Turns Out the City Will Remove Anti-Homeless Eco-Blocks After All—But Only For Their Own Projects

By Erica C. Barnett

On Tuesday, Seattle Department of Transportation crews removed some of the dozens of concrete “eco-blocks,” including many originally installed by Fremont Brewing to prevent homeless people from setting up tents or parking their RVs there, that abut a patch of mulched dirt known as the Leary Triangle.

They did not, however, remove any of the dozens of blocks that still surround the brewery, which is owned by Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson and her husband Matt Lincecum. The blocks have sprung up all around the city to prevent people who live in their vehicles from parking in industrial areas, which are the only parts of the city where RVs and oversized vehicles can park overnight. Fremont’s eco-blocks occupy two full block faces and prevent anyone, including neighborhood residents and visitors, from parking on either street without being in the roadway.

Placing obstructions in the public right-of-way, including sidewalks, curb space, and parking strips, is unambiguously illegal under the Seattle Municipal Code, which authorizes the city to order property owners to remove obstructions at their own expense. However, the city has chosen not to enforce the law; when PubliCola asked about the proliferation of eco-blocks last year, SDOT director Greg Spotts said the department wouldn’t prioritize removing eco-blocks, a point he reiterated later on Twitter.

SDOT is also a partner in the city’s Unified Care Team, a group of city workers that removes homeless encampments and RVs from public spaces.

A spokeswoman for SDOT said the department removed the blocks “as a part of a larger City of Seattle project to reopen Leary Triangle.” After the city is done with its work on site, she said, the area where the blocks once stood will become a four-hour parking zone, to “make it easier for people visiting Leary Triangle and nearby businesses to park for a short period of time.” Removing the eco-blocks from the surrounding streets would create more parking spaces, but turning the area around the new dog park into a four-hour parking zone will have the effect of permanently banishing people who live in RVs or other vehicles.

PubliCola asked SDOT why they didn’t remove the other eco-blocks that surround Fremont Brewing, since they, too, are preventing “people visiting Leary Triangle and nearby businesses” from parkingfor any period. “The concrete blocks were removed in this location due to construction from a larger project to reopen Leary Triangle,” the spokeswoman said. “The circumstances are unique to this location.”


13 thoughts on “Turns Out the City Will Remove Anti-Homeless Eco-Blocks After All—But Only For Their Own Projects”

  1. I see, so when the rich break laws it is virtuous and plucky, done for the best reasons with the best intentions against an unfair system. When the poor break laws it is vicious and evil (particularly if the poor people are unhoused), because these non-human monsters are taking advantage of an honest system. The bias is plain enough: laws are for little people, and the littler the people the harsher the law should be wielded. Some may say decaying “public safety” is our greatest urban plague (couterfactually, or course), but the real problem is the massive, cancerous growth in aristocratic thinking.

    And of course Sara Nelson is the holy crusader of Seattle’s aristocratic thinkers, so of course people are going to show up to say any criticism of her is not fair. Hands off their great white savior.

  2. ECB rarely misses an opportunity to cheap shot Sara Nelson. It is a false equivalency to compare protecting a business with Eco-blocks to the damage encampments do. Clear the encampments, and there will be no need for Eco-blocks.

    1. I’d rather see the city deal with the ecoblocks than sweep the homeless. One of these is a crime of wealthy choice, the other a crime of penniless desperation.

  3. “Placing obstructions in the public right-of-way, including sidewalks, curb space, and parking strips, is unambiguously illegal under the Seattle Municipal Code”

    So is camping on a sidewalk or RV parking permanently and cooking Fentanyl. Just minor details you omitted

  4. We are finally enjoying the full benefits of trickle down economy where the people benefit from living in tents and debris on public sidewalks. Seattle is not the only City benefiting from the tremendous advantages of the huge gap between the haves and haves-not.

  5. I think someone should paint those blocks to look like derelict wee RVs.

  6. Erica,
    You might also want to ask SDOT when they’ll take on the U.S. Government and remove the blocks surrounding the post office block in Ballard. And you might want to mention the PO property, too, along with Fremont Brewing so it doesn’t seem so obvious you’re eager to criticize Sara Nelson.

    1. Dick, I’m assuming you know about USPS because I’ve written about it on PubliCola multiple times?

      One of the stories linked in this story is literally about USPS and City Light. Here it is, again, for reference.


      Here’s a followup: https://publicola.com/2021/12/07/eco-blocks-update-sawant-replacement-rumors-another-preventable-outbreakand-another-sweep-in-ballard

      The news today—this is a news site, not a “reprint what we reported in years past” site—is that SDOT removed some of the eco-blocks around Fremont Brewing.

      Also, the US Postal Service is not on the Seattle City Council.

  7. I live near Fremont Brewing and I thank them every time I drive by their cleared street. (The other blocks are dangerous, dirty and off-limits — including long stretches of “public” sidewalks.) Sure, it’s an unfortunate comment on our culture that such brutal tactics are needed to be taken by private citizens and companies — it confirms the reality that we can’t be dependent on government and are fortunate to live in a somewhat free country where we can take action to protect ourselves and our neighbors. Those in leadership should be making such self-protective actions unnecessary — but hard decisions are hard and our city gov’t has not been up to the task for a long time. (The ridiculous $10 late fee on rent, sorry that Strauss supported it, is just one more weak response. Help the people that need temporary help. Help the rest find long term stability in their life styles, decision making, finances… It’s called accountability/responsibility and punishing landlords (I’m not one) who provide the housing we need makes no sense.)

    1. Sarah Nelson could get the law changed instead of breaking it. That’s what we are paying her for.

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