Sunset Recreation Center parking lot

Parking lot at the Sunset Recreation Center.

As a city-owned lot on Necanicum Avenue becomes the overnight resting place for more than a dozen encampments, a parking situation is brewing across the highway at the Sunset Recreation Center Parking lot.

Michael Hinton, a member of the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District Board of Directors, said he is concerned that if the city starts closing down the car park at 10th and Necanicum, the Sunset Recreation Center will turn into a “car camp.”

“It is already turning into one,” Hinton said. “We’ve got RVs which I’ve tracked and they’re showing up camping out there, several days, week after week, and I don’t want to see any of that migrate any further than it is to the SRC. I’d like to gain some understanding of why the property is being used for this free parking for dry camping and people just hanging out, particularly with vehicles.”

The concern comes weeks after Ken Heman, visitors information specialist at the Seaside Visitors Bureau, described conditions at the public restrooms adjacent to the parking lot and visitors bureau.

Heman said it started out with five or six people sleeping outside to the point where vehicles are taking spots at the visitors center, opening up their doors and occupying those spaces all day long, in some cases, selling or using drugs.

“I think our staff recognizes that it is a challenging area, one that we haven’t necessarily had to deal with before acquiring this property,” Skyler Archibald, executive director of the park district, said at last Tuesday’s board meeting.

People who park in the Sunset Recreation Center lot must acquire a permit from the city, available at the visitors bureau, Archibald said. Typically, that’s for visitors staying in a hotel or staying in a vacation property without a space space for an RV, he added. There is no charge for the permit.

If vehicles park without a permit, the park district has legal grounds to ask them to move, he said.

Typically in the past, permitting has gone through the visitors bureau. “When we took ownership of the property, we asked them to continue that,” Archibald said. “We didn’t feel like we were as equipped and people know to go to the visitors or the Chamber of Commerce building to acquire their permit for that thing. Now they’re not supposed to be sleeping in their vehicles.”

Hinton said he wondered how the situation is going to progress.

“It’s pretty clear that the visitorship to the city is diminished because of the transient problem,” he said.

Celeste Bodner, the park district board’s vice president, said it was easier for the park district to firm up boundaries and policies than it is to be lax and recover later. “I agree with Mike,” Bodner said. “We could save ourselves a much larger headache by some proactive measures.”

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(1) comment

Ben Harper

For now, how about we have all of the homeless people go to one location, not spread throughout the town and causing havoc to numerous local (tax paying) residents. Any single location would work if it's not near schools. We need a short term plan implemented now and not later. After months of talk and crossing of the fingers, this will not magically go away with a non-profit coming to save the day. The City leadership is giving disproportionate voice to the people causing the problem, not those who are impacted by the problem. Serve the citizens of Seaside, not the transients who suck the life out of our town. If the City leadership needs new ordinances to pass to enact a solution of where people can and cannot 'rest', then do it and get on it now. Give the Seaside Police something to enforce and they'll probably do so gladly.

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