HPAC’s response to Council’s Letter to McGinn about Nickelsville

Here is our response to the City Council’s note to Mayor McGinn, here’s what’s going on, and here’s what we have to say about it:

We appreciate the council finally recognizing that the illegal encampment known as Nickelsville is not a good model for how our City should be treating our homeless. While we wish we had seen this letter and strong leadership over two years ago, we applaud that someone in our City government is finally seeing that this encampment has an unsustainable vision. We encourage the Mayor to respond quickly, preferable with a sooner move out date in an effort to honor  the community’s request. We would also like to see the Human Services department pay regular visits to our greenbelt throughout the summer to offer the same outreach, services, and provisions to the people living there.

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Questions for our Mayoral Candidates

We know how Mayor McGinn has dealt with Nickelsville and HPAC- we posed the question via email to the Mayoral candidates to see what they would have done, or will do differently. We understand that politicians don’t answer hypothetical questions, oh well- we asked them anyway. Here’s what we asked each of the candidates:

IF you were Mayor at the time Nickelsville landed at the gateway to our neighborhood over two years ago, what would you have done? Would you, as McGinn did, have ignored the situation festering for the homeless, and the community’s request for leadership? Would you have given the encampment a notice to vacate the site in an effort to find a legal and fair solution for all?
And now, over two years later, if you were Mayor, would you give a move out date to the encampment as the community is requesting, before its third summer camping illegally? Or would you be willing to give the encampment more time at its current location?
…. This is very important for our community to know, but also for every other neighborhood in Seattle to understand what kind of precedent you, as a potential Mayor, would be willing to set for illegal encampments, treatment of the homeless, and treatment of neighborhoods…. we understand that encampment legislation is on the table right now, but that is not what we are asking about, we are just asking how you would have acted given the same situation, and how you would act now.
We just asked yesterday, so it may take a while to get responses… and we are thankful to all the candidates for  their time answering these for our neighborhood. We have heard back from one so far, and will continue to post responses here  (if we get any more!):
Kate Martin: pointed us to a post on her website, saying she will expand on that post overtime, but wanted get the basics of her perspective established.
MEANWHILE, Nickelsville is all over the news, related to either the encampment legislation in City Council, or allegations against Share / Wheel, which is loosely related to Nickelsville… so the political pressure is definitely increasing to deal with the situation at hand differently. Check out these articles if you get a chance, we’ll continue to add more as they come up:

We met with the Mayor…

Last Friday, we met at the Mayor’s office for a little over an hour with Mayor McGinn, Jerry DeGriek, and Deputy Mayor Smith. We took a team of 5 people. We had one neighbor speak to the Mayor about his experience living right on the greenbelt, we had one woman not involved with HPAC directly speak to the Mayor about her experience volunteering at Nickelsville over the last two years and what she’s witnessed as to the quality of the camp over time, and we had one neighbor speak to the Mayor about why moving the encampment before the summer starts would be beneficial to the Mayor and Council, to the neighborhood, to Food Lifeline, and to the homeless camping at Nickelsville. He listened attentively and understands that the situation is not sustainable and is deteriorating.

Two things that we did learn from our meeting that were new: the council can pass the transfer of the property for Food Lifeline WITHOUT passing the encampment legislation. We thought those two things were tied together- so that is essentially a third option on the table. The council could just approve the sale, and NV will have to run its course until Food Lifeline’s deadline, which is probably the fall before they begin their permitting process. We were very vocal about why before summer would be better. The second thing we learned is that it doesn’t sound like anyone is advocating or speaking up at all for his “second option” – making NV permanent where it is, not even Nickelsville. It seems that he put that on the table as an option for them, but no one is advocating for it among the public or within the City Council.

More People to Contact regarding Nickelsville

Aside

Thank you again for all your support and willingness to make your voice heard by the Mayor and City Council through the petition we’ve sent around. To date, we have over 265 signatures on it. As we spoke about at our meeting last night, we have a meeting with the Mayor tomorrow afternoon and have assembled a great team of 5 folks to attend. We are working with a scheduler from Pete Holmes’s office (City Attorney) to meet with him in the next couple of weeks, and will be contacting each member of City Council to meet with as well. I am working on a printable flier that you can use to speak with your neighbors to get more support and should have that finished by the end of the weekend.

