Split Everett council permits mayor to add homeless buffer zones

EVERETT — The mayor can now set more zones in Everett which outlaw laying or sleeping on the sidewalk.
Mayor Cassie Franklin says she’d do so sparingly, and only has one spot in mind at the moment. She didn’t share where publicly but called it a “highly problematic” area.
The zones are known as “no-sit/no-lie” zones which forbid sitting or laying down in public spaces.
The City Council voted 4-3 granting the mayor authority. The zones can be set in the two blocks surrounding an area where crime stats show a recurring problem with street-level nuisances, or in the two blocks surrounding a service provider. The zones especially affect unsheltered homeless people who might rest in public.
The city made a few late adjustments before council’s vote: In one, parks would not be automatic candidates for the zones. The law also added a minimum threshold of requiring six nuisance incidents over a six-month span to be a zone candidate.
A divide of voices tried to influence the decision: Humanitarians who called it cruel to use zones that govern which places homeless people can rest versus residents and businessowners fed up by the actions of a destructive and troublesome segment of homeless people who give the street population a bad name.
“‘All are welcome in Everett,’ except the houseless — shame on you,” resident Ed Glazer told city officials, referencing the city’s “One Everett” inclusivity campaign.
Social service providers who serve homeless individuals were just as split. Providers such as Penelope Protheroe of Angel Resource Connection and Lindsey Arrington of Hope Soliders, an addiction recovery and mental health service, said to set zones around social services to protect vulnerable people coming for help from being harmed by danger.
A third vector is a belief the “no-sit/no-lie” zones will ease residents’ opposition to homeless social services being sited nearby due to concern about these attracting congregations of homeless people. Residents living near social services say they observe open drug deals, loiterers around the social services and garbage left behind.
Council President Brenda Stonecipher said that without zones, the city could face public pressure against any future social services being established. Plans for a homeless shelter in the 4500 block of Rucker Avenue, which were withdrawn last month after public resistance, was a fresh memory.
Two camps split the City Council: Council members Ben Zarlingo, Judy Tuohy, Don Schwab and Stonecipher voted to authorize the mayor to set zones, with some saying the city needs the flexibility to set controls; council members Paula Rhyne, Mary Fosse and Liz Vogeli voted against.
A protest against more zones happened close to City Hall that evening; Vogeli spoke at that event.
The city set a “no-sit/no-lie” area by Smith Avenue in 2021. There have not been any arrests related to that zone, community development director Julie Willie said.
An amendment setting an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2025 passed 5-2. Council would need to renew it to continue the authority. An amendment trying to delete a clause restricting Good Samaritans from providing goods or gifts in “no-sit/no-lie” zones was rejected 3-4.
City attorneys said Everett can set buffer zones against camping as long as it’s not a blanket zone across the city. An all-city blanket zone in Boise, Idaho got that city sued; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law’s penalties were unconstitutional. It ruled enforcing it was unconstitutional because when shelters get full, houseless residents have no real alternative except break the law by sleeping in a public space.