At Mariners’ Request, Mayor’s Office Pushed for Encampment Removal to “Make Opening Day Great” Last Year

By Erica C. Barnett

For weeks, the city has been scrambling to make downtown Seattle, Pioneer Square, and the stadium district inviting to the tens of thousands of people expected to pour into the area this week for All-Star Week. In addition to trash pickups and temporary park “activations” (pickleball, a free outdoor roller rink), the city has flooded the neighborhood with police; last Friday, in tiny Occidental Square alone, PubliCola counted at least eight officers, six park rangers, four private security guards, and about a dozen Downtown Seattle Association ambassadors.

And, of course, the city is sweeping unsheltered people by removing tents and RVs from the area.

Last week, Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office categorically denied that the encampment and RV removals had anything to do with the big baseball event, telling the Seattle Times that the sweeps were based on an “objective prioritization matrix” that naturally leads to frequent encampment removals in the area.

PubliCola has filed a records request to find out more about the process that led to the recent removals.

“Opening day for the Mariners is April 15th and they would like to ensure that the public has a good experience. Can you let this team know what you can do to make opening day great?”— Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington to Seattle encampment program manager Donna Waters, April 2022

In the meantime, here’s how Harrell’s office dealt with demands by the Mariners to remove encampments around T-Mobile Park, where the All-Star Game is happening, in 2022: By sending a message to the city’s encampment program manager, titled “ACTION ALL – HIGH PRIORITY T-Mobile Park,” asking for an encampment removal in time for opening day along with “clean-ups throughout the [baseball] season.”

The urgent request was prompted by an April 6, 2022 email from the Mariners’ executive vice president and general counsel Fred Rivera, who complained that there was new “encampment activity” that “happens to be in the path between stadium station and the ballpark, which thousands of fans will access on the 15th.”

“Is there anything that can be done to prioritize this area, support shelter placements for individuals encamped here, and clean-up in advance of April 15th and potentially throughout the season?” Rivera wrote.

Three minutes later, Harrell’s strategic initiatives director Tim Burgess responded to Rivera personally, copying Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington, “who leads these issues. I’m sure you will see some action soon,” Burgess wrote. The following day, Washington forwarded Rivera’s email to Donna Waters, who heads up the encampment program for Harrell’s Unified Care Team, describing it as “a request from the WA State Ballpark public facilities district.”

“Opening day for the Mariners is April 15th and they would like to ensure that the public has a good experience,” Washington wrote. “Can you let this team know what you can do to make opening day great?” Waters responded that the city was continuing to do trash pickups and cleaning in the area, but did not say anything about removing the encampment.

“How is this looking for Friday’s opening day events? Will there be a removal before Friday or Friday morning?

“Unfortunately, no we do not have the capacity to complete a removal by Friday.”


Several days later, Burgess followed up. “How is this looking for Friday’s opening day events?” he wrote. “Will there be a removal before Friday or Friday morning?”

“Unfortunately, no we do not have the capacity to complete a removal by Friday,” Waters responded.

Burgess then forwarded Waters’ email to then-deputy mayor Kendee Yamaguchi, along with a one-word comment: “Ugh.”

The encampment the Mariners, and Burgess, wanted to remove in 2022 included approximately seven tents and six individuals. In contrast, the encampments and RVs that were removed in the runup to the All Star Game displaced an estimated 24 people living in tents, along with 15 RVs.

In response to questions about efforts to remove tents in time for the Mariners’ Opening Day in 2022, mayoral spokesman Jamie Housen said the city does “not have a standard practice” for removing encampments for large events, and noted that the encampment “was not removed before Opening Day but was closed at a later date.” The SoDo neighborhood, he added, “has the highest number of verified tents and RVs in our database. “As such, outreach, remediation, and resolution efforts continue to be a focus in the neighborhood.” This is almost identical to what the mayor’s office said this year to justify encampment removals in the same location.

