Senate bill aims to prohibit use of hostile architecture preventing homeless camps

Jan 25, 2024, 8:15 AM | Updated: 3:55 pm

homeless hostile architecture...

An example of hostile architecture against homeless. (Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

(Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Several Washington Senate Democrats are backing a proposal that bans cities, towns, and counties from installing ‘hostile architecture’ aimed at preventing homeless camping.

Senate Bill 6231 defines hostile architecture as “elements designed to restrict the use of public spaces by individuals experiencing homelessness.” (A PDF of the original bill can be viewed here.)

In the past, those elements have included fencing, large boulders and gravel. If the elements are erected specifically “to prevent people from sitting or lying at street” level, they would be prohibited.

Info from King County: 5 homeless people died in Seattle during extreme cold snap

Sen. Liz Lovelett, D-Skagit/Whatcom County, told the Senate Committee on Local Government, Land Use & Tribal Affairs Tuesday she sponsored the bill on behalf of some unidentified students. The legislation only addresses a ban for local government and doesn’t prohibit the state from installing the elements on state lands such as highways.

A spokesperson for the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) told The Olympian nearly $700,000 has been spent on the placement of boulders in areas where homeless camps once stood — $643,000 of that money was spent at one place, Interstate 5 and Sleater-Kinney Road.

“Come on, that’s spending money on rocks when it could be housing people, building tiny home villages, doing something that could actually improve people’s lives,” Nicholas Jeffries, an advocate for Seattle’s Central District, told the committee.

Michelle Thomas with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance told the committee says the use of these elements delivers a message about the government’s view of homelessness.

“Using public dollars on hostile architecture is a sign to everyone housed or unhoused that our government is not serious about addressing the root causes of homelessness,” Thomas said.

She said boulders along highways are there specifically to prevent camping.

More from Matt Markovich: Bill proposes statewide ban on police from hogtying suspects

“Those boulders were explicitly to stop people from lying down,” Thomas added. “And it’s not to stop you from getting to the freeway. You can climb over those boulders and get onto the freeway.”

The bill excludes design elements aimed at preventing activities such as skateboarding or rollerblading, as well as those intended to restrict vehicle access.

It would take effect on Jan. 1, 2025, allowing local governments time to adjust and comply with the new regulations.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

MyNorthwest Politics

seattle police...

Frank Sumrall

‘SPD is dying’: What Seattle police officers are saying during exit interviews

When asked what had a negative effect on morale in their exit interviews, Seattle police officers were nearly united in their responses.

59 minutes ago

Semi Bird...

Bill Kaczaraba

Semi Bird wins endorsement for governor from state GOP

Republican candidate for governor Semi Bird has won the endorsement of the GOP state convention on Saturday.

2 days ago

Washington State University (WSU) President Kirk Schulz, left, and his wife Noel Schulz speak durin...

Steve Coogan

Washington State University President Kirk Schulz announces plan to retire in 2025

Washington State University President Kirk Schulz announced his plan Friday to retire in June 2025. He has held the position since 2016.

3 days ago

ukraine israel u.s. aid...

Colleen O'Brien

Rep. Adam Smith: Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan ‘have waited way too long’ for U.S. aid

In a bipartisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives advanced a key foreign aid package affecting funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Friday.

3 days ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump and his lawyer Todd Blanche appear at Manhattan criminal in Ne...

Associated Press

Police to review security outside courthouse hosting Trump trial after man sets himself on fire

Crews rushed away a person after fire was extinguished outside where jury selection was taking place in the Donald Trump criminal trial.

3 days ago

Photo: Then-Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., speaks on Nov. 6, 2018, at a Republican party election nig...

Bill Kaczaraba

Boos, chaos at Washington GOP convention over gubernatorial candidate endorsement

The state GOP convention going on in Spokane is looking more like a demolition derby than a meeting of the minds.

5 days ago

Senate bill aims to prohibit use of hostile architecture preventing homeless camps