Seattle City Council passes nuisance ordinance to combat “neighbors from hell”
City Councilmember Tim Burgess had promised beleaguered residents and business owners that help is on the way for dealing with what some call “the neighbors from hell” — the scattered properties, motels and residences where criminal behavior becomes chronic. On Monday afternoon, it happened: The City Council voted to adopt a Chronic Nuisance Property ordinance on an 8-0 vote (Richard Conlin excused).
The ordinance is “designed to stop frequent criminal activity at commercial and residential properties across the city,” Burgess wrote on his City Views blog after the vote. “We have worked on this legislation for just over a year and it was personally gratifying that all of my colleagues supported this work.”
According to Burgess:
The new law will help people protect their neighborhoods, including some who have lived with drug trafficking, prostitution, and other street-level crime for years. Unfortunately, there are some property owners who don’t care about their neighbors and they allow all sorts of criminal behavior to flourish. These owners destroy neighborhoods and the Council said today with its vote that we’ve had enough.
The legislation gives the city an additional tool against property owners who knowingly and repeatedly allow criminal activity on their property and fail to take steps to stop it. Under the ordinance, following police investigation, the city can seek a court determination that a specific property is a chronic nuisance. Court-ordered penalties could include fines up to $500 per day that the nuisance continues, a $25,000 fine if a property owner fails to respond to city attempts to resolve the nuisance, and other nuisance abatement steps the court may impose.
As PostGlobe’s Joe Copeland wrote previously, the city had tried to use existing powers to force improvements at several motels along Aurora Avenue in north Seattle, but neighbors told the council’s public safety committee that the new chronic nuisance property is badly needed (earlier PostGlobe coverage is here). At least one West Seattle woman also testified at that earlier committee meeting. She said she lives near townhouses where the landlord doesn’t screen tenants properly.
“My home is not a refuge,” she said. “It is more like a war zone.”