down a tree too short or forget to register your car – you’re going to get a ticket – but we have massive amounts of illegal RVs, camping and outright trash, pollution and illegal acts – and the city looks the other way (except for now?). 

    If you are not holding your city council and mayor accountable thru phone calls, tweets, social media and public events you should be ashamed. 

    This is not a homeless problem. The problem is a law and order problem and equity. Let’s get folks to pay attention to the laws first, then let’s talk about your poor life choices.

    • Peter March 29, 2017 (12:24 pm)

      Berating and attempted shaming of those who don’t think and act like you do won’t get you far, Ted.

    • Agrees March 29, 2017 (3:18 pm)

      Absolutely, Ted!  Why is it somehow acceptable to ignore such a terrible situation where so many laws are being broken?  With the city NOT ENFORCING the laws, such a terrible public health and safety situation has only grown.  Let’s start with enforcement of laws, and go from there…

    • Mickymse March 29, 2017 (3:49 pm)

      Absolutely! What a “terrible” community we live in that thinks rich homeowners who cut down public property for their views should be held accountable or that people living in homes at all should pay to license their cars while those who literally have nothing but the belongings they can move around with them might be given a little space and time to accept services and a helping hand.

    • Dave March 29, 2017 (4:10 pm)

      Vote ’em out! 

  • TC March 29, 2017 (12:05 pm)


  • lookingforlogic March 29, 2017 (12:23 pm)

    Too bad there is no profit in solving problems only in creating them.

  • Hector March 29, 2017 (12:25 pm)

    Wake up, peoples!  STOP voting inept politicians into office!  

    Seattle used to be such a freakin clean city.  I remember driving on I-5 and there was absolutely no litter anywhere to be seen, on the freeway, or off on side streets and anywhere throughout town.  I feel like this city has morphed into an alternate universe, one that is uglier to look at, less safe, and looks like the City Council, Senators and Representatives, the Mayor, the Governor…. none of them care that this is happening to this once beautiful and CLEAN city.  

    I’m sick and tired of the pandering to the “homeless”.  Do you realize alot of this is helping to increase drug use in this city?  How safe it that going to be if it continues for another 5 years?  All  you bleeding hearts wanting to help the homeless, you’re not.  You’re not helping anyone by allowing people to live out their lives in tents surrounded by filth and rubbish, you’re not helping the neighborhoods this is happening in.   

    For everyone that keeps insisting on helping the homeless, fine.  Do it in your own backyard then.  See a homeless person in a tent?  Invite them to camp out in your backyard.  See a rundown RV parked down the street?  Go invite them to park in front of your house.  You can’t do that?  Then stop expecting everyone else to put up with this crap.  What they’re doing is illegal.  The real question is why are we living in a city that is allowing all this illegal insanity to continue?

    Enforce the law.  This is illegal what’s going on.  Shame on all you politicians that are not doing anything to put a stop to this madness.

    • Alon March 29, 2017 (1:05 pm)

       Do it in your own backyard then.  See a homeless person in a tent?  Invite them to camp out in your backyard.  See a rundown RV parked down the street?  Go invite them to park in front of your house. “

      And prey tell, what will you say when your next door neighbor takes your advice? 

    • Sara March 30, 2017 (1:21 pm)


  • Hector March 29, 2017 (12:38 pm)

    Please contact these politicians that are supposed to be YOUR representatives for West Seattle and remind them that they need to step up to the plate and do something to solve this worsening issue of “homelessness”.    Nothing good can come of this situation if allowed to continue and get worse.  And yes, it’s perfectly sane to want to live in a safe and clean neighborhood.   Please call them and remind them they represent all of West Seattle and keeping all the neighborhoods they represent safe.


    SENATOR SHARON NELSON:  360-786-7667

    REP. EILEEN CODY:  360-786-7978

    REP.  JOE FITZGIBBON:  360-786-7952

    I would list the Mayor and Governor’s contact numbers.  I just get the feeling they don’t really care.  It’s already obvious they don’t have a clue what to do.  Things just keep getting worse.  Now a biker got attacked.  What’s next?  

  • Sarge March 29, 2017 (1:11 pm)

    What’s the city’s plan to prevent this situation from re-occurring yet again?

    Less than a year ago WSDOT cleared out the same exact spot with bulldozers and dump trucks. At a very high cost.

