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Saturday, January 21, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bellevue set to ease curbs on tent cities

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Tent City 4


Settlement The Bellevue City Council will consider the proposed Tent City 4 settlement at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 11511 Main St.

Homeless camps in Bellevue would be able to stay 90 days and face more flexible sanitation requirements under a proposed settlement in the legal fight over Tent City 4.

The agreement, which must be approved by the City Council Monday night, would be a major victory for Tent City supporters and a notable concession by the city, which has defended its strict requirements since they were passed last summer.

Temple B'nai Torah, which is hosting the homeless camp, and Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE), which runs the camp, sued the city in November. They claimed the city's restrictions, such as limits on length of stay and number of people who could be in the camp, violated the temple's religious freedoms.

The Church Council of Greater Seattle joined the case in support of the temple.

"The temple got everything it asked for" in the settlement, said Chuck Wolfe, a temple attorney.

Deputy City Attorney Kate Berens declined to comment because the council has not approved the agreement.

The parties agreed on a tentative settlement last week, but details were not announced until Friday because of confidentiality rules. The council Monday is expected to approve the settlement, which then would be reviewed by a federal judge.

Before the agreement, the city had said the camp could stay for only 60 days, and because the temple was not providing enough toilets and showers, it could host just 40 people. The temple wanted to host the camp for 90 days with as many as 100 people, like the camp's stays in other Eastside cities.

Under the proposed settlement, any homeless camp could stay as long as 90 days if hosts made a "bona-fide and sincere" statement that the 60-day limit would violate their religious freedom.

The toilet and shower requirements would be loosened enough that homeless camps probably would be able to house as many as 100 people, though tent city usually has no more than 80.

The city also took out its requirements for mechanical refrigeration and a hot-water sink adjacent to the kitchen, in favor of looser restrictions.

The city scored a coup with one aspect of the settlement: SHARE agreed to bring its camps to Bellevue no more than once a year and no longer than three months at a time, beginning in 2007.

Some neighbors of the temple, at 15727 N.E. Fourth St., complained that the city — and their neighborhood in particular — could host the camp indefinitely because of a large number of churches in the area.

Under the settlement, St. Luke's Lutheran Church, at 3030 Bellevue Way N.E., would host the camp from mid-February to mid-May. But the Church of the Resurrection, which also invited the camp and is a few blocks from the temple, would be denied. After the stay at St. Luke's, no one would be allowed to host a camp in Bellevue until May 2007.

Julie Riley, who lives across the street from the temple, said she likes the once-a-year limit in the settlement, but said the agreement "diluted" several important sanitation requirements. "The [homeless camp] ordinance had merit," she said. "It's disappointing that [the city] didn't see it through."

As part of the settlement, the parties agreed that the city's homeless-camp requirements were constitutional and not a burden on religious freedom.

If approved, the settlement — in the form of a consent decree — would last 10 years.

Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or abach@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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