I was out of town last weekend while Nickelsville was being dismantled—instead of standing their ground and making the city evict them forcibly, they packed up and moved to three different sites, which, unlike the Marginal Way site, are legal under two different regulatory mechanisms. (They can either be hosted by a church or use a temporary permit, and they're doing both). Two of the new sites are centrally located and near each other—one on Jackson Street near 23rd Avenue South and one 22nd and Union Street; the largest of the three is outside the city, in Skyway. They're still finishing the last of the move, actually; the city's given them a grace period until tomorrow evening to get the last of it.
On Sunday, in the middle of a three-day holiday weekend and as the City Council wrapped up a two-week vacation, the last campers at West Seattle’s Nickelsville packed up and moved out, prodded by a Sept. 1 eviction deadline handed down by the council in June.
Avoiding the photo op no one wanted—cops and bulldozers forcing Nickelodians off the city-owned land and into uncertainty—Nickelsville residents were able to secure three new locations at the last minute...
“It’s wonderful. We’ve got enough room for everyone” at the new locations, says Peggy Hotes, a liaison between Nickelsville and Jam for Justice, the nonprofit that sponsors the tent city. She says the move will make Nickelsville residents safer and provide stability. “We’re very happy that it’s all working out the way it is,” Hotes says of the move, while maintaining that the order that made it necessary was misguided and in many ways cruel.
You could see their decision not to stand their ground as a kind gesture to a supportive mayor (McGinn certainly didn't want to be forced into sending in city officials and cops to tear tents out of people's hands when it's the council who ordered the eviction) or the camp's genuine desire to avoid the awfulness of a tear-down and just care for themselves instead of making a grand political statement out of staying there. They have a bunch of great photos on their Facebook page right now, check 'em out.
But the question that hasn't been answered yet is: What the fuck has city council learned from this? They spent $500,000 to get rid of this camp; instead, there are now three camps. Union Gospel Mission says the money will have housed around 60 people in the end. The mayor's office has long been at odds with council over the harm-reduction strategy of legalizing encampments so they can be regulated and so they can serve as an organizing principle for getting services to people in need. The council voted not to authorize new encampment regulations late in the summer, even as Council Member Nick Licata begged them to just wait and see what happened with Nickelsville, saying there would still be people who wanted to live in encampments come September. Of course, he was right. Now I'm trying to figure out what the council's long-term strategy is here, and all I see is a one-time political answer to an ongoing, pernicious, complicated problem.