After sitting on legislation for nearly two weeks that would start the process of readying the defunct Sunny Jim Peanut Factory site in SODO for 100 homeless campers, Seattle City Council president Richard Conlin shelved the mayor's proposal today, claiming that the council couldn't consider it until an environmental review of the site is complete (this review is underway, says the mayor's office, and should be completed in July). Basically, the council has just crippled the mayor's plan to move people on site by October.
“There is agreement with the Mayor on the sense of urgency in addressing the underlying issues however, the timeframe for completing the required environmental review is not under City control," said Conlin in a statement released this afternoon. "The Council cannot legally take action on the proposed legislation until the environmental review, required by State law, is complete. Both State law and the City’s Land Use Code preclude the Council from acting on either the proposed land use changes or the requested Comprehensive Plan amendments.”
But Mayor Mike McGinn calls bullshit on the council's decision. "The council has said we should move forward with building a $2 billion dollar tunnel, but that [environmental study] is far from complete," McGinn said when reached by phone this afternoon. "And yet there’s saying that they can’t even put this into committee to talk about it—to help needy people in the city. They can’t even talk about it because it's not legal because the environmental review isn't finished."
It's important to note that mayor's plan has been crippled but not killed.
The legislation was delivered to the council in two parts—one addressing land use, the other addressing the need to allocate funds to ready the site for a camp. Conlin's letter (.pdf) states that the council will "discuss the merits of moving forward to fund remediation of a site." (I've heard that an earlier version of the letter killed both parts of the mayor's proposal, so that's a small victory.)
But it's not enough, according to the mayor. "Clearly, they're entitled to take action, consider [the legislation], and hold hearings. Clearly they can do that based on their own practices. They choose not to. And their choices have effects on real people."
Meanwhile, the news comes as a bitter non-surprise to homeless advocates. "There’s really nothing in Conlin’s history to suggest he’d be amenable to anything like the camp," Tim Harris, executive director of Real Change told me this morning. "He's never supported tent cities, never taken a progressive vote on anything related to homelessness... why should he start now?"
The project was already being held together by hairs—now those hairs appear to be rapidly disintegrating.