Seattle, WA — It’s a simple request:
“We just want to walk down the sidewalk. That’s it,” says Melinda Carter.
For 16 years, Carter has walked down 4th avenue from King Street Station to get to work.
In the past year, she’s noticed more and more tents blocking her path.
“You were walking on the sidewalk on the edge, and then a week later we’re walking in the bike path. And then a week later, we’re walking in the street,” says Carter.
She’s spent hours on the phone asking the city for help.
“The people in charge of the sidewalks in Seattle said there was nothing they could do,” says Carter.
Nothing they could do, apparently - until now.
We walked Carter’s commute with her and took a look at the same underpass today at 4th and Yesler. Not a tent in sight inside the tunnel.
Carter noticed the change in the last couple weeks. She has the sinking suspicion the tents were moved to make way for 1,500 actors and extras filming Steven Soderberg’s movie Kimi, starring Zoë Kravitz.
Part of the plot? A city council that passes a ‘safe zone’ law to keep out the homeless population.
“Doesn’t seem right to me,” says Carter.
We asked the city if encampments at 4th and Yesler and 5th and Yesler were removed for the filmmakers. But the mayor’s office told us that wasn’t it. A spokesperson says the tents were moved because they were blocking the sidewalk and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Notices to the campers went up at the beginning of April, according to the city.
“I was surprised to hear about it and I wasn’t exactly sure what rule they were referring to,” says Seattle attorney Conrad Reynoldson.
Reynoldson is a disability rights advocate. He doesn’t know why the encampments were removed but he knows about sidewalks.
“We haven’t seen sidewalk accessibility be a priority for the City of Seattle in recent years,” says Reynoldson.
We found a city policy that allows tents to be removed if they block sidewalks.
Melinda Carter wonders: why now?
“Before this area clearly should have been cleared out too,” says Carter. “Consistency.”
Carter says the sweep is not a solution. And she’s curious if there will be consistency in the future.
“It’ll be interesting what happens next week when the crew’s gone,” says Carter. “Are they still going to come through with their sweeps and clean up?”
If you’re curious where the people living on those sidewalks went, some people we talked to said a number of them moved just up the street to the area around City Hall Park. The city said some others accepted offers of shelter and are staying at the Executive Hotel which is funded for shelter through 2021.
Cox Media Group