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Expenses shock Seattle government into rethinking RV safe lots

The RV safe lot in Ballard cost the city $35,059 per month to operate. The high cost has the city halting plans for another lot. (Don O'Neill/KIRO Radio)

It seemed like a good idea to the City of Seattle until officials picked up the check.

Seattle’s city-run RV safe lots are receiving more criticism, this time from city officials after it became apparent their costs were too high. It has the city now favoring a cheaper option.

Related: Cost kills proposal for West Seattle RV safe lot

The City of Seattle is halting plans to open a second RV safe lot in Delridge after seeing how much it costs to run the first lot in Ballard. That cost, after nearly $25,000 in setup costs, totals about $35,000 each month.

Ballard’s RV safe lot accommodates about 20 vehicles, four of which are not operational, according to information provided by the city. Take into account the total monthly costs, it factors out to about $1,750 per vehicle. The Seattle Times points out that is roughly the same median price for a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle.

All of the residents of the safe lot are required to partake in case management from social services provided by Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute. That adds to staff costs associated with the site — along with security, it’s the steepest cost at the site at $18,804.

Cost of a Seattle Yankee Diner RV safe lot in Ballard

• Fencing: $6,000*
• Communal infrastructure and supplies(tents, cooking facilities, etc.): $12,189*
• Power set-up: $3,500*
• Towing costs: $3,000*
• Rent to Seattle Public Utilities: $7,522**
• Site staff: $18,804**
• Water & Electricity: $1,000**
• Trash and porta poties: $1,800**
• Misc.: $1,935**
• Admin/Accounting fee: $3,998**
* one time cost
** ongoing costs per month

One-time setup costs for the Yankee Diner site totaled $24,689. The ongoing costs amount to $35,059 each month.

Instead of the RV safe lot idea, it seems the city may be favoring a similar program that cuts out the lot. RV safe zones in Interbay and SoDo do not have lots. Rather, they are industrial zoned areas where the city allows the RVs to stay for extended periods of time. In contrast to the safe lots, the zones cost $5,269 monthly.

The lots have 24-hour security, whereas the zones have nightly check-ins by a security company. The zones do have trash pick-up service and access to bathrooms, however.

The cost of running the safe RV zones in Interbay or SoDo are much less, the biggest difference being that the city doesn’t have to pay rent and it doesn’t have to pay for staff.

Cost of a Seattle RV safe zone

• Permitting: $429*
• Portapotties: $2,340**
• Dumpsters / trash removal: $747**
• Late night security check: $822**
• FAS inspector: $1,360**
* one time cost
** ongoing costs per month

The monthly bill for operating the safe zones adds up to $5,269.

There are 21 vehicles in Interbay, and 18 in SoDo. One vehicle is not operational in the Interbay safe zone, and eight are not operational in the SoDo area. So far, 18 RV residents in Interbay are interested in receiving case management, and seven are interested in case management in SoDo. Case management is not required to park in the safe zones.

The Delridge site would have only accommodated 10 vehicles.

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