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Seattle denies Jewish cemetery’s $200,000 claim to pay up for damage caused by RV campers

SEATTLE -- The city of Seattle has denied a $200,000 claim filed by a Jewish cemetery that has been cleaning up trash, needles, human feces left behind by RV campers.

Those in charge of Bikur Cholim cemetery in north Seattle blame the city’s inaction to enforce the laws for the damage.

Last week, board member Ari Hoffman filed a claim against the city of Seattle for more than $200,000. The moment was a culmination of years of frustration.

“If the city is not going to maintain law and order and enforce its own rules, what are we supposed" to do? Hoffman asked.

Hoffman said about half of the claim accounts for the daily cleanup required.

“Rampant drug use, crystal meth on the tombstones, needles everywhere -- people are urinating on the tombstones,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman has pictures showing human feces littering gravesites and just two weeks ago he had to call police after spotting two campers having sex by a tombstone.

“My dad is a Holocaust survivor, he's buried in this cemetery and he doesn't deserve this,” said one woman.

Hoffman said desperate pleas to the city to remove people living in RVs and tents by the cemetery went nowhere.

"We are talking about contacting them, for years ... it wasn’t until every media outlet in town started covering this that they got back to us,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said the campers left after media exposure.

City Councilmember Debora Juarez, who represents the district the cemetery is in, did send a letter to Hoffman calling the problem “unacceptable.”

She said half of her staff was working on prioritizing the concerns of the cemetery.

“We haven’t heard anything since that moment, so what am I supposed to conclude? It seems like complete negligence,” Hoffman said.

Q13 News asked for an interview with Juarez but she did not make herself available on June 2.

“Them not enforcing the law has created this criminal element that has moved to town,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said the claim is also for landscaping and electrical work that was required because of the campers.

“That money took away money from the synagogue, services we provide for others. The worst part of it, our groundskeepers helping out some homeless people offered the people in the RVs jobs.

Hoffman said those job offers were rejected.

Last week, Hoffman told us if the city does not settle his claim, the next possible option would be to sue the city in a class-action lawsuit.

In the letter dated May 7, Juarez also noted a number of things she has done, including increasing police patrols in the area, offering services to the unsheltered people.

Juarez also said she requested SDOT to change the parking zones to 2 hours.

Hoffman said he is still waiting for the parking zone to change.