City Council addresses emergency housing, halts short-term rental applications

Posted on September 29th, 2021 By:

The Gig Harbor City Council approved two emergency ordinances at their Monday meeting. In one, they adopted interim zoning regulations related to emergency and low-income housing and emergency shelters. In the other, they approved a six-month moratorium on short-term rentals.

A photo of the front of Gig Harbor City Hall.

New state legislation requires cities to plan for and accommodate affordable housing. Ed Friedrich / Gig Harbor Now

Both were adopted on their first reading, because of their emergency nature.

Ordinance 1466, which passed 6-1, adopts interim zoning controls that allow emergency shelters and housing, permanent supportive housing and transitional housing in designated areas.

The ordinance is in response to state legislation signed by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year. That bill, ESSHB 1220, was passed to address the growing homeless crisis facing Washington state and includes requirements for all jurisdictions that fall under the Growth Management Act (GMA) to amend their comprehensive plans and develop regulations pertaining to transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and emergency shelters.

Language in the state legislation no longer “encourages” affordable housing but requires cities to plan for and accommodate affordable housing, according to city Director of Community Development Katrina Knutson. And it sets a Sept. 30 deadline for cities to enact appropriate legislation — hence the need for the emergency ordinance.

Cities are also required to “inventory, analyze, plan for and accommodate dwelling units for moderate, low, very low and extremely low-income households,” Knutson said. She added that these requirements can be addressed through the city’s upcoming 2024 comp plan update.

Additional stipulations of ESSHB 1220 preempt local authority to prohibit certain shelters and housing types and adds that “code cities shall not prohibit transitional housing or permanent supportive housing — or indoor emergency shelters and emergency housing — in any zones in which residential dwelling units or hotels are allowed.”

Before the Council’s vote to approve the emergency ordinance, Councilman Jim Franich commented that ESSHB 1220, “… takes away local control. It’s problematic,” he said.

The City Council and the Planning Commission will study and refine the zoning controls over the 6-month interim period and public hearings will be scheduled.

Picture of the front of Gig Harbor City Hall

During the 6-month moratorium, the Council will review the city’s current approval process for short-term rentals and study future, permanent regulations. Ed Friedrich / Gig Harbor Now

The other emergency ordinance, 1467, puts a 6-month moratorium on new applications for short-term rentals. This gives the Council time to review the city’s current approval process for such rentals and to properly study future, permanent regulations. All current short-term rental permits will remain in place and city staff will process permit applications that were received before the moratorium was approved. The ordinance was passed by a 7-0 vote.

In other action, the Council approved Ordinance 1465 updating the city’s policy for processing public records requests and approved a new lease for the Chamber of Commerce to occupy the Bogue building on Judson Street. The Council also approved a public works contract to completely rehabilitate Lift Station 12 that serves much of Gig Harbor North, including Canterwood, St. Anthony Hospital and the Purdy area.

The Council also heard a presentation by Dr. Elly Claus-McGahan from Climate Pierce County who asked it to consider adding a climate element to the city’s comprehensive plan to address the impacts of climate change. She showed photos of king tides in Skansie Park and Purdy as examples of climate change impacts, adding that the recent drought, wildfires and smoke storms are also indications of things to come. This year’s heat dome in July, which caused a major shellfish die-off and 24 human deaths in Pierce County, is also a warning sign, she said. She encouraged Gig Harbor to coordinate with other cities to develop plans to combat climate change and global warming and provided lists of state and federal resources for financial support.

In other actions, Mayor Kit Kuhn read a proclamation declaring October 2021 as Healthcare Heroes Month in Gig Harbor in support of nurses, doctors, EMTs, respiratory therapists and even hospital janitorial and housekeeping staff and thanking them “for their commitment and sacrifice to continue caring for the sick during this difficult time.”

Upcoming city meetings include the Planning and Building Committee on Oct. 4 and the Board and Commission Candidate Review Committee on Oct. 11.

To hear a recording of the Sept. 27 Council meeting, go to