TACOMA, Wash. — In an effort to address "emerging public safety issues impacting the quality of life in Tacoma's parks," the city council voted to ban tents and most other shelters Tuesday night.
The council approved an amended ordinance targeting public parks with an 8-1 vote. The ordinance now, in part, makes it illegal to set up any structure within a park unless authorized to do so, or it's a temporary structure with no walls.
Parks code was last updated nearly a decade ago. City staff, including representatives of the police department, worked to amend the city rules to "address emerging public safety issues."
The shelter ban will not go into effect until December.
Prior to the vote, Mayor Victoria Woodards told a crowded council chambers that solving the homelessness crisis is the responsibility of the entire city, "not just the nine of us," adding that "we all play a role in solving this problem."
Deputy Mayor Conor McCarthy pointed out the city recently opened its new "Safe Station." The program allows anyone who needs help with opioid abuse to be assessed by medics at Fire Station 1 on Fawcett Avenue and be transported to a treatment facility.
There was a mixed reaction over the city's rule changes while they were being considered.
Homeless people living in some city parks said the proposed changes have them concerned because they have no place to go.
Khalihla Shaw and her husband previously said they don't want to live in a park but illness and financial problems left them no choice. They said nobody from the city or the parks department has offered them any services.
"They make these rules and regulations and they don't make no sense and then you turn the water on us at 3 a.m.,” Shaw explained.
Meanwhile, other people living in Tacoma said they've noticed an uptick in tents and garbage.
“It's a thing where the garbage piles up and it's a public health hazard," Hilltop resident Christian Morrison previously told KING 5. "There are no bathrooms here."
He said the tents began taking over People's Park.
"It's not changing and think about it and younger people raising a family and they can't bring them in this situation. It's not comfortable at all,” he said.
The revised park rules go beyond illegal camping.
Vaping was added to the section of the law that prohibits smoking in parks. The law also prohibits drones and unmanned aircraft, unless in a designated area.