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Business owner: Seattle kicking me out for homeless encampment

A man walks past a city-sanctioned homeless encampment of micro-homes and tents in front of apartments and condos in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
LISTEN: Homeless encampment moving local business owner out of the neighborhood

Business owner John Alexander knew that Seattle was moving a sanctioned homeless encampment into his neighborhood. What he didn’t realize is that the city aimed to plant the camp where he does business.

“The big surprise, it’s not that there is an encampment going in next door, it’s that they gave me, basically 45 days to find a new place to do business,” Alexander told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “They didn’t say anything about parking impact studies. I wasn’t allowed any opportunity to give any input at all.”

RELATED: Lessons learned from Seattle homeless crisis

Alexander rents a property from Seattle City Light next to his Northlake landscaping business. The city is now terminating that lease, kicking his business out, and bringing a homeless encampment in. Seattle is moving two of its existing homeless camps this month. They were approved for two years at their current locations and now have to find new land to establish another two years of operation. The Interbay camp is moving to another location in that same neighborhood.

But the Ballard camp is moving into Northlake. To make that happen, the city is evicting Alexander’s business and a long-time resident from two properties. A man has lived in a house on the other property since 1968 — he is also being ousted, according to Alexander.

“They’ll tear it down, they will flatten the lots and put this thing in,” he said.

Alexander’s company has been in Seattle since 1980, and at the Northlake location since 1985. He employs about 14 people and almost makes $2 million in revenue each year. He rents a lot next to his business from Seattle City Light, where he stores plants, parks vehicles and uses it for other landscape-related work. But last week, he got a letter from the utility company saying it was terminating his lease for the extra property, and that he had 30 days to move out.

“We’ve been in the neighborhood for a long time,” Alexander said. “It’s pretty integral to our operation. It’s been something we’ve gotten used to and it’s part of our business now.”

Alexander says he is not frustrated about the situation for reasons many people will assume. Parking will become an issue and that will affect his business. But more than that, the city owns property across the street that could be used for the camps without kicking out a local small business and a long-time resident.

“I’m not coming on here to be one of these ‘not in my back yard’ people,” Alexander said. “But a better use would be the seven or eight city owned lots on my dead end street. A better use would be the one across the street being used by SDOT to store blocks and bricks and rocks. They could put the thing across the street without impacting my lot, or tearing down the other house where the guy has been living in since 1968.”

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