    If the dumping of used hypodermic needles and human waste continues under the West Seattle Bridge maybe it’s time to re-purpose the entire area. 

     Secure park and ride for working West Seattle and South end commuters to get downtown  and to the Link Lite Station easily?

    Build a giant skateboard park like the one under the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland?

    Mountain bike track like the one under I-5 in Eastlake? That particular area used to be very high crime, now it’s not at all.

    There has to be something more useful for the covered areas under the bridge than throwing  hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars at hazmat cleanup over and over and over and over again.

    Most people won’t park down there due to high crime in the area. Windows get smashed out and cars vandalized all the time between Airport way and 4th Ave on Spokane St. It’s not safe day or night.

    Not a good first impression for tourists coming into Seattle off cruise ships or driving in to see professional sports teams play down in Sodo.

  • bolo March 29, 2017 (1:51 pm)

    I wondered what the reasoning was for “landscaping” these areas with those fist-sized rocks. Seems like it makes efficient trash pickup most impossible. Your phrase hazmat cleanup is not far from the mark. That first photo does describe the $$$ expensive cleanup process. Couple of dump trucks, police, traffic routing, Caterpillar front loader.

  • buttercup March 29, 2017 (2:03 pm)

    Thank goodness this city is growing a set and finally starting to do something about the mess this city has. We were once a beautiful city and the last few years it has turned into  dump. Instead of studies, plans, meetings, press conferences, and wasting our money it is being attacked head on and doing something about it. Let’s hope every time a police officer sees a tent go up in these newly cleaned area the people will be told to MOVE ON! Eventually they will get tired of moving and 1. either leave 2. take the shelter they are offered.3. get the mental health and  rehab they need. This obviously won’t go away with the slow sit and discuss way it’s been handled so far. Thank-you to all the clean up crew, the police and whoever else helped in starting to take back our city. I can’t imagine how disgusting it is down there, prayers for all of you.

  • Jethro Marx March 29, 2017 (3:09 pm)

    Plenty of complaining from my fellow West Seattleites; a sore lack of solutions, except for that guy that said we should invite the less-homed into our backyards/driveways/whatever we’ve got. Plenty of people who say we should enforce laws: few who want to pay the monetary and social costs of said enforcement. Is there space in jail? Are there vacant beds in treatment facilities? I’ve got a few contacts in social service agencies and they seem to think we’re pretty full up, as far as those go. The answer to homelessness has always been the same; a long-term stable form of housing. For underserved, vulnerable people, often with mental health, addiction, and trauma histories, that means housing and services integrated, and it probably means you’re not going to be collecting rent. Stop whining about garbage and support homes for homeless people. I hate to see anyone get attacked, but the reality is that the kind of crimes we often blame on homeless people have not increased and may actually be on the decline. Thanks for skewing our collective perception, internet. Oh, and also, kind of a bummer that this weird and divisive society we have can’t talk about anything without bringing politics into it left and right. Half of our approach to an issue is trying to figure out which side the like-minded are on.

  • sgs March 29, 2017 (3:19 pm)

    Hear, hear, Hector.

  • WsEd March 29, 2017 (3:58 pm)


    I don’t think there has been enough complaining from your fellow West Seattleites.  Politicians only move when appropriate pressure is put on them by their constituents.  Call it complaining, whining, whatever you want.  It is pressure and that is what makes city hall move in any particular direction.

    Here is an excerpt from the 2015 Homeless Investment analysis. 

    “City funding is allocated and evaluated at the incremental programmatic level and not systemically and
    objectively as part of a “seamless system of services”. Funding decisions (primarily new funding adds),
    with some recent exceptions, have been earmarked for specific populations, agencies, or activities and are
    driven by advocacy, coalitions, and program advocates rather than guided by a policy framework designed
    by the City. Research shows that many cities, nearing the end of their Ten Year Plans, have focused
    resources and efforts to increase support for prevention, rapid rehousing and diversion efforts. These
    shifts align with federally mandated HEARTH measures, which impact federal funding allocation. While
    Seattle has “added” funding in some program areas to support these national evidence-based best
    practices, funds have not been “shifted” from base-funding away from existing programs.”

