Everett OKs shelter code changes to comply with changes in state laws

Permits for shelters could be reviewed faster, and the city won’t cap the number of unrelated people in a dwelling.

Everett

EVERETT — Shelters could get permits faster and more people could try “house hacking” to make rent more affordable under Everett city code changes approved Wednesday night.

The changes were necessary to comply with state laws passed in the 2021 legislative session.

House Bill 1220 bars cities and towns from banning transitional housing or permanent supportive housing in zones where housing or hotels are allowed. It also protects indoor emergency housing and shelters.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 5235 prohibits cities and towns from regulating or limiting the number of residents in a dwelling.

No one spoke during the public hearings Wednesday. The Everett City Council voted 7-0 to approve both code amendments that included some adjustments sought by council members.

“We all want the best product that we can (have),” council member Don Schwab said. “They don’t change very often.”

One of the major changes moves the shelter permit process from a hearing examiner’s review and decision to an administrative conditional use permit. Instead of the process taking four months or longer, the planning director can turn it around faster, planning director Yorik Stevens-Wajda said.

Shelters are still required to submit a management plan to the city for approval, but it won’t be prescribed by the city. They also are subject to special conditions placed by the planning director.

An appeal would go to the hearing examiner.

The ordinance adds social services as a permitted use to permanent supportive housing in residential zones with lower density. Some council members worried those services could extend to people beyond those living there, but the planning director said it would be approved on a case-by-case basis.

“The intent is to allow permanent supportive housing but not standalone social service facilities,” Stevens-Wajda told the council Aug. 24.

After Stevens-Wajda presented the proposed amendments in August, council members asked for changes and considerations that made it into the final ordinance.

One requires a proposed temporary emergency weather shelter in a residential zone to notify the city fire marshal 48 hours before opening. That would give the city time to coordinate with whatever organization was opening and operating the shelter, Stevens-Wajda said.

In the Snohomish County point-in-time homeless count this year, there were 1,184 homeless people.

Shelters are an important option while housing, especially for people with low incomes, gets built, Volunteers of America of Western Washington senior director of housing services Galina Volchkova told The Daily Herald in August.

“We have to focus on shelter and bridge housing because that’s the immediate need,” Volchkova said. “We won’t be able to build affordable units quickly enough to satisfy the need in the community.”

Everett is planning to expand its first Pallet Shelter village, an outdoor emergency shelter, located near and managed by the Everett Gospel Mission on Smith Avenue.

Other sites are being considered.

One would be for women with children in up to 20 units on city property on Glenwood Avenue and Sievers Duecy Boulevard.

Another for families with children in up to eight units is proposed at Faith Lutheran Church property on Cady Road near Madison Street.

Snohomish County also purchased the Days Inn hotel near Everett Mall to serve as emergency housing with 74 units.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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