Convention planning team to Seattle: City's homeless problem 'has gotten out of control'

The American Pharmacists Association was planning a large convention for early next year, one that would require a site capable of hosting up to 6,000 attendees. One of the places it considered holding the convention was Seattle, so it sent an advanced planning team to the city to scout the area. But the homeless problem the planning team encountered on Seattle’s streets led them to write a letter to Seattle’s tourism bureau saying they might have to rule Seattle out for future consideration. From KIRO 7:


The letter began by saying, “Based on my recent visit, I believe that the problem has gotten out of control.”

The letter described what convention planners saw between their hotel and the Convention Center:
“Two men urinating on the street.
“One man who defecated on himself.
“We witnessed three young addicts sitting outside of a major establishment smoking from a pipe, and one was passed out.
“One man aggressively pursued a member of my team down the street, demanding cash.
“We lost count of the number of people walking around talking to themselves.
“The smell of urine and marijuana near the WSCC and along the routes of our hotels to the center.”

The letter was forwarded by email to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan by Visit Seattle’s President and CEO Tom Norwalk, who also added: “Sadly, our city is out of control and we are way past the tipping point we all talk about and have feared.”

It’s not just the sights and smells that are off-putting to tourists, it’s the danger of being around people with serious mental problems. Case in point, today Seattle news outlets are reporting an incident which happened earlier this month: A tourist who went downtown to see Seattle’s famous Space Needle with his family was attacked by a homeless man with a rope. From MyNorthwest:


The family of tourists parked their car near the tent encampment so they could visit the Space Needle. They noticed someone peek out of a tent next to their parked car. They felt uncomfortable with their parking spot and moved to a nearby Wells Fargo lot. But the homeless man from the tent approached them in the parking lot and asked them what their names were in a threatening manner.

The family attempted to walk away. That’s when the homeless man attacked one of them from behind. It happened very fast. The tourist told officers that a rope was used in the attack, but he wasn’t sure if it went completely around his neck or not. It did leave a rope burn. The police report states that the rope was “the kind that is used to strangle people.”…

The homeless man found the family again and continued the attack, punching the tourist on the right side of his head. They stumbled into traffic on Denny Way as the assault continued. That’s when an officer arrived to stop the attack.

The police report states that the homeless man said he believed the tourist was a 14-year-old boy who was having relations with a woman he plans to marry. They were doing it to make him jealous. That is why he attacked him.

Tourism is a major source of income for Seattle. Kiro 7 notes that nearly 40 million “visitors spent $7.4 billion in the city and county” in 2017 alone. That won’t continue if tourists believe the city is unsightly or unsafe. Now that the head tax has been repealed, the mayor and the city council are going to need a new plan to deal with the homeless problem.


San Francisco, another big city which gets about $9 billion a year from tourism, has a similar problem. Earlier this year the SF Chronicle published a story headlined “SF tourist industry struggles to explain street misery to horrified visitors.”

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