West Seattle, Washington
4:23 PM: One day after the second anniversary of the “Nickelsville” encampment’s return to a mostly-city-owned site in West Seattle (here’s our Monday report), Mayor McGinn says he sees two options for the site – and one of them is to pass a proposal that would allow it to be converted into a “semi-permanent” encampment site. The other option – sell the site to Food Lifeline as that agency has sought, but only after the council passes a bill that would enable more possible encampment sites at “non-religious” locations. Both options are outlined in a letter he has sent to City Council President Sally Clark; read it here (or here, added, uploaded to Scribd):
We received it in response to our query sent to the mayor’s office yesterday asking where the mayor stood on the issue.
4:33 PM UPDATE: Though the mayor’s letter says he prefers the option of selling the site to Food Lifeline once he’s sure the residents of Nickelsville will have somewhere else to go, Highland Park Action Committee chair Carolyn Stauffer, whose group had asked the mayor and council not just to promise to move Nickelsville out but to set a date, is not happy. Her response, shared with us via e-mail:
We have been holding off on contacting a lawyer with high hopes for our elected leaders, but now see the need to speak with one as soon as possible. If anyone out there could help us, please email any names or contacts that might be interested in helping HPAC pro-bono to email@example.com.
4:55 PM UPDATE: We’ve started checking with city councilmembers and their staffs to find out what’s next – since this broke late in the day, we will still be finding out more tomorrow, but for starters, the office of Councilmember Nick Licata – who proposed the “non-religious encampment” bill that the mayor says he would support – says both options will be discussed in the committee he chairs, Housing, Human Services, and Health Care, a week from tomorrow (May 22nd) at 2 pm. Licata favors proceeding with that bill and a Food Lifeline sale, according to staffer Lisa Herbold.
6 PM UPDATE: We’ve also heard back from Council President Clark. She says she is reserving substantive comment until a briefing tomorrow, but adds, “I can say that I’d like to see people living at Nickelsville find open doors into housing as soon as possible, and I’d like to see Food Lifeline land their new facility in the city.” And a statement has just arrived from Revel Smith, on behalf of SHARE/Tent City 3, not regarding Nickelsville specifically, but regarding the ordinance, which Smith says they consider “redlining,” because of what they understand is a “residential zone restriction,” which they oppose because, they say:
• Restricting camps by Ordinance from Residential Zones unfairly plays on, and accommodates, irrational fears of homeless people.
• Residential Zoning Restrictions EXCLUDE 65% of all available land in Seattle!
• NO other city or jurisdiction in King County — many of which also have Encampment Ordinances — restrict camps from Residential Zones. Therefore, there is NO REASON for Seattle to do so.
• It’s a big step back from the successful modus operandi of Tent City3 during 10 years of our operation (2002-2012) under a Consent Decree which did not have any Zoning Restrictions.
• And finally, if it’s OK for churches in Residential Zones easily to host camps (under the Religious Encampment Ordinance), why not vacant private land in those neighborhoods too? Churches can’t carry the weight of solving homelessness all on their own.
We’re checking to see if the text of the ordinance is available online.
(May 13, 2011, WSB photo)
Two years ago today, the homeless encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” returned to the site where it had begun – a mostly-city-owned parcel on the eastern edge of West Seattle. According to a flyer posted on the semi-official Nickelsville Works Facebook group page, encampment residents and supporters plan a second-anniversary party next Sunday afternoon. That’s three days before their uphill neighbors from the Highland Park Action Committee have a meeting scheduled with Mayor McGinn.
Today was also the deadline that HPAC chair Carolyn Stauffer had given McGinn and City Councilmembers for announcing a move-out date for the encampment. The nonprofit Food Lifeline has proposed building a new center there, to collect and process food for food banks around the region. But in addition to the encampment’s presence, there’s also bureaucracy in the way, such as getting the site declared “surplus” so the city could consider selling it.
