City promises to ‘address concerns’ about sidewalk-blocking residents on Delridge Way

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

West Seattle has no full-time homeless shelters. It has one city-sanctioned tiny-house encampment, usually at capacity with about 50 residents. Just about everyone else living unhoused in West Seattle is in a tent, or a vehicle, or maybe a doorway.

Right now, one group of tent residents on a South Delridge business-district sidewalk has been drawing increasing attention.

The site has grown steadily over this spring, starting on the east side of the building on the northwest corner of Delridge/Roxbury, now extending onto the sidewalk outside businesses on the north half of the block, more than a dozen tents in all, covering most of the sidewalk all the way to the curb.

The sidewalk blockage has been discussed at various community meetings on both sides of the West Seattle/White Center line. Then this week, one of the adjacent businesses’ owners, Abby Fisher of White Center Glass, said her longtime low-key view of the situation ended when a tent resident set up on the sidewalk in front of her business. So on Thursday, she sent city agencies this letter, and also sent it to us:

I am requesting that the homeless encampments (tents, garbage, belongings) be removed from the 9400 block of Delridge Way SW.

There are numerous businesses that are being negatively affected by the presence of this encampment. I will speak specifically to my business.

I am the owner of White Center Glass and this business has been an anchor in the neighborhood since 1965. Walk-in or Will Call customers are a huge component of our business. I am losing revenue daily because my customers do not feel safe wading through garbage, human waste and belongings to reach my door.

There have been numerous requests by other businesses in the neighborhood to get this taken care of with little to no response.

I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for the individuals who are forced to live outside of what most would consider a “normal” circumstance. I can support endeavors to provide for people who are in need. I can tolerate an inconvenience to my business and employees. I will not allow the city’s lack of action to interrupt my ability to provide products and services to my customers and, in turn, a steady employment opportunity for my employees.

I expect a response to my letter with a plan of action for how this will be remedied.

We talked to Fisher by phone late yesterday; she said she had received a reply from SDOT saying the sidewalk-blocking camp would be removed, but no date or timeframe was mentioned.

After first receiving her letter Thursday morning, we had inquired with the city Human Services Department, which had previously been the city lead on homelessness response, before learning today that it is no longer on point for potential encampment removals. Those are now up to individual departments to prioritize, depending on whose public property is involved, so that’s why SDOT responded to Fisher – because sidewalks are under its jurisdiction (aside from the city rules that property owners otherwise are liable for maintaining sidewalks outside their homes and businesses).

HSD spokesperson Will Lemke did tell us, “HSD is aware of the concern and is working with outreach agencies to send outreach workers to the area and try to work with the people living unhoused there. I do not have more information at this time, but we do understand the real frustrations of the local community and business owners.”

At least one of the other business owners has met with City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who responded to our inquiry about the Roxhill/Delridge sidewalk residents today. She said she had met Wednesday night with Mac’s Triangle Pub proprietor Mac McElroy (whose business is across Delridge from the sidewalk residents), the owner of the building next to the sidewalk camp, and reps from a resource program called CoLEAD. Herbold said she was told outreach providers already have been to the location and quoted them as telling her:

“Once again, the problem we are continuing to run into is first off a lack of services, shelter, and options across the board, as well as a lack of transparency and access to the current options being offered by the City. Multiple outreach workers have told me that they have tried using the prioritization assessment to get folks into the Executive Inn and have made many referrals for vulnerable folks, however simply do not hear back from the city or have seen the referrals going towards other priority areas, regardless of the needs or vulnerabilities in that site. In the meantime, we will continue working with folks to build rapport, supply them with basic needs and whatever appropriate resources we have that day, and converse with them about different ways to keep their areas clear and safe for all and how we can support them in doing that while there are still no places for them to go.”

Herbold did say, though, that with CoLEAD involvement, “I believe we will begin to see some changes in this location.”

Finally late today, we got the official response from SDOT, via spokesperson Ethan Bergerson, who said the site is “identified for outreach”:

Human Services Division and Seattle Department of Transportation are working together to address concerns about the encampment blocking the sidewalk on Delridge Way SW between SW Roxbury and 15th Ave SW.

