FOLLOWUP: 3 months later, abandoned, deteriorating stolen SUV still on West Seattle beach

This afternoon, with orcas passing through our area again, a longrunning hunk of giant beach junk stands out more glaringly than ever.

(First and last photos are from last weekend, sent by Janel)

That stolen-and-abandoned Jeep Compass has been on the rocky beach in the Seola/Arroyos area since mid-April (here’s our first report). By the time of our first followup days later, local, state, and federal authorities had been to the site, and the SUV’s owner had belatedly reported it stolen. The state removed fuel from the tank. But no one, we were told, could figure out how to get it off the beach – it was apparently exactly in the wrong position for various removal options by land or sea.

(This photo and next are from Robin)

We checked back again in mid-May. By that time, area resident Robin was tracking the situation, and trying to figure out who could do something about it. She’s still on the case; she says she’s even talked with the property owner, who was away when this happened and, she says, is frustrated too. But nothing has changed, and as her photos show, the car continues to fall apart, as the water rushes in and rushes back out. Pieces of it are strewn about on the beach.

We thought a marine-focused environmental advocacy group might have a lead on accountability. That inquiry dead-ended. We then turned back to the state, whose Department of Natural Resources has a Marine Debris Removal Program. (We mentioned it five years ago, when state commissioner of public lands Hilary Franz came to visit a crew.) So we tracked down DNR spokesperson Michael Kelly, who asked around and then told us this could be a matter of “jurisdictional issues”:

Some of the problems we run into with vessels may be at play here with this vehicle. DNR only has jurisdiction on State Owned Aquatic Lands (SOAL) and not all tidelands are within SOAL. Cities and counties have jurisdiction where we do not but may lack the ordinances allowing them to remove private property from private property. Another is funding, we can only remove vessel when we have the funding to do so.

The private property owner can get a junk vehicle affidavit filled out by their code enforcement office of their local law enforcement department to get the legal right to remove the vehicle, but it would be at their expense.

However, he had one tip for Robin as a concerned citizen – to file a “large debris” report via the agency’s MyCoast app.

She’s already tried the city’s Find It, Fix It system – which went nowhere because it wasn’t on a public beach – so now she’s trying this too. Robin told us in one exchange, “The car is falling apart and I am sure several things have just washed away into the Sound. They will surface further north of here or some poor creature will be killed or maimed by it. Tragedy on so many levels.”

54 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: 3 months later, abandoned, deteriorating stolen SUV still on West Seattle beach"

  • No punishment no problem July 10, 2024 (6:13 pm)

    Why isn’t the owner being held accountable for anything?Reports a so called vehicle STOLEN AFTER it’s been found. A person gave a ride to the so called driver that got on a CITY BUS and they haven’t had anything to hold them accountable. The owner of the vehicle said they would be getting it removed. Why is the city not fining them?But sure let’s focus on back in parking for Alki.We need accountability on this issue from our damn ELECTED OFFICIALS!

    • G Hamm July 11, 2024 (7:37 am)

      More like impotent, absolutely worthless local government….includes Mayor and City Council. Quick to raise taxes and do nothing for it’s citizens.

    • 1994 July 11, 2024 (8:07 pm)

      Time to get Jesse Jones to make some calls and solve this government boondoggle!

  • Teri July 10, 2024 (6:28 pm)

    This is incredulous!!!!  Our government entities can’t find a method to remove it? What about car owner’s insurance company?  

    • Ferns July 10, 2024 (10:55 pm)

      If it’s a private property sitting on private property then it’s not necessarily a government priority. Usually, the harmed party like the property owner would have to pay to have it moved, and then go through the process of suing the car owner to recoup that money. Or maybe they could get some sort of court order to force the car owner to remove it. But I don’t necessarily think it’s a government responsibility when it’s private property (at least while the tide is out it’s on private land). 

  • aRF July 10, 2024 (6:48 pm)

    Maybe we can copy Florence, Oregon, and blow the thing up.

  • Vee July 10, 2024 (6:56 pm)

    Can the vehicle be cut into pieces and removed by land, a section at a time?

    It may be reasonable to bring a couple small-tank cutting torches to the location, and a small team should be able to remove the vehicle over the course of a few days.

    • Grilled Cheese July 10, 2024 (7:40 pm)

      I’ll help with this. Let’s get some tools and cut that thing up.

    • Joan July 10, 2024 (8:33 pm)

      Exactly what I was thinking. Cut it up and remove the parts. Or put a big chain around it and haul it out to sea, so it could be hoisted into a barge or something. ( I know nothing about marine vehicles. Just guessing.)

    • Robert July 11, 2024 (6:20 am)

      A gas powered saw and a reciprocated saw + about 5 people could easily cut apart this car in a day

    • Beach bro July 11, 2024 (1:59 pm)

      I would also help cut it up and remove it piece by piece. A group of 5-10 should be sufficient if we all get out there at low tide and start rippin!! 