Stauffer writes on the HPAC website that only one city leader to whom the letter was sent, Councilmember Richard Conlin, replied, though without any commitment of specific action. As for the mayor, she writes in part:
The Mayor has donated [to Nickelsville] thousands of dollars in materials and rat abatement, and has been ignoring the neighborhood pleas for city action. We asked again that he be brave enough politically to stand up for our neighborhood and say no- that one cannot squat illegally on public land anymore, that it is too much to ask of our neighborhoods without due process and public comment. Giving the encampment a move out date is the Mayor’s job, and we are meeting with him on May 22nd to make sure that he understands that, and to make sure he knows that the neighborhood is serious when we ask for a move out date.
If he chooses to continue to ignore this, he will have a difficult time getting through the political season coming up without having to address his non-action. As we stated in our April 2nd letter, we will be taking steps to pursue legal action at this point.
We too have an inquiry out to the mayor’s office and will update when we hear back.
As the question of what will happen to the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville,” its residents, and the government-owned site it’s on comes to a head, the nonprofit that wants to build a new facility on the site is asking for public support. Food Lifeline has been waiting to hear from city leaders whether they will help facilitate the purchase and ensuing project, or not; Mayor McGinn‘s office told WSB last week that they expected a report from the city’s finance office by mid-April. Food Lifeline spokesperson Amy Lee Derenthal says this is the “call to action” they are circulating among those interested in supporting their proposal:
Help Food Lifeline secure their chosen piece of land for the Hunger Relief Center.
Your voice in support of Food Lifeline being able to secure its parcel of land is critical to expediting the procedure. Reach out to the Seattle City Council today and let them know that you want them to declare the 10-acre site on West Marginal Way in Seattle surplus, and sell the land to Food Lifeline. The City’s plan for the property is a future storage site. Please call or email the Seattle City Council in support of Food Lifeline today.
Here is sample language for you to use when you call or e-mail the Seattle City Council:
“Food Lifeline distributes millions of pounds of food each year to help end hunger in Western Washington. Help Food Lifeline secure their piece of land to build the Hunger Relief Center by expediting the procedure for land purchase. As my representative on the Seattle City Council, I urge you to declare the 10-acre site on West Marginal Way in Seattle surplus, and sell the land to Food Lifeline NOW.
Thank you for your support of Food Lifeline.
Your Name Here”
Contact information for the council, whether collectively or individually, for this issue or any other, is on this page.
After almost two unsanctioned but unchallenged years at the West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way site where it was founded, the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” is coming under increasing scrutiny, particularly after its open admission of turmoil last month, first reported here. After again discussing the encampment at its last meeting (WSB coverage here), followed by a letter to the city, the Highland Park Action Committee community council has just sent a formal letter to Mayor McGinn and the Seattle City Council with a deadline:
To Mayor McGinn, his staff, and members of Seattle City Council,
The Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) would like to request a move out date for the homeless encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” at 7116 West Marginal Way at the base of Highland Park Drive. HPAC represents the Highland Park and Riverview Neighborhoods in Southwest Seattle. It has come to our attention that it has been difficult for the residence of Nickelsville to keep order in the camp and the management technique used to try to restore order recently included the “Show of Force Team” removing the Porta Potty Service. As the residents of Nickelsville wrote:
“The reason for this decision (to remove the Porta Potty Service) was our inability at Nickelsville in preventing the overrun of our community by meth dealers and barred, violent former campers. Progress was made yesterday, but the situation is still teetering on the brink.”
A new letter has been released from the encampment stating that things are “returning to stability.” The intent of their letter was to express dismay with the Seattle Police for not helping them with security. The Seattle Police are in a bind because the entire encampment is squatting illegally, so they cannot enforce one group’s illegal presence there over another group. The situation at Nickeslville has gotten out of hand, we have noticed a shift in the population from what was originally there, and this has been verified by campers living in Nickelsville. We were surprised, however, at the threatening management technique. As we have continued to hear stories of how the camp is currently being run, we were struck by the realization that there really is no oversight whatsoever for this encampment- it is illegal after all, and we have a lot of concerns with how it’s being managed at this point.
