Homeless to pitch tents for first time on Eastside

By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times staff reporter


One day after sponsors of a planned tent city near Bothell agreed to delay its opening by 11 days because of angry protests, they signed an agreement with King County officials that will allow homeless men and women to pitch tents May 17.
The agreement allows 100 campers to stay no more than 90 days on county-owned land next to the Brickyard Park & Ride on Juanita-Woodinville Way Northeast near Interstate 405.

County officials and sponsors of the tent city, SHARE/WHEEL, will explore longer-term options that could mean moving the encampment to another location or finding more conventional housing.

More than 30 residents gathered at Kirkland's Kingsgate Library last night and voiced outrage at King County Executive Ron Sims and what group leader LeSan Riedmann called his "democratic abuse."

"We're against the way they tried to ram it down our throats it's not necessarily us picketing against tent city," said Riedmann, who called her newly formed group the Brickyard Area Community for Fair Process.

The group said it filed a lawsuit yesterday against Sims and King County and plans to picket at the site later this week.

The planned campground, called Tent City 4, is modeled after a roving tent city that has moved from Seattle to Shoreline, Tukwila and Burien over the past three years.

Tent City 4 will be in addition to Tent City 3, which is scheduled to relocate May 17 from property next to Lake City Christian Church to Cherry Hill Baptist Church.

A crowd of angry neighbors complained at a public meeting Monday night that they were given little advance notice of the new encampment.

After considering dozens of properties, County Executive Ron Sims last week announced he had agreed to let homeless people pitch tents today at the Brickyard Park & Ride.

But in response to protests, Sims and Metropolitan King County Councilwoman Carolyn Edmonds on Tuesday asked SHARE/WHEEL to delay the opening until May 17, which the organization agreed to.

Sims in December vetoed a County Council resolution that included $50,000 in seed money to find a site for the group. SHARE/WHEEL forced the issue last month when it announced that homeless people would set up camp in a park today with or without the county's position.

The Brickyard site was chosen for the first Eastside tent city in part because it is in an unincorporated area. If churches or other landowners in suburban cities agree to host the encampment, more time might be required to obtain city permits, said Sherry Hamilton, spokeswoman for the county's Department of Community and Health Services.

Although a Bothell-area church this week offered its property as a possible campsite, a tent-city source said there probably would not be enough time to switch to that site for the scheduled opening.

A motion proposed by Sims to the County Council last week would direct Sims to work with faith-based groups, community organizations and nonprofit groups "on a long-term plan for locating Tent City 4." The motion is pending before the council.

However, Hamilton said, "The next step is not necessarily a permanent tent city. The county is going to look at the issue of homelessness and the region's responsibility and the region's need to address homelessness."

State Rep. Toby Nixon, a Republican from the Kingsgate neighborhood near the Brickyard tent-city site, yesterday said Sims had "utterly failed" to seek community comment on the encampment.

"Mr. Sims is all for preventing rural residents from developing the majority of their land, under the guise of environmental protection, but when it comes to tent-city residents, he apparently is less concerned about proper permitting procedures or ensuring the protection of neighborhoods or the provision of basic services," Nixon said.

Hamilton said some opponents of the planned tent city seem unaware that there is homelessness on the Eastside as well as in Seattle.

"One of the really disappointing things that was said over and over in the public meeting is that Seattle should keep their homeless," Hamilton said. "Homelessness is a regional issue. People across King County don't have a home. That includes folks that formerly resided in Bothell and Kent and Kirkland and Juanita."

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com Seattle Times staff writer Young Chang contributed to this story.



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