Seattle man faces $500-a-day fine for sandboxon August 5, 2012 @ 9:10 am (Updated: 6:19 am - 8/6/12 )
Paulo's troubles started when his family moved in June to a house between Wallingford and Green Lake in Seattle. Their new house has a small yard, so he was limited as to where he could put his children's 4 foot by 8 foot sandbox they brought with them. At their old house, it was situated in the parking strip between the street and sidewalk and was never a problem.
In the two months that they have lived in the new house, the sandbox has been a place they spend many hours playing with their small children and getting to know neighbors who walk by or bring their kids over.
A couple of weeks ago, an anonymous neighbor complained to the city.
"We got a letter that said, you know, somebody's made a complaint and this is illegal and you have to move it or pay $500 a day," says Paulo.
The city considers play structures situated near the street, like the Nunes-Ueno's parking strip sandbox, an illegal safety hazard and they have an ordinance regulating how many feet away from the street a play structure should be located. Paulo was told that he would have to comply with the regulations or face the fines.
"It just seemed like a natural place for us to have a gathering spot for our kids, for the neighborhood kids, for the parents to meet each other," says Paulo. "I think the real question is how do we make our street safer, not how we keep our kids from playing in front of their houses."
"We got a letter that said, you know, somebody's made a complaint and this is illegal and you have to move it or pay $500 a day,"
Paulo went to city officials to appeal their decision, explaining the benefits of keeping a sandbox in the parking strip where neighbors can interact and share the public space.
"The city said that they were going to put together a task force to take a look at this issue, and that I don't have to move the sandbox until they make a final determination," says Paulo.
In the meantime, Paulo will circulate a petition Tuesday August 7 at his neighborhood's "Night Out" block party, which he will then turn in to the city Council. He says his family has a lot of support from neighbors who hope that the sandbox stays where it is on their quiet residential street.
"I'm going to take that on August 14th to the transportation committee of the city Council and just ask them to think more broadly about how people can use that piece of public land that's in front of their house," says Paulo.
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