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Georgetown man: Why can’t residents park on street during RV sweeps?

A homeless camp in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood. (KIRO Radio, Carolyn Ossorio)

Steve Herman has lived in the Georgetown neighborhood for over 20 years. He has one question for  the city of Seattle: Do they have the legal authority to tell a resident they can’t park in front of their own home for 72 hours during an RV sweep?

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“South Seattle, SoDo, Georgetown is kind of the epicenter for much of this homeless problem,” Herman said.

Herman says there are over 50 RVs parked in a three-block radius around his home. For the first time, the city did three RV sweeps in his neighborhood in February, April, and on Memorial Day (May).

“The city of Seattle will come down with those barricade signs saying ‘No Parking”‘ and they usually give a couple days notice. Saying ‘no parking’ between these two dates and it’s usually 72 hours and this is around four square blocks.”

Herman says he wants the RVs gone, but he says the city’s methods are infuriating.

“Ostensibly, what they are trying to accomplish is to get the illegal RVs off the street,” Herman said. “But their method of doing it is saying it doesn’t matter if you are a legal resident and your vehicle is registered to this address, you must move all your vehicles for 72 hours.”

Herman wonders if it’s legal.

“I travel probably at least two weeks out of the month,” Herman said. “I’m on the road, so my wife’s home alone. First time she calls me up and said, ‘There’s all these signs, what should we do?’ And I said, just leave the car because not even the city of Seattle is dumb enough. They can differentiate between a camper with no legal tags on it and a legal resident’s car.”

Herman says they didn’t tow their cars the first two times, or the third time, when SPD put the screws to them.

“She said, ‘There’s three police cars and parking enforcement outside our house,’” Herman said. “So the SPD sergeant came up and told me what was going on and I said, ‘I understand what you’re trying to do, but why can’t you let the legal residents park their cars in front of their homes?'”

Herman explained to the officer that it wasn’t so easy for them because the house was built in 1902.

“Georgetown is a very old neighborhood,” Herman said. “There’s no driveway, so I didn’t have a place to move two cars off the street and he says, ‘That’s not my problem, you gotta move your car.'” His concern for his wife’s safety had no impact on  the sergeant.

“I told him, ‘Look, my wife is 5 feet, 100 pounds and she has to work until 9 o’clock at night and oftentimes I’m not home,” Herman said. “And I don’t want her parking 3, 4, 5 blocks away and walking through one of the worst neighborhoods in Seattle, which Georgetown right now happens to be, while I’m a thousand miles away at work and he said, ‘That’s not my problem.'”

Herman  says he tried to reason with the officers.

“I went, ‘Look, last Christmas Eve someone drilled into my gas tank right in front of my house to get two gallons of gas and cost me $5,800 dollars worth of damage to my car,” Herman said. “What do you think is going to happen if I park it three blocks away?’ And they didn’t care. The crux of my question is: Does the city of Seattle have the right to tell a legal resident they can’t park in front of their own home for 72 hours?”

Herman has always been a strong supporter of SPD, but he feels like when he’s talking to them, it’s like talking to a wall because the issue of RVs and homelessness is a political hot potato.

“You can tell these guys are very, very political … once you are talking because everything is recorded,” Herman said. “And I said, ‘Tell me why this is being done? Is this being done as to not ostracize the illegal campers on the street?’ And they wouldn’t answer that question, but that’s the conclusion I came to is we have to use a one size fits all so as to not stigmatize the illegal campers.”

Herman says he, every day and night, deals with dirty needles strewn about his neighborhood, drug dealing, garbage everywhere, and now the city of Seattle won’t let him park in front of his house.

“Just logic tells you they could look at my car in front of my house, shoot the tag, it would match up with my home address, and they go, ‘Okay, his tabs are up to date, he lives here, it’s his car.’ And do the same with the homeless camper and see that wasn’t the case. But they’re spending all this time and resources, putting up all these barricades to no avail. I already told you it was ineffective. Seventy-three hours later they are all back.”

Herman has a message for the city.

“It’s just a game of cat and mouse, back and forth, and it’s just accomplishing nothing,” Herman said. ”I’ve come to that sad conclusion a long time ago because I’ve been a resident here a long time. There’s just nothing effective being done. But at least while you are accomplishing nothing, please don’t interrupt my lifestyle and the safety of my wife when she’s coming home from work.”

The city says it’s a public right of way and as such, it treats everyone the same in regard to the 72 hour rule. All vehicles must move every 72 hours. The RV remediation program, launched in May 2018, costs $187,000 per year and includes seven cleanups per month, according to the city. The costs don’t include RV disposal fees.

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