Seattle is considering new camping rules

Feb 1, 2017, 7:24 AM | Updated: 7:25 am

Seattle camping rules...

The City of Seattle is considering new rules for homeless encampments. (AP)


The City of Seattle has tossed around rules for dealing with unauthorized homeless encampments before. Officials are at it again with a new set of Seattle camping rules under consideration.

As with past Seattle camping rules, the new ones under consideration include a set of definitive terms, and procedures on how to deal with those terms. The core issue is the same, however: how does the city deal with unauthorized homeless camps on public property? How long are such camps allowed to stay? How to clean them up? And what to do with personal property picked up from those sites?

Related: Seattle mayor sends emergency order for three new authorized homeless encampments

Of particular note:

• The city aims to establish “emphasis areas” which are sites where camping is prohibited and the city has removed an encampment in the past. The city will not be allowed to have more than 10 emphasis areas at a time.
• Campsites that are considered obstructions or hazards will be removed immediately.
• Campsites will have at least 72 hours notice that it must pack up and move, and the city must not take more than seven days to clear a site once notice is given.
• Trash, debris, and waste need no notice to be removed from an encampment.
• Personal property obtained at the campsites will be held for 60 days before being discarded or donated. The city will not store personal property that is considered hazardous, for example, needle-strewn tents, or wet bedding materials.
• Personal property includes items such as bikes, radios, eyeglasses, prescription medication, photographs, jewelry, crutches, etc. But the proposed Seattle camping rules state that building materials are not included in the personal property definition, such as wood products, pallets or rigid plastic.
• Outreach teams must visit an encampment at least once between the time notice is given and the site is cleared.

Seattle camping rules

In 2016, the ACLU drafted similar rules which the city council accepted and considered. But councilmembers didn’t get far after the mayor’s office came in with its own procedures and plan for the homeless crisis. More specifically, Mayor Ed Murray proposed his Pathways Home program which is currently in the setup process. He also announced his Bridging the Gap plan for the interim. That plan is to establish authorized encampments for homeless individuals.

More recently, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the city over its handling of private property from homeless encampments.

The city is currently accepting public comment on the proposed regulations which span four documents. Public comment will be accepted until Feb. 15, 2017. Seattle residents can email, or send mail to:

City of Seattle
Department of Finance and Administrative Services
Attention: Frances Samaniego
P.O. Box 94689
Seattle, WA 98124-4689

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Seattle is considering new camping rules