Mayor's Update

Mayor's Update - Dec. 18, 2020
Posted on 12/18/2020
Mayor's Update Masthead

The City of Renton's Mayor's LoogPeriodically I will provide a mayor’s perspective on news items of importance to Renton residents.

Submit your comments.

  • Use the language button at the top of the page to translate


Friday, Dec. 18, 2020

City Council passes emergency ordinance for interim zoning controls

In the weeks leading up to the Renton City Council’s vote last Monday night on interim zoning controls for homeless shelters, emotions have run high and there have been misunderstandings due to some of the public comments and media coverage of the ordinance that Council adopted. I would like to explain what the city did with this ordinance and why, and how we are at the beginning of a process versus the end of one.

Image of the cover of the mayor's update for December 18, 2002

Before the City Council adopted the interim ordinance, the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) was operating at the Red Lion Inn in violation of the city’s zoning. Renton’s interim ordinance provides immediate legal relief to DESC, so that it can remain in place while replacement, temporary or permanent shelters are located.

Before we decide what the permanent zoning will look like, we need to spend the next several months determining how permanent shelters can best succeed in Renton. Although the Red Lion operations provide better conditions for its guests as compared to its “shoulder-to-shoulder” congregate shelter in downtown Seattle, DESC’s operations have not been successful at providing safe operations inside and outside of the Red Lion. Providing more independent sleeping arrangements than what was provided in Seattle does not by itself equate success.

Engagement with the community

We will continue to engage with the Renton community, our city’s Planning Commission, and our regional partners and experts to learn more and define what successful homeless shelters in Renton look like. Success of homeless shelters should not be limited to merely improving temporary living conditions of those who have been historically housed in other cities’ congregate shelters. Success should also include safe living arrangements, wrap-around services that give those individuals the opportunity to move out of a shelter environment and live independently with necessary services and support, and strong partnerships with the community.

Photo of the Red Lion Hotel in Renton

The process we are starting allows additional time for a safe and suitable relocation of Red Lion shelter operations. King County has publicly stated that a key part of its strategy of purchasing former hotels, long-term care facilities, and nursing homes for use as shelters, is to have the overwhelming number of these purchases completed within six months. Our action gives King County ample time to develop a transition plan, something we have repeatedly urged since April 2020.

The interim zoning adopted by Renton also establishes a process where new homeless shelters can be located through a permitting process–the same type of process we use with housing, businesses, commercial and industrial buildings, and property throughout our city. We set up reasonable temporary regulations for shelter operators–regulations borrowed from the City of Bellevue–that were put through the equity lens process of stakeholder involvement, public comment providing opinion, and suggested changes. Importantly, the rules are temporary and interim for a reason: they provide time for the city to continue working with the community, homeless service providers, and other advocates and stakeholders, to develop further and more permanent legislation. If an extension is needed for some reason due to the pandemic or any other unforeseen circumstance, the Council can readdress the temporary regulations at any time.

Providing for resident safety

Renton’s ordinance is also focused on the safety of the residents who live in homeless shelters. We recommend a capacity limit for overnight shelters because we have seen that impacts from an estimated 235 residents—many of them coping with significant mental health challenges, drug addiction, and physical disabilities—are too great on a shelter and the surrounding area. No other emergency shelter set up by King County comes anywhere close to serving 235 residents.

We recognize there will be some advocates who remain unhappy no matter what actions Renton adopts, but the job of a city government is to take steps that balance many different and often-times competing interests: the needs of persons experiencing homelessness; the needs of other city residents and business operators; the needs of public and life safety professionals; the needs of housing providers; and the needs of a multi-racial and wonderfully diverse set of neighborhoods, communities and community leaders.

Our desire in Renton is to work with our community, with King County, with DESC, and with a variety of stakeholders to find suitable and safe locations with appropriate wrap-around services nearby for those experiencing homelessness. That is not just Renton’s job. It is and must be the job of every community, from SeaTac to Shoreline, to Woodinville to Kirkland, to Redmond to Bellevue, to Kent and Federal Way and Auburn and Algona, and beyond.

The city will continue to advance proposals that balance the interests of the nearby businesses and residents with those of people in need of housing and services. Renton accepts and embraces our responsibility for taking care of people in need, as demonstrated by our partnerships and support for homeless and low-income programs operated by REACH, Catholic Community Services, and Renton Housing Authority. We are the only city in King County to have established its own housing authority besides the City of Seattle.

Our commitment

You have my commitment that we will spend these next several months in an earnest attempt to listen to more input, to coordinate with providers, to sharpen our equity lens even further, and to fine-tune our regulations so that we land on permanent laws and rules that balance all needs and interests. That is my pledge to you, and why I emphasize the process has not ended but rather has only just begun.

I hope this information has been helpful to you. I invite any of you to contact me with questions or concerns if you have them.

City of Renton | All Rights Reserved | Powered by CivicLive | © 2021 Intrado Corporation. | Disclaimer