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.
It sucks that it’s gotten so bad down there. As far as places to live out of an RV in the city, that stretch of road is a pretty good spot. But with burnt out vehicles and garbage everywhere, it’s now a hazard…and not a great place to walk.
I do find it interesting that Alex Pedersen was apparently very quick to respond to this person’s complaint, since he’s been missing in action on so many other issues.
It’s also worth noting that the businesses down there fought against having a safe sidewalk installed, claiming they valued maintaining all the unused parking spaces instead. I wonder how they feel about that decision now that the parking spaces are filled with RVs.
The sidewalk would probably be filled with tents. So lose-lose.
I hope this helps. I recall a discussion in the group/publication about 6 years ago when a similar problem existed. I no longer go to Ivars or walk the trail due to fear I feel by doing so
I assisted on a cleanup effort down there, and I witnessed a little slice of hell. I saw a man exchange a handgun for something in a paper bag. Other men were lined up outside an RV waiting for…something. Young women were doing tricks. Randos were shooting up right in front of Westward. The brush along the BG trail is filled with “flying toilets” (plastic bags filled with feces flung from the back of the vehicles). Whatever you are imagining it’s probably worse.
Thanks for doing that. The way I remember it, the last time around, Northlake got cleaned up while they were getting ready for the Northlake shed village, likely because it’s at best a bad image problem for them to co-exist, and there was some relevant history with preceding Ballard location. By that time, Northlake had gotten bad enough that the police were wary of going in. It’s very serious job getting a place like that cleaned up, without anyone getting killed or seriously hurt. Since then, the city lost control of the Northlake village; don’t know what the status is now but that may have some bearing on the city’s responsibilities for the surrounding area.
Good. But the city needs to stay on top of it and not allow them to return. If these tweakers don’t voluntarily move their RVs they need to be impounded and destroyed. It’s ridiculous that we are allowing them to take over the city. The Northlake encampment has had numerous fires and stolen vehicles have been found down there.