South Sound News

Pierce County adopts safe parking pilot program

The Pierce County Council adopted a plan to help end homelessness in the county on Tuesday, setting parking regulations for long-term parking.

The pilot program will allow safe parking sites for a limited time while permanent rules are drafted, reviewed and submitted to the council for consideration.

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

Safe parking sites are allowed on land owned and controlled by a religious organization, and up to four limited-duration sites are allowed on civic or commercial property if a religious group, non-profit or government agency operates the site.

A site can host any number of vehicles in all urban zones, subject to county approval that public health and safety standards are met.

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

All sites must conduct public meetings to discuss neighborhood impact, and to review state and local sex offender registrations.

The operator of the site has final say on who can stay.

On-site restrooms, potable water, and trash receptacles must be provided, along with a safety and security plan and a resident code of conduct.

“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.”

The plan hopes to support some of the estimated 2,300 unhoused people in the county.

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