The presence of a few recreational vehicles have caught the ire of City of Sequim neighbors, particularly those between Fifth and Seventh avenues.
RVs parked on the street — most of them legally, according to Sequim Police — have been linked to complaints of trespassing, theft and other issues.
Sequim’s public works director Sarah VanAusdle told Sequim city councilors at their Dec. 12 meeting there was a problem with parking on both sides of Prairie Street as it’s “not technically wide enough for both” and that the street could not accommodate a school bus. The city was also receiving a lot of complaints about the roadway, she said.
Once the weather is warmer and drier, city staff will paint bike lanes on both sides of West Prairie Street between Fifth and Seventh avenues, VanAusdle said.
She told councilors that city staff continue to plan for Prairie Street to be widened and become a “complete street,” with sidewalks, bike lanes and parking on both sides of the street, too.
Councilor Vicki Lowe expressed concern about residents having enough parking, particularly Mountain View Apartments residents.
She said city staff “over-reacted” with making both sides bike lanes, and that one side or the other should be left for parking.
“We’ll evaluate how it goes and see if the problems are solved,” VanAusdle said.
In a phone interview, VanAusdle said that the city opened up parking along the west side of the apartment complex on South Fifth Avenue to accommodate its residents, and South Sixth Avenue is also open for parking.
The area is also part of a “bicycle corridor,” VanAusdle said, and there were issues with doing parking only on one side as it would “throw the crown of the road off center.”
Complaints about RVs were also part of city staff’s discussion and decision, she said.
Sequim Police Department is well versed in complaints to the area, with residents reporting RVs and vehicles dozens of times since the summer.
VanAusdle said police sent navigators to work with owners of vehicles parked for extended periods of time on the roads.
Suncrest Village Retirement Community — a 38-resident facility for seniors and/or those with disabilities on South Fifth Avenue — sits one block north of Prairie Street. Staff have reported people allegedly sleeping, using drugs and/or defecating in bushes by Suncrest’s building, as well as people allegedly looking into windows.
From Jan. 1, 2022-Sept 10, 2022, Suncrest staff/residents have called 9-1-1 for non-medical emergencies 18 times requesting police patrols, reporting suspicious people, trespassing and other incidents.
For all of 2018-2021, the facility phoned 9-1-1 for non-medical emergencies 22 times, including only three times in 2021, according to police records.
Barbara Shaffer has lived in Suncrest since 2019, and said she doesn’t pull her drapes open anymore after seeing a man right outside her window.
“I still feel safe inside, but I will just walk on the property,” Shaffer said. “I won’t go on the sidewalk anymore.”
After she found a couple living in a tree, people stealing cigarette butts from a smoke can, and vehicles blocking sidewalks and the driveway, Suncrest community manager Lori Herrin did perimeter checks three times a day.
Suncrest’s parent company, Guardian Real Estate in Portland, Ore., encouraged facility managers to put up flood lights, Herrin said, and staff have also locked dumpsters and trimmed bushes down to the ground.
A few Mountain View Apartments residents have also spoken at city council meetings about errant RVs as well.
Serenity Thrift Store manager Belle Muñoz reported in June they’ve seen an increase in illegal dumping in the parking lot, sleeping on the premises, breaking into the dumpster, and/or other suspicious activity. It’s unknown if allegations are linked to RV parking or others in the area.
Muñoz said for the people they’ve seen, they’ve offered them support services and mostly have been turned down, or it’s after hours and they leave before staff arrive.
Along with persistent phone calls, Herrin hosted Det. Sgt. Darrell Nelson for Suncrest residents, and Serenity employees in October for an informational meeting.
Herrin said she came away from the meeting feeling good about the police’s efforts, and their efforts.
“[Nelson] educated me, and there are issues the police should handle right away,” she said.
“We were told we’re doing what we can and what we should be.”
In recent weeks, Herrin said some RVs have parked near their facility but residents haven’t had any issues since cutting down bushes.
City staff and police continue to refer residents to city “Fact Sheets” that address city code on topics — from RVs to panhandling to snow removal — at sequimwa.gov/1022/Fact-Sheets.
The city’s Fact Sheet states that Washington’s Supreme Court granted people who live in vehicles “homestead rights” in 2021.
The city “cannot ticket, tow, or impound any vehicle that is being used as the owner’s primary residence without creating a financial and legal liability for the agency,” according to city documents.
It continues: “More importantly, doing so creates an unconstitutional burden on people who are forced to live in their vehicles. If their vehicle is towed they are left with nowhere to go and no access to their belongings.”
The Fact Sheet states, “The risk of depriving someone of their only home, as well as the potential inability to recoup fines and costs, creates a disincentive for the local government to tow and impound vehicles except in very clear circumstances.”
Multiple Clallam County agencies continue to seek solutions for housing and homelessness.
Agencies continue to explore a potential RV parking site in Clallam and discussions remain in early talks, according to Christy Smith, chief executive officer for United Way of Clallam County.