“RV Ranching” ordinance further modified, further narrowed

Yesterday the City Council made further tweaks to the controversial “RV Ranching” ordinance proposed by Mayor Durkan, intended to stop predatory  “vanlords” from renting out extensively damaged RVs and other vehicles to homeless people.

There are four significant changes that were made yesterday, encapsulated in a substitute version of the bill that was adopted.

  1. The vehicles that the ordinance applies to was narrowed down to just recreational vehicles (including camper vans).
  2. The city has realized that it can’t combine a civil infraction with a requirement for restitution, so it’s scrapped the restitution and increased the infraction penalty to $1000 per violation.
  3.  The effective date of the ordinance is pushed out to March 1, to allow the Human Services Department to do rulemaking.
  4. A requirement for quarterly reports was added so the City Council can track how many predatory landlords were issued citations and how many occupants were assisted into other housing.

Council member O’Brien indicated that he still had several concerns with the bill, including:

  • Whether there ought to be a sunset clause on the bill so that ten years from now someone can’t use it for some unintended purpose;
  • Currently the bill allows occupants to object to an investigation/enforcement procedure, which would cause the city to stop. O’Brien wondered whether that should be an “opt in” instead of an “opt out.”
  • There is no longer special relocation assistance for displaced occupants beyond what HSD offers to other homeless individuals (because the restitution provisions were removed).

The Council members, Bagshaw, O’Brien and Gonzalez, voted it out of committee (O’Brien abstained) because it was the last committee meeting before the budget process began, but Baghsaw recognized that there is more work still do be done and is not yet forwarding the bill on to the full Council for final approval. She expects to hear more from the Mayor’s Office on the concerns raised by O’Brien and the other Council members today.

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