In 2010, lawyers for the city and two families living along Federal Ave E on the western edge of Volunteer Park banged out a solution to deal with the city’s public property slowly becoming part of private backyards. We don’t know exactly how that deal worked out but we do know Seattle Parks would rather not solve the problem of encroachment through civil litigation ever again. Monday afternoon, the Seattle City Council is expected to pass new legislation that lays out the ground rules for protecting parks from encroachment in a faster, more efficient, and, hopefully, lawyer-free manner.
Planners said during the council committee meeting last week to move the legislation forward, that the old process sometimes eventually produced results — but that as soon as the city moved on, patios, decks and play structures would sometimes return. Parks officials say it’s impossible to count exactly how many encroachments exist in the city today though areas of concern include Seward Park and properties along the Burke-Gilman Trail.
A Parks spokesperson tells us the encroachments that first drew attention to the issue in 2010 along Volunteer Park have been “removed.”
The legislation expected to be passed by the full council Monday afternoon will create a “complaint-based system” similar to DPD or SDOT’s violation process. It also includes an appeal process for property owners to push back on any encroachment complaints from the city. The new rules also cover illegal dumping in city parks.
“Shortcomings and ambiguity in the existing code make it difficult to respond efficiently and in many cases allow encroachment enforcement cases to extend for years without resolution,” reads a financial analysis of the proposed legislation. “For example, the absence of a formal review process, where aggrieved parties can express their concerns to a higher authority, has resulted in cases where it is necessary to resort to litigation. With the proposed changes, it is anticipated that many more encroachment cases will be resolved short of going to court.”