    It appears that according to the consultant that they hired not much has changed since then either.  She was interviewed recently and stated as much.  Can’t remember the source, sorry.

    Add to the mix that the North end of Seattle started mobilizing faster than the South end and now there are a disproportionate number of RV’s and unsanctioned encampments down our way.  Aha it seems they whined fast, first and loudest so the problem seems to have migrated toward our end of town.  I bet that doesn’t have anything to do with local socioeconomic  differences between magnolia, madrona, leschi, and say south park, sodo, and white center (yes I know it’s not officially part of Seattle yet).

    What bothers many and no one seems to be talking about it publicly is the question of long term strategy.  It appears as if the homeless ‘issue’ has been a bit of out of sight out of mind for many in this city, but not if you live down our way.  So is a Los Angeles style approach at hand.  In LA there is now a marked area you can find on Google maps known as skid row that the city pushed people into and essentially gave up after trying and failing at many of the same approaches Seattle has put into play.  The big question is are we in this end of town going to be on the cusp of Seattle’s skid row at some point.

    Other areas have been vocal about telling the city leadership, not in my backyard.  So if we don’t say something the ‘problem’ could be pushed into our backyard and forgotten about.  Are you ready to live in or near the new skid row.

    Pressure on leadership is the only thing that will make any change so I fully support all of the whiners, naysayers, NIMBY’s, to cool for schools, and whatever other backhanded insults you can some up with for concerned citizens that see a problem growing in scope and scale no matter how much money we keep agreeing to take out of our wallets.

    • Jethro Marx March 29, 2017 (4:47 pm)

      Yes, the internet is full of things, but in Seattle, anyone driving on the interstate, or, at this point, almost anywhere, has homelessness on display day and night. I work in our city’s neighborhoods; West Seattle and other parts south don’t have a disproportionate number of tents. The marginalized fill the margins; it is not a hidden epidemic. And google maps will show us many places, all with problems, but what are we to do about them? Complaining may lead politicians to act, but how ought they to act in a responsible manner? I hope it is effective and merciful. High hopes, in the realm of neither.

      • WsEd March 29, 2017 (7:53 pm)


        How about this for starters.  Take the profit motive out of the cottage industry known as homeless advocacy.  There are many and I mean many advocacy groups on the taxpayers dole who rely on the existence of clients (ie. The homeless).  Create one Central agency who’s aims are aligned with the cities policies and goals.  Hmmmm where did I hear this?  Oh yeah it was that pesky consultant the city hired and then disregarded her implementation plan.

        Of course that might result in some freshly unemployed homeless advocates that the city might have to rehouse in the near future.

        Yes the internet is full of things.  Mark my words if they don’t gut the current advocacy driven system and create one body that is held accountable and more efficient than this multi headed Hydra it will come down to a battle between neighborhoods for who gets to be skid row.  There is plenty of historical presedence that clearly maps the path we are on.

        • Jethro Marx March 31, 2017 (1:12 pm)

          Do pipes clog because plumbers exist? Homeless advocates exist because we have citizens who are homeless. Between the apathy of their fellow citizens who are more-privileged and the ineffectiveness of government, the duty of advocating for the homeless is left to non-profits, so there is not a lot of profit, not a lot of public money, for that matter. Creating a “single, overriding entity” could be good in theory, but it sounds a bit optimistic for reality. (Sounds a good start for a dystopian sci-fi story, though.) Social workers are probably more eager than most to work their way out of a job by “solving” homelessness. But it’s really solving addiction, and mental illness, and institutional racism, and the disparate distribution of wealth and resources, and the general tendency for some people to get the soiled end of the stick with regards to life. Precedent is there for us to see, yes, but creating change is somewhat in the business of not repeating history.

    • bolo March 29, 2017 (8:26 pm)

      Your mention of “skid row” reminded me of the original name for Yesler Way (Skid Road). I wonder how that name came to describe contemporary homeless encampments?


  • Dave March 29, 2017 (4:15 pm)

    Glad the masses are waking up instead of just a handful. If a handful complain to elected officials, it’s easy for them or their assistants to blow you off (I have experience with this). But, if a large number of people speak out, it’s harder for officials to ignore. Unfortunately the problem has gotten so big now, it will be much more difficult to solve. We can start by getting current city and county officials, out next election. 

