Pierce County Council announcement.
Following a recommendation from its recently adopted Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness, Pierce County Council acted on Tuesday to temporarily allow safe parking lots in unincorporated areas.
The temporary regulations last for six months and would allow religious organizations, civic groups and business owners to provide a safe place for homeless people to stay in their cars. Under the passed ordinance, sites accommodating up to seven vehicles would be permitted in all unincorporated Pierce County zoning designations, while those accommodating eight or more vehicles would be permitted in all urban areas, under subject to approval of an agreement with the county.
“We know there are countless people who are currently living in their cars without a safe place to stay. Allowing regulated and safe parking sites for individuals and families gives them a safe and temporary place to find stability as they work to improve their financial situation and seek permanent housing,” said Council Chairman Derek Young. “We have waited too long to respond to the growing homelessness crisis. This is just one of the ways we can begin to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents.
Increasing the number of secure parking lots in the area has been identified in the Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness as a short-term action the county government could take to support some of the estimated 2,300 people in the county who are homeless.
Before offering parking, site operators must meet a set of criteria. This includes holding a public meeting to discuss neighborhood concerns and reviewing state and local sex offender registrations to see if anyone onsite is a registered sex offender. The site operator will have the power to determine who can stay.
Other regulations included in the ordinance deal with public health and safety issues, depending on the number of cars allowed. They include:
- Sites for three to seven vehicles must provide access to on-site washrooms or portable washrooms, drinking water and garbage cans.
- Sites for eight or more vehicles must meet the above public health needs, as well as the creation of a safety and security plan, a code of conduct addressing behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, cleanliness and hours of silence. 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 affect the primary use of the property.
Through its action, Council also directed the Planning and Public Works Department to conduct an analysis and send a recommendation to the Planning Commission to review the standing by-laws for secure parking facilities which would then be forwarded to the Board for review. The analysis must be sent to the commission before September 1, 2022.
The passed ordinance now goes to Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier for his signature.