Pierce County Council announcement.
Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young and Councilmember Ryan Mello are introducing proposed legislation to again try to establish safe parking sites in unincorporated Pierce County.
The proposal mirrors an ordinance adopted by Council April 19 that was later vetoed by the Pierce County Executive with one difference: it creates a limited duration pilot program that would allow up to four safe parking sites in unincorporated Pierce County on property not owned by religious organizations.
The pilot program would end Sept. 30, 2022, but the intent is to replace it with permanent regulations following review of the pilot program and analysis by the county’s planning department.
“Adopting this proposed legislation not only establishes standards for how safe parking sites should be run in Pierce County, but more importantly it makes them an allowed use, which currently they are not,” Young said.
Councilmembers learned this week Pierce County’s Human Services Department wants to use money Council previously committed for temporary homeless shelter sites to instead establish safe parking sites in parts of the county. Council supports the sites, Young said, but without legislative action they are not permitted.
Adoption of the proposed legislation meets the immediate needs of the community and gives the county’s Planning and Public Works Department and Planning Commission time to establish permanent regulations, Councilmember Mello said.
“Without this ordinance, site operators won’t have the certainty they need to invest in the amenities and tools required to host safe parking,” he said. “We need an agreed upon set of standards that protect the users of these sites, and our neighborhoods to maintain the quality of life our residents expect. If we don’t legalize safe parking, we will continue to see people forced into unsafe places like along highways and dead-end roads.”
Under the proposal, safe parking sites would be allowed on land owned or controlled by a religious organization, while up to four limited duration sites would be permitted on civic or commercial property. These four sites could host any number of vehicles in all urban zones, subject to approval of an agreement with the county to ensure public health and safety standards are met.
Sites hosted by religious organizations that serve 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.
All sites must meet a set of criteria, including conducting a public meeting to discuss neighborhood concerns and review 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. On-site restrooms, potable water, and trash receptacles must be provided. Sponsor organizations would also be required to provide a safety and security plan and a resident code of conduct.
Increasing the number of safe parking facilities in the region was identified in the county’s 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.
The proposed ordinance is set to be introduced at the May 10, 2022, Pierce County Council meeting where it will be scheduled for final action at the May 24, 2022, regular meeting.