  • CR July 10, 2024 (7:03 pm)

    Would be a great training exercise for the military to do an airlift and remove. But folks would complain about the noise.

    • 1994 July 10, 2024 (10:48 pm)

      AT this point it looks like it might just fall apart if they cinched it up for an airlift.

  • Guy Olson July 10, 2024 (7:06 pm)

    Can we get a group together with reciprocating saws and cut it into manageable pieces? 

    • WS Res July 10, 2024 (7:13 pm)

      Guerilla clean-up might be a way to go, but you’ve still got the problem of the engine block….

      • WSzombie July 10, 2024 (7:57 pm)

        I thought about that too. I think the block could be winched close the wall and lifted with a cherry picker or tow truck.Honestly, if this happened in the countryside, a couple of rednecks would have had it out of there the first day it went unclaimed.Sometimes cities as smart as Seattle will overthink things, when all you really need is a little motivation and redneck ingenuity. 

      • Rick July 11, 2024 (6:59 am)

        More problems with government block.

    • Saw not necessary July 10, 2024 (8:20 pm)

      With a couple of planks I think it would be towable. Saws not necessary and probably cause a bigger hassle with the remnants if you were to cut it. I think if a couple of people got together to maneuver it could be hauled off. 

  • AdmiralSDV July 10, 2024 (7:09 pm)


  • Grilled Cheese July 10, 2024 (7:42 pm)

    I wonder if we could add a whole bunch of air bags and pull it to a boat dock. We can then get a tow truck to pull it out. 

  • Silas Elwood July 10, 2024 (8:13 pm)

    Looks like habitat

    • SlimJim July 11, 2024 (9:08 am)

      There’s a ton of plastic in modern cars, not to mention probably worse materials – if there is such a thing as worse than plastic. It needs to be removed.

  • Kyle July 10, 2024 (8:14 pm)

    Squabbling over jurisdiction is the last thing I want to hear from public officials. Can anyone come up with a safe plan for removal regardless of agency? The amount of taxes we pay this could be taken care of by any number of vested parties. It’s like when my kids argue over who made the mess instead of just pitching in and cleaning it up.

    • K July 11, 2024 (8:42 am)

      Reading that article, the discussion about jurisdiction seems less “not it!  This is your problem!” and more “I’m not allowed to work on private property” which is a boundary I am glad exists, even if once in a blue moon it creates a bureaucratic mess.

      • Kyle July 11, 2024 (10:05 am)

        No, it’s more of a non-answer to not do anything. Who is the property owner? I’m sure if DNR asked the property owner for permission they wouldn’t have problem. Are they going to say they want to keep the rotting car that someone stole and dumped on their property?

  • Charge it July 10, 2024 (8:38 pm)

    If cost is the issue, maybe Saka and Co can just put it on the tab of the coming transportation bill that’s certain to pass in this crazy town. 

  • Kayaker July 10, 2024 (8:39 pm)

    Okay, Jeep Compass is between 3-4 thousand lbs. We need four of the 1100lbs float bags from here @ $581.88 each. I’ve got a kayak and a tow belt, even knives if things get Type 2 fun and we (I have lotsa kayaks) need to abandon the mission. Only about 1500 feet to the pocket park. I have a crazy uncle who repos vehicles, I’ll call in a favor. We could even get a Darwin Award if we’re lucky! Who’s with me, gofundme!? Let’s go!

  • Rhonda July 10, 2024 (9:14 pm)

    Put a bunch of DieHard batteries in it, leave the headlights on, and use it as a USCG navigational aid.

  • Small Correction Provider July 10, 2024 (10:04 pm)

    Just a point of correction on “DNRP spokesperson Michael Kelly”… I think it should be DNR (as DNRP would be a King County dept, and we’re talking State here…)

    • WSB July 10, 2024 (11:18 pm)

      Thanks, I fixed the department name before I published but didn’t fix the acronym. Fixing now.

  • Azimuth July 10, 2024 (10:18 pm)

    Call in the Seafair pirates and their landing craft and drag that thing on board and cruise away. We could tell them it’s treasure for them to plunder!

  • Homeless Fish July 10, 2024 (10:21 pm)

    Remove fluids, battery, and trash from inside. Float it out into the sound and sink it somewhere deep. Boom! Affordable fish housing. 

    • Patrick July 11, 2024 (6:47 am)

      That’s a good idea.  You could pay the pirates with tokens to be used to pay the bail required for the pirate mischief.

  • Daiso Gal July 10, 2024 (10:54 pm)

  • Jenn July 10, 2024 (11:19 pm)

    Maybe someone should contact Global Diving and Salvage, the company that brings in the Seafair pirates on their beach lander every year. 

