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Seattle City Council Bills and Ordinances

Information retrieved on July 18, 2019 6:29 AM

Council Bill Number: 111122
Ordinance Number: 118082


Title
AN ORDINANCE requiring the removal of graffiti in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare, declaring that property may become a nuisance owing to the failure of responsible parties to remove graffiti after having been requested to do so by the City, establishing a process for voluntary or involuntary clean-up of graffiti and the recovery of public clean-up expenses, creating civil remedies, and adding a new chapter to Title 10 of the Seattle Municipal Code.


Status: Passed
Date passed by Full Council: April 8, 1996
Vote: 8-1 WEEKS
Date filed with the City Clerk: April 12, 1996
Date of Mayor's signature: April 11, 1996
(About the signature date)

Date introduced/referred to committee: February 12, 1996
Committee: Business, Economic and Community Development
Sponsor: DRAGO
Committee Recommendation:
Date of Committee Recommendation:
Committee Vote:

Index Terms: PUBLIC-REGULATIONS, ADMINISTRATIVE-PROCEDURES, SOLID-WASTE-UTILITY, HEARING-EXAMINER, NUISANCE-ABATEMENT

Scan of signed legislation: PDF scan of Ordinance No. 118082


Text

AN ORDINANCE requiring the removal of graffiti in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare, declaring that property may become a nuisance owing to the failure of responsible parties to remove graffiti after having been requested to do so by the City, establishing a process for voluntary or involuntary clean-up of graffiti and the recovery of public clean-up expenses, creating civil remedies, and adding a new chapter to Title 10 of the Seattle Municipal Code.

WHEREAS, graffiti is criminal vandalism defacing public and private property without permission of the owner, costing citizens, businesses and the City millions of dollars annually to repair; and

WHEREAS, graffiti can be a powerful visual symbol of disorder which erodes public safety, reduces the attractive physical qualities of neighborhoods, and can contribute to a downward spiral of blight and decay, lessening property values, business viability and ultimately tax revenues; and

WHEREAS, reducing graffiti requires a comprehensive strategy that includes increased efforts to apprehend and hold accountable those responsible for such vandalism, the prompt removal of graffiti as soon as reasonably possible, and the encouragement of artistic expression only on appropriate spaces obtained with the permission of public and private property owners; and

WHEREAS, there is substantial evidence that the prompt removal of graffiti is an effective prevention strategy which discourages its return while the failure to promptly remove graffiti increases the likelihood that more graffiti will occur on the same site and on other nearby property; and

WHEREAS, the City and many property owners commit resources and energy to diligently removing graffiti and the City supports the efforts of hundreds of community, business and school volunteers who work each week to remove graffiti in their neighborhoods and business districts; and

WHEREAS, these combined public and private efforts to reduce graffiti are undermined by those few property owners who fail to cooperate in cleaning graffiti from their property despite requests from their neighbors and the City; and

WHEREAS, the failure to maintain one's property by removing graffiti to a reasonable degree and within a reasonable period of time constitutes a public nuisance for the reasons set forth above; and

WHEREAS, many other jurisdictions across the United States, including Portland, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and

Los Angeles County, have adopted graffiti nuisance ordinances and have found them to be a useful tool in reducing graffiti, Now Therefore;

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY OF SEATTLE AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1: A new chapter, Chapter 10.07, to be entitled "Graffiti Nuisance Code" is added to the Seattle Municipal Code as follows:

10.07.010 Definitions.

A. "Abate" means to remove the graffiti by such means, in such a manner and to such an extent as the Director or the Hearing Examiner reasonably determines is necessary to remove the graffiti from public view.

B. "Director" means the Director of the Seattle Engineering Department's Solid Waste Utility or his or her designee.

C. "Graffiti" means unauthorized markings, visible from premises open to the public, that have been placed upon any property through the use of paint, ink, chalk, dye or any other substance capable of marking property.

D. "Graffiti nuisance property" means property upon which graffiti has not been abated after the abatement date established pursuant to subsection 10.07.030B.

E. "Hearing Examiner" means The City of Seattle Hearing

Examiner and the office thereof established pursuant to Seattle

Municipal Code, Chapter 3.02.

F. "Owner" means any entity or entities having a legal or equitable interest in real or personal property including but not limited to the interest of a tenant or lessee.

G. "Premises open to the public" means all public spaces, including but not limited to streets, alleys, sidewalks, parks, and public open space, as well as private property on to which the public is regularly invited or permitted to enter for any purpose.

H. "Property" means any real or personal property and that which is affixed, incidental or appurtenant to real property, including but not limited to any structure, fence, wall, sign, or any separate part thereof, whether permanent or not.

I. "Responsible party" means an owner, or an entity or person acting as an agent for an owner by agreement, who has authority over the property or is responsible for the property's maintenance or management. Irrespective of any arrangement to the contrary with any other party, each owner shall always be a responsible party for the purposes of this chapter. There may be more than one responsible party for a particular property.

