An Open Letter to Mike O’Brien From a Greenlaker

November 30, 2016 6:36am

We’ve received numerous emails and comments from residents who have expressed concern about the proposed policy changes to the homeless encampments throughout Seattle. So when Greenlaker Tom Donnelly shared his letter with us that he wrote to Councilman Mike O’Brien, we thought we’d share it as it echoes many of the concerns we have heard throughout Green Lake.

Mr. O’Brien;

Thank you for attending the Green Lake Community meeting on November 9th.

I regret there was a breakdown in civility and as a result many of the questions and concerns surrounding the homeless issue and to some extent the HALA upzoning issue were left unanswered. Obviously emotions are quite high on both of these subjects.

I and many of my neighbors have serious concerns about the direction of the Council’s and Mayor’s solution to the homeless “encampments” in and around our neighborhood.

My wife and I live on the West Side of Greenlake near Aurora Ave. N. and as a result are bounded by both Green Lake Park and Woodland Park (upper and Lower).

Green Lake has long had an issue with homelessness, whether caused by economy, addiction, or mental issues; but, there historically has been a decent record of the issue being kept in control. Recently, however, we have seen an up tick of violent encounters with the homeless in the Park.

Woodland Park, especially upper Woodland just above the tennis courts, has become a haven for squatters. The trash that is strewn around their tents is at the least unsightly but who knows what is in that trash. Does it contain needles, human waste, and other toxins? We don’t know.

I do know that my wife and most of the other women in my neighborhood no longer feel safe walking to upper Woodland Park either in daylight or definitely at night due to reports of attacks.

As property owners we agreed to support the parks through the Park Levy and the implicit contract with the City is this support would provide us safe and enjoyable areas for us, our kids and grandkids. Allowing occupation of the park lands by uncontrolled squatters, aka homeless encampments, is a breach of this contract.

Homeless encampments have no place in our parks….developed or undeveloped lands. The concept that squatting on undeveloped park lands is OK belies the fact that these undeveloped lands abut developed park lands. The facilities at developed areas, such as bathrooms and water, provided for the public’s enjoyment and use attract squatters and thus puts them in immediate contact with park users.

I know there is a large amount of lip service given to providing accommodations for those displaced by new high priced developments, but in today’s housing market the end result is people are forced onto the street or have to leave town.

I have no idea what is needed to demand developers to provide affordable housing in situ in perpetuity but this is the only real solution. Being able to buy their way out of supplying housing does not allow the workers needed for that community to live in the community.  As a result, the low income workers are facing long commutes and quite probably poor performing schools since the tax base for the areas that absorb the affordable housing developments will be far lower than the communities where the high end condos or apartments were built.  This policy only perpetuates the segregation of the haves and have nots.


Tom Donnelly