  • Al mort July 10, 2024 (11:28 pm)

    why do so many people depend on the government for solutions?  They make it expensive for us working people to help. 

  • WiseWoman July 11, 2024 (2:50 am)

    Well if all of us in this thread along with we borrow A Cleaner Alki crew from Erik Bell (A Cleaner Seola/Arroyo – lol😀) and we do cut it up and they can sink the engine block if we cannot get it to land (I like the cherry picker idea and long metal ramps to roll it up to the concrete and maybe a 4 wheeler with a trailer. [Ah darn my country side is showing] we could get it gone. I am happy to take all the pieces to the recycle company. 

  • 22blades July 11, 2024 (6:24 am)

    Call the US Army Corps of Engineers & their ship MV Puget. There’s probably enough winch there to winch it across the sound.

    Debris Recovery

     The M/V Puget is the debris recovery vessel for Seattle District. It operates under congressional authority listed below:(a) Removal of Wrecks and Obstructions (Section 19, River and Harbor Act of 3 March 1899). The Corps may remove sunken vessels and similar objects if they are determined to be obstructions to navigation.(b) Snagging and Clearing for Navigation (Section 3, River and Harbor Act of 1945).  The Corps may remove trees, brush and other debris that may be determined to be obstructions to navigation or that may promote flooding.(c) Drift and Debris Removal (Section 202, Water Resources Development Act Of 1976).

  • anonyme July 11, 2024 (6:56 am)

    That vehicle didn’t airlift itself onto that beach, it was driven.  Why can’t salvage vehicles do the same?  I can also understand why crime victims don’t want to have to pay (even if able) to clean up the criminal’s mess, and neither do taxpayers.  The ‘rednecks to the rescue’ plan is beginning to sound very tempting!  Go rednecks!

  • alkiobserver July 11, 2024 (7:29 am)

    Seattle’s own Global Diving & Salvage has the resources and experience to assist with this derelict “vessel” on the beach.

  • Pookie July 11, 2024 (7:58 am)

    I for one and am relishing at the fact that these elitist “I own the Beach” crowd are getting a taste of their own medicine. Since they like to claim the Puget sound as there private property, and prevent people from simply enjoying the coastline, let them clean it up- at their own expense

  • KP July 11, 2024 (8:03 am)

    Homeowners on the beach want all protections down to lowest tide level (without paying appropriate property tax based on this max footage) yet relinquish total accountability for all other responsibilities of property ownership.

    • SlimJim July 11, 2024 (9:10 am)

      My thoughts exactly.

    • Benjamin July 11, 2024 (12:08 pm)

      Exactly KP.  If a citizen can own the beach then they own the responsibility.  Take is up with your homeowner’s insurance.  

      • 22blades July 11, 2024 (1:29 pm)

        Tell me about throwing it on insurance. After 2 claims in less than a year for homeless nonsense, the conversation is about getting dropped now for no fault of my own. I still say call the Army Corps of Engineers.

  • snowskier July 11, 2024 (10:17 am)

    My son and his 12 and 13 year old friends have had fun ‘driving’ it.  I’ll be glad when it’s gone, they’re not ready to drive yet!

  • Rick July 11, 2024 (2:43 pm)

    Contact a local gym or two. I’m sure there’s plenty of macho men (and women) out there willing to show off their physiques.  And free advertising for the gym. 

  • CW July 11, 2024 (3:06 pm)

    I’m curious, do we know if the owner of the vehicle had insurance? Pretty much all car insurance has vehicle recovery as part of it. Get an estimate from a salvage company, get the insurance to put the money in escrow and the vehicle and property owner give permission to the salvage company. Get it done. 

  • Actually Mike July 11, 2024 (3:33 pm)

    Get serious about finding the punks who stole the vehicle and left it there. They (and their parents if they are minors) should be on the hook for remediation if it takes them the rest of their lives to pay it off.

  • flimflam July 11, 2024 (5:01 pm)

    Curious that stolen or not, the owner isn’t responsible for the vehicle – or insurance. Can anyone explain this?

  • batgurrl July 11, 2024 (6:33 pm)

    This is Robin who has been documenting this mess. I just have to say folks.  It is on private property tide flats.  The city has no jurisdiction to the area. The owners are frustrated too.  As the article says they need to get possession of the cars title.  Then maybe it can be removedMy view is it is an insurance and attorney battle right now.  Messed up for sure!

  • Jim July 12, 2024 (12:02 am)

    But remember this city “cares” about the environment 

  • waikikigirl July 12, 2024 (7:54 am)

    It was able to get onto the beach so it dang well can get off of the beach.  But IMO I believe the number one thing that is stopping it from happening is money and also that the owner/Ins Co. and or property owner where it sits doesn’t want to take the responsibility on doing so. 

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