J. "Unauthorized" means without the consent of a responsible party.

10.07.020 Violation of chapter.

A. Any property located in the City of Seattle that becomes a graffiti nuisance property is in violation of this chapter and is subject to its remedies.

B. Every responsible party who permits a property to become a graffiti nuisance property is in violation of this chapter and subject to its remedies.

10.07.030 Notice.

When the Director has reason to believe that a property within the City may be a potential graffiti nuisance property, the Director shall:

A. Identify a responsible party and send that party an informational letter describing the nature and location of the graffiti and requesting that the graffiti be removed promptly. The letter shall explain the problems caused by the continued presence of graffiti and the need for its prompt removal, describe the resources available to aid in graffiti removal, and give notice that failure to remove graffiti is a violation of City law that may lead to legal action to remove the graffiti at the expense of the responsible party and may subject the responsible party to civil penalties.

B. If the graffiti is not promptly removed after the information letter has been sent, the Director shall notify the responsible party in writing, by certified mail, that the property has been identified as a potential graffiti nuisance property. The notice shall contain the following information:

1. The street address or description of the property reasonably sufficient for identification of the property;

2. A concise description of the conditions leading the Director to believe that the property may be a graffiti nuisance property;

3. A description of what must be done to abate the graffiti;

4. A statement that the graffiti must be abated within ten (10) calendar days after receipt of the letter, and a statement that if the graffiti is not abated within that time the property will be a graffiti nuisance property subject to abatement in accordance with section 10.07.070, and the responsible party will be subject to monetary penalties and costs in accordance with sections 10.07.050, 10.07.060 and 10.07.070. C. The notice referred to in subsection B of this section shall be mailed by certified mail to the responsible party at that party's last known address. The notice shall also be posted at the property. As an alternative to mailing the notice, the Director may cause a copy of the notice to be personally served on the responsible party in the manner authorized by statute for personal service.

D. If, after proper notification has been given and

the specified time period has elapsed, the graffiti has not been abated, the Director shall serve a notice of civil violation and hearing on the responsible party directing that party to appear before the City's Hearing Examiner.

E. Once a responsible party has been notified pursuant to subsections A and B of this section that a specified property is a potential graffiti nuisance, the Director may thereafter issue a notice of civil violation and hearing for that property pursuant to section 10.07.040 without further notice.

10.07.040 Notice of civil violation and hearing.

A. The notice of civil violation and hearing shall include the following:

1. The name and address of the responsible party;

2. The street address or description sufficient for

identification of the property which constitutes the graffiti nuisance property;

3. A statement that the property is a graffiti nuisance property and a description of the graffiti constituting the graffiti nuisance;

4. A statement describing what must be done to abate the graffiti;

5. A statement that the costs and expenses of abatement incurred by the City pursuant to sections 10.07.070 and monetary penalties as specified in section 10.07.050 and 10.07.060 may be assessed against the responsible party;

6. The date, time and location of a hearing before the Hearing Examiner at which the responsible party shall have the opportunity to contest the existence of the graffiti, to contest his or her responsibility for the graffiti nuisance property, and to raise any other defenses to liability or considerations by way of mitigation; and

7. A statement that the hearing will be canceled

and no monetary penalty will be assessed if the Director

approves the completed abatement at least forty-eight (48) hours prior to the scheduled commencement of the hearing.

B. Notwithstanding Seattle Municipal Code subsection

3.02.090A, the date set for the hearing before the Hearing Examiner shall be no sooner than ten (10) and no later than thirty (30) calendar days from the date the notice of civil violation and hearing is issued.

C. The Director shall serve the notice of civil violation and hearing in the manner described in subsection 10.07.030C of this chapter. If an address for mailed service cannot, after due diligence, be ascertained and the person to whom the notice is issued cannot, after due diligence, be personally served within King County, notice shall be served by posting a copy of the notice conspicuously at the graffiti nuisance property. Proof of service shall be made by a written declaration under penalty of perjury executed by the person effecting the service, declaring the time and date of service, the manner by which the service was made, and, if by posting, the facts showing that due diligence was used in attempting to serve the person personally or by mail.

10.07.050 Hearing before the Hearing Examiner.

A. The Hearing Examiner shall conduct a hearing on the civil violation pursuant to the rules of procedure of the Hearing

Examiner for the conduct of hearings. The Director and the person to whom the notice of civil violation and hearing was issued are parties to the hearing and each may call witnesses. B. The Director shall have the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property contains graffiti, that the person issued the notice is a responsible party, that the required abatement is reasonable, and that the required abatement has not been completed prior to the date established in the notice issued pursuant to subsection 10.07.030B.

C. If the Hearing Examiner finds that the property contains graffiti, that the person issued the notice is a responsible party, but that the abatement required by the Director is not reasonable, then the Examiner shall modify the abatement so that it is reasonable.

