Seattle parks could become less welcoming to the homeless if some of the rules included in the new Parks and Recreation Code of Conduct -- such as bans on leaving unattended items, improper use of restrooms and even spitting -- are approved next month. The Parks department will hold a public hearing on the code on Thurs., Jan. 28.
At a Parks board meeting Jan. 14, board members stressed that the current draft is not final, and will likely change before they make a recommendation in mid-February.
"I'm 90 percent sure spitting will not be part of the final code of conduct," said Eric Friedli, manager of policy and business analysis for Parks and Recreation. The proposed spitting ban in parks has drawn the most criticism -- and jokes. But other codes could create new grounds for harassment of homeless or otherwise displaced people who spend much of their time in parks. Rules that prohibit leaving personal items unattended, blocking walkways and "depriv[ing] others of their use or enjoyment of a park facility or disrupt[ing] Parks business," for example, could be used as grounds for kicking someone out of city green spaces.
There was some resistance from board members on some of the new rules (though there were no objections to the smoking ban provision, which has also drawn attention). Boardmember Jourdan Keith was particularly concerned that the provision against leaving unattended personal items would create even more hardship for displaced people.
"As more people become displaced, how do we show compassion and support?" she asked during the meeting. "The park is for people of all economic statuses."
Friedli said the code wasn't created because of homeless people, and avoiding undue harassment could be part of park ranger training on the new code. The department will try to tighten up the language of the document to make it more clear "without watering it down so much it becomes meaningless," he said.
As far as enforcing any new codes, he said, people are rarely asked to leave a park. "Ninety-five percent of the time, we're just walking up and asking them to stop," said Friedli.
The code is still open to suggestion.
"This is not etched in stone," said Parks Superintendent Timothy Gallagher.
New proposed rules prohibit:
* Conduct that deprives others of their use or enjoyment of a park or facility or disrupts parks business
* Possession of glass containers at athletic fields, beaches and children's playgrounds
* Improper use of restrooms
* Leaving packages, backpacks, luggage, or other personal items unattended
* Blocking entrances, exits, walkways, etc. in a manner that interferes with provision of services or use of park property
* Conduct that creates an unreasonable and substantial risk of harm to a person or property
* Entering restrooms designated for people of the opposite sex
* Use of flammable liquids
* Abusive or harassing behavior, including obscene language or gestures; assault or fighting
* Possession of fireworks, firecrackers, explosives, acid, or other articles or materials capable of causing serious harm to others
* Sexual misconduct
Read the full code online: