Port of Seattle to Let Tent City 5 Move Onto Property in Interbay

The authorized tent city has been happily settled in Interbay for almost two years.

An aerial view of the Tsubota site in Interbay, where Tent City 5 will likely move in November 2017. Screenshot via Port of Seattle

On Tuesday, the Port of Seattle commissioners voted to allow Tent City 5 to move onto a piece of property in Interbay, thus enabling the authorized homeless village to remain in its neighborhood of nearly two years.

City rules require that authorized homeless encampments move every one or two years, per the 2015 legislation by which Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council created the city’s first three city-sponsored encampments in Ballard and Rainier Valley, as well as Interbay, where Tent City 5 has been located at 3234 17th Ave W. since 2015. As we reported previously, many of the campers who live inside tents on raised platforms at TC5 used to sleep on sidewalks or in cars.

Campers and their supporters have been lobbying the Port for months to let TC5 use some its land, so that campers won’t have to relocate to a completely new neighborhood. In July, advocates with the District 7 Neighborhood Action Council (NAC) told us they were talking to the Port about a specific site in Interbay, though they did not reveal its location. The Port Commission heard from stakeholders at meetings on July 25 and August 8. They also received briefings this year from local homeless services providers and from representatives of Seattle and King County governments.

At Tuesday’s vote in favor of allowing TC5 to use the land, all those efforts bore fruit.

It was the “best and happiest meeting I have been to about anything since Nikkita’s campaign launch,” said NACtivist Carol Isaac afterward, referring to mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver.

A press release from the Port said that its “doing its part to address the regions’ homelessness crisis.” A maximum of 80 residents in up to 35 tiny structures, plus some tents, can stay on the property, located at 1601 15th Ave W. and formerly owned by Tsubota Steel, for one to two years, starting in November of this year. The release says the City of Seattle will hold two additional public meetings on TC5’s placement.

According to the Port, less than 18,000 square feet of the 149,634-square-foot Tsubota property will be leased for TC5, and it’s the city’s responsibility to prepare the site and provide utilities, including electricity, water, “sewerage” and draining, recycling, garbage disposal, porta-toilets, and possibly showers. Management of TC5 is contracted by the city to the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), and the camp is also administered by the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE). A Community Advisory Committee (CAC) will meet monthly to review how things are going with the camp and the neighborhood. A copy of the draft lease is available here.

As we reported previously, when evaluated by the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) earlier this year, Seattle’s city-authorized encampments got high marks for sheltering homeless people and, to a lesser degree, for moving them into permanent housing. “The City-permitted encampments have met and exceeded the contracted performance measures,” read the evaluation, released in June. “The model is successfully serving people who have been living outside in greenbelts, on the streets, in cars and in hazardous situations.” In addition, the report says, crime hasn’t spiked near encampments, and neighbors have warmed to them over time.


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