City removes garbage, leaves illegally-parked RVs in Ballard

When a City of Seattle crew showed up at Eighth Avenue and 47th Street in Ballard, people hoped the crew was going to remove a string of RVs that have parked there for months. 

Instead, the city did a remediation—a government term for cleanup, which only affected the garbage around the RVs, not the RVs themselves. 

"And all of this is costly," said Eric Linden, a nearby resident and property owner, "it’s not only costly to the city, but it’s costly to the community and our own sanity, if you will."

Seattle Public Utilities has been doing regular remediation work in area where five or more RVs have congregated. According to 2022 budget figures, SPU was allocated more than $725,000 to do the remediation work.

RELATED: Seattle cracking down on vehicles parked for 72 hours or longer

The city has been reluctant to impound RVs that have overstayed the legal limit of 72 hours, after the State Supreme Court ruled cities cannot impound a vehicle if its owner claims it is their home.

Some claim it’s still happening.

"I’ve been towed, I have been ticketed, I have been impounded," said James Vlos, who lives in a van nearby. "As soon as my vehicles go to the impound yard, my vehicles have been gone through, my vehicles have been sabotaged."

A spokesperson for the Seattle Department of Transportation says no vehicles were impounded Tuesday, and several people voluntarily moved their vehicles before or during the cleanup.

"SDOT parking enforcement is continuing to focus on clearing abandoned and unoccupied vehicles," said press secretary Ethan Bergerson. "SDOT at this time is not impounding vehicles which are occupied by people refusing to relocate."

The city has put up temporary no parking signs in the area that RV owners typically ignore.

Many businesses have installed 1,000-pound cement ecology blocks in public parking areas to prevent RVs from parking there. The city has issued warnings to remove the blocks, but so far, no citations have been issued.

Now, it is getting violent.

"I looked and saw the muzzle flash and there were a couple more rounds, I don't know where they went," recalled Sean, an RV owner.

Sean was working on his RV on Sunday, when someone drove by and started shooting. No one was hit, but some bullet holes now pockmark the vehicle.

"I think it’s ridiculous," said Sean. "It’s over the top aggression, unnecessary aggression."

Residents have been watching the RVs putter from one block to another for years, and want to see a definitive policy on where RVs can park long-term.

"They need a safe environment and I don't think having them on the street, either in this community or just down the street, is beneficial to them, either," said Linden.

There are $1.5 million dollars in the city's budget this year to establish a safe RV parking lot—an idea leaders tried seven years ago, which failed miserably. The lots instead became notorious for crime and drug use.

So far, neither the Mayor nor the City Council have proposed a location for a safe lot.

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