City of Bellingham sues 2nd property owner over encampment of unhoused people | Whatcom

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — The City of Bellingham filed a civil suit in Whatcom County Superior Court on February 23rd against a property owner claiming he is maintaining a public nuisance due to an encampment of unhoused people.

In the City’s complaint filed with the court, Li-Ching Fang’s property in the 4400 block of Deemer Road has a large encampment of unhoused persons. “An estimated 50 to 150 unhoused persons are currently living on the Property in the encampment.”

The complaint also notes the property is considered a critical area due to wetlands across most of the property and the Lower Spring Creek crosses the property. “Garbage, refuse, waste, drug contaminated materials, and human waste from the encampment threaten to pollute this ‘critical area.’”

The complaint also notes, there are non-operating motor vehicles and over 100 stolen shopping carts littered across the property.

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Law enforcement personnel have been dispatched to the property and made arrests 45 times between June 2021 and October 2023. 3 people are reported to have died from opioid overdoses on the property.

The City says it sent a letter to Li-Chang in November of 2022 advising of her responsibilities to remove the nuisances on her property per the City’s municipal code. She was given 7 days to clean up the property or appeal the City’s declaration that the property was a nuisance. As of the date of the lawsuit, neither had been done. A family representative acknowledged receipt of the letter and noted Li-Chang cannot communicate in English and said he communicate with her on the City’s behalf.

The City says it sent another letter, this time with a copy written in Mandarin per the representative’s request, in November 2023. A meeting with the representative resulted in December 2023 where the representative reportedly said he was authorized to take steps to abate the nuisance. Nothing has been done since then.

The lawsuit seeks a warrant of abatement authorizing access to the property, by force if necessary, to abate the nuisances, including removal of trespassers, removal and disposal of all property, garbage, waste and contaminated soils and replacing with clean soil and revegetation. The City also seeks a judgement to cover their legal costs as well as the cleanup costs.

Li-Chang will have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit once having been served a summons.

This is a nearly identical situation to a condemnation suit filed by the City against a property owner in November 2023, regarding a property in the 4000 block of Deemer Road. In that case, the City reached a settlement with the property owner and inhabitants, property and garbage were cleared from the property. Social services were made available to the inhabitants at the time if they desired them.

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