D. The Hearing Examiner shall issue to the responsible party a decision and order containing the following information:

1. The decision and order regarding the alleged graffiti nuisance property, including findings of fact and conclusions in support of the decision and order;

2. Any required abatement action and the date by which the abatement must be completed;

3. Any monetary penalties assessed based on subsection F of this section which shall be due ten (10) calendar days after the date of the decision and order;

4. A description of the additional civil penalties which will automatically accrue pursuant to subsection I of this section if the responsible party fails to abate the graffiti nuisance property by the date established in the decision and order;

5. The date after which the City may abate the graffiti nuisance property pursuant to section 10.07.070 if the required abatement is not completed; and

6. Notice that judicial review of the decision and order may be sought pursuant to subsection K of this section.

E. Monetary penalties assessed by the Hearing Examiner shall accrue in the amount up to one hundred dollars ($100) per day beginning on the correction date set by the Director or on a subsequent date set by the Hearing Examiner, provided that the maximum monetary penalty shall be five thousand dollars ($5,000). In the alternative, the Hearing Examiner may choose to assess no monetary penalties.

F. In determining the monetary penalty assessment, the

Hearing Examiner shall consider the following factors:

1. Whether the responsible party cooperated with efforts to abate the graffiti nuisance property;

2. Whether the responsible party failed to appear at the hearing;

3. Whether the responsible party made substantial progress in abating the graffiti nuisance property; and

4. Any other relevant factors.

G. The Hearing Examiner shall mail a copy of the decision

and order to the person to whom the notice of civil violation and hearing was issued and to the Director within ten (10) working days of the close of the hearing record. If an address for

mailing cannot after due diligence be ascertained, a copy of

the decision and order shall be posted conspicuously at the

property.

H. If the person to whom the notice of civil violation and hearing was issued fails to appear at the scheduled hearing, the Hearing Examiner shall, upon submittal of sufficient evidence by the Director, enter a decision and order finding that the property is a graffiti nuisance property, the person to whom the notice was issued is a responsible party, the required abatement is reasonable, and the required abatement action had not been completed prior to the date established in the notice; and assessing the appropriate monetary penalty and costs.

I. If the responsible party fails to abate the nuisance as ordered by the Hearing Examiner, monetary penalties in addition to any monetary penalties already assessed by the Hearing Examiner shall automatically accrue in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100) per day until the abatement is complete and shall be due immediately upon accrual.

J. The City will carry out the Hearing Examiner's decision and order and recover all monetary penalties and costs.

K. Any review of the decision and order of the Hearing

Examiner must be by land use petition filed within twenty one (21) days of issuance of the decision and order as provided in Chapter 347 of the Laws of 1995.

10.07.060 Monetary penalty.

A. Payment of a monetary penalty pursuant to this chapter

does not relieve the responsible party of the duty to abate the graffiti nuisance.

B. The monetary penalty constitutes a personal obligation of the responsible party to whom the notice of civil violation and hearing is issued.

C. Any monetary penalty imposed pursuant to this chapter shall accrue interest from the date payment is due at the maximum rate authorized by law for interest on civil judgments, and there shall be added to such penalty the reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred in collecting it.

10.07.070 Abatement by the City.

A. The Director may abate a graffiti nuisance property when a decision and order has been issued by the Hearing Examiner pursuant to section 10.07.050 of this chapter and any required abatement is not complete by the date specified in the decision and order.

B. The Director may call upon other City departments and other agencies and resources for assistance in abating a graffiti nuisance property.

C. Using any lawful means, the Director may enter upon the

graffiti nuisance property and abate the graffiti. The Director may seek such judicial process as is deemed necessary to carry out the abatement.

D. The costs of correcting the violation shall be billed to the responsible party and shall be due and payable to the City within ten (10) calendar days. Costs include both the value of the use of City staff and equipment and payments made to third parties, including but not limited to:

1. Personnel costs, both direct and indirect, including attorneys' fees and costs and administrative overhead;

2. Costs incurred in documenting the violation;

3. Hauling, storage and disposal expenses;

4. Actual expenses and costs of the City in preparing

notices, specifications and contracts, and in accomplishing or contracting and inspecting the work; and

5. The costs of any required printing and mailing.

10.07.080 Enforcement.

Notwithstanding the provisions of Seattle Municipal Code section 3.33.020, actions necessary for effective enforcement of this chapter may be brought in Superior Court.

10.07.090 Severability.

The provisions of this ordinance are declared to be separate and severable. If any clause, sentence, paragraph, subdivision, section, subsection or portion of this ordinance, or the application thereof to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, it shall not affect the validity of the remainder of

this ordinance, or the validity of its application to other

persons or circumstances.

Section 2. This ordinance shall take effect and be in force thirty (30) days from and after its approval by the Mayor, but if not approved and returned by the Mayor within ten (10) days after

presentation, it shall take effect as provided by Seattle Municipal Code Section 1.04.020.

Passed by the City Council the _____ day of ____________, 1996, and signed by me in open session in authentication of its passage this _____ day of _________________, 1996.

____________________________________

President of the City Council

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