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Thursday, June 14, 2007

143rd and Linden Avenue North

posted by on June 14 at 16:14 PM


Bitter Lake

With Seattle’s insanely expensive real estate market showing no signs of slowing, a new housing market is emerging: urban car camping.


The decrepit, road-worn Winnebagos and camper vans - clothing and food wrappers piled ceiling high - parked along Linden Avenue North, from 130th to 145 in North Seattle’s Bitter Lake neighborhood, are becoming a more common sight in SoDo or Ballard. However, Bitter Lake residents say they’ve been dealing with campers for years and are finally starting to get attention from the city.

While living in a vehicle isn’t technically illegal, campers are leaving garbage and human waste along city streets and the Seattle Police Department says campers are bringing crime into neighborhoods.


Sergeant Diane Newson, head of the Seattle Police Department’s North Precinct Community Police Team, says the mostly residential Bitter Lake neighborhood, just west of Aurora Avenue near the Seattle/Shoreline border, has seen an influx of drugs and prostitution and says the campers are to blame: “They are wasting their lives, spending their money on drugs and alcohol. [They’re] not the [kind] homeless people you feel sorry for. A lot of them are on welfare or unemployment” but have refused social services offered by SPD. “Most of them don’t want help. It’s a lifestyle choice. If your life is your next fix, you don’t really care,” Newsom says.

Several days ago, Newsom placed orange stickers on 10 different motor homes, giving notice the vehicles needed to move off the block within 72 hours, a standard parking rule in Seattle which The Stranger’s very own ECB has been ticketed and towed for. Despite the notices, campers just move down the street or around the block and Newsom says “The problem is, [car camping] is not against the law.”

The mobile homes on Linden have become a high priority for SPD because, according to Newsom, “People don’t feel safe when those motor homes are parked in front of their house.”

Broadview Community Council President Dale Johnson says Linden has attracted so many car campers because of the unfinished streets. Johnson believes that the lack of sidewalks in his North Seattle neighborhood is the main reason Linden has drawn so many campers. “Car camping goes to out of the way derelict areas. In the last 3-5 years, that street has been a derelict street. Clearly it’s an unfortunate situation. We’d like to make that into a livable street. We’re lobbying to have the city keep the promise it made 10 years ago, to improve Linden sidewalks. “It could be a very nice little corner of the city,” Johnson says.

Pics courtesy of the Broadview Community Council

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ECB has a car?

Posted by DOUG. | June 14, 2007 4:25 PM

Yeah, right, dream the dream. Seattle will finally finish putting in sidewalks in the 70% of the city which don't have sidewalks. The new viaduct will have its ground broken tomorrow. Mercer Street will be a breeze to drive down, safe to walk along, and will have bike lanes to boot. Rapid transit reaching the whole city will be completed tout de suite. The monkey in my ass is also going to fly around Lake Union with a few pigs, why not?

Posted by Phenics | June 14, 2007 4:34 PM

HAD a car. It got towed.

Posted by Jonah S | June 14, 2007 4:34 PM

it's not 70% of the city that doesn't have sidewalks, more like 30% but it's still super ghetto that there are parts that don't have sidewalks.

Posted by Angry Andrew | June 14, 2007 4:39 PM

This is not new. I lived in Ballard for three years and 14th street just south of Market (behind the Safeway) had/has several vehicular residents. One woman, obviously mentally ill, is there all the time, shouting at her demons.

Posted by Special K | June 14, 2007 5:02 PM


You got any more of that K?

Come check out the bums sleeping in their vans and motorhomes along pontiuis down in the Cascade area. It isn't just the outskirts that are seeing this crap.

Posted by ecce homo | June 14, 2007 5:05 PM

There was a guy living in a smallish, old 60's era RV near my house - I'm guessing his alternator was dead or somethingrather, as he'd leave it running to power the SATELLITE TV he had hooked up to it.

Posted by Dougsf | June 14, 2007 5:18 PM

I am tempted to roll a moderately urban homeless scenario. I have a VW van, live on the west side, but work at MSFT. Some nights its not worth my time to drive back home just to drive back the next day.

I find the dark spot in the parking garage and sleep in my van at work. We have nice locker rooms and I'm pretty sure no one outside of my gf/family know that I even do it. The days that I don't crash in the van I commute by bus so it isn't uncommon for my van to sit at work for a week at a time.

