Transitional Encampments

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Project Outcomes

The City of Seattle approved legislation that responds to a 2015 Emergency Task Force on Unsheltered Homelessness’ key recommendations. Ordinance 124747 was signed by Mayor Edward Murray in 2015, and is now in effect. Highlights of the approved ordinance are:

  • Provides a new transitional encampment interim-use permit for a one-year term. The permit, a Type I Master Use Permit, would not be renewable. However, an existing encampment would be allowed to relocate to another site under a new one-year interim use permit.
  • Allows up to three of these encampments, limited to 100 people per site, to operate at any one time in the Industrial, Downtown, Seattle Mixed, Commercial 2 (C2), Commercial 1 (C1), Neighborhood Commercial 3 (NC3), and Neighborhood Commercial 2 (NC2) zones. The encampments would not be allowed in zones defined as residential or in special review or historic districts. Encampments would also not be allowed in an unopened public street right-of-way or designated as a park, playground, viewpoint, or multi-use trail.
  • Requires a minimum of 12 months after a transitional encampment interim use permit has expired before a new transitional encampment could be established at the same site.
  • Requires locating an encampment on property owned by the City of Seattle or a private party with a management plan that provides human services to encampment occupants, site management and maintenance, and security. The plan must include a process for referrals to service providers that are able to assist individuals under 18 who arrive at an encampment unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
  • Requires encampment operators to have past experience managing and operating shelters, low-income housing, or encampments serving low-income, homeless or indigent persons.
  • Requires encampments to meet the same health, safety, and inspection requirements that have been established for encampments on sites owned or controlled by religious organizations as provided for in Seattle Municipal Code Section 23.42.054.
  • Requires that encampments meet standards including that they be located at least 25 feet from any residentially-zoned lot; but may be located less than 25 feet from any residentially-zoned lot if the encampment boundary maintains a 25-foot setback and is screened by vegetation or fencing.
  • Establishes parking requirements for any vehicles used for shelter and for staff members of encampments that are not located on sites owned or controlled by religious organizations.
  • Provides rulemaking authority to: require community outreach to give neighbors advance notice of encampments and the relocation of existing encampments; require the formation of a Community Advisory Committee to provide advisory input on proposed encampment operations; and require specific operational standards to be implemented by encampment operators.
  • Requires that the operator obtain and maintain liability insurance for use of City-owned property prior to issuance of a permit.
  • Requires that the operator allow service providers, such as social workers, to access the site when a City-owned property.

Key Milestones

  • April 10, 2015
    Mayor signed the ordinance

Project Purpose

The purpose of this legislation was to help address homelessness by providing a way to permit temporary encampments until housing and services are available.

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