SPU makes last minute move to protect tent city

Seattle Pacific University made a last minute move to protect the tent city that went up on campus Saturday. (KOMO News)

SEATTLE – Seattle Pacific University made a last minute move to protect the tent city that went up on campus Saturday.

For months, SPU planned the project that would bring Tent City 3 back to the school for the third time. Then they faced a last minute appeal.

The organization Safe And Affordable Seattle filed a 13-page appeal with the City of Seattle Thursday to stop the tent city’s move to SPU.

The organization claims the city is not abiding by land use and construction codes, citing environmental concerns that they feel haven’t been addressed.

They also argue that residents and businesses near homeless encampments often face an uptick in “soft crime,” including theft, mischief and drug sales among several other things.

The school says they received a Type II Master Use Permit to host the camp, which included a public comment period, during which the city received no negative comments.

Fearing the appeal could compromise their permit, SPU went to their neighbor, First Free Methodist Church, who agreed to collaborate on the project. The school says as a religious institution, the church can host the encampment without any public process per city code.

Dozens of students spent Saturday constructing the encampment on the SPU campus.

About 60 homeless men and women will move from University Congregational Church to SPU, where they'll stay for three months until Feb. 10, 2018.

SPU’s president said this move is part of their initiative to help students and the community understand the complexity of poverty.

"Hosting Tent City 3 is a concrete manifestation of Seattle Pacific University's mission to engage the culture and change the world,” said president Daniel Martin. “It provides our community a unique opportunity to care for and learn from our neighbor."

Safe And Affordable Seattle tells KOMO they plan to move forward with their appeal, adding this is a larger issue of the city’s approach to encampments.

SPU statement of appeal:

“Seattle Pacific University is a private Christian institution that strongly believes in the importance of helping people experiencing poverty and homelessness. As such, the University hosted Tent City 3 twice in the past, both times receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from faculty and students, the North Queen Anne community, and the residents of the encampment.

City Code gives certain religious institutions the right to host temporary encampments as a matter of right, without any public process. However, because the University values its relationship with its neighbors and with the city, the University decided to pursue a Type II Master Use Permit, including extensive opportunities for public engagement and input.

No negative public comment was submitted during the permitting process. In fact, the University received positive comment both from its Standing Citizens’ Advisory Committee and the public. On Thursday, however, and without previously voicing concerns to the city or to the University directly, a group filed an appeal of the city’s permit decision.

Tent City 3 had to vacate its prior location today, November 18. If Tent City 3 could not come to the University’s campus, its alternative was the street. Faced with this situation, the University collaborated with neighboring First Free Methodist Church to utilize the right granted to religious institutions to host temporary encampments and thereby allow Tent City 3 to move to the University’s campus immediately.

The University and its partner organizations are cooperating with city staff to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.”

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