Two updates in our ongoing coverage of the West Seattle encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville”:
FOOD LIFELINE SITE DECISION DELAY? Though some word from the city was expected any day now by both Food Lifeline – which wants to buy the public land that currently houses the encampment – and the Highland Park Action Committee, which says the encampment has overstayed its welcome and wants a move-out date (as first reported here Thursday), Mayor McGinn‘s office says the next move may still be a few weeks away. Spokesperson Aaron Pickus answered our query this morning with: “We expect to have a report from our Finance and Administrative Services department in early to mid-April regarding the possible property sale to Food Lifeline.”
SENTENCING IN APRIL 2012 ‘FIREBOMBING’: It’s not in our coverage archives, but the U.S. Attorney reports that not only was there a firebombing at the encampment almost exactly a year ago – related to an “eviction” – but the repeat offender arrested for it and another crime two days later has just been sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. The U.S. Attorney’s Office sent a news release about it today – saying 37-year-old Shane Anello had pleaded guilty to charges stemming from having thrown a Molotov cocktail at the car of someone who had evicted him from Nickelsville on April 1 (a “car fire” is shown on the 911 logs for that day at 6:10 pm), and to shooting at a car in Beacon Hill on April 3rd. Read the full news release here.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Three years ago, Highland Park Action Committee marked the end of a two-year fight against a proposal to build, in their neighborhood, a city jail that ultimately turned out to be – as they had pointed out all along – unnecessary.
In the fight’s first year, 2008, the proposed jail site on city- and state-owned property at West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way was briefly occupied by a homeless encampment calling itself Nickelsville, until then-Mayor Greg Nickels ordered it evicted.
For months, the encampment was not an issue for the Highland Park community. But now, after Nickelsville declared itself to be in dangerous straits, as reported here Sunday, they’re on the brink of marshaling for another intensive fight.
That was the upshot of last night’s HPAC meeting – from which we reported live via Twitter – and of a letter that HPAC has sent to city leadership. And there is another letter involved – this morning, we received one from Nickelsville’s “Central Committee,” with its side of an incident we reported in last Sunday’s story, as well as their declaration that things are improving.
More on the major new developments, ahead:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“A lot of this is policy” – and not policy made by Seattle Police.
That was a caveat tonight from Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Joe Kessler, when asked about the “Nickelsville” encampment’s status, following Mayor McGinn‘s new directive for more patrols (WSB Monday report), in the wake of the encampment declaring itself “overrun” with “meth dealers and violent, barred former campers” (WSB Sunday report).
Capt. Kessler was at the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meeting primarily for a get-acquainted event; the group was created in the time between his unprecedented two tours of duty at one precinct, something he says no SPD commander has done before. But in light of our coverage the past few days, WSBWCN co-founder Deb Greer asked him what he could tell the group.
First, he noted that the encampment was founded at the same 7116 West Marginal Way SW site during his first year as precinct commander.
As for now – he says behind-the-scenes city leadership strategizing is going on as well as police action. He said he “was in a meeting with the mayor’s senior staff and (Deputy) Chief (Nick) Metz” on Monday afternoon, and that his second-in-command Lt. Pierre Davis had met with the Southwest/South Precincts’ city-attorney liaison Melissa Chin, and that “we’re working through this process right now,” though the “process,” he said, “isn’t necessarily right now within (police’s) bailiwick.”
What is, Kessler said, “is to enforce the laws and (promote) safety.” He refuted allegations that police had not adequately responded to calls from the encampment: “Every call that’s been made, from everyone (there), has been responded to by the Southwest Precinct.”
But again, he said, major decisions on next steps won’t be made at the precinct level: “We’re in active discussions right now with the mayor’s office and city attorney’s office to figure out where they want to go … our role will be as part of the team, but we’re not the decisionmakers.”
Officers are “patrolling around” the encampment, Capt. Kessler confirmed, adding that “the mayor is accurate in saying we are making it one of our priority spots to make sure we are having a visible presence as much as we can – but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to patrol the (other) areas where we have emerging crime problems.”
