After months of wrangling, the Bellevue City Council last night approved some of the region's most stringent regulations for temporary homeless...
After months of wrangling, the Bellevue City Council last night approved some of the region’s most stringent regulations for temporary homeless encampments.
Under the rules, homeless camps can be hosted only by religious entities. They will be limited to 60 days at a site, compared with 90 days in some other cities and unincorporated King County, and can visit a site only once every 18 months.
The requirements, which determine whether a camp receives a permit, are a compromise between more stringent rules originally proposed and more lenient guidelines homeless and church supporters wanted.
The council approved the ordinance 6-1, with Councilwoman Claudia Balducci dissenting.
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Among the new regulations:
• The host or manager must report to Public Health — Seattle & King County the names of occupants suspected of having some communicable diseases.
• Camp hosts or managers must submit a safety plan to the Bellevue Police Department and collect homeless residents’ identification. Background checks are not required.
• Camps must have one sink and one toilet for every 15 residents and one shower for every 40. These regulations can be waived if there are alternatives, such as a church’s indoor facilities.
• Property owners within 600 feet of a proposed site will be notified of an application, and a public meeting will be held. The permit is decided by the planning director and can be appealed to Superior Court.
• Hosts can apply for hardship exemptions to some rules.
The ordinance was controversial for Bellevue, which has not been visited by Tent City 4, a roving outdoor encampment of 50 to 100 people that has occupied sites in Bothell, Woodinville, Kirkland and unincorporated King County since last year.
Councilmen John Chelminiak, Don Davidson, Conrad Lee and Grant Degginger pushed for the 60-day/18-months limits, defeating Council members Balducci and Phil Noble and Mayor Connie Marshall, who wanted camps allowed to stay at one site for 90 days and able to return as soon as 12 months later.
A last-minute change last night was the rule to allow camps to be hosted only by entities with a religious purpose.
City leaders decided to consider the new section of law this year after several Bellevue churches discussed hosting Tent City 4.
Neighbors of some of those potential sites came for weeks to City Council meetings and public hearings to plead for the strictest health and safety guidelines possible.
Meanwhile, churches and homeless people argued overly strict rules violate congregations’ constitutional rights.
The Church Council of Greater Seattle, which represents more than 400 churches and opposed strict regulations, said the 60-day limit was too harsh.
“We are not asking for unreasonable things,” said Michael Ramos, the council’s director of social-justice ministries. “These are things that allow congregations to provide their ministry.”
Others seemed satisfied. “It’s a good compromise,” said Nate Garvin, whose child attends preschool near one of the sites considered for Tent City 4.
The rules, which will go into effect within days, could be put to the test soon: Temple B’nai Torah, a Bellevue synagogue, has invited Tent City 4 to its grounds beginning Nov. 19.
Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704