Seattle council member Mike O’Brien is developing a new proposal that could relax restrictions on parking for homeless living in their vehicles.
Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien is poised to revive an old debate over how the city responds to the hundreds of homeless people living inside their vehicles.
An ordinance being developed by O’Brien could loosen rules about where and for how long they park, and on Wednesday a task force he convened in March will present new proposals for how to move them off the streets and into permanent housing.
A 2016 count of homeless people estimated that 900 or more people were living in vehicles in Seattle, about a third of all unsheltered people in the city that year.
The group’s report calls on the city to commit additional resources to help identify vehicle dwellers, expand outreach and develop various off-street sites where they can park safely and receive basic utility and sanitation services.
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The proposals also call for relaxing parking-related restrictions with an eye toward developing a new plan to help them move into permanent housing.
A draft of an ordinance being developed by councilmember Mike O’Brien appears to embrace many of the group’s recommendations.
First reported by KING-TV, the draft proposes allowing participants in a new “Vehicular Residences Program” to stay parked on public property for longer than 72 hours. The draft’s provisions also exempt participants from penalties for expired tabs, parking junk vehicles in public and parking in a restricted zone.
Details of the ordinance were circulated Monday, after Scott Lindsay, former public-safety adviser to Mayor Ed Murray now running for City Attorney in a bid to unseat Pete Holmes, posted a draft version to his campaign website.
“Our city infrastructure does not support people living in vehicles without appropriate support like sanitation and water,” he said. “To spread that out and override our parking ordinances is just bad policy.”
O’Brien, through a representative, declined to comment on the specifics of the working proposal. The draft circulated Monday was not intended to be made public, they said.
In a YouTube video posted Monday, O’Brien said the goal of the legislation is to create an “alternate path” for people living inside their cars.
Parking fines create additional obstacles to securing housing, he said. Participants in the program would be freed from those penalties and connected with case-management and other services for as long as they complied with program rules.
“We’re not going to make it any better if we continue ticketing, ticketing and towing,” he said.
Under pressure residential complaints over RV dwellers, Mayor Ed Murray in 2016 issued an executive order creating several “safe lots” for people living in their vehicles. But city officials eventually pulled the plug amid rising costs.
The working group’s recommendations will be presented to the council’s Human Service and Public Health Committee on Wednesday.