Claiming their trust in the mayor's office has been "shaken" and asking the city to "put the brakes on this process immediately," Ballard business groups are throwing a fit about a possible new homeless encampment in their neighborhood. The letter from business groups to the mayor was first reported today by My Ballard, where last week's announcement that there might be a new encampment in the neighborhood drew nearly 200 comments.
Things got predictably absurd:
"While not all homeless are drunks and addicts, some are and this brings issues to a family area. A campground wouldn’t be accepted in that location, so why a homeless encampment? Think it is time to sell and get the heck out of ballard."
"[The site] is in fact directly adjacent to apartment buildings and barely 20 feet from town houses. These are homes. Families live here. Children live here. This site is separated from people’s homes by an embankment and a fence, that’s it. I live in an apartment building right behind it and I am livid. How is this an appropriate site? Because it’s not next to where you live?"
"The real brilliance… put them between a liquor store and bar! Brilliant thinking! Better yet, let’s put them right at the gateway of an historic treasure like the Locks, one of our most visited sites."
"This area of Market will go to total s$#t if this happens for years. Like a walking dead episode filmed among million dollar view homes near the water that are paying massive amounts of property taxes. The Kiro7 article has a quote from a homeless person saying it will be nice to be by the water living... and that’s what Ballard is all about. I only speak for myself but I have spent 20 years working hard and saving every penny to have the privilege of living near water in one of the most expensive, and beautiful areas in Seattle. THAT is what Ballard should and has been for decades all about. Hard working people."
Ohhh boy. We have to be approaching parody at this point, right? If only this were the first time.
The city council passed legislation earlier this year authorizing three new city-sanctioned homeless encampments. The encampments will be self-governed and managed by nonprofits, and the law requires that camps offer case management services to residents. The camps can be in one location for one year with the potential of getting a one-year renewal.
Homeless encampments are not a permanent solution to homelessness, but they're a safer alternative to riskier camping locations. Even nervous doubters on the city council came around to the idea this year, after dozens of homeless people died "outside or by violence."
The mayor's office announced seven potential sites for new encampments last week, which you can see on this map. (Click to enlarge.)
The letter signed by the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, the Central Ballard Residents Association, the Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth, and the North Seattle Industrial Association complains that the mayor's office didn't seek their input on the possible site. They also take issue with the site itself:
The establishment of transitional encampments is a critical issue for Ballard’s commercial and industrial businesses as well as the residential stakeholders in our community. For the following reasons, we believe the site at 2826 NW Market Street is particularly inappropriate for a transitional encampment:
1. It is only 5 short blocks from Adams Elementary School and Ballard Community Center.
2. It abuts directly against a high density residential area, with townhomes and apartments just a few feet away.
3. Market Street serves as a gateway to and from historic downtown Ballard and the Chittenden Locks and Golden Gardens. This route is very busy for local residents, Seattle visitors and tourists who travel through this gateway corridor by car, bicycle and foot.
4. Ballard already accommodates more than its fair share of the city’s homeless population, including hundreds of vehicle residents. Establishing this encampment even temporarily will only expand the problem we already face from Fremont/Ballard to the southeast, under the Ballard Bridge, through downtown Ballard and Ballard Commons Park, all the way out to the Locks.
5. Ballard is already underserved by the Seattle Police Department, despite its massive growth in recent years and significant public safety and nuisance issues.
The owner of Red Mill Burgers told KIRO the news was "like a bombshell dropped on us." My Ballard also has a photo of a sign posted by the Sloop Tavern complaining that "an encampment next door will not only harm our business but that of all of our neighbors." The note asks residents to join the tavern owners in asking the city to find somewhere else to site the camp.
Just, you know, not in their backyard.
I've got a request in to the mayor's office for comment.
UPDATE: Mayoral spokesperson Viet Shelton says the mayor's office saw the announcement of seven potential encampment locations as "the first step in our public process." Today, the mayor sent the Ballard business groups this response, in which he appears to be standing his ground.
In the letter, Murray says "Seattle and other West Coast cities are currently facing a crisis in the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in our community." He reminds the business groups that any organization that wants to operate an encampment under the new rules must have at least one public meeting about the site and will have to form an ongoing committee to connect the community with city staff and the encampment operators.
"I am committed to providing support services to our residents experiencing homelessness," Murray writes, "and creating a more organized model for managing tent encampments."
Business groups will meet with city staff tomorrow.