The City of Seattle may be misinterpreting a judge’s ruling that allowed a man to continue living in his truck, without the threat of fines.
Assistant City Attorney Michael Ryan said that thanks to the ruling, the city’s hands would be tied when it comes to parking enforcement. According to The Seattle Times, he said:
“Someone could park right here in front of the courthouse on Fifth Avenue, and we couldn’t tow them, or if we did tow them, we couldn’t put them in impound.
“We’d have to put them somewhere else and we couldn’t charge them at all for it because if we did, we’d violate the constitution if they were living in that vehicle.”
Interpreting the judge’s ruling
Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna says the city could tow the truck. What the ruling means is the city cannot charge the owner penalties and fees.
“I know that the assistant city attorney who handled the case claimed this might mean anyone can park their broken down wreck in front of City Hall and nobody could force them to move it,” McKenna said. “I don’t think that’s actually the case under this judge’s ruling.”
King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer’s ruled March 2 that impounding Steven Long’s GMC pickup violated Washington state’s homestead act. Additionally, the fines Long faced were violated constitutional protections, the judge ruled.
“The states have adopted homestead acts that essentially are aimed at keeping people in their homes if possible in the event of bankruptcy or other financial difficulty,” McKenna said.
Long lived in his truck for more than two years before it was towed for violating the city’s 72-hour parking law. That’s when the Columbia Legal Center and ACLU became involved.
According to the latest homeless count for Seattle and King County, more than 5,000 people are living unsheltered. That includes more than 2,000 people living in vehicles. Just over 6,000 homeless people are living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or safe havens.
Long’s truck is now classified as a home and not subject to the city’s parking laws.
The city isn’t done fighting, however. It will appeal Judge Shaffer’s ruling, which Deputy City Attorney reportedly said was “legally wrong.”