Presentation Minutes

New City of Tacoma Land Use Regulations - overview

  • Lauren Flemister, City of Tacoma
  • Two sets of codes will determine how temporary shelters will operate.
    • Land Use.  Recently passed final temporary Land use regulations around temporary shelter. 
      • For car parking, tents or sheds, the land use code will take preeminence, and the building code won’t matter. 
      • Non-permanent structures are not regulated by the building code. 
    • Building Use.
      • Have similar changes for building use regulations going through the update process as well. 
      • If someone wants to do sheltering in a building, the building code will be significant.
    • In one or two weeks, both sets of code will be approved
  • Patricia – Thank you for all you’ve done.  My main question is are there new ordinances for opening car parking facilities?  Answer – they can do it under the existing ordinances – but must apply for a permit.
  • Patricia – would they need all the toilet, shower, etc.?  Lauren – Yes, they would.  But there is $660,000  set aside for assisting with temporary shelters.  The shelters need to meet the requirements in the code, but the City is willing to support with fencing and temporary toilets.  City is willing to help financially and with technical assistance to get a site up and running.  City is happy to help in any way it can. 
  • Theresa – one concern of people working with churches is that the building codes are pretty steep.  We have the ideal, but we have people sleeping on the streets.  It is better to bend some building codes than have folks on the streets.  Lauren – for temporary shelters, the building code is relaxed.  For instance, fire watch (I think that is what she said – I couldn’t find a special meaning for “fire watch” though –ed.) instead of sprinklers.  Most any building can meet these codes.  Things like fire alarms.  We are focused on only the health and life safety standards – and removing whatever else we can do we did.  Barring life and health safety issues, any operating building can meet the standards.
  • Theresa – Nick Leider is working and hitting barriers.  Lauren –language in ordinance requires a background check to identify sex offenders.  There is no specification on what needs to be done with that information.  Will leave decisions about who to serve to the providers.  The City would live everyone to be served, but organizations can target specific populations. 
  • Theresa – can a church serve sex offenders on a case by case basis?  Lauren – that is against the code, but may be possible.  (I got a little confused on this – I think sex offenders are by default not allowed in the shelters, but the City will entertain exceptions on a case by case basis.  Let me know if I got that wrong –ed.)  
  • Al – you all have come a long way, thank you.  Nitpicking questions: the temporary shelter regulations require something to shield the shelter site from public view.  It seems like that highlights the fact that there are homeless folks there.  Lauren – there is room to negotiate anything.  If the neighbors are OK and it doesn’t look unseemly, we will consider solutions in lieu of fencing.  But the City will try to provide fencing if it is needed.  Patricia – fencing provides residents in the camp some control over who is in the camp.  Is it “site” exclusion or “sight” exclusion?  Lauren - “sight”.  (this discussion was becoming a grammatist’s dream – ed.)
  • There is lots of language in the code – the big change is the extension from maximum stay from 6 months to 1 year.  There is also the possibility of doing self site management - so someone from the organization hosting the site doesn’t need to be on site all the time. 
  • there are some reporting requirements around interactions with neighbors – not too onerous.  We want to make sure extensions are for sites where things are going OK with the neighbors.
  • Patricia – if you apply for a temporary permit, you just go down and apply.  Do you need to have a meeting prior to applying.  Lauren – there will be a pre-meeting, which is a standard practice for projects.  The meeting is mostly designed around determining financial needs the City can help with, as well as providing technical assistance about the type of permit (building and/or land use) needed.  This isn’t a hold up, but more a way to make sure the permit process goes smoothly.
  • Patricia – how long would it take to get a meeting setup?  Lauren – it takes about 60 to 90 days to get a permit.  Patricia – how long would it take to setup the pre-application meeting?  Lauren –  It is very quick.  Also, the 60-90 days includes the time it takes to get the pre-application meeting.  Patricia – I am thinking that things could turn around much quicker.  Lauren – staff has a workload and have to get through it as fast as they are.  I’m unaware of any priority tracking through the system.  A lot of the time is dictated by code.  I know, we are slow .  it is just the nature of government.
  • Theresa – appreciate the hard work and you coming to speak with us.  We would love to have this work fast tracked.
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