We need as many people as possible to come to a public hearing about the encampment legislation on June 25th. This one will be scheduled at an appropriate time so that more people will be available to attend. It will be at 5:30, at City Hall.

In the meantime, we can contact a few more folks- so if you are inclined, and have some time and energy… please think about contacting these folks on behalf of the Highland Park and Riverview Communities:

Each City Council Member:

Sally J. ClarkRichard ConlinNick LicataSally BagshawTim BurgessJean GoddenTom RasmussenMike O’BrienBruce A. Harrell

example of something to write or say:  We’d like to see Food Lifeline purchase the property 7116 W. Marginal Way SW and we encourage you to take action immediately to make that happen.  Highland Park and Riverview neighborhoods would not like the illegal and unsanctioned encampment that calls itself Nickelsville to remain on this site for a third summer….

Department of Planning and Development:

Diane Sugimura, Director. 233-3882

Faith Lumsden, Code Compliance Director. 615-0097

example of something to write or say:  According to Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 23.90.004, the Director of the Department  of Planning and Development has a duty to enforce the Land Use Code explicitly for the benefit of the health, safety and welfare of the general public. We are writing as members of the general public and ask that you immediately enforce SMC Title 23: Land Use Codes where it applies to the property located at 7116 W. Marginal Way SW (Tax Parcel Number 7643400010). We also ask that you enforce those codes laid out in SMC Title 22: Building and Construction Codes, and SMC Title 10: Health and Safety to this same parcel of land.

City Attorney

Pete Holmes, City Attorney.

example of something to write or say:  The Highland Park Action Committee filed a claim on Monday, May 20th asking that the City immediately enforce SMC Title 23: Land Use Codes where it applies to the property located at 7116 W. Marginal Way SW (Tax Parcel Number 7643400010). We also ask that you enforce those codes laid out in SMC Title 22: Building and Construction Codes, and SMC Title 10: Health and Safety to this same parcel of land. We have been asking for political leadership on this matter for two years to no avail. We have had to resort to the beginnings of legal action, please move the illegal encampment that calls itself Nickelsville from this property immediately as it is having a direct and negative effect on our fragile community.

Department of Transportation

Peter Hahn, Director.

example of something to write or say:  As the owner of the property located  at 7116 W. Marginal Way SW, we ask that you stop hosting the illegal and unsanctioned encampment that calls itself Nickelsville immediately as it is  having a direct and negative effect on our neighborhood.

HPAC’s Claim filed with the City

We’ve just come back from the City Clerk’s office, where we filed a claim. We filed for “Declaratory Judgement” as to whether the Land Use Code, the Building and Construction Codes, and the Health and Safety Codes – all part of the Seattle Municipal Codes, apply to the SDOT property at 7116 West Marginal Way (current site of Nickelsville). We filed with a “Permanent Injunction” requiring the City to move the encampment. This asks the court to clarify if that parcel of land exists outside of existing laws governing the entire City, and if it’s not, then we ask that the courts order the city to move the encampment. Our application was submitted with photos and maps documenting the encampment and the specific locations of activity in the West Duwamish Greenbelt. We expect to hear back from them in 3-4 days with a claim number and confirmation, and then there is a 60 day wait period. If we don’t hear back, it opens the door to a lawsuit, which cannot be filed until this claim has been submitted… so the wheels of legal action are starting to turn, as of today.

Our petition has been signed by over 200 people, and is the number one issue City Council is hearing about from citizens right now- it is this type of political pressure that seems to carry more weight than any legal action. We hope to keep increasing the signatures  until Wednesday’s Committee meeting. If you send it around, please note that it can be signed anonymously if anyone would prefer that.

We also strongly encourage anyone who can to attend the Committee meeting on Wed, public comments will be towards the beginning, so you don’t have to commit the entire 2 hours to it, just from 2 to 2:30 or so, and I think signing up to speak is first come/first serve, and happens about 15 minutes prior to the meeting. The main thing to point out, for us- is that we would prefer a move out date before the summer- whereas the City and Food Lifeline’s move out date is probably closer to the fall. We need to explain why that difference is important for our neighborhood. The other important thing to point out is why this is a bad location for a permanent encampment- proximity to services being a huge reason. If this becomes permanent, they will bring in water and make the site a more livable and healthy space for encampment, complete with over-site and management-so those are moot points.

