Code changes considered for Port Angeles temporary housing

Planning commission to bring proposals to council in March

PORT ANGELES — Suggestions for city code amendments for temporary housing were discussed during a special Port Angeles City Council meeting.

Senior Planner Ben Braudrick and Housing Coordinator Holden Fleming presented a snapshot of information collected from a Pursuing Housing for All survey on Tuesday night.

“It’s important in this discussion tonight that we talk about the temporary housing section of city code and why we need to take action on that now,” Braudrick said Tuesday.

The planning commission, which had a meeting set for Wednesday night, will bring proposals to the Port Angeles City Council for a first reading on March 7, with the hope for adoption at the council’s March 21 meeting.

Two weeks ago, the Planning Commission held a public workshop discussing temporary housing, specifically when it comes to people living in RVs and mobile homes in residential areas.

“It was one of the largest attended meetings the planning commission has held,” Fleming said.

In that meeting, many members of the public expressed concerns about people living in residential areas in RVs and other temporary housing structures but were split on how to best address the issue, recognizing that the people using such housing likely had no other place to go.

Those concerns were echoed in an online survey where 10 percent of more than 400 respondents said people living in some form of temporary housing were in their neighborhood. The survey is now closed.

“There are layers to the housing crisis here,” said council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin.

“We have an availability crisis where people for whom money is not an issue get good jobs here and can’t find a place to live,” he said.

“We have an affordability crisis where, in the average household, 43 percent of the income is going toward housing because rents are high,” Schromen-Wawrin added.

“The third layer is homelessness,” he said. “The vast majority of people who are homeless in Port Angeles just need a place they can afford.”

The current city code, Port Angeles Municipal Code 17.96.075, allows for temporary occupancy of buildings, including mobile homes, in conjunction with the construction or reconstruction of projects or under other circumstances requiring temporary structures. These temporary structures can be permitted in any zone provided the required setbacks are in place for public health and safety measures. However, they can be occupied only for up to a year.

Fleming proposed making changes to the code so that those living in RVs and temporary structures can become compliant with the city’s code.

“The initial idea is that we have people who are living in RVs, and among them there are people who want to do it right and want to make sure that they aren’t creating public health, safety and nuisance problems by doing so,” Fleming said.

“We should provide a pathway for them to become code compliant.”

The proposed changes include adding Temporary Emergency Housing Structures (TEHS), which would include RVs, as a type of structure that can be permitted through a temporary use permit good for one year with an opportunity for a six-month extension in some situations.

The code would specify the performance standards the structures need to meet to protect public health, safety and welfare, and clarify the procedural questions related to extensions and potential use of a hearing examiner, Fleming said.

Religious organizations already are allowed to utilize TEHSs with minimal oversight in Port Angeles. The suggested code changes would allow for other nonprofit organizations to do the same while meeting the city performance standards.

The proposed performance standards would limit negative impacts on a single-family home neighborhood, provide a clear path for compliance for those in TEHSs, and would tie placement of the RV or mobile home to the occupant of the primary dwelling it’s attached to, providing easier enforcement of design standards, according to Fleming.

“People like their neighborhoods,” Fleming said. “We want to preserve those qualities that make it a place where they want to live.

“We understand that a home is the single largest investment a person will make. We in no way want to devalue that investment,” he continued.

Council member Navarra Carr asked Fleming and Braudrick to keep in mind that those in temporary housing may have only limited access to the internet, which could impede their ability to find information on how to become code compliant.

More on the city’s Pursuit of Housing for All initiative can be found at https://www.cityofpa.us/1051/Pursuing-Housing-For-All and at https://www.cityofpa.us/DocumentCenter/View/12630/January-Workshop-Presentation—-Website—-Final.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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