Area under Ballard Bridge fenced off to keep out homeless campers

Both sides of Leary Way under the Ballard Bridge are now surrounded in chain link fence. In some places, it’s topped with barbed wire. Until the fence went up, the area had been a popular place for the homeless to camp.

The fence was installed to “maintain the structural integrity of the bridge and keep our communities and commuters safe,” SDOT said in a statement. “Wooden structures, open flames and propane tanks all pose a clear danger to public safety and has the potential to destroy this critical transportation corridor that 60,000 vehicles rely on each day.”

SDOT said there have been two fires under the bridge in recent years, in 2013 and 2016.

It’s not the first bridge area that SDOT has fenced off from the homeless. Last November a “no climb” fence was installed under the Spokane Street Viaduct after a fire in an RV camp.

SDOT also pointed to the devastating fire under an overpass in Atlanta last year. Police say a homeless man set a fire that ignited plastic conduit stacked nearby.

The new Ballard fence has been a hot topic in the My Ballard Facebook Group, drawing both praise for SDOT and concern the fence doesn’t address the larger problem.

Speaking with the Seattle Times, Councilmember Mike O’Brien says the fence is just displacing the campers. “They’re probably three blocks from here, next to some business,” he said.

The Times reported the Ballard Bridge fencing cost $100,000.

43 comments on “Area under Ballard Bridge fenced off to keep out homeless campers”

  1. “cost $100,000.”

    Yep, and burning the bridge down and closing it would cost millions. Small price to pay to keep people out who haven’t been house trained, especially after the previous fires they’ve started under there.

    But don’t ever hope Weepy Mike O’Brien will understand human nature.

  2. ” “They’re probably three blocks from here, next to some business,” he said.”

    The city offered them “wrap around services” as they do when ever they remove illegal camps. Housing, drug and alcohol treatment and mental health services. If they’re living 3 blocks away, they clearly refused help and want to live on the streets.

    What then smart guy? Throw out some more bird seed and scratch your head when you have hundreds of pigeons dumping on your constituents homes and property?

  3. myballard all over this story….the fencing has been up for a week.

    the unfortunate thing is all the parking lost for hardworking folks trying to get to their job.

    mike and his dopey grin does nothing for the normal, average, taxpaying citizens of his district. he’s a SJW clown and seems to have no problem with the continuing degradation of the city. his favorite sons and their trash, needles, thieves, violence and completely anti-social behavior are ruining the city.

    next up? handle the mess at commons park and st lukes. maybe use fencing to keep the, uh, neighbors, at st lukes IN….

  4. Mike O’Brien really has mattered the art of the sh*t-eating-grin.

    Shame he also forces us to eat his “social justice” sh*t sandwich.

  5. Only $100k? Wow, that’s a real bargain here in Premium City.

    @ Guesty
    Yeah the daily junkie circus on 22nd is a real joy, isn’t it? God forbid we have a safe park and library for young people instead of a rotating cast of sex offenders, dealers, addicts and thieves.

    Gee I wonder if this hug-the-turds strategy ultimately helps developers by driving out the single family units?

  6. what about the campers who have now moved under the bridge on 46th street? By Ballard Block- we cannot use sidewalk to walk from work to Trader Joe’s or LA Fitness due to them camping and leaving trash…

  7. Huh.

    The city that never stops preaching about recycling had to spend $100k to fence a couple small lots?

  8. They chose the most expensive fencing under the bridge by the water earlier.
    Walking those stairs often I can see the whole area.
    Nobody was camping there.
    Solved a problem that didn’t exist, we got to pay for it.

    They have to find excuses to use up the flood of cash coming to them to justify asking for more next time.

  9. @flaming dumpsters

    you mean all the “services” crammed down the neighborhoods throat several years ago? when there were hardly any tents in ballard? the same services that many predicted would lead to the current day craphole that area has turned into?

    don’t worry, sharon lee of lihi sleeps well at night with her 6 digit salary and that smug grin of “aren’t i a good person?”

  10. Good. Tired of being harassed by those fucks every time I walk past. I’ve been screamed at for no reason by the junkies under there. This is why we can’t have nice things. They get abused.

  11. They should have fenced them *in* — but with actual walls as tall as they can reach. No windows. Then they can live there, warm, and out of sight. And the trash the toss all over the place can stay inside with them.

    Instead, the just moved down a block and are camping on the sidewalk (as mentioned before).

  12. Seattle decides to build fences to solve a problem.
    Where have I heard this kind of idea before?

  13. How many months or is it now years that Council member O’Brien has had to understand that the drug using portion of the homeless population that occupies many of these spaces will not accept services and will take full advantage of any public space and destroy it. These guys are free-loaders, and some are criminals hiding from the law. Others just break the law daily to support their habit. Ask the Security staff at Fred Meyer. Time for this to stop, or find a Council person who will represent the tax paying and law abiding citizens of District 6 and Ballard, and the values we hold. The vast majority of these street campers around the Ballard Bridge and along Shilshole Avenue are hard core substance abusers. They are not somebody temporarily down on their luck. If O’Brien just says the will move to adjacent business areas, kick their sorry asses from there as well. Make it difficult to live here, arrest them and get them drug -free, or at least prevent them from stealing bicycles or breaking into cars and homes to support their drug habit.

