‘Eco blocks’ on Seattle streets are thwarting more than homeless encampments

SEATTLE — Eco blocks are popping up all over some Seattle neighborhoods. The trouble is most of them are illegal.

Those who admit to putting up the ecology blocks say they are just trying to protect their businesses. The blocks do appear to be discouraging homeless encampments.

But Seattle’s Department of Transportation confirms anyone who installs the blocks is breaking the law.

The eco blocks are on one side of 8th Avenue Northwest. When you cross the street, you will see what they are meant to prevent.

It is making for an uneasy time in this part of Ballard.

We watched a man walk right past the homeless encampment along 8th Avenue Northwest, staying in the street rather than try to navigate the sidewalk taken over by those who are camped here.

“I’m not happy because hazard-wise, traffic as well, don’t know who these people are and possibly they could be doing something,” he said. “That’s why I don’t come down this way very often.”

And he did notice the eco blocks across the street.

“I approve,” said the man who declined to give his name. That, even though they are illegal.

“Well, that’s not my problem,” he said, chuckling. “It’s their property owners and that. But it’s keeping them off so walkers can get by.”

But 2.5 miles away in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, the concrete blocks are an impediment to a long-haul trucker here to deliver steel pipes to a construction site.

“I had to stop, turn around, had to back the truck up, go up this hill right here, turn around, pull out, come back. These are all blocking,” said Johnathon Brooner of Stockton, CA. “They’re blocking my whole path.”

The message on several of the blocks indicates why they are here, too.

“Honestly, it’s kind of an eyesore,” said Daniel Marshall. “At the same time, it’s just there.”

Those living in this encampment say they are well aware of why the blocks are in place.

“And I don’t think that it’s exactly fair,” said Marshall, who has been homeless for a decade. “I think they should make a designated area for people. There’s plenty of space and property all over Seattle.”

This is how someone is using the blocks on this corner, turning them into a shelter.

SDOT says when they find out about these blocks, they try to find out who put them in. Then they send a warning. If they aren’t removed, violators could face thousands of dollars in fines.

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