News

Seattle doesn't want sex offenders, either

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

The city of Seattle has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against development of the South Spokane Street sex offender transitional housing facility –– once proposed for the Federal Way area –– and asking the court to find unconstitutional the law excluding transit bus stops from protection.

State Department of Social and Health Services officials haven’t yet responded to the lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court Oct. 9. Attorneys with the agency are still reviewing the complaint, though Beverly Wilson, associate supervisor for community programs at the Special Commitment Center, said DSHS is in “a very good position to defend the site.”

She said the lawsuit wasn’t received at DSHS with “shock and dismay.”

“Given the subject, we’re used to lawsuits,” she said.

Seattle officials want the South Spokane Street site removed from consideration for sex offender housing because schoolchildren use the Metro bus stops nearby.

According to the lawsuit, children making connections at bus stops near the site have to get off one bus, walk directly in front of the warehouse now at the site, and wait for another bus at another stop. One of the stops is on the same block as the site for the proposed sex offender housing, and many of the stops are in direct view of it, Seattle officials claim.

State law doesn’t include mass-transit stops on the list of protected uses — in fact, it specifically excludes them.

Seattle officials said claim schoolchildren riding Metro buses should be afforded the same protection as those riding school buses, but Wilson said the law “made it very clear” that Metro bus stops used by schoolchildren aren’t protected.

The lawsuit also alleges the state led communities to believe the sex offenders would be actively electronically monitored, meaning they would wear a global positioning bracelet that would instantly send a signal to alert authorities if the offender violated his designated routes or tampered with the device.

Instead, DSHS intends to use passive monitoring, in which the sex offender places his tracking device in a port that downloads a record of where he went during the previous 24 hours.

Passive monitoring won’t immediately alert officials to a transgression, the lawsuit argues, and if an offender went somewhere he wasn’t supposed to, authorities wouldn’t find out about it until after he downloaded his movements into the port.

DSHS Secretary Dennis Braddock announced in September that the two-story, remodeled warehouse in south Seattle would serve as a transitional housing facility for up to 12 civilly committed sex offenders who undergo enough treatment at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island to become eligible to transition back into society.

Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, the attorney who represented Concerned Citizens of Auburn and Federal Way who fought against the facility being sited in Peasley Canyon near Federal Way, took exception to Seattle arguing it’s the riskiest site for the facility.

“Clearly we were, and that hurts their (Seattle’s) credibility,” she said. “No one’s going to buy that.”

Still, regardless of the outcome of Seattle’s case, Peasley Canyon residents can breathe easy. Peasley is completely off the list, she said, and the option to lease the property has expired.

“We’re not worried about it,” Ward said. “If they (Seattle) win, we’ll see what happens, but we’re done. DSHS sure doesn’t want to come back here again.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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