Tacoma proposes permit process for temporary homeless camps

The City of Tacoma Planning Commission is seeking public comment on proposed land use regulations concerning a Temporary Homeless Camps Permitting Process. The proposal would amend the Tacoma Municipal Code, Chapter 13.05 Land Use Permit Procedures and Chapter 13.06 Zoning, to add regulations for a permit review process for temporary homeless camps run by religious organizations.

A public hearing by the Commission is scheduled for Weds., Jan. 22, at 5:30 p.m., in the Council Chambers, First Floor of the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St. Public input is welcome at the hearing and/or in written comment by Fri., Jan. 24.

State law, RCW 36.01.290, grants broad authority to religious organizations to host temporary homeless camps for individuals experiencing homelessness on their private property. The City of Tacoma has not had a religious organization propose such a camp since the state law passed in 2010, but wants to have regulations in place should this occur in the future. The proposed amendment would regulate temporary homeless camps to protect general public health and safety as well as the safety of camp residents.

The proposal calls for the following: maximum occupancy per camp: 100 residents; maximum number of camps allowed to operate within the City at any given time: two; minimum camp site area: 7,500 square feet for first 50 residents, plus 150 square feet for each additional resident; maximum time on ground for each camp: 93 days (or 123 days for hard surface or non-residential sites); minimum time to return to site or neighborhood: two years from previous camp start date (or 18 months for hard surface or non-residential sites); camp must be located within one-quarter of a mile of a transit stop; perimeter setback: 10 feet from property line; perimeter fencing: six-foot sight-obscuring materials; shelter/tent separation: two feet on sides and rear of shelter, four feet from entrance, and 10 feet between group shelters; Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles will be applied to the camps during the site plan review; warrant and background checks are required for prospective camp residents; one shower for each 33 residents; parking: two spaces for every 25 residents; and 14-day public notice to 400 feet of site.

More information is available online at cityoftacoma.org/planning or by contacting John Harrington, Planning and Development Services, at (253) 279-8950 or jharring@cityoftacoma.org.