  14. Hey kids, this is what happens when you listen to too much grunge music.
    You end up “under the bridge”.

  15. there’s always going to be losers who live their lives chasing dope and stealing from anyone they can. its not all mike obriens fault.

  16. “SDOT said there have been two fires under the bridge in recent years, in 2013 and 2016.”

    I wonder how many car fires occurred under the bridges, and if >= 2 if they will ban cars

  17. This is ridiculous when you consider that the big fire in Georgia was more a product of materials that were stored under the bridge than the homeless who inadvertently caused it.

    For those complaining about loss of parking– how many vehicle spots did you realistically lose? 10? 20? Because it looks tiny.

    If there is a fire, firefighters need to do their job rather than complain about having to address another ‘homeless’ situation (like they’re not human beings). SFD employees are paid more than enough for their skill-set and should be happy to help those in need if that was really they’re noble intention.

    The bridge down the road (near LA fitness) with a few tents– I hear those whining how a wheel-chair couldn’t get by and even walking past would be difficult but I have never seen ANYONE walking in this area, let alone rolling by in a wheel-chair.

    The fence is kind of dumb– they should probably integrate future art projects in the area to dress the place up a bit. I’m all for the cool light project going on at the Fremont Bridge

  18. WALLS ARE RACIST! I mean.. umm… uhh… This is different… somehow….

  19. Is anybody here shocked at:

    –The simplistic view of a fence will solve the problem.
    — The price of $100,000 for what amounts to ordinary chain link fencing.

    A typical chain link fence runs about $35/foot installed which is 2,857 feet –which is about a 1/2 mile of fencing? It doesn’t look like a 1/2 mile of fencing.

    If you contact a construction company the price to “rent” is considerably less …. Which might be a good idea since as we saw with bike racks which were installed and are now being removed.

    I think we need to put a fence around the City Council, enclose them out of doors and not let them out until they have a practicable solution which solves the homeless crisis in this city.

    We won’t need a 1/2 mile of fencing, we can electrify it and it won’t cost $100,000.

    Who would like to start a crowd funding project.

  20. Damn, the anti-homeless whiners are out in force on this one. The City puts up a fence to protect critical infrastructure and they STILL find something to complain about. I have a feeling that most of the people commenting on this article could win the lottery and complain about the taxes.

  21. Truth, I can’t imaging the staggering effort it much take for you to arrive the incorrect conclusion and wrongheaded take about each and every issue on My Ballard. It’s almost as impressive as the double think, cognitive dissonance, and self delusion our city “leadership” demonstrates on each and every important issue.

    Not sure if it’s you using others’ names here in a feeble attempt denigrate and misrepresent them, but you seem like the type that would do that.

    $100 k for this fencing is straight up graft.

  22. “SDOT said there have been two fires under the bridge in recent years, in 2013 and 2016.”
    There was a fire with damage in Atlanta.

    Our bridge is made of concrete, it doesn’t burn.

    But our people are so impressively dumb that they’ll believe any excuse. Deception is not illegal?

    The fence under the Ballard Bridge by the water had to have cost $1 million, now feels like a prison camp.
    Nobody was camping there.
    I quote, “God is this city stupid” lol.

  23. The explosion of homeless individuals in the Ballard area has little to do with the economy and literally everything to do with the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. The increase in addicted individuals on the streets correlates almost perfectly with the institution of this program. The idea is that individuals will be re-directed into treatment and support services rather than arrested. This sounds like a great idea but, in practice, it enabled word to spread that Seattle is a safe place (with regard to arrest) to shoot up. I believe if this program were eliminated we’d see many fewer opportunistic criminal campers on the street which would allow the city to concentrate on providing housing and assistance to those homeless who need and want it. However, I would be very interested in hearing what our local police think – since they are on the first line of dealing with this problem.

  24. Oh No Kip. You are so misguided!

    We need:

    1) More fences because that solves homelessness and addiction. Look at all the studies on this brilliant course of action. It also shows the more you spend on the fence the greater the positive effect. The least one should spend is $100,000 per fence.

    2) Greater emphasis on programs which stress “no personal responsibility for ones actions” This is the corner stone of getting better. Deny you have a problem and the use of transference.

    3) Allow illegal camping, loitering and vagrancy evenly dispersed over the entire city. It send the right message.

    4) Finally, have a city council which has “no action plan” or “end game”. Having an open ended, unproductive and poorly laid out plan “frightens the homeless and confuses them”.

  25. “Our bridge is made of concrete, it doesn’t burn.”

    Actual engineer here. Concrete is easily damaged beyond repair by high temperatures (especially aging concrete and cement) and the metal in the bridge would be easily destroyed in a fire at even lower temperatures.

    But god, you’re so smart.

