Highland Park Action Committee’s response for permit extension for Camp Second Chance (CSC)

March 4, 2019

Jason Johnson, Interim Director
Department of Human Services
City of Seattle
Seattle Municipal Tower – 58th fl.
700 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98124-421

Re:  Camp Second Chance permit extension

Director Johnson:

In response to requests that Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) support a permit extension for Camp Second Chance (CSC) at the camp’s current location at 9701 Myers Way South in the West Seattle neighborhood of Highland Park, HPAC’s executive committee considered the matter and has come to the decision, supported by our membership, not to endorse or advocate for another permit extension at the Myers Way location. 

Also contributing to this decision is the input from residents of other neighborhoods near Camp Second Chance, including unincorporated King County, Highline, Top Hat, and White Center.

We did not come to this decision easily. We know that homelessness is an urgent issue that affects our neighbors and our communities.

In order to understand the wishes of our neighborhood and unincorporated neighborhoods that surround the CSC site now, HPAC has gone through another significant community engagement process over the last few months.

In December 2018, HPAC leadership received three emails requesting that HPAC support a permit extension for Camp Second Chance at the existing Myers Way location.  Requests were from Cinda Stenger, a lay leader at Alki UCC and CSC Community Advisory Committee member, from S. Denise Henrikson, a volunteer at Camp Second Chance and member of Westside Interfaith Network (WIN), and from Martin Westerman, Director of Seattle Green Spaces Coalition (SGSC).

This prompted HPAC’s leadership to hold a listening session at our January 23, 2019 meeting to understand the wishes of neighbors, stakeholders, community groups, and businesses in order to inform HPAC’s response to the permit extension. Over 40 people attended, with a significant number of the attendees being from Camp Second Chance. Opening and closing statements were made by Eric Davis, Camp Second Chance Manager, Martin Westerman, Director of Seattle Green Spaces Coalition (SGSC), Cinda Stenger, a lay leader at Alki UCC on the Camp Second Chance Community Advisory Committee, Barbara Dobkin, a leader with North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, and me, Gunner Scott, acting chair of HPAC.

What we came away with was that Camp Second Chance has been a model encampment, particularly for individuals working on their sobriety, and there was support for the encampment in the room.  There was also opposition, most strenuously expressed by residents living closest to CSC who are the most negatively affected by CSC and the unsanctioned camps, RVs, and rubbish collecting around the area.

Many spoke about the City not honoring repeated requests to deal with those unsanctioned encampments, RVs, and rubbish accumulations that increased significantly over the last two years since Camp Second Chance was established. RVs were originally staged on Myers Way in 2015 for the RV safe lot that did not happen, but were allowed to remain while the attendant issues with trash, broken furniture, and car parts strewn along Myers Way were not addressed adequately or timely.  

Despite continual requests from HPAC since 2016 for enforcement action against unsanctioned encampments and RVs, it was only 3 months ago that the greenbelt between SR-509 and Myers Way was cleared, including removal of 190 tons of trash. 

Another matter is the ongoing lack of coordination between SPD and the King County Sheriff’s office when law enforcement issues arise in the Myers Way area.  In 2016, HPAC requested a memorandum of understanding between SPD and King County, however, that request is still unfulfilled according to the memo dated Feb 26, 2019 from Jackie St. Louis, Unsheltered Crisis Response:

“Request Summary

Request 3 – an MOA or some agreement to address the jurisdictional issues between Seattle Police and the King County Sheriff’s office, is a work product that we’ve desired for a long time.  I want to thank George for scheduling meeting last October {2016} with the King County Sheriff, SPD, and KC Councilmembers McDermott and Fitzgibbon, and Deputy KC Exec Fred Jarrett.  But if we could *formalize* what came out of that meeting, I think that would be useful.


George Scarola led during that time the community engagement for the City’s unsheltered homeless response. In the Myers Way neighborhood George brought together community to discuss a range of issues which included law enforcement and safety.