19 thoughts on “At Mariners’ Request, Mayor’s Office Pushed for Encampment Removal to “Make Opening Day Great” Last Year”

  1. It’s very bad to make Holocaust analogies and Nazi comparisons. There’s no equivalent, now or in the past, that compares to the Holocaust or Nazis. Calling people with different beliefs about housing people or sidewalk access Nazis eliminates the value of the millions of Jews, gays, differently abled, Roma, and dissidents that were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust. It doesn’t help any of the problems that contributed towards, or stem from, the Holocaust or Seattle’s long term challenges with housing people. I hope that people who casually say such things, and also the people who publish them, think about these things before repeating them.

  2. In case y’all didn’t get the message, “Unfortunately, no we do not have the capacity” means there are no places to offer to the residents as options. It sounds like Waters was trying to abide by City policy, what we all want to know from the next batch of PRA disclosures is whether Hizzoner steamrolled over Waters.

  3. The missing piece in this reporting is whether there was supposed to be an “objective prioritization matrix” in place at the time that someone tried to skip over. Further, if that were shown, they didn’t succeed and the encampment wasn’t removed. Very hard for me, like others here, to see the problem.

    Peacewithoutpolice seems like an pleasant and pragmatic individual lmao

  4. So making the City more enjoyable for the people who contribute revenue to the City which in turn can be used to help the people who contribute nothing but take and take are the villains? We want these tourists to have a great time, tell others and return. That will generate revenue via hotel tax, etc. that will help the homeless. Not hard to grasp if you are an adult.

    1. Homeless people don’t “do nothing but take and take.” Stop talking out of your ass.

  5. I’m sorry, what’s the point of this article? That the interests of boring middle class normies was prioritized for a few days instead of the usual focus on the needs of junkies and tweakers? Oh dear, oh dearie me.

    1. Homeless people ARE normies. Get that through your head or shut the fuck up.

  6. Good. We should never prioritize 6 likely criminal vagrants over thousands of law abiding families

    1. “Vagrant” refers to people who have been freed from serfdom or slavery but not allowed to stay on their land, simply turned into refugees. Do you have any idea how many families are homeless in this city? I bet they’re more law abiding than the mayor.

  7. I’m glad they cleaned it up. Our city is dying because of the tents everywhere. It’s an emergency!

    1. Our city is not dying, but it is in crisis because of the housing shortage, and the lack of treatment (addicts want treatment and have a lot of trouble getting it)

  8. I don’t see anything wrong with the Mayor’s Office’s response. We just can’t have encampments blocking sidewalks and especially bus stops, sorry. We should have more housing supply, treatment on demand and drug **dealers** heavily punished.

    1. They are not blocking bus stops. They don’t want to be on the sidewalk either, if there was an organized camp allowed in one park, they would be there.

      1. So tired of the homeless blocked bus stops – this is a thing, so stop trying to lie about your agenda to everyone Peacewithoutpolice. If there was an organized camp there would still be homeless with mental challenges wandering the streets, sidewalks, busstops, etc. You seem to have a response to every comment here so I really hope you are working towards a solution for the homelessness in the city, or are you another Seattle socialist that works in corporate america and contributing to the shit show of Seattle?

  9. This is perhaps the most abjectly shameful act perpatrated by our so-called liberal Seattle society, serving the interests of the elite over the those of the disenfranchised.
    I hope you choke $20 hot dogs.

    1. Bruce John Drager, the vast majority of people who attend Mariners games are anything but elite. These are often families who save up for months to go to a game. Sure, some folks who are coming for the All Stars may qualify as “elites”, but you can be sure they are not walking to the stadium from transit; rather, they are paying premium rates and parking in the government-owned parking facility adjacent to the Mariners’ stadium.

      Frankly, I am really glad to see the Mayor and his staff being responsive. We elected him to make changes in this town and to clean up the mess and make our city safer. If it means kicking out those who are on our sidewalks, in our parks, too close to streets, roads, and public facilities, GOOD.

    2. Peacewithoutpolice needs to review Godwin’s Law. Calling people who rightly object to the bad behavior of a significant portion of our homeless population Nazis cheapens the Holocaust, and does your cause no favors politically.

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