City Council pushes back date to carry out homeless evictions

The Aberdeen City Council finalized the ordinance to clear the city’s riverfront homeless camp following a vote Wednesday night, and pushed back its effective date a month to comply with the federal lawsuit ruling earlier this week.

As opposed to the original ordinance that would have taken effect after the meeting, Councilman Pete Schave made an amendment to push back the effective date to June 10, the first Monday after a federal judge’s 30-day stay to hold off on the evictions would end.

The final vote was 8-0 in favor of the evictions. Four council members were absent from the meeting and did not vote: Tim Alstrom, Jeff Cook, Frank Gordon and John Maki. Mayor Erik Larson was also not present at the meeting and said by phone he was out of town for a trade show as part of his other job.

Last night’s reading was the third and final vote to pass the ordinance from Larson’s office. The law intends to prohibit all public access to the riverfront homeless camps and clear people from the site, which Larson has said is for public safety reasons. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said the city and a group of 10 plaintiffs — which includes homeless people and advocates suing the city over the ordinance — must work together to negotiate a solution for where the people in the riverfront camps will move to.

Council President Tawni Andrews began the meeting by saying the city has not yet identified specific locations or types of public spaces where the riverfront homeless people can move to, but that they “will in good faith work with the plaintiffs to reach a solution in the next 30 days.”

During the vote to amend the ordinance to make it effective June 10, council member Dee Anne Shaw was the lone person to vote ‘No’ and explained she wanted to table the final reading of the ordinance until the June 12 meeting and instruct city staff to identify an alternative location for the riverfront homeless people to relocate.

The motion to table the final reading failed with three votes in favor and five against it. Those in favor were Shaw, James Cook and Margo Shortt, while those against it were Schave, Tawni Andrews, Karen Rowe, Jerrick Rodgers and Kathi Prieto. Shaw said after the meeting that the federal judge had requested the city consider finding another location for the people to move to, which led to her requested amendment.

“I think it was one of the things the judge asked us to do, and I wanted to show that we are trying to come up with a solution,” said Shaw.

In discussing the evictions, Shaw said while the camps should be cleared, she wants to keep an eye on 20 people she said the city has identified as qualifying for housing to get off the river, but can’t be accommodated due to lack of housing.

“I want to take care of the most vulnerable, and we do not have the capacity right now to do that,” said Shaw. “I’m disappointed eight months into this, we’re not further along. But by the same token, they can’t stay on the river.”

Shaw said there are also some living at the riverfront because they want to reside there, and some who have committed crimes and want to hide there or pray on the more vulnerable.

City Attorney Patrice Kent said the city will reach out to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit Friday to begin discussing solutions.