To the Nickelsville Central Committee open letter last weekend accusing police of thwarting camp attempts at self-policing by not supporting “eviction” decisions, as reported in our Sunday story: “That is public property; it’s owned by the City of Seattle. There is no legal ability for anyone who is staying there – they are not landlords, so there is no legal ability for their (people) or for my officers to go there and actually evict somebody from public property, it’s not the same as if someone is at your house – so whatever rules are in place (at the encampment) are not legal rules. We still operate under the rule of law and we still have all the things that officers are well versed in their legal responsibilities and what they can and can’t do. … In all our discussions with the mayor and the city attorney’s office, everyone is on the same page.”
Another trouble spot came up at tonight’s meeting – 15th and Holden in Highland Park. That report is coming up later. Meantime, Nickelsville is scheduled to be discussed during Wednesday night’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting (7 pm, HP Improvement Club, 12th/Holden); HPAC has previously told the city that other communities should take turns hosting the encampment, and also has surveyed community members for their thoughts.
“The current situation raises serious concerns about Nickelsville’s ability to protect the health and safety of its residents.”
That was part of Mayor McGinn‘s response to WSB today, after we requested comment on the situation reported here on Sunday – centering on the encampment’s Central Committee declaring that it was having trouble “preventing the overrun of our community by meth dealers and barred, violent former campers,” blaming police for not supporting camp decisions to evict such people. Our story, meantime, included an incident one week ago in which the SPD report indeed quoted police saying that people on public land had no right to tell others to get off that public land – while also including a would-be evictee claiming they were getting booted for going to police about an alleged crime.
The mayor, meantime, says more police help is in order; the second and final sentence of his reply to us was, “The immediate next step is to increase our police presence through the use of directed patrols from the Southwest Precinct.” We hope to hear something about that when precinct commander Capt. Joe Kessler speaks to the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network on Tuesday night (6:30 pm, SW Precinct, Delridge/Webster); then on Wednesday night, the Highland Park Action Committee, the neighborhood council closest to the encampment, plans a Nickelsville update during its regular monthly meeting (7 pm, HP Improvement Club, 12th/Holden).
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
As the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” nears the second anniversary of its unauthorized yet unchallenged return to the southeastern West Seattle site where it began, its Central Committee says the camp is “overrun” with troublemakers.
This follows a bizarre situation that unfolded at the West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way Southwest site this weekend.
It was first detailed in the WSB Forums, where some members have long been encampment volunteers/donors (and one is a former resident), and then in an open letter signed by Nickelsville’s “Central Committee.”
The Forums post began with a report that the porta-potties at the encampment – their only toilet facilities, since the city has refused requests to hook up water or other utilities – had been removed on Friday, and that the order had come from the camp’s “staff person,” Scott Morrow, over an “internal management issue.”
To check out the situation, we went by Nickelsville Saturday morning and noted the porta-potties back, with the Honey Bucket truck still there; we took this cameraphone photo:
Participants in the Forums discussion who had ties to the camp confirmed the return. We weren’t sure it was a story until we were pointed to this open letter, posted Saturday on the open “official Nickelsville Facebook group” Nickelsville Works and also shared with us by a source who had received it via e-mail:
Yesterday afternoon, per the instruction of We, the Nickelsville Central Committee of 3/20/13, Porta Pottie Service was withdrawn at Nickelsville. IT WILL RETURN THIS AFTERNOON.
The reason for this decision was our inability at Nickelsville in preventing the overrun of our community by meth dealers and barred, violent former campers. Progress was made yesterday, but the situation is still teetering on the brink.
The basis for this problem with barred campers returning and raising havoc is the failure of the Seattle Police Department to treat our community like ANY of the other organized shelters and encampments in Seattle.
(The open letter continues after the jump, along with information we have researched about police/encampment interaction, including a report we have found about one recent specific incident.)
