After a city crackdown on Necanicum Drive near 12th Avenue earlier this year, residents in Seaside say that people living in RVs have moved across the street to Goodman Park.
The park’s popularity as a place to shelter grew after overnight street parking prohibitions and increased ticketing.
“We all came here in the spring to see most of you here,” Robert Clark, a resident, told the City Council last week. “We got a lot of nodding that you would be doing things. ... Now, it’s worse than it was.”
Karl Schorr, a resident, said most of the vehicles are unlicensed or have licenses that are expired. “Those living in the vehicles are dumping sewage on property and streams,” he said, “as well as using the bathroom in the park.”
“Obviously the word is out,” Seaside’s Pamela Schwenzer wrote. “‘Free camping in Seaside with a river view.’ There are no facilities for dumping waste or dirty water. I’m concerned about our river. This is adjacent to a playground and public restroom.
“Having fled Portland four years ago, I have seen how such a setup can attract problems, causing a deterioration in livability in a neighborhood. We left Laurelhurst — I suspect you’ve heard of it.”
City Councilor Tita Montero said there is a lack of clarity between local ordinances, state law and a federal court ruling on homeless camping. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Oregon, has ruled that ordinances against sleeping outdoors on public property when there are no shelters available are unconstitutional.
“We’re also working on pulling information and strategies together so that the council can look at what can we implement, what is going to be legal — first of all — and for the benefit of the whole community,” Montero said.
City Attorney Dan Van Thiel has said police are doing everything they can by creating a constant presence in the area. He said issuing citations is of limited value if people do not show up for court or pay fines. The city has not yet moved to tow vehicles, which he said would come at city expense and could subject the city to litigation.
While trash and unsanitary conditions have been concerns for neighbors, trash has not been an issue among those parked at the city lot, Public Works Director Dale McDowell said. “I have handed out trash bags, and they are picked up several times a week by the Public Works Street Department,” he said.
At last Monday’s meeting, Mayor Jay Barber said homelessness is the issue that “kept him awake at night.”
A new state law approved this year requires that local regulations on sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry in outdoor public spaces be objectively reasonable for the homeless. The law aims to protect the homeless from fines or arrest for camping on public property when there are no other options. Cities and counties must comply by July 2023.
“If we do not do that, or are unable to do that, then, as I understand this, they are permitted to lie asleep in any public property in our city,” Barber said. “That is truly a challenge.”