How Seattle plans to get rid of houses with squatters

Oct 27, 2016, 3:01 PM | Updated: 3:35 pm
Square Peg Construction has repeatedly dealt with squatters in this vacant Eastlake house. It boarded it up, once again, this week. (Dyer Oxley)
(Dyer Oxley)

An eyesore at the corner of Franklin Place and Howe Street in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood has been getting some much needed attention this week — and not just from squatters.

The vacant two story home will eventually be torn down to make way for a new micro housing complex. But, in the meantime, it’s been prime real estate for squatters.

Eastlake property with ongoing squatter problem

Dozens of illegal residents have been seen coming and going by the staff at KIRO Radio, which just happens to be located right across the street from the problem property.

On Wednesday, several members of Square Peg Construction began boarding up windows, cutting back bushes and fencing off the open garage.

“The Department of Constructions and Inspections issued an emergency order yesterday directing that it be re-boarded up,” explained Scott Lindsay, with the Seattle Mayor’s office. “We will also be working with the police department, through the Vacant Property Workgroup, to make sure that there is more regular identification of any problematic activity there.”

The workgroup was started by the mayor about six months ago. It involves members of the Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Police Department, Department of Constructions and Inspections, as well as other city offices.

Lindsay said they have already had some success with properties on Capitol Hill and in Wallingford which had significant and chronic criminal activity.

The workgroup also helped to expedite the demolition of the old Seattle Times building after squatters started a number of fires in that vacant space.

It’s not always as simple as just getting out a crew with a bulldozer. For the Seattle Times building, Lindsay said, they had to consider historic preservation and the affect that the large demolition project would have on traffic in the area.

New legislation for squatters

But even without those impediments, it can be a year or more before a developer can get the proper permits to begin demolition. Mayor Ed Murray wants to shorten that to four months for rental units and eliminate the waiting time altogether for single family housing.

In a proposal, Murray plans to announce next week, he also hopes to create a process by which chronic problem buildings could be demolished immediately.

“Where the Director of the Department of Constructions and Inspections finds that a building poses an imminent life safety threat or a significant criminal threat, based on reports from the Police Chief and Fire Chief, the new law will allow the Director to order, in effect, immediate demolition of that property,” Lindsay explained.

The mayor’s proposal will be going through a SEPA committee for environmental review next week. Lindsay expects it will be ready to go before the Seattle City Council in January.

If you have a problem house in your neighborhood, Lindsay recommends a call to the Department of Constructions and Inspections Complaint Line at 206-615-0808. Inspectors generally respond to check on the property within 48 hours.

Ron and Don

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How Seattle plans to get rid of houses with squatters