Tacoma City Council Meeting - October 27, 2015

The majority of this week's agenda was out of the way succinctly in about 10 minutes. The remaining two hours of the meeting was taken up by the public hearing on the 2015 annual amendment. Quite a few people have opinions on this one.



Resolution No. 39290 A resolution setting Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at approximately 5:30 p.m., as the date for a public hearing by the City Council on the surplus and proposed sale of approximately 0.63 of an acre located at 7704 6th Avenue, to Mr. David Sizemore, for the amount of $35,101.

Resolution No. 39291 A resolution setting Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at approximately 5:30 p.m., as the date for a public hearing by the City Council on the surplus and proposed sale of approximately 0.36 of an acre located at the intersection of Military Road and Canyon Road SE, in Pierce County, to WGW, Inc., for the amount of $63,193.

The consent agenda was adopted without comment.



No comment.




Resolution No. 39292 A resolution appointing and reappointing individuals to the City Events and Recognitions Committee.

Two applicants selected from the pool interviewed were appointed to three-year terms.



Resolution No. 39293 A resolution awarding a contract to Hussey Seating Company, in the amount of $227,976, plus sales tax, budgeted from the Tacoma Dome Fund, for 2,400 Clarin chairs, and associated chair storage trucks and spare parts.

The purchase resolution was moved to the meeting of December 15 at the request of staff.




Ordinance No. 28327 An ordinance amending Title 2 of the Municipal Code, entitled "Buildings", Title 6B, entitled "License Code", and Title 13, entitled "Land Use Regulatory Code", by amending various chapters to support mixed-use development related to live/work and work/live units.

The ordinance would make changes to Tacoma’s code to encourage “live/work” and “work/live” uses in buildings, particularly existing buildings, especially historic ones. Encouraging these uses is intended to have benefits around preservation of historic buildings, increased occupancy of vacant or under-used existing buildings, increased flexibility for small businesses, and increased opportunities for creation of new businesses.

Among the changes to support these uses are the creation of the new “work/live” category of use, which allows for the majority of space in a unit to be devoted to the “work” use, whereas the existing “live/work” use requires the opposite: that the majority be used for residential activities. A requirement would be added requiring a special agreement for these kinds of uses to ensure that residents are connected to the business in the space, and that safety issues are properly addressed. Elements that encourage the renovation and reuse of existing buildings, particularly historic ones, would also be strengthened.

This is part of a larger effort to simplify, streamline, and update City planning and development processes. If adopted, next steps will be to advertise the new options and work with interested parties on implementation.



This was the date set for a public hearing by the City Council on the 2015 Annual Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Regulatory Code.

In presenting this topic, staff referenced “significant discussion” at this week’s city council study session, so if you didn’t get enough at the hearing, you can look up that meeting and hear more on the issues covered.

The annual amendment is typically done… annually (although it looks like not so much next year). It makes updates to the documents that guide growth and development in Tacoma, including changes in response to Growth Management Act requirements, regional plans, and local discussions.

This year’s set of amendments is grouped into five categories: a general update of the Comprehensive Plan, a review of Tacoma’s mixed-use centers, changes to encourage affordable housing, the creation of a conservation district protection for the Narrowmoor neighborhood in west Tacoma, and general code clean-up.

The Comprehensive Plan update this year introduces a new comprehensive plan titled “One Tacoma,” which is designed to update the city’s answers to how to grow over time, while taking into consideration the needs of all Tacomans. This is not the normal annual update; it’s a GMA-required comprehensive plan review and update to ensure the consistency, compliance, and functionality of the document. The update emphasizes in particular issues around equity, growing transit communities, sustainability and climate, health and well-being, and urban design.

The mixed-use center review takes a look at the mixed-use center strategy that is at the center of Tacoma’s plans for accommodating future growth. The review looked at the core understanding of that strategy, asking whether it was working, and what changes, if any were needed. The resulting report concludes that it is the right growth strategy, and that the existing centers are appropriate, but also recognizes that the strategy needs some refining, as many of the centers, although they have been targets for growth, have not seen that growth happen over the years. To answer this problem, the review proposes some modifications to differentiate categories of centers, outline how growth can and should happen for those types of centers, and to accommodate “horizontal mixed-use” where appropriate.

