Welcome to the inaugural edition of Where They Stand, a series in which I ask our panel of nine Seattle city council members and Mayor Jenny Durkan to weigh in on the issues.
For each installment, I’ll give your panelists up to 100 words to explain their political position on the day’s question. We may ask about bills making their way through the council committees. Or we’ll ask about something in the news that hasn't yet been brought up in the council chambers. Suggestions? Shoot me an email at email@example.com.
For today’s edition of Where They Stand, we’re looking back to a story Heidi Groover reported just before the holidays on the use of hostile architecture to prevent homeless encampments. Groover found that the Seattle Department of Transportation spent $6,700 to install bike racks under a Belltown bridge to prevent homeless people from setting up camp in the area. As Sara Rankin of Seattle University explained, SDOT’s use of bike racks could fall under a tactic known as "hostile architecture.” Think spikes, fences, benches and other obtrusive objects meant to make public space inhospitable for people without homes.
The question: Do you support SDOT's use of bike racks in Belltown to prevent homeless encampments? What are your general thoughts on Seattle’s use of “hostile architecture?”
The answers: I am sorry to say that participation on this first run was dismal. Only four panelists responded by our deadline of noon today, and only three chose to comment. Fortunately, we accept late submissions! We'll update this post if any panelists who have yet to send us an answer does so by the end of the week. Here is the breakdown of our answers:
Teresa Mosqueda, Position 8, easily takes the cake for the quickest response. She actually wrote a letter to former SDOT Director Scott Kubly condemning the use of bike racks to prevent homeless encampments the day after Groover's story went live. Mosqueda asked SDOT to provide" the information that informed your decision to place these bike racks at this location." Her office sent the letter to The Stranger in response to our question. Here's a snippet:
As a public health advocate, I strongly support using our public places for active use, but it is unacceptable that bike infrastructure funding be expressly used for displacing those who are unsheltered ... Further, continuing to advance the notion that hostile architecture should be used to inconvenience those who are unsheltered is misguided.
Lisa Herbold, District 1, initially responded:
It’s an inappropriate use of city resources to put bike racks at a location where there’s not a request from bikers to erect bike racks, or some established need. Bike racks and other city furniture should be placed in locations where there is a demonstrated need for those facilities, not in places where those facilities are not an established need.
When asked if she wanted to say anything about hostile architecture in general, Herbold added:
The use of spikes on fences, for example, is replacing human interaction with permanent, non-negotiable solutions. That’s appropriate, I think, when trying to deter criminal behavior. Homelessness is not criminal behavior and can only be helpfully addressed with human interaction.
Mike O'Brien, District 6:
Nobody should be living outdoors, but the solution is to have more shelter and housing for people. I oppose the use of hostile architecture, and look forward to seeing those bike racks relocated.
Mayor Jenny Durkan (added 1/10/18 at 1:28 p.m.):
Bike racks should be deployed to support and encourage biking – not used as impediments. To help those living outside, our City must do more to provide short-term and permanent housing for thousands of people without access to humane and safe shelter. Our top priority must be ensuring public safety and protecting public health to address our homelessness crisis.
Declined to comment:
Rob Johnson, District 4
Has not yet responded:
Bruce Harrell, District 2
Kshama Sawant, District 3
Debora Juarez, District 5
Sally Bagshaw, District 7
Lorena González, Position 9
Do you have a question you'd like to pose to the Where They Stand panel? Sent it to firstname.lastname@example.org