Appeals court decision snuffs last hope for Compassion Seattle vote

The state Court of Appeals has upheld a King County judge’s decision disqualifying the Compassion Seattle initiative from the November ballot.

In the appeals court ruling, a three-judge panel agreed with last week’s decision by King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer that threw a monkey wrench in the downtown chamber-backed plan to change the city charter to require Seattle provide housing, guarantee 12% of the city’s general fund for homelessness and human services, and crack down on encampments by requiring sweeps and clearances of public spaces. Continue reading

ACLU lawsuit takes down vote on ‘Compassion Seattle’ homelessness initiative — UPDATE: Surprise appeal

Seattle’s November election might still end up a referendum on homelessness but it will not include a vote on “Compassion Seattle” after a King County judge Friday ruled the measure would go beyond the scope of Seattle’s initiative process.

Lawyers for the ACLU representing the organization,the Transit Riders Union, and the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness sued to remove Compassion Seattle from the ballot, arguing that the vote on Charter Amendment 29 would be “an illegal use of a local ballot initiative and violates state laws that mandate how local governments make and carry out plans for addressing homelessness” that went “beyond the scope of Seattle’s initiative powers.”

King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer agreed, striking the initiative from November’s General Election vote.

UPDATE 8/31/2021 12:00 PM: In a surprise announcement, the Compassion Seattle campaign said Tuesday it will, indeed, appeal the ruling:

This morning, Compassion Seattle’s lawyers filed an emergency motion of appeal with the Washington Court of Appeals seeking a stay of last week’s decision to remove Charter Amendment 29 from the November ballot. If granted, voters will have their say on a critically needed measure to address the number one issue facing Seattle — a measure that has majority voter support.

As we said last Friday, we strongly disagree with Judge Catherine Shaffer’s decision to strike Charter Amendment 29, a decision that blocks Seattle voters from being able to voice their opinion about the continuing crisis of homelessness. The Judge’s decision caused an outpouring of support over the weekend from supporters who want us to press on with an appeal. We decided that we must take this action to represent the interests of tens of thousands of voters who signed petitions to put this amendment on the ballot.

The people of Seattle deserve their say on how City Hall should be addressing this worsening crisis, and we will do everything we can to make that happen, whether by fighting for a vote on this Charter Amendment or by holding the candidates for Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney accountable for their positions on homelessness.

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As voters face ‘Compassion Seattle’ decision, new homelessness outreach report records most shelter referrals ever

HOPE Team 2021 shelter referrals by month and shelter type (Image: HSD)

As it wraps up business and winds down its term in the mayor’s office, the Durkan administration is touting a new report showing what officials say is evidence the city’s homelessness outreach and “shelter surge” is successfully moving people off the street amid the greatest demand recorded since the city began tracking the data in 2018.

“The HOPE Team has made tremendous strides standing up this new model and approach to supporting those living unsheltered in Seattle,” Tess Colby, interim deputy director of the Human Services Department, writes in the report. “Their collaborative efforts with outreach and shelter providers, City departments and community, have resulted in hundreds of people moving from encampments to safer spaces and on a pathway to ending their experience of homelessness. ”

The report comes as Seattle voters are set to decide in November on Charter Amendment 29, the Compassion Seattle initiative that would change the city charter through at least 2027 in a five-year burst requiring Seattle to provide 2,000 housing units within one year, ease regulations for creating new housing, and guarantee 12% of the city’s general fund for homelessness and human services. It would also force the city to crack down on encampments by requiring sweeps and clearances of public spaces once the housing efforts and services are in place.

The new Human Services Department “Performance Outcomes” report for the 2021 April, May, and June period, below, says the city’s eight-person HOPE Team “referred the most individuals to shelter and had the most confirmed enrollments into shelter ever recorded by City efforts.” Continue reading

With Compassion Seattle initiative and final vote on new mayor, November election lined up to be referendum on homelessness in the city

November’s General Election is set to be a referendum on homelessness in Seattle, the top issue for voters in a city where thousands live outside and under-sheltered.

The Seattle City Council Monday approved a procedural vote to clear the way for King County Elections to place the Compassion Seattle initiative on the ballot this fall.

CHS reported on the formation of the initiative in April as business and community groups led by former councilmember and mayor Tim Burgess and the Downtown Seattle Association backed the plan.

If approved, the initiative would change the city charter through at least 2027 in a five-year burst requiring Seattle to provide 2,000 housing units within one year, ease regulations for creating new housing, and guarantee 12% of the city’s general fund for homelessness and human services.

It would also force the city to crack down on encampments by requiring sweeps and clearances of public spaces once the housing efforts and services are in place: Continue reading

Seattle freeway encampments to be cleared as rock throwing incidents bring surveillance flights, arrests

A small surveillance plane buzzed large circles around Capitol Hill and the Central District early Thursday morning as crews prepared to remove encampments above the I-90 and I-5 interchange area in the core of Seattle after weeks of rock and debris throwing incidents freeway endangering motorists.