Where I would like to take the idea is to start doing local camping along I90 or other nice spots away from the commute bottlenecks. Nature is a great balance to my ultra tech day job and I will definitely crash up at snoqualmie/stevens come snow season.

Any tips for places I should set up camp for a night or two? Big bonuses for places near bus lines.

Posted by drew | June 14, 2007 5:20 PM

@8 -I hear Bitter lake is nice

Posted by DJSauvage | June 14, 2007 5:45 PM

@5...that stretch in Ballard you mention was very recently rezoned no parking between 2 AM and 5 AM. Drove by there the other evening and aside from one motorcycle there was not a vehicle parked for that three to four block stretch. The first time in at least a decade that there weren't a couple of dozen broke down vans and RVs camped out.

Maybe they've all gone to Linden?

Posted by gnossos | June 14, 2007 5:54 PM

That part of Bitter Lake has had car camps there since at least the early '90's when I did home care at the housing project just north of the reservoir, as has the south end of Ballard, especially around the Ballard Bridge, and parts of S. Lake Union. It's not a new phenomenon in the least, but one that's become more noticeable as these formerly industrial areas become more gentrified and residential.

I always figured the "caravaners" selected these areas because the workforce in those areas was generally small, the buildings large, providing a bit of cover (in the sense that decrepit vans & RV's don't stand out as much), there's little foot traffic, and, except for Bitter Lake, almost no residents to complain about the noise, the garbage, and simply them being there in the first place.

Posted by COMTE | June 14, 2007 6:09 PM

I work for Your Friendly Local Utility, at the north end location (97th and Aurora-ish).

Our complex has some truly lovely landscaping all around it, but we also have our share of campers - particularly on the east side of the compound, where there are no driveways, just a block long tasteful brick wall and greenery.

The greenery is where the campers go to the bathroom (much to the disgust of the long-suffering gardener) and also where they (and various others) attempt to scale the aforementioned wall to steal copper.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | June 14, 2007 7:07 PM

On Beacon Hill, they park in the public lot off Beacon Ave. next to the VA Hospital.

Posted by south ender | June 14, 2007 7:15 PM
live on the west side, but work at MSFT
Only lame ass MSFT employees say "westside" you might as well just move over there cause you already sound ridiculous. Go park in a wal mart lot.
Posted by Mack | June 14, 2007 8:31 PM
Johnson believes that the lack of sidewalks in his North Seattle neighborhood is the main reason Linden has drawn so many campers.

Hell yeah. I live in NoNo, too (north of Northgate), and I have to say that the lack of sidewalks sucks big Winnebago, and it does encourage people to park ugly vehicles for lengthy time periods. Let's build sidewalks and walk places, OK?

However, Sgt. Newsom's got a hell of a nerve telling me which homeless people I do or don't "feel sorry for."

Homeless people on welfare or unemployment? The horror! Refusing social services the police refer them to? But the police are so NICE to the homeless! So nice they'll decorate their homes with pretty orange stickers and offer free relocation services to the nearest $120/day tow lot -- I mean motor home park. And when has anyone been displaying empathy for someone else when they say they're making a "lifestyle choice"?

Posted by bitch on heels | June 14, 2007 10:52 PM

"We’d like to make that into a livable street. "


It's got TWICE the density it otherwise would have!


I find it hard to believe that the houses on those streets are now abandoned because a Winnebago parked out front. Those pigs! They are always such straight shooters!

Serious style points for the sawed off Winnebago with car in back! Nice pic! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by K X One | June 14, 2007 11:55 PM

thank you, bitch on heels. i was blown away by her quotes. i really couldn't believe she said that shit on the record. maybe they should hire archie bunker as a spokesperson.

Posted by grateful | June 15, 2007 12:02 AM

How exactly do sidewalks stop Winnebagos?

Posted by lawrence clark | June 15, 2007 12:41 AM

Sounds to me like a good place to do some 'gentrification'
Throw in a ton of zero lot line townhomes with the required luxo interiors.
Price them to include sidewalks.
With the 'housing shortage', there should be no problem clearing this mess thru the use of 'free market' actions!