  • Joel March 29, 2017 (4:23 pm)

    does the 55 million and counting include the clean ups, DOT time and police guarding the workers….OR is that another pot of 55 million?  oh and forget the miles of chain link fence….are those rented or city owned?  what’s the tally on the chain link at the old Nicksville site on West Marginal/Highland Park – that’s been up for 3 years now?

  • flimflam March 29, 2017 (5:40 pm)

    any particular reason the RV’s can stay? if they are indeed unlicensed and uninsured, how is that even a little bit legal? either way its trespassing.


    • WSB March 29, 2017 (5:45 pm)

      Have no idea if they are unlicensed and uninsured so please don’t make that assumption. The city says it’s working on “a plan,” not that they’ll be staying indefinitely. And we’ll continue to follow up on that. – TR

  • SolveTheProblemNotTheSymptom March 29, 2017 (6:01 pm)

    Thanks for proposing a solution Jethro. It’s disheartening to read through the comments to see lots of our fellow citizens discard the least fortunate among us as refuse. I also agree with funding housing for the homeless and building safe areas for them to exist. Are there flaws with that plan? Sure, but at least it’s a plan. It will cost money, raising taxes, and it isn’t guaranteed to work but moving people off the streets and into safe spaces seems like a good first step. Hopefully this would be coupled with rehab / education services allowing those in need to get back on their feet and contribute to society.  Anyone else have thoughts on how to solve the homeless issue?

  • wetone March 29, 2017 (6:36 pm)

    ” unlicensed, uninsured, non running or road legal ”   Very easy to find out just walk through area. Check license plate to vin number of vehicle, then check tab number to plate and vin#.  very easy to do. SPD can do it in minutes just as parking enforcement does in our neighborhoods. I still want to know about the human waste issue….. tired of seeing crap everywhere bagged or not in that area.    

  • WSReuben March 29, 2017 (9:29 pm)

    I don’t necessarily have a complete solution, but I think a few basics should be communicated/addressed.  1) accounting of the $55mil, to the dollar, and to where (fencing, services, etc), 2) can’t garbage recepticals be put in all these areas rather than the clean up of a giant pile? 3) can’t they pick up the garbage, or be incarcerated (we can’t prove they dumped it, so…)?  You want to park here, the cost is picking up, or move, now.  4) expired tabs?  Tow to Dow’s house, he can sell for ST3…  Or yet, “tow in place”, 3 “tow’s”, straight to crusher. 4) Send a pumper truck for the holding tanks and might as well drop some industrial strength porta potty there, and some giant red “sharps” containers. 5) if you’re​ an agency taking some of that 55mil, you should probably be on site 24/7 to offer services.  And to point out where the potty is.  6) When city council passes the next tax, and the next one, of whatever, stop buying whatever it is (soda, etc.).  7) send someone from one of the $55mil lottery winners to the auctions to buy the derilect RVs before they get back on the road (I hear they’re typically less than a grand), then crush them.  Ok, so maybe a few are out there.  Some seem obvious and even required.

  • Who's Running This Place March 30, 2017 (4:17 am)

    I’ve had a lot of the same problems around my house the last few years. Tons of trash, illegal parking, blocking entrances, noise and loud music and yelling and cursing at all hours.   And the rats, of course. Only thing is, it isn’t homeless people, it’s development/construction sites.  Although after they kick all the tenants out, homeless people do tend to move in before the demolition, which is sometimes many months to years.  Seems to me that both issues fall under the same problem, i.e. no leadership in this city.

  • David Kerlick March 30, 2017 (7:08 am)

    Homelessness is a problem starting when RONALD REAGAN eliminated $41M Federal funds for housing and give it to Republican campaign consultants. Blame the poor, not those who profit off their suffering.

  • Kay K March 31, 2017 (9:03 am)


    I just wanted to remind people of this study reported in 2015:

    “on average across the country, an increase of $100 in median rent
    corresponded to a 15 percent increase in the homeless population.”

    Here’s a link to more info:


    I’m recalling just last week a headline in the Seattle Times remarking how our rental prices are again on the rise after a brief stall.

    Folks need housing!

  • North of Admiral March 31, 2017 (2:02 pm)

    The RV victim was Daniel Beau Jackson afterall. I had missed your update before. Sad.

    He was in the news back in 2012.


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