The photo is courtesy of the Rotary Club of West Seattle, which heard today from Linda Nageotte, CEO of Food Lifeline, regarding its proposal for a new facility on the site that currently houses the encampment that calls itself Nickelsville, but primarily about the organization’s main job, as Rotary publicity chair Dave Nichols notes:
She talked about all the great things Food Lifeline conducts to help people who need help. A couple of facts that stuck out:
*97 cents of every dollar is spent on feeding people
*1 in 4 children in our community is at risk of being hungry
For an update on the Nickelsville-site plan, join the Highland Park Action Committee at its meeting tomorrow night. As the closest community council to the encampment, they’ve discussed it more than a few times, and will hear from Food Lifeline tomorrow (Wednesday) night. The meeting’s at 7 pm, Highland Park Improvement Club HQ (12th/Holden), all welcome.
A break in the rain provides a chance for those interested in helping the encampment on West Seattle’s southeastern edge that calls itself Nickelsville. They’ve just issued an invitation for a volunteer cleanup this weekend:
NICKELSVILLE – EVENT – Nickelsville Clean-up Day!
Saturday AND Sunday 1/12 & 1/13 – from 9 am to 3 pm
Help clean-up our Eco Friendly Camp – Free Hot Meal for helping, Friendly Folks, Beautiful Weather, 2 very cute Goats!
*bring your work gloves, boots ‘n tools and come lend a hand*
Nickelsville is located at 7116 W. Marginal Way SW, between 2nd Ave SW and Highland Park Way SW
ADDED FRIDAY NIGHT: For those considering joining in, WSB Forums member and longtime Nickelsville volunteer JoB has elaborated on what needs to be done there – more than what you might assume a “cleanup” to be. Here’s her Forums post.
(WSB photo by Patrick Sand)
Socks are among items often requested for the residents of the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” – and this morning, its residents received more than 270 pairs, courtesy of the Arrowhead Gardens Residents Community. The group’s vice president, Diane Radischat, explains:
The Arrowhead Gardens Residents Community wanted to do something to help those in need. We needed to find a project that would work for anyone living here, something that was useful and most of all affordable to our residents. We decided on a ‘sock drive’ and chose the recipients to be the residents of Nickelsville.
Yesterday was our annual holiday event. We held a brunch and asked everyone to bring a pair of new socks. What a great success! We collected and delivered 271 pairs of socks along with 5 hats and 5 pairs of gloves.
And this morning, Diane and Darrell Orr, Alan Quigley, Lori Pelligrino, Sharon Schaffner, Joe Matthews, and Anne Rutherford, arrived with the special delivery. If you are interested in donations to Nickelsville – WSB Forums members have continued to organize deliveries large and small – most recently, a Christmas tree (read about it here).
Long before this week’s downpour brought an outpouring of help for the West Seattle encampment that calls itself Nickelsville, dozens of volunteers from the Vietnamese-American community had already planned to be there today, as they had been last Thanksgiving too. Late this morning, they were there and busy – serving hot gumbo:
… providing free haircuts:
… and giving free flu shots too:
West Seattle’s Vietnamese Cultural Center coordinated the big event again this year. Its director is Lee Bui, at center in the photo below:
The center is in its seventh year of operation and is open to the public every Saturday, noon-3 pm, at 2236 SW Orchard, across from and to the north of Delridge Home Depot.
Vietnamese Cultural Center director Lee Bui sends word that the center, along with Puget Sound Pharmacy, will bring flu shots, haircuts, and hot food to Nickelsville tomorrow – as they did last Thanksgiving (WSB coverage here). It’s not only for Nickelsville residents, he says, but for others who are low-income/homeless, too – just show up. Along with pharmacist Rosalie Nguyen and Dr. Khanh H. Tran, volunteers will be there offering the service 11 am-1 pm on Thanksgiving Day. Nickelsville is at West Marginal Way SW/SW Highland Park Way.
