Pierce County again approves homeless 'safe parking zone' legislation

The Pierce County Council unanimously approved legislation for safe parking zones, with the aim of getting people living in their cars from parking on city streets.

Cars that some argue are clogging up neighborhood streets can instead park in designated, legal parking zones. The Council approved safe parking legislation on April 19, but the ordinance was vetoed by Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier.

The Council said the law approved Tuesday allows safe parking zones to be established while they work to find permanent regulations.

"This ordinance puts standards in place to protect the residents of safe parking and limits potential neighborhood impacts," said council member 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 will be allowed on land owned or managed by a religious organization. Up to four limited-duration sites are allowed on property operated by a religious group, nonprofit or government agency, pending county approval for public health and safety standards, the council said.

Sites run by religious groups can serve up to seven vehicles in unincorporated Pierce County, but sites serving eight or more vehicles are only allowed in urban zones, pending county approval.

The Council says sites must meet several criteria, including:

  • Public meeting to discuss neighborhood concerns
  • Reviewing state and local sex offender registrations
  • On-site restrooms, potable water and trash cans
  • Safety and security plan, and resident code of conduct

Mello said the legislation gives the county's Planning and Public Works Department time to make permanent regulation changes.

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"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," said Mello. "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 ordinance again goes to Executive Dammeier for signature.