Pierce County Council adopts safe parking legislation, this time as pilot program

Pierce County Council announcement.

The Pierce County Council acted again this week to legalize safe parking sites in unincorporated parts of the county while permanent regulations are drafted for review and consideration.

Council first adopted safe parking regulations April 19, but the ordinance was vetoed by the Pierce County Executive. The legislation adopted Tuesday was unanimously approved by Council and allows safe parking sites for a limited duration while permanent regulations are drafted, reviewed, and submitted to Council for consideration.

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“This ordinance puts standards in place to protect the residents of safe parking and limits potential neighborhood impacts,” said Councilmember Ryan Mello, who co-sponsored the legislation. “Without this ordinance, site operators won’t have the certainty they need to invest in the amenities and tools required to host safe parking.”

Under the ordinance, safe parking sites are allowed on land owned or controlled by a religious organization, while up to four limited duration sites are permitted on civic or commercial property if a religious group, non-profit or government agency operates the site. The four sites can host any number of vehicles in all urban zones, subject to county approval to ensure public health and safety standards are met.

Sites hosted by religious organizations that serve up to seven vehicles are allowed in all zoning designations in unincorporated Pierce County, while those hosting eight or more vehicles are allowed in all urban zones, subject to county approval.

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All sites must meet a set of criteria, including conducting a public meeting to discuss neighborhood concerns and review of state and local sex offender registrations. The site operator holds the authority to determine who can stay. On-site restrooms, potable water, and trash receptacles must be provided. Sponsor organizations are required to provide a safety and security plan and a resident code of conduct.

Along with meeting the immediate needs of the community, the legislation gives the county’s Planning and Public Works Department time to craft permanent regulations for review, Mello said.

“This is the cheapest, lowest-impact-to-the-community strategy from our adopted Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness that we can do to help as many people as possible,” Mello said. “One-third of those experiencing homelessness in Pierce County have a car, and half of those have an income and just need a safe place to park while they try to secure stable housing. If we don’t legalize safe parking, we will continue to see people forced into unsafe places along highways and dead-end roads.”

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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 ordinance now goes to the Executive for signature.

Source: The Suburban Times