If you’ve eaten at Westward or Ivar’s recently, purchased hardware at Dunn Lumber, biked on the Burke-Gilman trail, wandered east of Gas Works or tried driving along Northlake Way, then you have surely seen the encampment of RVs, in various states of disrepair, lining the north side of the street. Perhaps what first drew your eye was the enormous amount of trash piled up outside many of the vehicles. Or perhaps you witnessed the aftermath of one of the several fires that have taken place there – if not the actual fire itself.
We all know that the problem of homeless camps is widespread in the city, and the scene down on Northlake is not exceptional. I’m sure that there’s no shortage of complaints to the city council, but the squeaky wheel gets the oil – if there’s any oil to be had. One resident recently shared with me her interactions with Alex Pedersen (representing the U District and the southern part of Wallingford). What follows is a summary of those interactions, which I offer up to those who may have an interest specifically in the Northlake encampment or to those who may be contemplating lodging some complaints themselves. The hopeful bottom line, at least in terms of Northlake, is that some help may be on the way in the short term.
The Call for Help
The email to Alex Pedersen from the resident was succinct:
I am a long time resident of lower Wallingford. Until recently, I was able to walk the path along Northlake Way. Now that pathway has become impassable due to dozens of people living in and sprawling out of decrepit RVs, vans and cars. I would like to request that these RVs and other homeless encampments be removed along Northlake Way. Please let me know if I should petition any other city or county agencies with this request.
The reply from Pedersen’s office blamed the Durkan administration for failures to deal with these kinds of problems, but voiced hope that things might change under the Harrell administration. He suggested a number of people to contact about the Northlake Way RV problem:
- Monisha Harrell, Deputy Mayor for public safety
- Tiffany Washington, Deputy Mayor for homelessness & housing
- Adrian Diaz, Chief of Seattle Police Department
- Kristen Simpson, Director of Seattle Department of Transportation (where the parking enforcement officers are located now)
He also asked that the resident CC one of this staff people, Malik Davis, and interestingly, Sara Nelson, the new at-large member of the Council and owner of Fremont Brewing.
The resident duly emailed these folks with her concerns, and received a reply from Idris Beauregard, Deputy Director – People, Culture & Community Branch at Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). He said, in part: “Clean up efforts are the responsibility of several City departments and over the past few years, there is increased incidence of large Recreational Vehicles (RVs) parked in the public right of way for prolonged periods of time which have resulted in significant accumulation of trash and waste on sidewalks and public property. Circumstances leading to individuals living in RVs are complex and multi-layered and should be appropriately considered as part of the City’s broader homelessness strategies.”
In terms of specific actions the city would be taking on Northlake Way, Beauregard had this to say: “To help reduce litter directly associated with the RVs in area, on October 11, 2021, SPU activated proactive weekly litter routes along Northlake Way and continues to collect litter near and from RV occupants. The routes will stay active until the RV’s are moved from the area to date more than 25,000 pounds of trash and debris have been removed. An RV remediation clean is scheduled for February 8, 2022.”
I can say from personal observation that city contractors seem to be working down on Northlake quite a bit, but they appear to be overwhelmed by the amount of trash that the RV folks generate. You may be wondering what an “RV remediation clean” is. This is an actual city program described in some detail in this PDF. The program falls to SPU to execute, and it has as its goal “to deliver effective service options for garbage collection at unsanctioned homeless encampments.” In practice, RV inhabitants are asked to leave voluntarily. Then, to quote Beauregard, “Typically, the vast majority of RV occupants voluntarily comply and move their vehicle by the clean-up day. The team then comes in to remove garbage and debris left behind, and tows any RVs are that are abandoned, or are inhabitable (burned out). On most occasions, outreach services have been on site to provide outreach support.” No word on what happens to RV owners who refuse to leave. Perhaps we’ll find out on February 8.
The Squeaky Wheel
While writing and reading articles like this might be a step towards finding solutions, not much changes as a result. Beauregard did suggest some simple, concrete steps that you can take to get trash and illegally parked RVs removed:
- Trash, litter and debris can be reported to the SPU illegal dumping Hotline at (206) 684-7665 or electronically by visiting this website.
- To report parking-related issues related such as abandoned vehicles and RVs in the right of way, use SPD’s non-emergency number at (206) 625-5011 and press option number six.