Officials from King County, Washington are working to purchase yet another hotel to house people living on the streets without informing the neighbors. This time, the property is located across the street from several schools and daycare centers.
The La Quinta Inn & Suites at 10530 NE Northup Way in Kirkland is located on the border of nearby Bellevue, Washington. This would be the latest in a series of multi-million dollar transactions to buy multiple hotels and motels in the county. More than half a dozen hotels have been purchased already and the county plans to use taxpayer dollars to buy a dozen more.
The sites have typically been accompanied by an uptick in crime, open air drug use, homeless activity and vagrancy. King County officials refused to discuss vetting and background checks for residents of this new facility that will be located directly across the street from schools and daycares. Instead they referred to an website for all their homeless hotels which said "Rules will vary by provider." The site does not yet list the new location.
Many local providers operate "low barrier" facilities which means that residents in the shelters are not background checked and can bring in drugs and alcohol.
The La Quinta Inn site is located across the street from several schools and daycares and a short walk to others including; Eastside Preparatory School, Chestnut Montessori School, Yarrow Bay KinderCare and Cedar Crest Academy. The area is also a major hub for businesses in the area, the owners of which are equally concerned about an uptick in retail theft.
Various legislation has been considered by the state legislature and municipalities banning any type of homeless camp within 1,000 feet from a school. Homeless advocates and Democrats have repeatedly fought against the legislation.
In December, a violent homeless encampment located on a school property was finally cleared after having been on the campus for over a year.
Many hotel owners have allegedly contacted the county and offered their properties as facilities, which are still struggling to fill rooms as tourists avoid Washington state due to the pandemic and onerous lockdown restrictions imposed by Democrat Governor Jay Inslee.
The Post Millennial has learned that the announcement of the facility has been kept under wraps until the last possible minute, likely out of fear of more pushback from neighbors.
One resident told The Post Millennial, "Once again, King County is purchasing a hotel right on the border of Bellevue. They don't consult with us on the impact, nor do they seem concerned with the impact to our residents nor the impact to our police dept., hospitals, etc."
According to an FAQ on the website, the county does not do more to engage the community before the purchases because "The County was engaged in purchase and sale negotiations with private parties and sought to negotiate fair and reasonable purchase prices for each property. It is difficult to conduct financial negotiations in a way that properly stewards public funding and protects against price escalation when community engagement and price negotiation occur simultaneously. Outreach and engagement have taken place with neighbors and businesses near the HTH locations and will continue in earnest as the service operators are identified and begin to take a leadership role in establishing connections with the local community. A significant piece of this will be discussions around operations and development of Good Neighbor Agreements with the community."
Last summer residents of Bellevue and Redmond were irate about the purchase of a Silver Cloud hotel in Redmond also near the Bellevue border without community input. Once again the new property is located near schools and other community organizations.
Kan Qiu a resident and organizer of a rally against the purchase of the Silver Cloud for use as a shelter told KOMO news in August, that Mayor Angela Birney has ignored questions and concerns about the project, and has only sent out canned emails in response.
"Why were people not notified? At least notify before the transaction."
Qiu told the outlet at the time that people in and around Redmond are worried about crime, drug use and other problems that typically accompany people living on the streets in the area, especially in a densely packed area that has strip malls and a daycare.
These concerns are backed up by a checkered history of other hotels that were converted to shelters.
The community group Safe Eastside has also alleged that the Silver Cloud will be used as a heroin injection site.
King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office disputed the claim in an email statement to KOMO. "I want to be 100 percent clear. This is in no way a safe injection site. There is no sanctioned use of illegal drugs. Any resident who cannot abide by resident rules may be removed. It is permanent, supportive housing."
However, that statement was made before former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio opened the first legalized heroin injection sites in the country in December without informing the neighboring communities and with complete disregard for federal law.
Eugene Borimsky who lives across the street from the Silver Cloud told the outlet, "A few people already tried to sell their properties. Property values are dropping and I don’t actually see this problem being solved."
Neighbors fears may be well founded. The existing hotels set up by the county have brought crime to the surrounding areas and become hot beds of criminal activity themselves.
In February of 2020 at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, King County established a quarantine hotel in Kent for those living on the streets. The first patient homeless patient left the hotel and allegedly stole from a 7-Eleven across the street, then boarded a bus.
Two weeks later, Police said that homeless squatters were getting into unlocked rooms and vandalized them before spending the night and leaving in the morning.
Not long after, the Red Lion hotel in Renton was used to house over 200 people from Seattle’s Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) in April of 2020, nearby businesses began reporting spiking crime. In November of 2020, one of the residents housed at the hotel, who moved to Washington from Hawaii, allegedly set fire to his sixth-floor room.
At the time, William Mara III had pending misdemeanor assault and harassment charges in Seattle Municipal Court from incidents that occurred in October and November.
Not long after, a 39-year-old man barricaded himself in his room and threatened to burn down the building.
Problems at the hotel became so bad that Red Lion covered their signage and the city worked to enforce zoning regulations on the facility.
More cities in the county have worked to alter their zoning to prevent these facilities from being established in their municipalities. In SeaTac, the city voted to restrict the county from opening any additional shelters within city limits.
Cities within the county have also said that the county has not coordinated with them before these facilities were established.
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