The continued surveillance and camp removal follows the East Precinct’s arrest Tuesday of a man for throwing rocks at cars just before rush hour near the eastbound onramp to I-90 from Rainier Ave S. The arrest is one of at least five the King County Prosecutor’s office says have been taken into custody in recent weeks for the bizarre and dangerous acts. A sixth person was taken into custody but released, officials say, after the Washington State Patrol determined the suspect “was not the person they thought he was.”

Tuesday’s incident required an “help the officer” alert to be issued as police sped to the scene as the suspect began fighting during his arrest by WSP. Seattle Police says “a loaded 9mm magazine” fell from the man’s waistband as he was being apprehended. The area and nearby encampments were searched but a weapon was not located. Continue reading

With Seattle ‘intensifying’ clearances, Capitol Hill’s Tashkent Park swept of campers

Thanks to a CHS reader for the picture

Tashkent Park is the latest public space around Capitol Hill to cleared of encampments as city officials say they are ramping up clearance efforts as COVID-19 restrictions lift.

Notice of the planned July 1st sweep of the Boylston Ave E location was posted by Seattle Parks last week. We have not received details from the city about how many individuals were camping in the park and if any accepted referral to shelter or services.

In recent sweeps like early June’s clearance of Williams Place Park, the parks department has said public safety concerns and maintenance needs have required the encampments to be cleared.

As with previous clearances, Tashkent Park was closed to the public for maintenance and clean-up following the effort. According to the notice, belongings were not slated to be stored as in past camp clearances. We’ve asked the city for more details. UPDATE: A parks representative said outreach staff “reported that those who were residing onsite opted to take their belongings that they wanted as they moved into shelter.” The rep said the HOPE team visited the park and “indicated that those who were residing at this park said that the remaining belongings were no longer wanted.”

During the months of pandemic, Seattle officials said they were operating under federal CDC guidelines in allowing the camps to form. Continue reading

A sweep in the Central District: Pratt Park next for city clearance

(Image: City of Seattle)

The City of Seattle has announced it will remove any remaining tents and personal items from a Central District park Thursday marking the latest public space to be cleared in a series of encampment sweeps across the reopening city.

The notice at Pratt Park comes due to an “encampment impeding public park use,” a Seattle Parks representative tells CHS.

“On June 15, Seattle Parks and Recreation staff posted a notice that any remaining or abandoned belongings, must be removed by, June 17,” the statement reads. “Seattle Parks and Recreation staff identified approximately 5 tents with in the park and the HOPE Team and outreach providers identified 3 individuals currently residing at the location. As of this morning, none of the individuals have accepted referrals to shelter.” Continue reading

Amid city’s sweeps and a continuing crisis, Seattle mayoral candidates on homelessness: Guaranteed basic income, more public housing, ’emergency’ rental assistance, and ‘Compassion Seattle’

Guaranteed basic income for 16,000 Seattle families. A new income tax to fund a new housing Public Development Authority. An expansion of emergency rental assistance. Juicing federal dollars for all their worth.

These were just a few of the solutions floated by Seattle top mayoral candidates at a forum on the homelessness crisis last week hosted by We Are In, a local advocacy organization.

“Compassion Seattle”
One of the central questions of this race is where the candidates stand on a proposed new amendment to the city charter to spend more money on housing and public services and require that public spaces like parks be kept clear of homeless encampments.

Former Seattle City Council president Bruce Harrell said he supports it, but concedes it isn’t perfect. SEED Seattle’s Lance Randall said there are “a lot of things that need to be worked out,” but notes it puts pressure on city leaders to act.

On the other side, Capitol Hill architect Andrew Grant Houston said he was “vehemently” opposed to the amendment, saying “I am not interested in an attempt to legalize sweeps” and that the campaign in favor of it, “Compassion Seattle,” did not consult the Lived Experience Coalition, which is made up of homeless and formerly homeless people. Continue reading

Latest Capitol Hill homeless sweep clears Williams Place Park

(Image: @parkupine via Instagram)

Capitol Hill’s tiny Williams Place Park was the latest public space to be cleared of tents and personal belongings as homeless encampment sweeps continue in Seattle.

The treed square at 15th and John was swept Thursday, Seattle Parks confirms. The park will now be closed through June 17th “in order for Parks and Recreation staff to address any damage to the park and reestablish vegetation,” a spokesperson tells CHS.

Thursday’s clearance follows a mid-May sweep of Broadway Hill Park and a much larger clearance effort in April at Miller Playfield as the nearby Meany Middle School prepared to welcome students back for in-person learning after months of at-home instruction during the COVID-19 crisis. Continue reading

When will Capitol Hill finally get new street sinks?

A pandemic has come and nearly gone and Seattle has finally put some cash behind simple but ingenious solutions to help people keep their hands clean in the city.

Seattle Public Utilities this week announced it will split $100,000 from the Seattle Water and Waste Innovation Fund for grants to power two solutions for public hand washing stations in the city.

The Real Change and Clean Hands Collective “Street Sinks” project will receive $60,000 “to implement its street sinks model in areas where they are most needed: near encampments, food distribution locations, and recreation and public gathering places. Real Change newspaper vendors will help construct and maintain the sinks,” SPU said. Continue reading