Council Agrees to Explore Alternatives to Mayor's Encampment Site

By Erica C. Barnett April 27, 2011

Image via Seth Goodkind.

After listening to 45 minutes of testimony from advocates for the homeless, who implored them to act more quickly, a city council committee consisting of five council members voted unanimously today to spend at least the next several months coming up with alternatives to Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed site for a semi-permanent homeless encampment.

McGinn's proposed site, land formerly occupied by the Sunny Jim's peanut-butter plant in SODO, would require a lengthy environmental review, would almost certainly trigger legal challenges, and was not included on a list of sites recommended by a citizen panel appointed by McGinn last year.

The alternatives include converting Fire Station 39 in Lake City, where the Nickelsville encampment is currently located, to a long-term shelter; working with churches to support shelter space in church buildings or parking lots; buying a motel and converting it to transitional housing; and locating the tent encampment on one of the sites that were recommended by the panel in the first place.

"The council's view is that it is possible to move forward with as great speed as possible ... if alternatives to the mayor's site are also considered," resolution sponsor Nick Licata said. Council president Richard Conlin echoed that because legal challenges could tie the project up "for a long period of time, one of the reasons we wanted to look at this resolution was that are things we think could be put into place more quickly than the Sunny Jim's site."

Nickelsville's temporary permit to use the Lake City site expires in July but could be extended a few months longer.
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