Murray Asks Council to Greenlight Mass Homeless Eviction in ‘the Jungle’

Murray’s plan would relocate Jungle campers to an ad hoc encampment on an adjacent field.

Tuesday, Seattle City Council will introduce and refer to committee a resolution submitted by Mayor Ed Murray two weeks ago which, if passed, would signal council’s approval of his plan to evict the hundred or so campers the city believes are still living in the Jungle, an archipelago of homeless encampments beneath and along I-5. The mayor and the state Department of Transportation say in they need the area cleared so they can clean out trash and inspect the highway. But pressure against mass evictions has been growing from the public, advocates, and some city council members in recent months.

The proposal is more humane than earlier plans to simply sweep the Jungle clean of human beings. It would require the city to let campers move from the Jungle to an ad hoc encampment on an adjacent field at Airport Way S. and Royal Brougham. And, as written, it wouldn’t try to clear the Jungle forever: “No design solution will completely prohibit future encampments; rather, the intent is to make the area safer and more secure for everyone.”

On the other hand, Murray’s resolution doesn’t go nearly as far as a bill proposed by the state ACLU and others last month. Their bill would only allow the city to evict homeless encampments (in the Jungle or anywhere else in Seattle) if there were somewhere for them to go—either housing or another campsite, depending on the circumstances.

Real Change founder Tim Harris, one of that proposed bill’s signatories, acknowledges that Murray’s watered-down proposal “is an enormous improvement over their previous ‘plan’ for the jungle, but is no substitute for the more comprehensive approach” proposed in the advocates’ bill, he says.

According to the city clerk’s website, councilmember Sally Bagshaw is sponsoring Murray’s resolution and will introduce it when the council convenes on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Chair of the Public Health and Human Services committee, Bagshaw has said previously that she supports the advocates’ bill with minor changes. We’ve contacted her office to ask whether and how she can reconcile the mayor’s pro-eviction resolution with advocates’ anti-eviction bill.

UPDATE. Councilmember Bagshaw replies that she has “no conclusion yet” about the mayor’s bill.

This post has been edited to clarify that Murray’s resolution was transmitted to Council two weeks ago and that the ACLU bill would apply to encampments across the city.