King County councilmember wants notice before changing hotels into shelters

Nov 9, 2021, 3:05 PM | Updated: Nov 10, 2021, 9:35 am
Hotel shelters...
A hotel in Renton converted into a homeless shelter. (Dow Constantine, Twitter)
(Dow Constantine, Twitter)

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is proposing new legislation that would require the issuance of a 30-day notice and public comment period before a hotel can be purchased and converted into a homeless shelter.

King County reducing shelter concentrations, moving people to hotels

The ordinance would mandate that “a public notice be circulated in a local newspaper at least 30 days before the purchase takes place,” outlining the expected impact to the neighborhood the shelter space will reside in, its funding source, and other pertinent details.

While hotel spaces have proven to be overwhelmingly successful in increasing the rate of accepted shelter offers for those living in homeless encampments, they have also been flashpoints in local communities.

“It is not good government for King County to make hugely impactful land use decisions by siting large homeless shelters without first providing full transparency to the public,” Dunn said in a press release. “The impacted communities, including residents and the municipal governments that represent them must all have a chance to provide public comment in advance of the decision being unilaterally made by King County.”

Recent conflicts date back to December 2020, when Renton City Council passed a bill to effectively evict the residents of a homeless shelter housed within a former Red Lion Motel. During a public comment session on the Renton council’s recent bill, one homeowner alleged that the homeless residents sheltered at the Red Lion had turned “a nice street into a nightmare” since they moved in, claiming that the shelter was “not a good location.”

A year later, King County eventually came to an agreement with Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone to convert an Extended Stay America hotel into a new homeless shelter space.

King County buys fourth hotel to house homeless individuals

A similar battle played out in Redmond in September of 2021, after King County purchased what was a Silver Cloud Inn, with plans to house up to 144 homeless individuals.

Residents arguing against converting the hotel into a homeless shelter voiced concerns over the potential presence of those with substance abuse problems and/or mental health conditions. Others claimed that the shelter space would make the neighborhood surrounding the Silver Cloud Inn unsafe.

King County’s Health Through Housing initiative aims to create up to 1,600 homeless shelter spaces by acquiring several hotels across the region, having purchased eight facilities spread across Auburn, Federal Way, Seattle, Redmond, and Renton.

Data from Seattle’s Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem Team in August reported that the city had seen a 132% increase in shelter referrals in Q2 over the previous quarter, largely fueled by an increase in available hotel spaces.

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King County councilmember wants notice before changing hotels into shelters