News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Seattle is placing fences under bridges to prevent homeless camps from settling there. Settlements cause fires and other safety issues-Seattle Times

2/6/18, "Seattle is putting fences under its bridges to keep [homeless] campers out--and some say that’s wrong," Seattle Times, Scott Greenstone

"Seattle is putting fences under some bridges where homeless camps set up. The city says it’s to prevent fires, but some City Council members are pushing back.

When Mike O’Brien, Ballard’s Seattle City Council member, biked up the Ballard Bridge last Thursday night, he counted five tents camped under the north ramp.

He went back Tuesday, and those tents were gone. The underpass was fenced off, and workers were drilling holes to put up a 10-foot-high spiked fence to prevent homeless people from camping there. 

The price tag on this fencing: $100,000 for both sides of Northwest Leary Way at the Ballard Bridge. That money, O’Brien reasoned, could have housed those five households in apartments for a year. 

“So where are they now?” O’Brien said, with construction under the bridge behind him almost drowning him out. “They didn’t go into housing. They likely didn’t move to North Dakota. They’re probably three blocks from here, next to some business.”

O’Brien’s question underscores the ongoing public debate about where the estimated 5,500 unsheltered homeless people in King County should be allowed to camp.

As Seattle has opened six authorized tent camps in the past two-plus years and deployed a team to coax people out of hundreds of unauthorized camps, it also has increasingly used fences and other infrastructure to close off some public spaces. 

Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) installed bike racks in Belltown last year, and told The Stranger in December they were explicitly designed to keep people from camping there.

Backlash has gradually built among City Council members. In December, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda wrote a letter to SDOT’s director criticizing the use of bike racks to discourage camping. 

“Continuing to advance the notion that hostile architecture should be used to inconvenience those who are unsheltered is misguided,” Mosqueda wrote in the letter.

The agency plans to remove the Belltown bike racks in the next four to six weeks, SDOT said in a statement.

But SDOT does not plan to halt construction of the fences in Ballard because they are important for safety, the agency said — a position shared by at least one Seattle business group.

“SDOT’s focus is to maintain the structural integrity of the bridge and keep our communities and commuters safe, especially following a series of reported fires,” SDOT said in a statement."


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