North Seattle neighbors complain about smoke and noise from ‘metal shop’ constructed in homeless encampment

SEATTLE — Neighbors living along a portion of North Seattle’s Jackson Park Trail say they’ve been dealing with noxious smoke along with loud pounding and grinding noises overnight from a metal shop set up near their condo complex.

But this “metal shop” was apparently constructed with wood and tarps in the middle of a homeless encampment built along the trail. Ed Peterson pointed out the structure on the trail which is owned and maintained by the city of Seattle Parks Department.

The structure, built of wood and tarps, is secured by a locked door. But Peterson and his neighbors have been complaining for months about what they hear and smell coming out of this structure.

“Nighttime is when they all come in,” Peterson said. “That’s when the grinding wheel starts, the metal shop starts and motorcycles are running up and down the trail.”

“Last night I was awakened by some hammering noises in that metal shop,” said Derrick Weathersby, who lives in the complex looking over the trail. “And this noise will go on until five in the morning. It was very concerning to hear what I thought were gunshot sounds. This has happened on many occasions.”

Right next to it are more encampments with warnings to stay out.

Peterson said he called the city Parks Department, Seattle Police, the Fire Department, and even federal agencies because of the smoke he says billows out of a generator overnight, and he says no one responds.

“I’ve never in my life smelled fumes as deadly and poisonous and large in volume as what’s coming out of that generator,” he said. “It’s engulfing all of our building.”

That building is right on the other side of the trail, where there’s also a preschool nursery.

This is all happening along the Thornton Creek Watershed, which is a protected area, and where Tuesday we asked the city about neighbor complaints about pollution and needles from encampments. Seattle’s Department of Public Utilities sent this response to KIRO-7:

“The Seattle City Council eliminated funding for the Navigation team. This means that City-conducted outreach to people at unauthorized encampments, including shelter referrals and removals of unauthorized encampments that pose public health and safety risks, is suspended.”

That explains Ed Peterson’s unsuccessful attempts to get help.

“The city won’t do a thing about it,” he said. “You tell them there’s a nursery over there with preschool kids being exposed to this smoke and they don’t do a damn thing!”

According to page 413 of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2021 budget proposal, a portion of funding taken from the Navigation team could be transferred for future encampment cleanup efforts.

“This item transfers the funding used to support encampment trash and biowaste clean up from Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU),” the budget item reads.

“Moving this contract consolidates encampment cleanup programming and oversight for the City of Seattle in SPU.”

“I know the city doing nothing is unacceptable,” Weathersby said. “I’m a bleeding heart, but the council has to address this to take care of the working people who live here and also help these people.”

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