We will be discussing next steps at our monthly HPAC meeting, which is this Wednesday night, at 7 pm at the Highland Park Improvement Club on 12th and Holden.

HPAC’s next steps regarding Nickelsville

We just started a petition to send to Mayor McGinn and the members of our City Council. It’ll take 30 seconds to sign and pass on, and can be found here: HPAC’s petition
If you want, print out the petition and go door to door, let me know when you’re finished via email (hpacchair@gmail.com) and I’ll come pick it up.
Please pass this link on to anyone you know who owns property in the city, or to anyone that supports a better solution for the homeless. The Mayor’s actions to date have repercussions for everyone. We appreciate all the support we’ve gotten on this, we have a lot of irons in the fire right now. We are working on legal papers to file and are focusing the next few weeks on a more political route while all this legislation is coming to a head in City Council.
We are meeting with Council President Sally Clark’s aide this afternoon, and plan to meet with the Mayor at his office next Friday. We hope to have as many signatures as possible by Wednesday, May 22nd. That day there is Meeting of Nick Licata’s Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee at Seattle City Council from 2-4 where he’ll be presenting encampment legislation. Anyone who can make it to that, it would be great to try to have some community to encourage a change to the current situation. That night we have our regularly scheduled HPAC meeting, where we will discuss next steps. Join us at 7pm, Highland Park Improvement Club on 12th and Holden.
This is why the petition is important: 
If you support a better solution for the homeless, and/or own property in the city of Seattle, the Mayor is setting a precedent that may have repercussions for you: an unsanctioned homeless camp has been squatting at the intersection of West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way illegally for two years with the Mayor and Council’s full knowledge, is about to start its THIRD summer, and the Mayor has presented an option to make it permanent. The encampment has no running water or sewer hookup, there has been no public comment period, and no community engagement initiated by the city. We would like to tell the Mayor and City Council that they cannot treat our neighborhoods and citizens this way, and they cannot ignore our pleas for political leadership any longer. Two years is too long to ignore the Highland Park and Riverview neighborhoods, two years is too long to let this encampment exist without proper living conditions. If the city turns a blind eye to this even one more day, the neighborhood deserves to be informed and a public review process should begin immediately- just as would be done for any other neighborhood in Seattle. The City is dangerously close to setting a precedent for encampments to squat illegally anywhere in the city for years at a time with no public input, no permits, no public health code requirements, no fire code requirements, no water, no sanitary sewer, no over-site, no management, and no services to help the homeless. Please sign this petition if you would like to see the Mayor and City Council act immediately to end this poor treatment of Seattle neighborhoods and poor treatment of its homeless: they have been ignoring the situation for years.
and it asks the Mayor and Council to:
Move Nickelsville before the start of summer, or begin a public review process for the Highland Park and Riverview neighborhoods immediately. It is not our job to come up with a solution, but it is our job to tell you that you have a duty to enforce the Land Use Code, and the encampment is having a direct negative effect on our community. We are asking that you, our elected officials, come up with a better solution immediately.
Thank you again for all your support, and for sharing the petition link far and wide.

No Word from the City about Nickelsville…

We sent a letter to the Mayor and members of the City Council on April 2 requesting a move out date for Nickelsville, it can be found here. We asked that they give us a date by May 13th (today) to give the residents a month’s time to move out by June 13th. To date we have not heard back from anyone other than Councilman Conlin, who said:

Thank you for the message. I appreciate the concerns and problems that you face, and think your suggested remedy makes sense. Encampments are inherently unstable and are not part of getting people back into housing and full participation in the community.
We contacted the mayor’s office last week to request a meeting as a last ditch effort, and he couldn’t fit us in until May 22nd. We replied to the Mayor’s office, with a reminder that the ball is in his court to act at this point, and that we are not waiting for legislative action from City Council any longer. The Mayor has donated 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.
The Real Change Newspaper’s Rosette Royale has just written a great article on the current inaction / stand still, it can be found here.