Tacoma City Council Meeting - March 8, 2016

This week’s council representation on the dais was small at just five council members – the bare minimum needed for quorum at a meeting. The other four; Mayor Strickland, Deputy Mayor Mello, and council members Blocker and Woodards; were absent to represent Tacoma at the National League of Cities 2016 Congressional City Conference.


Several representatives of local organizations working with the homeless spoke to voice concerns over the proposed changes to how Tacoma deals with people living in their vehicles. Speakers asked the council to consider the alternatives for people without options other than sleeping on the streets. We heard several requests, including from representatives of an organization that says they find locations for tiny homes, that the City find a space where people can live in vehicles and/or tiny homes legally, with sanitary facilities.




Resolution No. 39396 A resolution designating 24 Public Works and Environmental Services projects as special projects of limited duration, and designating general salary classifications and benefits for persons employed on the projects.

This will allow City departments to supplement permanent staffing with project-specific staff as needed for the special projects listed. The list includes roadway projects and pedestrian/bike projects, among others. Some are already fully funded, some are awaiting funding.


Ordinance No. 28348 An ordinance amending Chapter 2.01 of the Municipal Code, relating to the Minimum Building and Structures Code, and Section 11.05.231, relating to the Human Habitation of Vehicles, to eliminate sections which refer to improper use of recreational vehicles, and to clarify language to allow for clear and consistent enforcement.

Some of the changes implemented by this ordinance come in response to a Ninth Circuit Court ruling that found similar regulations in Los Angeles to be unconstitutionally vague. To avoid similar challenges, Tacoma will be changing its regulations – dropping a section making “improper use of an RV” on private property a building code violation, and adding a definition of “habitation” of a vehicle. Although staying in an RV on private property is no longer a building code violation, a proper sewer hook-up, like what campsites have, is still required.

Additionally, the existing 24-hour limit on overnight stays in a vehicle will be extended to 7 days. This is a decision made by City staff in an effort to better reach people experiencing homelessness, and to connect them with services. The hope is that improving outreach in this way will lead to better long-term outcomes.

These changes do not eliminate all civil penalties, but are intended to shift the focus to finding non-punitive solutions.

After the vote City Manager Broadnax added a reminder of the challenge the City faces in finding a balance between addressing the large number of complaints from residents and businesses in Tacoma related to impacts of homelessness on their neighborhoods, and the needs of the people who have nowhere else to go. Broadnax noted that there are many complicated challenges in addressing the issues associated with homelessness, including people who refuse to be connected to support services, and in Tacoma in particular, the challenge of serving the many homeless who come from outside the city. He noted that the City currently provides the majority of homeless services in Pierce County, even for those coming from elsewhere. Homelessness is a regional issue, and the City will be taking actions to see it dealt with as such.


Ordinance No. 28349 An ordinance amending Chapter 6B.220 of the Municipal Code, relating to For-Hire Regulations, to establish a new annual license fee for Transportation Network Companies (TNC) to cover administrative and regulatory costs, and to no longer issue For-Hire Driver Identification Cards and Vehicle Endorsements to affiliated drivers of a TNC as long as all licensing requirements are met.

 The item was adopted without council comment. 



Not surprisingly the majority of comment at this month’s Citizens’ Forum was on the subject of the proposed methanol plant in the Port of Tacoma. Also not surprisingly, the sentiment was unanimous opposition.

A second topic of several commenters was a request for a development moratorium for the Proctor neighborhood. Commenters asked the council to consider imposing a moratorium to allow for public process on development standards, and several asked for full design review. The phrase "preserving neighborhood character" came up more than once.

In addition to these two groups, we heard from several speakers with concerns related to homelessness – both asking for a space for the homeless to camp safely, and voicing concerns over the seemingly growing problems created by homelessness in Tacoma. There was also comment about improving accessibility for non-motorized travel, and a request that the City continue to invest in the Click! network, with ISP contracts and a public review process.



Councilmember Campbell gave a reminder that on March 19 at Mt Tahoma from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The City will be hosting a Latino Town Hall in an effort to encourage Latino citizens of Tacoma to increase their engagement. The City, Campbell said, wants to see representation that reflects all of our community; to hear about the issues that affect all Tacomans.



For more on the items on this week’s agenda, see our City Business Preview.

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