The affordable housing amendments come from a set of recommendations from the City’s Affordable Housing Taskforce, and is the third of three phases of recommendations from the group. Among the strategies being recommended to support Tacoma’s stock of affordable housing are incentives and bonuses, and zoning and land use code changes. The recommendations try to strike a balance between preservation – of historic structures and of neighborhood character – and increased flexibility and new options to promote housing choice and affordability.

In the category of incentives and bonuses, the proposed amendments would offer density bonuses for planned residential districts and a new floor area ratio in downtown, and create affordable housing requirements associated with private upzone requests.

The proposal would also seek to promote housing choice and density by creating flexibilities in lot size in residential districts, and creating a new pilot infill program to try out new housing types previously not allowed in single-family residential districts. The pilot program would allow cottage housing, detached accessory dwelling units, and smaller multi-family developments. Each category would be limited to no more than three across the entire city during the pilot program. Each use would be required to go through a special heightened review process, and the program would be evaluated for impacts before becoming broader.

The Narrowmoor Conservation District is the one of the five amendments that comes out of a private group request. The West Slope Neighborhood Coalition made the proposal to create the new conservation district overlay zone to be applied to the Narrowmoor neighborhood portion of that part of town. The conservation district would apply to just short of 300 homes within that area, and would be used to “protect key character components unique to this part of Tacoma.” Protections would come in the form of a review process for proposed new structures, exterior remodels, and demolitions of existing structures. The designation would also require a minimum lot size larger than the rest of Tacoma, and limit the height of homes in the area.

Code clean-up amendments come from staff and users of the code suggesting areas that could work better. Recommended changes include changes to ensure the code does not unintentionally prevent some types of low-impact development techniques, improvements to notification processes, and design standards relating to parking garages.

30 commenters spoke at the public hearing, with the proposed Narrowmoor conservation district as by far the dominating topic. The majority of the commenters were residents of the neighborhood, sharing their desire to preserve their neighborhood's character, and voicing fears of reduced lot sizes and undesirable development. We heard praise for the original vision of the developer who built the neighborhood and "went to the trouble of putting in covenants that would ensure its preservation.” Many residents expressed the sentiment that additional growth could be accomodated elsewhere. We also heard about expensive lawsuits, quality of life, and even a reference to Animal Farm. Only a couple speakers voiced opposition to the proposal, offering their concerns over the impact of stricter development regulations on their ability to make changes to their homes, and suggesting that the existing covenants, which have been upheld in court, are strong enough protection.

The next main topic of comment was, probably not surprisingly, the suite of affordable housing amendments. We heard fears from residents, particularly of north end neighborhoods, that the changes would allow duplexes, multi-family developments, "skinny houses," and other forms of development that would irrevocably change neighborhood character, livability, and property values. Commenters expressed concerns about slippery slopes, increased vehicle traffic, public safety, undesirable neighbors, and that higher density development like skinny houses would block out the light, and otherwise make their neighorhoods unlivable. A few commenters spoke in favor of the proposals, applauding the phased in pilot program approach and heightened review requirements, and the opportunity for greater housing choice and more affordable housing. One commenter spoke for handicapped and other residents in need of affordable housing, saying there is a need for affordable housing in all parts of the city.

Public comment went on at length, and was far more nuanced (and at times entertaining) than what we've captured here. If you're curious about the details of supporters of Narrowmoor, or challengers of infill strategies, you should definitely listen for yourself.

Next steps for the proposed amendments will be a discussion by the City Council Infrastructure, Planning, and Sustainability Committee on November 18, followed by a November 24 first reading of an ordinance adopting amendments, and a final reading expected on December 1.

For more on all of the proposed amendments, see the Planning Department's 2015 annual amendment page.



Economic Development Committee – Councilmember Campbell reported on recent issues addressed by the committee.

  • Heard a report on the Port of Tacoma and Seattle Seaport Alliance
  • Learned about the growing tech industry in Tacoma
  • Received a report on Tacoma’s office of business retention, expansion, and recruitment, and related business growth
  • Received updates on Go Local and a final report on the food truck pilot program
  • Conducted Foss Waterway Development Authority interviews
  • Made a recommendation on the Point Defiance Park development agreement

Councilmember Thoms reminded us that Project PEACE continues on October 29 at the Center at Norpoint. Doors open at 4:30, event goes from 5 to 8:45 p.m. The event is an opportunity for the community to have an open dialogue with the City and Tacoma Police about issues that concern them.

Council members Mello and Woodards were absent from this week’s meeting.


For more on the items on this week's agenda see our City Business Preview for the week.

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