1:01 PM: As reported here three times in the past two weeks, Southwest Precinct police leadership have said a city cleanup of the east side of Myers Way – a longtime site of illegal camping – was imminent. And today, the city confirms it’s getting under way. We’ll be going there to check soon on what exactly is happening so far; in the meantime, the city has published an update saying the cleanup is “to reduce negative public health and safety impacts stemming from the encampment and to allow the City of Seattle to launch an effort to restore the forest and natural environment.” The update adds:
The encampment is large, covering over 20 acres of forest with multiple living structures and abandoned vehicles. At one point this year, the City of Seattle’s Navigation Team estimated there to be 50-100 people living unsheltered in Myers Way. The population has declined over the course of the year.
Impacts from the encampment have ranged from the presence of human waste and public safety issues, to garbage and illegal dumping impacting Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) drainage systems. A partial clean-up of the area occurred earlier this year to alleviate potential SR-509 flooding concerns.
Given the scale and logistical challenges presented by this encampment, this large-scale removal required months of planning and resource marshaling to clear this forested area. The Navigation Team and other outreach providers have been working over the last months to connect people living unsheltered to the resources and shelter required under City rules. Following the removal and clean-up of the encampment, Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) will implement a multi-month activation process to restore the forest and encourage more regular recreational use of the greenbelt.
… The Navigation Team has been conducting repeated outreach to people living unsheltered in the encampment since the beginning of the year. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) trash bag pilot has also been active on site (SPU dispenses and collects trash bags from occupants), however participation from encampment residents has been inconsistent and deteriorated over the year.
The Navigation Team designed an intensive outreach effort ahead of the removal, focusing nearly all outreach and shelter resources to the encampment during the month of September to help people move to safer spaces prior to the clean-up. This outreach effort includes bringing in multiple partner agencies to complement and expand the team’s efforts.
The residents of this encampment have been difficult to reach and connect to services. To date, the team has made over 250 contacts to people living in Myers Way, connecting less than 10 people to shelter.
However, as part of the intensive outreach leading up to the clean-up, the team successfully referred a mother and her 2 children to a tiny house village last week (September 10). Additionally, the team successfully moved a second young family out of Myers Way and into another tiny house village the week prior to the clean-up.
Written and verbal notice of the removal has been provided to all people living in the encampment. The encampment will received additional written notice 72 hours ahead of the clean-up, per City protocols.
Because of the advance outreach, some residents have voluntarily left the encampment to unknown destinations.
The City is working with multiple agencies to conduct the clean-up, including Parks, Seattle Department of Transportation, WSDOT, SPU, Finance and Administrative Services, Seattle Human Services, Seattle Police Department (SPD), and Seattle City Light (SCL).
Beginning September 24, the Navigation Team will lead initial clean-up efforts. The team will remove living structures and provide storage of belongings for encampment occupants. The team will continue to offer services and shelter during the clean-up. This effort will likely last the entire week. During the clean-up, other agencies will begin laying the groundwork for future activation by restoring access roads and preparing the property for work trailers.
Following the clean-up, Parks will implement a temporary multi-month activation effort to restore the forest and encourage more regular recreational use of the area.
This activation includes a daily staffing of the site, overseen by City staff, contractors, and volunteers. Workers will be on site every day to restore hillsides prone to landslides, removing brush and debris, and replanting appropriate plants and trees to the area. During this time, Parks will explore other uses of the site such as a dog park area and recreation trails.
With improved access and walking trails, SPD and Parks will be able to better monitor the area during the restoration process and beyond. The activation phase is anticipated to last from 3-6 months.
This area is separate from the city-sanctioned encampment Camp Second Chance on the west side of Myers Way, but some community members have said the sanctioned camp’s presence has led to more camping nearby. This new cleanup starts just two days before Mayor Jenny Durkan is scheduled to speak to the Highland Park Action Committee, which has voiced repeated concerns about Myers Way, as have other groups including the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.
Myers Way sweep/cleanup zone is extensive. pic.twitter.com/Duh90z4ApE
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) September 24, 2018
4:23 PM: Just back from the scene. As our video (recorded from the passenger seat while headed northbound) shows, part of Myers Way is coned off while crews from multiple city departments work at multiple sites. Just before we headed over, we heard officers dispatched after these marijuana plants were found:
We talked briefly with Sgt. Eric Zerr, who’s long been working with the city Navigation Team (we first met him during preparations for a sweep by the West Seattle Bridge a year and a half ago). He expects this phase of the cleanup to last at least through this week.
There are flaggers in the area helping direct passing traffic.