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Durkan directs Seattle officials to address ‘junk vehicles’ on city streets

RVs parked along the street in Seattle. (AP)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is launching a new effort to address the cycle of “junk vehicles” between streets and tow lots.

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This new effort stems from the mayor’s RV Remediation Program that was started in 2018. The mayor’s office argues that the program will address hazardous vehicles which are often rented to vulnerable people. It will also aim to clean up the streets around RVs. Through the program, the city will apply a public health approach to determine which junk vehicles can be towed and destroyed.

“We have an obligation to protect public health and ensure that our neighbors are not living in inhumane conditions,” Mayor Durkan said. “And we will hold accountable those who prey on vulnerable people for profit.”

“We will continue to work for holistic solutions and do more to connect people with services and housing,” she said. “And we will continue to invest in the strategies we know have an impact, like our Navigation Team.”

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Part of this move includes legislation from the mayor’s office that aims to ban predatory rental practices involving RVs. That proposal will require landlords to pay $2,000 in restitution to occupants. That legislation is expected to be sent to the Seattle City Council next week.

According to the mayor’s office:

To stem the supply of dilapidated and hazardous vehicles in Seattle, Mayor Durkan has directed all City departments to begin applying additional criteria on whether a car or RV that has been towed by a City contractor meets the definition of a public health hazard. In the event an RV is designated as a public health hazard, it will be destroyed instead of re-sold back into the market at auction. Her directive will focus on preventing the re-sale of vehicles that meet the Junk Vehicle criteria set by the state and vehicles that are posing significant public health, fire, or safety hazards.

The RV Remediation Program began working with RVs in the city right of way in 2018. Teams would contact RV dwellers and help them remove debris around them. The pilot program removed 161 tons of garbage from the street side.

The program also oversaw the towing of 173 vehicles in 2018. The city says they were towed because they were inoperable, unsafe, or posed a threat to public health. The mayor’s office notes that 60 of those towed vehicles were at a location with “significant safety and health risks,” but were returned to the market.

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RVs and other vehicles have become a hot button issue around Seattle. Some view them as derelict vehicles that people are living in — not moving them, while drivers are issued parking tickets. Others allege many are used for criminal activity, such as drug dealing.

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