Let me correct some misinformation that has been circulating: I do not support a policy that allows camping on school grounds, sidewalks or maintained park spaces. I am in favor of revamping our protocols to clearly define unsafe and unsuitable areas, such as schools, sidewalks and maintained parks — and we should allow people to stay in areas that are not problematic while we work to get them housing and services as quickly as possible.
I read the revised ordinance legislation and it now clearly states:
Unsafe and unsuitable areas should be defined with input from neighborhood residents and businesses. In coordination with the Pathways Home and other housing strategies ramping up, this policy would expire in two years. The legislation has evolved significantly from what was introduced.
“Public space” means any area within the City limits which is owned, leased, maintained, controlled, or managed by the City, and does not include Public Development Authorities, privately owned land, public schools and colleges, the University of Washington, the Port of Seattle, or entities formed under the authority of RCW 35.21.730, et seq., RCW 36.100 or RCW Ch.36.102.However, to Councilmember O'Brien's statement about "maintained parks," the ordinance says this:
Unsafe location” means a public space that poses imminent danger of harm to individuals residing in that location or to the general public. The danger of harm must be created by the existence of the specific outdoor living space at that particular location and not generalized danger of harm common to all who are unsheltered. Unsafe locations include, but are not limited to, rights-of-way in industrial areas actively used for transporting people or goods and for providing ingress and egress to real property.What is the difference between "maintained parks" and "improved areas of City parks?" I'll try to call his office and ask because that would seem to be the loophole that would allow people to camp in parks. And not just the homeless. I could see tourists thinking it was okay to camp, for free, in city parks. After all, they are technically homeless in the city.
“Unsuitable location” means a public space that has a specific public use that is substantially impeded as a result of an outdoor living space in that location. Improved areas of City parks, including restored natural areas or natural areas actively undergoing restoration, and public sidewalks in front of houses and dwelling units are per se unsuitable. Sidewalks in commercial areas are prohibited to sitting and lying during certain hours under SMC 15.48.040.
This is an important issue to schools because several schools bank up right to parks.
I have a call into his office to clarify terms.