At the meeting, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson asked the city council to reconsider an ordinance that prohibited sitting or laying on public sidewalks in a specific area of the city. As proposed, the ordinance would make it illegal to sit or lie down upon, or place a blanket, sleeping bag, backpack, chair, mattress, couch, stool or any similar equipment, item or furniture upon a public sidewalk or any portion of the public right of way whether improved or unimproved in the following area: Smith Avenue north to Pacific and south to 38th street. There are exceptions for those in wheelchairs and people experiencing medical issues and a person would have to be warned and willingly violate the ordinance in order to be arrested. In addition, people would be prohibited from distributing food, beverages, clothes or other items to people within this zone unless they had a permit from the city.
The proposed ordinance never made it to a vote in front of the City Council. In April it was pulled from the city council agenda after members of the city’s Community Streets Initiative Task Force voiced opposition to the proposed law and noted that it was not one of their recommendations. Speaking on the issue during council comments last night…”Sleep on it, think on it,” said Mayor Stephanson. “There is an element who want to live that lifestyle.” (You can click here for the latest Everett Community Streets Initiative update).
MyEverettNews.com has featured efforts by the city to team with social service providers to reach out to those in the area who are experiencing homelessness and offer them assistance. Today after Everett Police contacted multiple people in the area north of the mission we spoke with Gary Watts, owner of Z-Sport Automotive, about the changes he’s seen and problems he has faced since opening his business in the neighborhood back in 1992.
“Ten to fifteen years ago it was a different crowd,” said Watts. “They were older men, easier to work with about private property and were actually looking for help.” Now Watts describes those who are frequenting the area around the mission and causing problems to be younger, between 20-35, both male and female and almost exclusively addicted to drugs. “You don’t see many who are drunk,” he said. “It’s drugs.” Every morning the first employee at Z-Sport has to do a sweep around the business and clear the site of needles. Watts says his foreign car repair business used to have a majority of female customers but that has dropped to less than 35 percent of his customer base. He says his female customers tell him they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood, dropping off their cars before or after hours like they once did.Watts says there is an element of people who are aggressive, who come into his business and demand handouts and argue when they are turned down. His employees have concealed weapon permits and now carry guns at work. He says the neighborhood also has a rat problem caused by the people who use the lot north of the mission. The rats feed on the garbage that has been left behind. “It took us four years to get rid of the rats after the landfill closed,” Watts said. “Now they’re back living in the hill. At night you can toss an open bag of chips in the street and seem them scurry out to devour it.” He says human waste is also a problem as people used an area behind a storage container north of the mission as an outdoor bathroom. A couple of months ago, the city fenced off the sidewalk directly north of the mission and under the overpass. Today a crew was building a fence around the lot that holds that storage container. Watts says he agrees with the Mayor that an ordinance is needed to address the problems with those who have made choices to not try to get help but just prey on others in that neighborhood. “There are those who are needy and want help,” he said. “But there are also those choosing this as their lifestyle and they’re hurting everyone down here.”