More “no-sit/no-lie” zones in
EVERETT — The City Council is weighing an ordinance expanding the city’s “no-sit / no-lie” buffer zones to give the mayor the option to include all public spaces, such as parks, and service facilities.
The proposed ordinance would allow the mayor to designate new two-block radius zones around social service providers, including homeless shelters, or any area highly impacted by street-level issues.
The City Council is scheduled make a decision at its Wednesday, May 3 meeting.
“No-sit / no-lie” zones forbid people experiencing homelessness from laying down or camping in the zone. The city already established one such multi-block zone along Smith Avenue in 2021 that includes the Everett Gospel Mission and Everett Station.
Last week, Community Development Director Julie Willie said the city responds to the concerns from residents, business owners and visitors “who feel negatively affected by exposure to open-air drug sales, use and effects as well as by sprawling and unsanitary encampments.”
She said that if programs assure the safety, sanitation and security for client, residents and businesses, then quality services can make a difference for people in need and serve the community.
“However, a variety of challenges arise for our residents, our businesses, and for the individuals who are trying to obtain the services they need when programs don’t have the necessary components in place to be successful,” Willie said. “Well intended, but poorly conceived or managed programs attract nefarious behaviors and then become a magnet for additional problems that need to be resolved, stealing focus and resources from proven programs. We want to mitigate that by adding a buffer zone to certain service facilities and high impact areas to help ensure public health and safety for all.”
Several residents at an April 19 briefing shared concerns.
“This kind of moves around a problem in a way that doesn’t specifically solve a problem,” Everett resident Bryon Partington said.
Jim Dean, the director of the Interfaith Family Shelter in Everett, noted that family incomes haven’t kept pace with the increases in rent and buying a home.
“We have demonized folks because they can’t afford the home they’re in,” Dean said. “We have to be good neighbors if you’re going to run a shelter.”
Some speakers questioned how the ordinance would affect their constitutional right to hand out food and water, and how the ordinance meets with recent court rulings.
Council members such as Paula Rhyne, Mary Fosse and Brenda Stonecipher probed if there is a threshold level to determine what is a high impact area. Rhyne asked if there are any plans to include buffer zones around large retail stores.
Mayor Cassie Franklin said there isn’t a prepared list of places to add buffer zones in the wings, and designating sites would be selectively applied.
“I think it would be great to codify some different threshold levels,” Rhyne said.
She was also concerned about people who’d be affected by the “no-sit / no-lie” ordinance being able to reference the zoning maps online.
Rhyne also questioned the violation fine in the ordinance. “People experiencing homelessness don’t have $500,” Rhyne said.
In Martin v. City of Boise, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals in 2019 ruled that enforcement of such laws was a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment if a person is considered homeless and doesn’t have a reasonable alternative to sitting, lying, or sleeping at that location, according to information from the Municipal Research and Services Center.
The circuit court decision was narrow and specific to the facts in that case, said assistant city attorney Lacey Offutt in an email April 20. The ordinances at issue in Martin v. City of Boise were applied city-wide without constitutional safeguard. Offutt said the city carefully evaluated its proposed ordinance for compliance with the constitutional protections presented in the decision.
Everett’s ordinance carries a punishment of up to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine for repeat offenders. It also prohibits Good Samaritans from providing food, water and supplies to people in the buffer zones.
“Shelter is absolutely needed in our community,” Willie said. She noted Everett will grow by 69,000 people by 2044 and the city will need to add 119 new shelter beds a year for the next 20 years.
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