Soon, the city will be gaining taxes from the occupancy densified area instead of expenditures for police and social services.

Posted by old timer | June 15, 2007 7:54 AM

Sidewalks mean pedestrians, and pedestrians mean onlookers.

To be clear, I'm not as worried about people's motor homes as I am about the half-abandoned vehicles that will never run again that line the streets of my neighborhood. People need a place to live, even people on welfare or unemployment.

But if crime is truly committed by the motor home dwellers, then the crimes will be quickly reported by pedestrians -- not as an indictment of the whole motor home community, but individually, when there is an actual problem. My guess: the crime is imported. Who wants to shit where they eat?

More on why sidewalks matter. In fact, I'm calling the city today to request sidewalks in my neighborhood. If you don't have sidewalks, you should call, too. DOT Pedestrian Program: 206-684-7583.

Posted by bitch on heels | June 15, 2007 8:39 AM

This stretch of Linden Ave N between N 130th and N 145th Streets is becoming a high-density residential area for low-income seniors as several new developments there open to augment the ones already there; nearly 1000 low-income seniors will be living on this stretch of road soon. It's a disgrace that this street doesn't have sidewalks on both sides of the street for some of Seattle's most vulnerable residents, who have to run a obstacle course of inadequate or nonexistent sidewalks and occasional high-speed traffic just to get to the Post Office or the Community Center, or to go to the market. This in a city that claims to be committed to the safety and welfare of *all* its citizens, and not just the ones who can walk, bike, bus, or drive.

For a better understanding of the plight of these Bitter Lake low-income seniors, read:

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: 'Urban village' at Bitter Lake lacks amenity: Sidewalks

John C Todd, Jr.
Greater Greenwood Bi/Ped Safety Coalition

Posted by JohnCToddJr | June 15, 2007 8:52 AM

wouldnt it be cheaper and faster to just create zoned permit parking in the area while waiting for sidewalk plans to go through? does anyone know why they don't do that?

Posted by brad | June 15, 2007 8:53 AM

@ 18-

With a bigger Winnebago.

Posted by Jonah | June 15, 2007 10:23 AM
live on the west side, but work at MSFT
Only lame ass MSFT employees say "westside" you might as well just move over there cause you already sound ridiculous. Go park in a wal mart lot.
I work at MSFT and I have found if you say "the city" they stop saying "westside". It actually annoys me as much as anything and is one of those things that might make me leave seattle and never comeback
Posted by Angry Andrew | June 15, 2007 10:26 AM

Sounds like Seattle has it's linguistic equivelent to FRISCO.

Posted by Dougsf | June 15, 2007 1:01 PM

Dear Council President Licata re: Complete Streets and Linden

Posted by Richard | June 15, 2007 4:04 PM

@25, my Dad (80 years old) still calls the city "Frisco", which never ceases to piss me off. He also called Montgomery Ward Department stores "Monkey Wards". That, which would also piss me off in the past, is now irrelevant.@22, that sounds about right.

Posted by lawrence clark | June 16, 2007 3:25 AM

I live in the Bitter Lake/Linden area, and often walk the stretch of Linden from 130th to the post office at 145th. It is indeed ghetto, but recently a trailer park was raised (incidently right across the street from where the Winnebagos and campers park), and like someone else said, there is a newly completed senior/low-income apartment building that is bringing 1000 more residents to the street this summer. Plus two more 400+ units are going up soon in the area... which leaves lots of pedestrains (many of them seniors) getting run over by speeding cars that use the road as an alternate to Aurora.

Personally, the campers haven't bothered me (except when I heard that there were a couple of felons living in one)... the lack of sidewalks in Seattle neighborhoods north of 85th (sidewalks that were promised literally 50 years ago) bothers me. And yes, the prostitution in the area bothers me. Linden is practically a dirt road littered with discarded condoms and needles... But a road with over 2000 residents and growing fast. How 'bout taking a look at the neighborhoods outside of South Lake Union, Mr. Nickels?

Posted by coffeeboss | June 21, 2007 2:38 PM

Sorry... correction to my #28... a trailer park was RAZED (not raised!). Big difference! :)

Posted by coffeeboss | June 21, 2007 2:40 PM

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Posted by rnjwum pbygni | June 25, 2007 3:04 PM

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