Should Seattle take a hint from San Francisco’s crackdown on homeless encampments?

May 3, 2018, 6:00 AM

camping laws, language, Seattle is Dying...

The homeless mansion that stood near the Seattle Center. (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

San Francisco is often cited as one of the most progressive cities in America, and yet the new mayor is making headlines for an aggressive crackdown on homeless encampments. What remains to be seen is whether Seattle will do the same.

“If you remember, Seattle’s previous mayor and San Francisco’s previous mayor were BFF’s,” said KIRO Radio’s Ron Upshaw.

“They were constantly trying to out-service the homeless people. One guy would say, ‘We’re going to do a navigation center. Well we’re going to do two navigation centers! We’re going to pass a levy. We’re going to pass a bigger levy! They went back and forth.”

RELATED: Coming Whittier Heights encampment terrifies residents

But new interim mayor Mark Farrell is taking a different approach, prompted by the reported saturation of tent camps and the associated waste, trash, and drug use.

“I want to make sure the residents of San Francisco know that their streets are safe for them. What we’re saying to people living in these tents at night is: no more,” the mayor told San Francisco’s KRON 4.

“We’re going to offer you shelter, and we’re going to offer you housing. But if you continue to resist, if you continue to demand to sleep on our streets in these tent encampments, that’s not going to work anymore for the City of San Francisco,” he said.

In recent weeks, Farell began dismantling sprawling homeless tent camps in the city’s Mission District. He promised $12.8 million for steam cleaners, pit stop toilets, and needle clean-up. He even stepped on a needle himself.

According to the volunteer-run Biennial Homeless Count, San Francisco contains has more than 6,500 homeless people. This includes the highest national proportion of unsheltered homeless, counting 511 people on the streets for every 100,000 residents. By comparison, Seattle has over 11,000, with more than 5,400 of those unsheltered, reports the U.S. Department of Housing and Development.

California union workers are pushing back

Part of the pushback is a result of filed grievances from the California Department of Transportation Union. They claim workers are being asked to go unsafely beyond their regular work duties by dealing with human waste, trash, and needles.

“This is an interesting wrinkle,” Ron said. “Unions have a lot of power, and I think it’s a legitimate case that you could bring before the Ninth District Superior Court. And say, ‘You are asking us to do something that is way above and beyond what we’re supposed to do.'”

KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neill wants to know when Seattle officials will take the hint.

“This mayor lit the fire. When will we see the fire here? We don’t have the pushback in Seattle that we’re seeing in San Francisco,” Don said.

“You wonder sometimes why the work around here isn’t getting done. For that reason right there: You’ve got DOT workers picking up poop instead of fixing those expansion joints.”

Ron and Don


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Should Seattle take a hint from San Francisco’s crackdown on homeless encampments?