Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Edmonds Ordinance On Homeless Encampment Permits

by November 27th, 2010

SUMMARY: The Edmonds City Council at its Nov. 1 meeting approved an ordinance establishing a permitting process and health, sanitation, zoning and legal requirements for temporary homeless encampments within the city. The ordinance states that a hearing officer would decide each application after a public process. It also states that camps will be eligible to occupy land of churches or public facilities for up to 90 of 365 days, with no more than 100 residents, and specific and thorough provisions made for public health, environmental impact on neighboring communities, and for screening of prospective residents who have outstanding arrest warrants or are registered sexual offenders.

BACKGROUND: Edmonds is a city of more than 40,000 residents on Puget Sound in Snohomish County. Knowing it had limited powers to block temporary camps for the homeless, and wanting to continue to work with Snohomish County to address homelessness while also protecting neighborhood interests, the city council considered and approved an ordinance to permit and regulate homeless encampments. By adopting the ordinance – which set out conditions in advance of any camp opening – the council hopes to avoid imposing after-the-fact regulations which could be seen as “arbitrary and capricious” and lead to litigation.

KEY LINK: City of Edmonds ordinance regulating temporary homeless encampments, 11/1/10


  • Permits are required for temporary homeless encampments in the city. Homeless camps of no more than 100 residents are allowed on properties of religious institutions or public facilities for no more than 90 of 365 days in the same location. Permit application must be made no less than 45 days before intended opening, and a public hearing and community meeting held. A hearing examiner decides whether a permit application is approved or not.
  • Any approved temporary homeless encampment must meet a number of requirements. Twenty-foot buffers are required at the boundaries, as is a six-foot fence unless natural features provide sufficient cover. Exterior lighting must point down and be contained within the site. The encampment must be within a half-mile of public transit, and at least five parking spaces provided.
  • The managing agency and sponsor must provide sufficient porta-sans, hand washing stations, food serving and eating spaces, garbage cans, fire extinguishers and adequate water for sanitation and drinking. They must ensure the presence of at least one on-site supervisor at all times, and designate a police contact.
  • No children under 18 are allowed to stay overnight unless accompanied by parent or guardian and even then the first choice will be to place them in alternative shelter.
  • The managing agency and sponsor are responsible for checking the identification of prospective residents and using that identification information to to determine, from appropriate agencies, whether any individuals have any outstanding arrest warrants or are registered sex offenders. If either is the case, they must make the necessary legal notifications.


Edmonds City Council meeting minutes, 11/1/10. Discussion of ordinance (Item #4) and record of approval on pp. 5-7.

City, Church Leaders Find Solution To Edmonds Homeless Shelter Concerns” My Edmonds News, 8/30/10

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