This location is on a list (of) encampments identified for outreach. HSD will perform outreach to the people living in the encampment to provide resources and encourage them to take advantage of shelter options. The hope is that people will choose to take advantage of shelter options or find another place to live. SDOT is currently waiting for an update from HSD on the status of this outreach effort so that we can determine next steps, and we hope to learn more soon.

“Identified for outreach” would seem to be a reference to the conditions in this Human Services Department document provided by Councilmember Herbold’s staffm listing potential “strategies” for “high-profile encampments,” and concluding that sites may be subject to removal “if the site’s impacts cannot be remedied by outreach strategies alone.” While the city has reduced the number of encampment removals, some have happened in other parts of the city, like Miller Park – adjacent to a school – three weeks ago.

Meantime, back on Delridge Way, Fisher sent the city a second letter today:

This letter is my second request that the homeless encampments (tents, garbage, belongings) be removed from the 9400 block of Delridge Way SW.

I would like to draw your attention to FAS 17-01, specifically Section 3.0 Definitions, Item 3:4:
““Obstruction” means people, tents, personal property, garbage, debris or other objects related to an encampment that: are in a City park or on a public sidewalk; interfere with the pedestrian or transportation purposes of public rights-of-way; or interfere with areas that are necessary for or essential to the intended use of a public property or facility.”

The encampments located in the 9400 block of Delridge Way SW are in clear violation of the above mentioned rules set forth by Department of Finance and Administrative Services.

In an email dated May 6, 2021, a Department of Transportation employee, Karen Sweeney, mentioned that this site is on a list for outreach and tent removal through HSD. As of the date of this letter, I have not received an update on when that can be expected.

I require a response to my letter with a plan of action and timeline for when this will be remedied.

We’ll keep checking back with her and with the city.

35 Replies to "City promises to 'address concerns' about sidewalk-blocking residents on Delridge Way"

  • Al King May 7, 2021 (6:46 pm)

    Please understand that city’s promise to “address concerns” does NOT mean they’ll actually do anything. 

  • justme May 7, 2021 (7:12 pm)

    Way to step up Abby. Hope this gets taken care of before month’s end. What they don’t want to tell us, but we all know, many times services are denied by the campers when offered.

    • Brian May 7, 2021 (8:08 pm)

      I also hope that by the end of the month all of these people have a secure place to live and sleep. I’m glad we’re on the same page here.   

      • Rick May 8, 2021 (8:02 am)

        I hear the Hilton is nice. As long as you don’t break the law.

      • SA May 8, 2021 (10:34 am)

        Indeed, Brian.  In the meantime, perhaps Fisher and others concerned could reach out to their neighbors to find out what they need that could be offered by the local businesses?  Garbage cans and pickup?  Port-a-potty and handwashing station?  Folks don’t want to live in your doorway in third-world conditions, never mind what “Justme” says “we all know.”

        • PNW Raven May 17, 2021 (4:40 pm)

          SA – It’s not the business owners responsibility to find out what these people need and provide it for them. Setting up trash cans, port-a-pottys, handwashing stations, etc. will only worsen the problem by encouraging the homeless that are there to stay and invite more to arrive, bringing additional problems with them–drugs, crime, mental illness, etc.  They need to be moved to a more suitable location, and it needs to be done by professionals who know how and what to offer to this type of population.

          • ReallyNotJaded May 18, 2021 (12:55 pm)

            FWIW, in March the owner of the Triangle paid the city to bring out a garbage can.  It was never used.  

  • Brian May 7, 2021 (7:21 pm)

    They should address it by providing shelter for people who need a place to live. How about doing that?   

    • Mel May 7, 2021 (8:03 pm)

      There is space in shelters, but people have to accept it.

