There are an unprecedented number of people living in vehicles in Seattle. So many that a city council member wants to exempt them from many of the parking laws.
But if Mike O’Brien’s legislation passed as is, would it be unfair for everyone else?
“This raises all kinds of concerns for neighborhoods and business owners,” former state Attorney General Rob McKenna told Seattle’s Morning News.
That’s where at least one of the legal challenges could come from. People opposed to the legislation — if it was approved — could argue that you can’t pass a law that only benefits a small fraction of the population.
On the other hand, there are exceptions that when a law is aimed at helping the poor, McKenna said.
“That exception might be applied here…”
Earlier this week, Councilmember O’Brien unveiled draft legislation that would loosen parking enforcement for homeless people who live in vehicles while spreading dozens of homeless RV lots across the city. O’Brien’s draft has not been finalized or introduced to the city council.
If approved, the legislation would largely exempt some vehicles used as housing from being towed or impounded when parked on city streets.
O’Brien said that people would have to meet certain qualifications for the program. He said that for people living in their vehicles they would have to participate in the program to be exempt from booting and being impounded. As for people living in RVs or commercial vehicles, they would have to be in “parked industrial zones.”
McKenna has a warning: Be prepared for even more car campaign in the city if this becomes law.
He says Seattle should at least study how similar laws in other cities have had an impact. In Santa Barbara, for example, people can legally live in vehicles, but they have to still be operational. McKenna worries that Seattle’s legislation would allow people to live in any vehicle, working or not.
“This ordinance would allow junk cars to sit on the side of the road,” McKenna said.
The other question is, how well could the city really enforce the law and make sure the people who say they are living in their vehicles actually are?
Listen to the entire conversation here.