We confirmed with George that the October [2016] meeting did not happen in the configuration described above. We do know that the topic was discussed at several community meetings with representatives from SPD and the King County Sheriff’s office. During those meetings both SPD and King County 911 dispatch relayed that from their experience calls are efficiently routed. The experience of community is that reporting crime and requesting help on the border is clunky and confusing.

We cannot confirm action around creating a MOU.”

Additionally, how future unsanctioned encampments, RVs, rubbish clean up, and law enforcement will be handled and by whom remains unclear and unresolved.

In addition to our community listening session, we also provided an anonymous survey to which the Highland Park / Riverview community responded and informed the HPAC executive committee of the community’s position on the CSC permit extension request.

Of those surveyed and living in the Highland Park / Riverview neighborhoods, of which HPAC represents, 57% did not support an extension for Camp Second Chance at the Myers Way location.

Survey respondent comments included:

“It is time for another neighborhood to host. No one neighborhood should have to shoulder the burden. The concept of this camp can be moved to another location.”

“Hosting should be a shared responsibility by all neighborhoods in the city and the timeline should be respected for all neighborhoods hosting.”

“The illegal encampment and RV surrounding the area should be considered as issues deriving from the authorized encampment. They should be addressed effectively before any extension. Also, it is unfair for the neighborhood to host an encampment for so long.”

“Do not let the City set a precedent of perpetually extending any camp’s stay at one location. The City should keep their promise to the surrounding neighborhoods. The goal is to get C2C residents HOUSED.”

Of those respondents supporting the CSC permit extension, the majority (58%) were residents located beyond the neighborhoods immediately around the Myers Way site.

Comments included:

“This is a model community that is working and changing people’s lives.”

“Camp Second Chance is seen as a model in addressing the housing crisis – it provides people with safety and community within the constraints of RV living. The fact is people are homeless and live how they can – if there’s a model that works well until this crisis is solved, I think it should be supported. That said, the other residents near Camp Second Chance need to be supported by police and other infrastructure to minimize impacts on their lives and property by unsanctioned homeless”

We also agree that Camp Second Chance appears to be a model that works when there is no other option, but an outdoor tents/sheds encampment is not ideal. The model also highlights the need for more peer-led sober transitional living programs.

But we feel that this “support’ for Camp Second Chance remaining at Myers Way is actually best summed up in the letter sent from Martin Westerman, Director of Seattle Greenspaces Coalition:

“Our SGSC question is, what conditions would HPIC/HPAC need satisfied to keep the camp there?  Moving it to another West Seattle location may only create the same challenges we’re facing now.  My impression is that, intentionally or reluctantly, CSC draws homeless folk seeking food and drink, and thereby attracts unauthorized homeless campers to the forest.  Are there other factors at play for you and other neighbors?  Rather than repeat the problems in another West Seattle location, we’d like to solve them at Myers.”

Over the past 10 years, Highland Park has hosted three encampments (Nickelsville on two occasions and Camp Second Chance since 2016) and in 2015 served as a staging area for a proposed safe lot for individuals residing in recreational vehicles. Additionally, the presence of RVs along Myers Way Southwest and the surrounding neighborhood has not been adequately addressed, and those RVs attract more derelict vehicles of all kinds.

This burden has impacted not only our neighborhood, but the neighborhoods immediately south of us along the city limit. No other neighborhood in Seattle has willingly or unwillingly taken on as much and to the same extent.

Although Camp Second Chance has been sanctioned by the City since 2017, it has actually been located in the neighborhood for the last 2 years and 8 months when it moved from Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila to Myers Way on or about July 18, 2016, as reported by Camp Second Chance to the West Seattle blog:

“Until July 18, the camp had a legal site at Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila. They were there for three months, as per their agreement with the church, and have been invited to move back there in January. However, they were unable to find another host site in time, and they wanted to honor their three month agreement with the church, so they have moved to a Seattle city owned lot that has been unused and vacant for several years. They are continuing to search for a new permitted site sponsored by a religious organization and plan to move as soon as they have located one.”[1]

After 8 months of being an unsanctioned encampment at the Myers Way site, the City of Seattle officially permitted the site in March 2017. On June 7, 2018, the Human Services Department extended the permit allowing Camp Second Chance to remain at 9701 Myers Way South for an additional 12 months, until March 2019. 