      • RW May 8, 2021 (6:07 am)

        These people have to want to accept help but many probably won’t, not wanting to follow homeless shelter rules and regulations, be subjected to social services, and generally preferring to  be left alone. They will not go easily. I’ve driven by here more than a few times over the past few months, and I’m amazed at how much and quickly this encampment has grown, totally blocking the sidewalk and with garbage and miscellaneous junk spilling over into the parking spaces. On my most recent drive-by, people were BBQing on a large propane outdoor grill. I have nothing but sympathy for homeless people, but the city needs to address this situation immediately for everyone’s benefit, particularly the business owners and their employees, who might find themselves homeless if they lose their jobs because their employers, already impacted by the COVID pandemic, have to close their shops.

      • SA May 8, 2021 (10:35 am)

        Did you read the article?  There is no space in the tiny house encampment in WS. Referrals to the city for hotels are going unfulfilled by the city. There are not enough spaces in shelters, especially during this pandemic which, remember, is still going on.

      • Not a transplant May 18, 2021 (12:58 pm)

        What Mel said.  There is room in shelters that have rules against getting drunk or high.  I think the new codeword is high barrier.  

    • wscommuter May 7, 2021 (8:55 pm)

      Agreed – provide shelter, food, treatment and employment services (raise my taxes; I’ll gladly pay for this) … and then enforce no camping in public spaces anywhere in the city.  Give these poor folks a real choice – the opportunity to be safe, warm, fed, and helped with addiction, mental illness, unemployment, etc. … but the public camping has to be banned consistently such that those few who refuse help are not allowed to camp in parks, sidewalk, green spaces, etc.  

      • nearby May 8, 2021 (8:27 am)

        This is what needs to happen.  I am with you on raise my taxes and banning public camping. Put the tax money toward services that raise up the entire community and support their needs. Seattle has an opportunity to build a system that can lead the way.

        • Molly May 8, 2021 (7:28 pm)

          Seattle will never lead the way. It’s amazing in the time I’ve lived here, I believed this city has so much potential to change things. But then I see taxes raised, see the city have a surplus of money, and they waste millions by sending fliers about the light rail to WS residents. Or millions on surveys being sent to people to see how the people think we should proceed. Isn’t the point of a city council that I am voting for people to do what they KNOW is best for the city, even if it’s not popular?

  • Jim P. May 7, 2021 (7:41 pm)

    I avoid the area.  I walk. I cannot just hop in a car and avoid it as i cannot drive  I am handicapped both visually and mobility limited.  I cannot safely negotiate that pile of “stuff” and I am not about to try.There is no reason they need to fully block a public sidewalk in this manner as though no on else has rights to use the city streets.There are vacant lots a plenty in areas not far from this garden spot if there is some compelling reason they should squat here or there.Lots of “we have identified the concern” and so on and “we hope they will respond to outreach”.  But no results.  To me, if offered shelter and you turn it down, you are now officially a vagrant and should be asked/required to move on to someplace more accommodating to your lifestyle.Compassion only goes so far and not far at all to those who repeatedly refuse what is offered.Between the cigarettes, pot, booze and such you see everywhere in these “encampments”, I wonder what they could accomplish if they used that money wisely and why taxpayers are expected to pay for everything else endlessly

    • Not a transplant May 18, 2021 (6:07 pm)

      Interesting, I wonder if there is an ADA case to be made here.  Federal law is above local law. It is terrible that you cannot safely use the sidewalk.  The ADA is in place for a good reason and it is often ignored.

  • TJ May 7, 2021 (7:52 pm)

    Seattle is making the homeless issue way too complicated. Yes, shelter space needs to be expanded. Not talking about actual furnished apartments, but cots with a roof over them. Way better than what these people are living in now. Elected leaders can look to Bellevue for guidance on the homeless issue. They have shelters and programs, but if people refuse that then they are pushed out. You do not see tents there anywhere. Its time for the tax payers that foot the bill for this need to be respected now and not ignored when expecting open sidewalks and parks

    • Frank May 7, 2021 (11:27 pm)

      It’s time for a tax strike!

