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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says the city should accommodate more legal tent cities.

The mayor will send proposed legislation to the City Council next month “to make a limited number of unused, vacant lots on private and public land in nonresidential areas available for encampments, not including city parks,” he wrote Friday in a letter to members of his Emergency Task Force on Unsheltered Homelessness.

The task force, a volunteer panel that Murray convened in October, deliveredrecommendations to the mayor and council this week, including a proposal that the city make it easier for more tent cities to operate with oversight and services.

Encampments have stirred controversy around Seattle, with politicians and advocates disagreeing about whether they save people from the streets or siphon resources away from safer, cleaner, more permanent options.

“I’ve heard from our federal partners that encampments are not a sustainable solution to this issue,” the mayor wrote, perhaps referring to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which doesn’t approve of tent cities.

While proponents of tent cities note they offer a sense of community, at times neighbors and residents have complained about crime and questionable management.

But a reported increase in street homelessness in Seattle and a proliferation of illegal encampments means action is necessary, Murray argued.

The city currently funds 1,724 shelter beds in Seattle. The annual One Night Count in January found 3,123 people living on the streets of the city and King County.

“In recent months, more illegal encampments have popped up on our streets and sidewalks than ever before and the need for alternative spaces has grown immensely,” the mayor wrote.

There are currently a handful of authorized encampments in Seattle and many more unauthorized sites.

Religious institutions are allowed to host tent cities with few restrictions, but encampments are allowed elsewhere only under temporary-use permits.

Murray did not say how many lots should be opened, and his press secretary, Jason Kelly, declined to give a number. The task force called for seven.

The City Council in 2013 voted against expanding possibilities for encampments. The bill sponsored by Councilmember Nick Licata would have allowed tent cities to stay for up to a year on nonreligious properties in industrial and commercial zones.

Murray’s proposed legislation will build off Licata’s, the mayor wrote.

The organizations operating encampments should collect data about their clients, and funds from the city should go only to organizations that comply, he wrote.

The mayor partly endorsed recommendations by the task force to quickly shelter more homeless youth and open up more city facilities to homeless people.

He said he would push for 150 additional shelter beds by early 2015, including at least 15 reserved for youth.

Murray balked at the task force’s proposal that some community centers be used for the homeless, saying the centers must continue to focus on services for seniors and children, such as the city’s new preschool program.

Tim Harris, founding director of Real Change and a member of the task force, was pleased with Murray’s response.

“I was actually a little surprised to see how fully it aligned with our recommendations,” Harris said.

The council last month set aside $200,000 in the city’s 2015 budget to help carry out the task force’s recommendations and $100,000 to support encampments.

Murray has a separate advisory group working on long-term solutions to the city’s affordable-housing crisis, he wrote.

Daniel Beekman: 206-464-2164 or