We agree with sentiment from the 2015 Director’s Report Transitional Encampment Interim Use Amendments:

“…to permit transitional encampments for homeless individuals as an interim use…”

Therefore, the Highland Park Action Committee requests:

  1. That the City of Seattle honor its commitment to our neighbors in the area and follow the law;

    1. City of Seattle’s Ordinance 124747 only allows a sanctioned encampment at a site for up to two years, and then a 12 month minimum lapse is required before another encampment can be located on the same site.  
    1. Accordingly, Camp Second Chance must be relocated to another site by the end March 2019, but not in any part of the Highland Park area including Myers Way or any another location in the South Delridge area
    1. A 3-year moratorium on any future encampments in our neighborhood is also requested.
  • That Camp Second Chance remain the same model at a new location; and,

  • That the Myers Way parcel be moved into the Seattle Parks Dept portfolio this year to be land banked.

If the City does not honor the law, then the City is doing a disservice now and setting a precedent for future negotiations.  Other neighborhoods as well will not embrace a sanctioned encampment knowing that the City of Seattle does not honor its commitments.

As we have previously mentioned in other letters regarding sanctioning of encampments or RV lots in our neighborhood, HPAC’s position remains that Highland Park has disproportionately borne the responsibility of accommodating the city’s responses to homelessness, hosting 3 large encampments and absorbing the increase in related crime over the preceding decade.

Since 2016, the Highland Park Action Committee (HPAC) has sought resolution from the City of Seattle and specifically the Human Services Department on a number of items including:

1) The adoption of a set of best practices (manifested as our “Neighborhood Protocols for Sanctioned Encampments” which have been provided to the department on many past occasions and are again enclosed below) by which the City of Seattle will abide prior to sanctioning an encampment in any given neighborhood.

2) That the Finance and Administrative Services Department accelerate the relinquishment of the Myers Way Parcels to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

3) A plan resolving jurisdictional issues that arise from the presence of sanctioned and unsanctioned encampments at the interface of city, unincorporated county, and state land.

4) A 10% increase in the number of police officers assigned to the Southwest Precinct Patrol to help mitigate the increased burden on our current resources. (At 124 Full-Time Equivalents for budget year 2018, the Southwest Precinct Patrol Budget Control Level is the lowest in the city.)

Three years have passed and to date, NONE of these requests have been enacted or fully acknowledge. Instead, the methods that City agencies have employed have lacked transparency, accountability, and eroded neighborhood trust in City government.

As a reminder in 2007, Highland Park and Myers Way were both identified as potential sites for a jail, which the neighborhood was not in favor of and organized against. Later in 2008, the first Nickelsville encampment started in Highland Park at the Glass Yard site. It was eventually moved, but then returned in 2011 where it grew too large and unmanageable. 

There is a long documented history of the City either being unable or unwilling to address the safety concerns including: from not being able to evict the problem campers from Nickelsville, to those who were evicted moving into the Greenbelt across the street, to increase in petty crime in the neighborhood. Some neighbors expressed feeling trapped in an unsafe situation and ignored by City officials during the time Nickelsville was in Highland Park. All sentiments echoed by the current situation on Myers Way from the unsanctioned encampments to the RVs.

It cannot be stressed enough that Highland Park continues to suffer from a historical lack of public investment and our neighborhood has seen no commensurate redress while we have hosted these encampments.

I welcome any questions and we look forward to seeing a swift plan for Camp Second Chance’s relocation by the end of the month.


Gunner Scott



CC: Mayor Jenny A. Durkan
Seattle City Council Members


[1] UPDATE: New encampment on Myers Way: ‘Camp Second Chance’, West Seattle Blog, Accessed 2/20/2019 https://westseattleblog.com/2016/07/new-encampment-on-myers-way-camp-second-chance/

Published by HPAC

Neighbors Building Community: Advocating for Highland Park, Riverview and South Delridge. An all volunteer group made up of neighbors, local business, and community organizations advocating for neighborhood infrastructure, community resources, and livability.

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