    • SA May 8, 2021 (10:38 am)

      If you read what unhoused folks have to say, “cots with a roof over them” are not better than tents in many cases.  Your stuff gets stolen, you can’t be with your partners/friends who help keep you safe and sane, same with your dog.  You have nothing, so let’s take everything you have left away from you? That’s not a solution.  And have you forgotten that we’re still in a pandemic caused by an airborne virus? Congregate shelters are dangerous. “Housing first” is proven to work but it has to exist before we can just tell people “move into it and out of public.”

    • West Seattle In Crisis May 8, 2021 (11:53 am)

      Many of these people have addiction and/or mental illness. They need to be offered shelter and treatment but many refuse. The feel safer on the streets than in shelters. Drug dealers pray on them, make them assist in dealing for protection and more drugs. It’s a broken system but the choice to pitch a tent or park a camper wherever you want is not the answer. I’m not sure what is. No income housing in our empty buildings, mental health counseling onsite, anything but what we’re doing now. We’re not helping them just letting them stay on the streets where they continue to use or fall into deeper mental distress. 

    • Auntie May 8, 2021 (7:22 pm)

      You do not see tents in Bellevue because they have sent all their homeless people to Seattle! And other cities. It’s not like Bellevue has the quintessential answer and is housing everyone who needs it – they are just moving them along. Like Mercer Island does. “You can go anyplace you want, but you can’t stay here.”

  • Me May 7, 2021 (8:14 pm)

    They will address it as usual. They will say to move to the other side of Roxbury so they don’t have to deal with it. Hope for a real result, but not holding my breath

    • Buddy May 8, 2021 (4:36 pm)

      How on earth does that help the community to have them move to the other side where it is King Country problem? That is not a solution to the problem!

  • Kadoo May 7, 2021 (8:15 pm)

    I’m guessing the campers are white people so of course they are getting away with this. 

    • Tard May 16, 2021 (12:55 pm)

      You’ve obviously never been through there. Its all races. 

  • 1994 May 7, 2021 (8:40 pm)

    blah, blah, blah, one city agency to another and out to concerned and impacted citizens…..meanwhile back in Nov 2015: Nov 04, 2015 · Reuters. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine this week declared states of emergency for their homeless crises, pledging millions to better serve residents living on the streets. 

  • NachoBeaver May 7, 2021 (8:50 pm)

    Go Abby!! The blatant nightly drug dealing on this corner has been horrendous too as of late

  • aa May 7, 2021 (11:21 pm)

    It seems obvious that if you break the responsibility up into different agencies more things will fall through the cracks.  What mayor was it who created that new position just to manage the homeless problem?  They clearly were overpaid with little to show for it.  I know its not a solution but don’t you just wish Jeff Besos would take some of his kazillion dollars and pay for garbage pick-up ?  

    • Maria May 8, 2021 (6:50 pm)

      So easy to blame or ask big business and their owners to pay for what we as a community should be taking care of.  Mr Bezos and other regional businesses have given millions, but we as a community don’t manage/direct it well.   We enable our electeds by re-electing the same.

  • justme May 8, 2021 (5:06 pm)

    AA: if you look it up, Jeff Bezos has donated millions locally, billions nationally.

  • CMB May 9, 2021 (9:44 pm)

    We continue to sugar coat the homeless problem in Seattle with “feel-good” terms and throwing $$$ in hopes that it  just fixes itself.  The real problem is opioid addiction.   It’s chronic among this population, a family friend recently lost their son to addiction, he was living in a tent on the street.  Unless we treat the disease of addiction these camps will continue to exist and grow.  Some serious tough love is required… addicts are so deep in their disease they don’t want help.  If we are a caring community we’ve got to confront this issue and deal with it differently. Time’s up for the “feel-good” terms and burying our heads in the sand.  

    • Tyr1001 May 10, 2021 (8:21 am)


    • ODB300 May 10, 2021 (9:21 am)

      Real talk!

  • ThreeOne May 10, 2021 (9:43 pm)

    The measure of society is how it treats the weakest members.  

Sorry, comment time is over.