Tacoma City Business Preview for the Week of March 1, 2016

Tacoma Power

This week the Tacoma city council will hold a joint study session with the Tacoma Public Utility Board. The two bodies will discuss two recently published Tacoma Power planning documents - the Integrated Resource Plan and Conservation Plan. The IRP outlines options and recommendations for meeting future demands on the system, and the Conservation Plan "lays out a tactical road map for acquiring conservation, the key resource selected by the IRP." During the meeting, TPU staff will also share information on new performance metrics and benchmarking reports for each TPU division.


Living in Your Car

In the movie The Lady in the Van Maggie Smith plays a woman living in a stranger's London driveway for 15 years. Under current code in Tacoma, that arrangement would likely be illegal. Currently, Tacoma's municipal code prohibits the use of any vehicle for human habitation in the City of Tacoma for a period longer than 24 hours, and lists "improper use of an RV" as an exterior building violation.

City staff is proposing a change to those rules, however, following a recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling. That decision, in Desertrain, et al v City of Los Angeles, held that an LA ordinance prohibiting living in a car, although motivated by legitimate health and safety concerns, was unconstitutionally vague as written and could lead to selective enforcement. In light of that ruling, City of Tacoma staff are recommending that the period of occupancy allowed be extended to 7 days, and that language be added to more precisely define "habitation." An ordinance on this week's agenda, if passed, would make those changes. So Maggie Smith could stay in your driveway for a week, but still not for 15 years...


Riding in Someone Else's Car

In 2014 Tacoma's for-hire vehicle license code was amended to address the new transportation network companies (services like Uber and Lyft). The 2014 changes established a one-time $15,000 license fee for these TNCs to cover City administration and enforcement costs related to the services. The new code also included an option to later convert to a per-ride fee in order to cover continuing costs to the City. 

It's been more than a year since those changes were adopted. 1,200 TNC driver licenses have been issued, at a cost to the City of $85,000. In 2016, the City anticipates 125 new drivers per month, plus an annual renewal rate of 25%, for an expected total of 1,750 drivers, which would cost to the City $125,000 this year. 

After the first year of this program, City staff find the cost and time of issuing For-Hire Driver Identification Cards and Vehicle Endorsements for TNC drivers, as is currently done, to be overly burdensome to the driver, while not yielding additional benefits to outweigh those costs. The app of the one company currently operating in Tacoma has a driver profile that includes a picture, and serves the same function as the City-issued ID and verification. Staff thinks eliminating these requirements could reduce costs by $65,000 this year, and going forward. 

In light of this, staff is recommending changes to improve TNC licensing and fees processes. Those changes, as proposed in an ordinance on this week's council meeting agenda for a first reading, would establish a new annual license fee for TNCs, and would discontinue the practice of issuing ID cards and vehicle endorsements. The new fee will factor in the City’s actual costs to administer and regulate the TNC affiliated drivers based on the number of drivers licensed during the previous year and the estimated number of new drivers to be licensed in the future year. If adopted, this structure would set the 2016 fee for the one existing TNC operator at $135,000. That price tag includes the $65,000 in anticipated 2016 costs, and recovers an additional $70,000 in costs incurred by the City in 2015.


Building Bridges

The 87-year-old Puyallup River Bridge has deteriorated to the point where it needs to be replaced. In the process of replacing the deteriorated bridge with a new, wider bridge, the City of Tacoma needs additional right-of-way access. The site of the project falls within the Puyallup Tribe reservation, on land in the immediate vicinity of the Tribe’s Ceremonial Grounds, on which many significant events are held and historic events have occurred.

As compensation for the easements requested by the City, the Tribe has requested a variety of properties, in lieu of receiving a required Just Compensation cash payment. A resolution on this week's council meeting agenda would authorize the City to convey the requested surplus properties (pictured in green and purple), valued at nearly $250,000, to the Tribe in exchange for the land needed for the bridge project.


Other Items

A purchase resolution on this week's agenda would authorize a $43,075 increase to an existing contract with Gilchrist Chevrolet Buick, for a cumulative total of $215,377, budgeted from the Fire Miscellaneous Special Revenue Fund, for one 2015 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck.

A pair of resolutions on this week's agenda would authorize negotiated changes to agreements with two groups of represented employees. An ordinance on the agenda for a first reading would implement those changes.


Get Involved

South Sound Sustainability Expo

Saturday, March 5th, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.,
Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center
1500 Broadway, Tacoma

The annual South Sound Sustainability Expo is scheduled for this weekend. It's a free event, open to the public, aimed at helping us all learn to how to have a more sustainable impact on our community and natural environment. This year's Expo will include opportunities to connect with over 100 vendors, companies, and agencies that address sustainability needs in our region; participate in interactive workshops, a mini-Farmers’ Market, and Kids’ Corner activities.


Puget Sound Gateway Open Houses

Fife open house
5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 1
Fife Community Center
2111 54th Avenue East
Fife, WA 98424

Puyallup open house
5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 3
Puyallup Activity Center
210 West Pioneer Avenue
Puyallup, WA 98371

Commuters, residents and businesses will have two opportunities to learn more about the first phase of the Puget Sound Gateway, a project that completes State Route 167 between Puyallup and Tacoma. The new highway segment is designed to enhance regional mobility and improve freight travel times and reliability. WSDOT will host two open houses in early March to detail the initial phase.

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