Joe Palumbo says he moved his business to Magnolia to get away from nuisance RVs, but no matter where he goes, it seems that a new caravan awaits. And like many Puget Sound area business owners, he’s ready for action.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Palumbo, the proud owner of 3D Total Health in Magnolia, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “… I really think it’s falling on deaf ears.”
While it may seem like the RVs are following Palumbo around the city, this problem is not unique to him. Reports of rundown recreational vehicles started coming in more than a year ago in neighborhoods such as Wallingford and Magnolia. It caused a great deal of strife and consternation among neighbors and business owners.
In January of 2016, Mayor Ed Murray issued an emergency order to work as a band-aid for the problem, creating two safe lots in Ballard and Delridge so that 100 RVS could park without getting tickets or being impounded. Three interim parking zones were also to be created. The goal: to offer a temporary, safer environment for those living on our streets, while also having less impact on our neighborhoods. However, as a strategic adviser with the Human Services Department told The Seattle Times, Murray’s RV plan largely collapsed.
The Times reports that city was spending $35,000 a month, or about $1,750 per vehicle to manage the safe lot in Ballard. Ultimately, not all of the sites were opened and the city has scaled back to one RV lot that hosts 15 vehicles.
The City’s plan has now transitioned back to before the emergency plan: funding outreach to RV families wherever they are parked through the Road to Housing program. Murray also sent an emergency order to the city council Tuesday authorizing three new homeless camps in the city.
Running Magnolia gym surrounded by RVs
Palumbo moved 3D Total Health to a building along 20th Avenue West in October. He’d run into RV issues at his previous location in Interbay.
“About two weeks ago, they started coming back onto our street,” Palumbo said. “It’s not just a single RV. We’re talking five or six that are essentially occupying most of the parking spaces on my block.”
Palumbo said he leaves work most mornings at 8 or 9 p.m. and arrives at 6 a.m. the next morning. It’s rarely a happy discovery upon arrival.
“I will always come back to work in the mornings to something happened overnight,” he said. “Whether it’s trash, whether it’s needles, which I have found. Vomit. Just, it literally looks like somebody was just out there hanging out. They’ll use my trash bins, my trash bins are full consistently so I have to pull them into my business now.”
Palumbo said he’s looking into purchasing security camera for his business and has seen an impact on his customers.
“It perks people’s ears up. They notice it. I don’t know if people completely feel comfortable walking into my business, I’m surrounded by RVs,” he said. “It’s kind of a tough situation where we moved to a nice new property, we have a great lease, we’ve got a great space and when the RVs were back, every single person that came in I worry about safety, I worry about people coming here at 6 in the morning, I worry about those things catching on fire. I run youth sports performance programs, so we have kids coming through here consistently and to walk in one morning and to find a needle and vomit is just kind of disheartening.”
What about the police? Palumbo said he hasn’t received any response from police, though he’s only filed his reports online since it is the most convenient option.
“Just running a business, I don’t have a lot of time to track through the bureaucracy and make the reports,” he said. “I’m trying to do my best to report things as I see them. I did get a threatening email earlier this week that I filed with the police about me and my business. So those have come about recently.”
Palumbo says he has compassion for these individuals but agreed with Dori’s assessment that politicians appear to care more about homeless individuals than business owners.
“I just hear talk, and I hear a lot of, ‘We’ll do this, we’ll do this,’ but nobody can come to a consensus,” he said. “I see it more as a failure of leadership and somebody’s got to make some tough decisions.
“Each person in that RV has their own story,” he added. “I’m not trying to discount that and I get it. But in that same breath here, it seems like they’re penalizing the small business owner because I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money to pull resources and make a big fuss about it. I’m just trying to grind through my days and grow my product and my business.”
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