Bikur Cholim Cemetery now free of RVs, activist proposes ‘RV billboards’
The last of the RVs in front of the Bikur Cholim Cemetery in Northgate left Monday afternoon.
It was the same day that former Seattle City Council candidate Ari Hoffman had set as the deadline for when he would take the vehicles to council members’ homes, as KTTH’s Jason Rantz reported.
Hoffman has told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson in the past about the problems caused by people who camp in front of the cemetery, including drug dealing, theft, assault, trespassing, prostitution, and human waste and used needles being left in people’s paths. Last year, Hoffman said that he even witnessed two people having sex on headstones.
The cemetery has had to spend over $200,000 on security and cleanup in the past two years. To illustrate the extent of the problem, a cup full of human feces that was stashed in a tree recently fell on the Bikur Cholim groundskeeper while he was cleaning up the mess.
One of the common sights at the Bikur Cholim Cemetery after RVs began making the block their permanent residence. (Photo courtesy of Ari Hoffman)
Tired of the problems going unsolved for years, Hoffman sent an email to the Seattle City Council last week threatening to have a friend with a tow truck take the RVs to the street in front of council members’ homes if nothing was done by Monday.
Right on cue, the RV owners suddenly made moves to get out of the area on Monday. One of the RVs was towed away by a man with a pickup truck and ropes, whom Hoffman assumed was an acquaintance of the campers. Another RV drove away on its own.
At press time on Monday, the Seattle Police Department had shown up and ensured that the last RV was towed away.
“They have teams coming to clean up the mess, they have a tow truck coming to handle this,” Hoffman had said earlier that afternoon.
SPD did a license plate check and found numerous citations for the RVs, he said — an irony in a city where drivers who park minutes over a parking limit are soon ticketed and towed.
“Average citizens do not have the same rights as people who are living on the streets right now,” he said. “We’re being treated differently … if you’re a drug user, you’re allowed to do whatever you want.”
He noted that when the RVs moved away, items that had been reported as stolen by local neighborhood groups — such as generators and gas tanks — were found just behind where the RVs had sat.
While Hoffman is glad that the RVs are finally gone, he cannot believe that it took threats to get the Seattle City Council to listen to his pleas.
“I’m kind of upset that it took this much to get all this to actually happen … They have no plan for handling it because they don’t care — they don’t want to deal with it unless they have to look at it every day,” he said.
He said that as there are very few RVs where he lives in Seward Park, he could also ignore the problems if he wanted; however, he feels it’s his duty to stand up for his fellow Seattle residents.
“It’s going to take average citizens like me standing up and saying, ‘We’ve had enough, make them do something about it,’ because it’s just not going to get solved any other way,” he said. “The fact that it took cops coming to my office four times, the fact that I had to make these threats, is the only thing that solved this, and that’s ridiculous.”
Dori and Hoffman had an idea to buy RVs at an auction, drive them to council members’ neighborhoods, lock them to prevent homeless campers from moving into them, and leave them in place with billboards attached reminding voters that the way to change the city’s crime problems is to elect new councilmembers in November.
Hoffman promised to “ride shotgun” in the tow truck with Dori if the “rolling billboard” plan becomes a reality.
“It may be the only way to show these people what’s going on,” he said. “There’s an election coming up right now, and a lot of people just want to hide in their bubble and not realize what’s happening, who’s responsible for it.”
Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.