(Photos taken this morning by WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand)
For a while this midday, it was raining again – just as they’re trying to pump out the floodwaters at the homeless encampment on the southeast edge of West Seattle that calls itself Nickelsville, as it has since it was founded at that site four years ago, the site to which it returned a year and a half ago. After publishing these photos by WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams during Monday’s deluge, we went back this morning to see what’s needed, since many are asking. The campers we talked with said about half the residents had gone to emergency shelters when their tents became uninhabitable in the floodwaters. But even tiny residents are poking around, like Coffee the cat:
You may have heard via our friends at KING 5 News that a pump donated this morning was making progress in clearing out the standing water – before the rain resumed. Here’s what they told WSB they need:
Gas for the existing pump
Another pump, as this pump was donated but has to go back tomorrow morning
Dry blankets and dry bedding
Labor needs are up in the air, as they need to get the standing water out before they can determine what needs to be done
With donated items or any other offers to help, just show up at their main gate, which is off the small parking lot on the southwest side of the triangle of land they are on, at West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way.
SIDE NOTE – NICKELSVILLE’S FUTURE: The water woes are bringing new light to the camp’s situation – a year and a half without either authorization or eviction on a government-owned site. We’re waiting for a reply from Mayor McGinn’s office regarding its stance on what’s happening there. We also checked this morning with Food Lifeline, the nonprofit which is pursuing a possible purchase of the site, as reported here in October. From spokesperson Amy Lee Derenthal: “We’re still in conversations with both the city and state and nothing has changed since we first shared we were interested in the property for our Hunger Relief Center.”
12:59 PM UPDATE: We had asked Mayor McGinn’s office earlier today for comment on the situation and just got the official reply via spokesperson Aaron Pickus: “Our Human Services Department is working with Public Health to help place families with children in shelter tonight. We have opened our severe weather shelter at Seattle Center and are providing bus tickets to residents who wish to access shelter. Our shelters at City Hall and Frye Hotel are also open. Our Public Utilities and Finance and Administrative Services department are also assisting, as appropriate.”
(Photos by Nick Adams for WSB)
As we first showed you during afternoon storm coverage, getting around the West Seattle encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” was like hopscotch this afternoon – and that was even after residents built a walkway.
(From left, Matthew and JS using pallets for a walkway over the water and mud)
WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams went to Nickelsville this afternoon after we learned from a volunteer that the camp was in need of fuel to power generators to provide power to pumps, to deal with the floodwater brought by today’s two-inch deluge.
That’s Nickelsville head of security Steve Westfall, surveying the scene.
A year and a half has now passed since the encampment returned to the triangle of public land at West Marginal Way SW and Highland Park Way SW – a site for which they have neither been officially organized nor told to get out, unlike the encampment’s original stay at the same site in September 2008, which lasted less than a week before police were ordered to go in and evict the campers. Nor, still, do they have running water or other basic services. There has been some talk of moving to another site – if somebody helps find one.
Sheryl shared the photo, along with this report:
Girl Scout Troop 40766 donated a check for $100 to Tent City [“Nickelsville”]. The money was raised last year through cookie sales. Because there is no electricity or running water at Tent City, the girls decided to contribute money toward their expenses. Nickelsville residents pay over $1600 a month just for portable toilets and sanitation.
The girls encourage anyone to also help contribute. Checks can be made out to Nickelsville and mailed to 3229 Harbor Ave SW Seattle, WA 98126. The girls will personally deliver your checks. All donations are tax deductible.
Thank you for caring about our neighbors in need.
A year and a half after the homeless encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” returned to its original site in southeasternmost West Seattle, there’s a new twist: The government-owned land is being eyed by Food Lifeline, which works to get food to people in need and the agencies that serve them. This was first reported last night by our news partners at The Seattle Times; we confirmed it today with Food Lifeline development director Amy Lee Derenthal.
She told WSB via e-mail that the site would be a perfect location for them to expand warehouse and other operations: “Centrally located near major thoroughfares, it will serve as an administrative headquarters, volunteer center and collection, repacking and distribution site for the 300-plus food banks, emergency shelters and meal programs that Food Lifeline serves.” Derenthal says they’ve been looking at the site off and on since 2008, and, “We’ve spent several years looking at land and buildings all over King County. Our board of directors, architects, land developers and staff all agree that the West Marginal Way site is ideally suited for Food Lifeline – from easy access for the dozens of trucks that will move in and out of the site every day to a footprint that allows us to build a comprehensive hunger relief center.”
