Tacoma City Council approves new “Public Camping” Ordinance

The Tacoma City Council approved a new ordinance that prohibits camping on public property unless expressly allowed by the City at a given location.

The Public Camping Ordinance, which became effective after a council vote on Tuesday, July 11, will sunset at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2017.

The new law is intended to address the public health and safety conditions that are caused by unauthorized encampments. Under the law daytime sunshades in public spaces and picnicking are still allowed.

The Public Camping Ordinance differs from the Human Habitation of Vehicle Ordinance, which requires proof of two or more listed activities to prove the vehicle is used for a dwelling or for residential purposes and does not have a termination date.

The Council also approved changes to the Human Habitation of Vehicle Ordinance at the July 11 city council meeting, which included reducing the time period a vehicle used for human habitation can be parked in a particular location in the city from a maximum of seven days to 72 hours and requiring the vehicle to be moved at least one mile away after 72 hours. The ordinance also changed the penalty to an escalating fine of $50 to $250 based on the number of citations.

The human habitation of vehicle ordinance does not inhibit the City’s authority to impound vehicles that are obstructing traffic, presenting a threat to public safety, or are inoperable, in accordance with state law.

  – City of Tacoma

Homeless encampment, June 2017   Photo by Morf Morford

Homeless encampment, June 2017 Photo by Morf Morford