May 2, 2012, Vol: 19, No: 18
Mayor Mike McGinn plans to propose legislation that would allow private property owners to host encampments like Nickelsville.
For years, the city of Seattle was required by a court order to allow encampments like Nickelsville, but the decade-old court order expired in March.
Now, if the city council supports it, there may be a law giving anyone the right to host a tent city.
The mayor will likely present his legislation in a few weeks, Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith told “Real Change News” April 24.
Last fall, anticipating the court order’s expiration, the city passed an ordinance allowing churches to host tent cities of no more than 100 people for up to six months with few restrictions.
That left out the private, nonreligious property owners and organizations that frequently host tent cities.
Under the proposed legislation, private land owners and groups will likely need a temporary-use permit in order to host a tent city.
The permitting process will not be as extensive or as costly as other temporary-use permits, said Bill Kirlin-Hackett, director of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, who has met with the city to discuss this legislation.
Tent cities were previously allowed under a 2002 court order from a lawsuit involving the city, share/wheel and El Centro de la Raza.
Before the 2002 court order, El Centro de la Raza was fined $17,000 by the city for hosting a tent city.
The new laws for churches are much more fluid than the regulations outlined in the court order, Kirlin-Hackett said.
There is no limit on the number of encampments, and they can occupy a church property for six months instead of three.
“If share wanted to start five more tent cities tonight, they could do it,” he said.
If passed, the new legislation will fill a hole left when the 10-year court order expired, and Seattle will become even more flexible and open to tent cities than it ever has been, Kirlin-Hackett said.
Seattle City Council has to approve the law, which Kirlin-Hackett does not consider a sure thing.
“I don’t think the whole council is quite where we hope it will be,” he said.
Councilmember Nick Licata said he will likely support the new law.
“This is the legislation we’ve been waiting for for months,” he said.
Not everyone appears sold on it.
Last month, Councilmember Tim Burgess proposed changing the city’s comprehensive plan to limit tent cities to religious organizations.<< Back to Article Details