You probably recall the site was once under consideration as the potential site of a new city jail, a proposal vigorously fought by the Highland Park Action Committee, whose research contended a new jail wasn’t needed – a conclusion eventually also reached by the city and county. Lately, coincidentally, HPAC has been working with the city to see about a new home for “Nickelsville.” So what would happen to the encampment residents if Food Lifeline took over the site and they still hadn’t moved? Derenthal says FL is “committed to working with the city to help craft a solution … It will be 12 to 18 months before we will be ready to build. We’re confident that this will give the Nickelsville residents, homeless advocates and city officials plenty of time to reach a solution.”
What next? Followups to come.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“We have found The Hum.”
So began Highland Park Action Committee co-chair Carolyn Stauffer, opening tonight’s HPAC meeting – and drawing cheers.
(If you don’t know why she said that – read this story first.)
There also was applause for Jonathan Hall from Lafarge, as Carolyn reiterated that the previous evening’s “reconnaissance mission” clarified that the plant was not the source of the persistent noise. Kay Kirkpatrick, who had first sleuthed “The Hum” in early September and was part of last night’s “mission,” stood up and reiterated her appreciation for Lafarge’s interest in community cooperation.
After reconfirming this morning that the sound traces to a ship-offloading operation at the CalPortland dock on the Duwamish River, Carolyn said, she went there, young children in tow, in hopes of talking to them about what had been discovered.
“A really intensive shop-vac” is how she described the equipment that seems to be the noise, and “they do it 24/7 until the ship is emptied out.” She recapped reporting The Hum to the city weeks ago and getting unrealistic responses, then forgetting about it until WSB reports and comments earlier this month revealed how many people were being affected.
“We have sourced it – so the question is what do we do from here?” Carolyn said. She’s in contact with the city, and pointed out that Julie Schickling – who recorded it earlier this month (here’s the WSB story with her original audio clip) – got it at 62 decibels, from her home, at 4:30 this morning. 50 decibels, Carolyn said, is the limit for the industrial zone. However, she said, they’re having trouble getting the city to come record it since they only work morning to mid-afternoon.
Carolyn also sent a copy of the crowd-sourced Google Map created by a WSB reader to the CalPortland manager with whom she spoke. Co-chair Billy Stauffer then said they received a statement just before the meeting, saying CalPortland thanks the community for pointing out the problem, and “they will do everything they can to work with us.” Carolyn added, “The ball is rolling and it’s just a matter of time.” Here’s the statement, from CP’s Steve Penswick:
We learned for the first time today that our operation is a suspected source of the West Seattle Hum. We have begun investigating the situation to confirm these suspicions. We will cooperate with the community and local agencies to take appropriate steps to address the community’s concerns.
“So much for the fish,” somebody cracks from the audience, drawing laughter, as Carolyn removes the microphone that the KING 5 TV crew had asked her to wear.
Meantime, The Hum continued, audible right outside the building – Billy said they had relatives visiting and while the subject hadn’t come up, they stopped and said – “What is that NOISE?”
Several attendees told their stories too of being troubled by the sound, but expressed hope that tracing the source was a great first start.
Two other big topics at the meeting – coverage ahead, starting with Nickelsville, which HPAC has been talking about for months:
(Bride Thelema, aka “TJ,” tosses her bouquet)
Thanks to Kevin McClintic for sharing photos and info about a noontime event today: As previewed in a news release on Friday, Mother’s Day was wedding day for two couples at the eastern West Seattle encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville.” The day also marked exactly a year since the encampment returned to the spot where it began in fall 2008 – at that time, under the administration of its namesake, it was evicted days later, but this time, it’s been allowed to stay, though not allowed to hook up to city services. Kevin says that today at the camp, “the wedding overshadowed the 1 year anniversary by a long shot.” The Christian Crusaders Motorcycle Club of Tacoma officiated; Kevin says most are fully ordained ministers:
TJ’s groom is Charlie Smith; the couple at right, Charlie’s brother Josh Smith and his bride Barbie Houseman. TJ and Charlie are camp residents; Josh and Barbie used to be, but, according to this WSB Forums post, found housing before their baby was born. Before the noontime ceremony, Kevin reports, “The CCMC showed up about 11 AM with about a dozen bikes (mostly Harleys) and a box truck with a trailer. They brought all the food needed, a powerful generator, two propane BBQs, and lots of donations for NV residents consisting of boots, blankets, clothing, and other needed items!” He got them to pose for a group shot before they left around 2:30 pm.