  26. @Simon
    If the concrete structures can be easily damaged by fire – I’m agreeing with you here – then isn’t the city “playing with fire” by allowing these tent cities to cluster all over the city? Every time I bring up the obvious sanitation and fire safety code violations I get nothing but deflection, insults etc. Lord knows if your house or condo isn’t up to code the city is all over us with fines and whatnot.

    How long was the Jungle beneath I-5 ignored by the CC and the DOT? Isn’t this gross negligence to endanger the “campers” as well as the commuters on the roadways and the pedestrians using narrow, crowded urban pathways?

    For a city that does nothing but create Nanny Laws, it seems all of the violations resulting from the “Permissiveness Doctrine” that Seattle espouses are almost intentionally ignored.

  27. At the very least a fire under the bridge would pose a serious threat to drivers above (imagine if it started while the bridge was up) and would mean the bridge being closed for an extended period for inspections and probably replacement of metal joints that would be easily damaged in the fire.

    The cost to people living in Ballard and the city as a whole of have a major arterial closed for days, maybe weeks, would be millions. Millions. You know, people who have jobs they need to get to and pay taxes so that poorly house-trained homeless can be indulged.

  28. “Lord knows if your house or condo isn’t up to code the city is all over us with fines and whatnot.”

    Maybe Crying Mike O’Brien will suggest a new housing code using his “equity lens”, so homeless can do whatever the hell they please.

  29. @Simon Says
    I remember a friend complaining that his band posters they stapled to telephone polls and columns are removed by city crews because they pose a fire risk and “create debris”. Hilarious.

  30. @Predictably Wrong: So we allegedly have a terrible city, run by terrible people for decades, and yet, here you still are, wringing your hands to the bone. You COULD sell your house for a massive profit and move to a nice red, god fearing city, which are supposedly so clean they sparkle, but you choose to stay here and be a vanguard for something that I can’t quite figure out.

  31. I don’t get why the homeless are called poorly house-trained. They shit outside, which is the definition of being house-trained.

  32. @Truth
    We pay, and the city wastes.

    Assuming that I can just pick up and move, many many others cannot do so – so all this “empathy” for the junkie hobos and the excessive taxation it generates (in addition to all the other exorbitant taxes and fees) unfairly falls on the shoulders of people living and working in this city. These same taxpayers are the victims of the massive property crime problem, as well as the newer violent crimes drifting into areas that were peaceful as little as 18 months ago.

    “Get assaulted on your way to work by a junkie? Oh well, no big deal just move!”

    Just as you presumably spend your time “hand wringing” about the Trump admin, those of us who have a higher expectation of our city govt – a govt which never stops preaching about it’s “progressive brand” to the entire world – are perfectly justified being outraged at the violations of the social contract and gross negligence in upholding public safety and performance of duties related to anything other than collecting revenue.

  33. @ballardgirl and everyone else reporting Homeless encampments, report it to the CSB at the city under general request on their website. Explain to them the location, problem etc. and then request THEY forward the reply to the staff of the council member who oversees that location, your council member, and the two at large council members.

    The finishing touch is letting them know you are eager share the progress, or lack of progress with your local newspaper, blog, or tv station.

    It’s a shame but I think that’s the best solution to get results. Be nice to the people there, they are just doing their job and aren’t the leadership. Friendly, firm, and escalate to your elected officials with a tie into the press to help with…. accountability.

    My two cents on getting the City in gear.

  34. @Gaslight: Most people still think we live in one of the best cities in the country, despite a homeless, drug and mental illness problem that plagues most large cities. Most people also understand that on the local level, there’s only so much we can do (although there’s a lot of resistance to these local solutions, which only compounds the problem) and that we need willpower at the national level to solve these problems, which doesn’t appear to be the case at the moment.

    You don’t seem to understand this and I suspect it has to do with your mental illness that I keep telling you to get diagnosed and treated. You feel helpless, so you start ranting about homeless, progressives or whatever else you don’t understand, hoping it’ll make you feel better. Faced with a rebuttal or facts, you further descend into a mental state where you need to create sockpuppet names and further troll, hoping to get responses out of people.

    Seek help dude.

  35. Sorry, Drippie, I’m too busy running a business and paying taxes to indulge in your nonsense.

    Allowing thousands (and attracting more daily) of undeveloped, stunted adult addicts to wander freely – and refuse services – then BLAMING the taxpayers is, even for a “progressive”, an embarrassing display of bald faced stupidity.

  36. Does your business involve sitting around all day griping about the homeless, under many different names, on neighborhood blogs? If so, business must be booming!

  37. Simon,

    Non-sequitur — I wasn’t asking a loaded question. My comment suggested the city’s position was not consistent (homeless fires are untenable but car fires are acceptable) , and therefore likely not about what they claim it is about.

  38. Hey,

    Does anyone know how long this is going to be up for? I know a business that wants to open up near by but parking is an issue. Is there a way to negotiate to allow parking but put up camera or something of the sorts, and do frequent “you’re not supposed to be here” kind of deal? Or make it actual city “pay to park” spots, which I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen any homeless encampments on “pay to park” locations.

    Ugh what a waste of valuable space- if anyone has any info on how to contact whoever’s idea this was, I’d love to find a solution to this very ‘simple’

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