Pierce County Council announcement.
Following a recommendation from its recently adopted Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness, the Pierce County Council acted Tuesday to allow safe parking facilities in unincorporated areas on an interim basis.
The temporary regulations last six months and would allow religious organizations, civic groups, and commercial property owners to provide a safe place for people without a residence to stay in their cars. Under the adopted ordinance, sites hosting up to seven vehicles would be allowed in all zoning designations in unincorporated Pierce County, while those hosting eight or more vehicles would be allowed in all urban zones, subject to approval of an agreement with the county.
“We know there are countless people currently living in their cars without a safe place to stay. Allowing regulated, safe parking sites for people and families provides a secure, temporary place for them to find stability as they work to improve their financial situation and seek permanent housing,” said Council Chair Derek Young. “We have waited too long to respond to the growing homeless crisis. This is just one way we can begin to tackle meeting the needs of our most vulnerable residents.”
Increasing the number of safe parking facilities in the region was identified in the Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness as a short-term action county government could take to support some of the estimated 2,300 people in the county who are unhoused.
Before offering parking, site operators must meet a set of criteria. That includes conducting a public meeting to discuss neighborhood concerns and review of state and local sex offender registrations to see if anyone on site is a registered sex offender. The site operator will hold the authority to determine who can stay.
Other regulations included in the ordinance address public health and safety concerns, depending on how many cars are permitted. They include:
- Sites for three to seven vehicles must offer access to an on-site restroom or portable toilet, potable water, and trash bins.
- Sites for eight or more vehicles must offer the above public health needs, plus creation of a safety and security plan, a code of conduct addressing behavior like drug and alcohol use, cleanliness, and quiet hours. Site operators must also enter into an agreement with Pierce County to ensure the above requirements are met.
Under the ordinance the area designated for safe parking cannot impact the primary use of the property.
Through its action Council also asked the Planning and Public Works Department to conduct an analysis and send a recommendation to the Planning Commission to review permanent regulations for safe parking facilities that would then be sent to Council for consideration. The analysis must be sent to the commission by Sept. 1, 2022.
The adopted ordinance now goes to Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier for his signature.