Meantime, on Friday, the city released its “draft investment plan for homeless services” – how it proposes to better appropriate and track tens of millions of dollars spent on those services each year – and is inviting public comment. Read about it here.
It’s time for city leaders to have a “robust discussion” on city policy regarding homeless encampments, City Councilmembers agreed at a committee meeting that just concluded. As first revealed by WSB Forums member JoB in this post last night, the Planning and Land Use Committee was going to consider an amendment to the city’s Comprehensive Plan that would have suggested the city supports them being hosted by religious institutions, only. That drew opposition in public comment at the start of the committee meeting, and when the item finally came up for discussion, its sponsor, Councilmember Tim Burgess, ultimately withdrew it, after he and other members agreed it’s time for that “robust discussion.” They said Mayor McGinn plans to propose legislation this spring (Burgess said he believes the proposal will open the door for “many more encampments”) that might provide the springboard for that discussion.
This issue is of particular note in West Seattle because the encampment that calls itself “Nickelsville” has been in a sort of limbo on city-owned land here for almost a year; the mayor told WSB after the encampment’s arrival that he would not seek to have it evicted, but the city has not granted requests to allow the encampment to connect to utilities, so it continues to operate with porta-potties and without running water.
ADDED 3:10 PM: We’ve obtained from the mayor’s office a copy of his e-mail cited by councilmembers at this morning’s meeting, expressing concern about Burgess’s amendment and saying he will be proposing city legislation soon. Read it here.
By Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
The journey into homelessness is one that most of us can’t imagine taking. Insecurity, no basic services, no resources, no food, no promises — homelessness is comprised of a laundry list of what there isn’t enough of.
West Seattleites have become even more acutely aware of this since the homeless encampment that calls itself Nickelsville moved back to this area. Through West Seattleites working with Nickelsville – including many volunteers who know each other through the WSB Forums – this group of homeless individuals now has faces and names; they are our neighbors.
One person who has been living at Nickelsville has been our neighbor for years, even before he moved into the encampment. Mike Stahl has been a West Seattle resident his entire life: many locals know him from his work as a cashier at McLendon Hardware and from his WSB comments and Forum posts using the screen name “miws.”
Mike was a Morgan Junction resident until May of 2011, when he became a Nickelsville resident. WSB readers have been following Mike’s journey into homelessness beginning with Mike’s move into Nickelsville, chronicled in a story here last May.
Now, we’re re-visiting Mike to get more of his story, and to share his progress through this phase of his life – with help from friends, and more on the way.
Thanks to Kevin McClintic for that photo from the “Nickelsville” encampment’s pancake-breakfast fundraiser Saturday morning at West Seattle Church of the Nazarene. The fundraising total is in: $1,800 plus a $500 pledge, wrote Peggy Hotes on Facebook, saying about 20 people from the encampment pitched in to make it happen. She also writes that’s two-thirds of their monthly expenses. If you’re interested in helping, ongoing requests for encampment needs are often posted by WSB Forum members who volunteer there.
The encampment has now been at a city-owned site in Highland Park for more than nine months, in a sort of legal limbo – it didn’t ask permission, but the city has said it won’t evict them, nor will it provide utility hookups. The Highland Park Action Committee community council has been pressing the city to take a stand one way or the other, with Nickelsville on the agenda for its last several meetings (including presentations by camp residents); HPAC’s next meeting is this Wednesday, 7 pm, at Highland Park Improvement Club HQ (12th/Holden).