Those are three of the RVs parked along SW Andover across from the West Seattle Health Club that have just been tagged by Parking Enforcement. That’s one of the developments since the club was damaged early Wednesday by a gas fire that erupted after the building was hit by a vehicle – initially described by Seattle Fire as an “RV” and later as a “shuttle van.”
Seattle Police confirmed to WSB today that the vehicle’s driver has yet to be found; they said on Wednesday that it matched the description of a vehicle that fled Admiral Safeway after a shoplifting incident shortly before the crash.
West Seattle Health Club management has told its members that the pool, in the wing of the building that was damaged by the crash and fire, will likely remain closed for a couple weeks. A Puget Sound Energy crew was at the scene this morning when we went to the area to check on a commenter tip about the tagged RVs.
WSHC says it’s been dealing with camping in the area long enough (we first reported on it almost three years ago) and “enough is enough” – they’re demanding city action. (We also chronicled an early-morning incident last July in which an RV careened through the WSHC lot and ended up on the bank over Longfellow Creek.)
City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s staff, meantime, shared with us what she’s been telling constituents who have contacted her about the incident and the nearby RV camping, including:
Councilmember Herbold has contacted the Seattle Police Department, including Chief Best. She has also contacted Fire Department Chief Scoggins, Mayor Durkan, Deputy Mayor Fong, and other Mayor’s Office staff about this. Mayor Durkan responded swiftly and personally to let Councilmember Herbold know that Chief Scoggins would be in touch. Chief Scoggins responded to say that he did not believe that this was an RV fire. Councilmember Herbold understands that people in the community believe that, RV or otherwise, that this was a vehicle that was being occupied as a residence. Councilmember Herbold has spoken with Dan Lehr, the V.P. of Operations at the West Seattle Health Club and he assured her that not only was this a vehicle modified for living in, but that it was a vehicle that was being resided in at this particular location.
(Several WSB commenters reported familiarity with the vehicle in the area.) Also from Herbold’s reply to constituents:
The City has an RV remediation program designed by SPD and SPU. Below is SPD Deputy Chief Wilske’s description of that program, in response to Councilmember Herbold’s request several months ago to clarify for her, and for the public, the approach SPD is taking to address the impacts upon residents and businesses resulting from several hundred RVs parked throughout the City serving as dwellings:
“As everyone has noticed, we are seeing an increase in people who are living in vehicles, both cars and RV’s. In some cases we are seeing significant impact to the surrounding neighborhoods, and have partnered with Seattle Public Utilities to implement a RV remediation program to address these problematic sites.
The ultimate goal of this program is to try to connect the people to services, insure that they move their vehicles in conformance to city law (primarily the 72 hr ordinance), and ensure we clean up any debris that is left behind. Using a team concept also allows us to insure we are consistent with recent court decisions regarding vehicle residents, so that we do not inadvertently expose the city to unnecessary legal jeopardy. The goal is not to impound these vehicles, but instead have them move regularly and be less impactful on the locations where they park.
The team uses specific criteria to determine which site will be prioritized for clean up, with an emphasis on Public Health (large amounts of debris, rodents, needles etc) and Public Safety (crime statistics, 911 responses, officer anecdotal information). We are currently doing 6 plus clean ups a month on large locations, with some additional work being done via the precincts and the parking enforcement officers, but again using the same prioritization criteria.”
One court case decision Wilske references is a Superior Court decision from earlier this year raised challenges about the city charging fees for impounded vehicles that serve as residences.
Herbold’s staff said she asked SPD and SPU when the area near the club was “most recently assessed for remediation.” Their reply: Last month, but it “did not qualify for priority cleanup for the month of September.” At Herbold’s request, they went back yesterday and still said “it did not score high enough for service.” She subsequently spoke with Mayor Durkan, her office tells us, saying the mayor then “agreed to reassess the Andover St. area to potentially move it up the list for remediation.”
–Tracy Record, WSB editor