City, business owners work to resolve concerns with Federal Way Day Center

After months of wrangling with city of Federal Way officials, business owners near the proposed day center site may get the help they've been asking for.

After months of wrangling with city of Federal Way officials, business owners near the proposed day center site may get the help they’ve been asking for.

Since property for the day center was chosen last year, nearby business owners, including leader of the effort Matthew Jarvis of Jarvis Financial, have been outspoken in their concerns – specifically, who the day center would attract and where they would go once the day center closed for the day.

Now, the city has agreed to implement mitigating measures and Jarvis has withdrawn his appeal.

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

“The homeless people around the area with drugs has been a problem since I started working here,” said owner of Fantasium Comics and Games Paula Cloner, noting that that was 15 years ago. “But the last couple of years have gotten especially bad.”

People have come into her business’s bathroom to do drugs.

“We already have a lot of good services around here,” Cloner said. “Food bank with MSC, that’s why they’re around this area. It makes it easier for them to survive.”

Bringing a day center – which will provide access to mail, hot meals, showers, the internet and more – will draw more homeless people who will simply go “into the woods behind the building” once the center closes, Cloner said.

Frans Miller, the director of operations for Logic Staffing, said he’s had to impose a two-in, two-out policy for his employees when they open and close the business.

“I will hear a ruckus in the forest behind Enterprise and the reverse side,” Miller said. “I can only imagine the transients living there.”

Miller said Columbia Bank moved because their drive-thru was being used as a “shelter for the homeless to sleep under when it rains.”

“As time goes on, you can see more and more of a presence of homeless people,” Miller added.

It was for these reasons Jarvis sought support from nearby businesses to request the city play a role in preventing the situation from getting worse. Among those requests were a strategically placed Safe City camera, additional police patrols, a fence, no parking and no loitering signs and overall code enforcement.

“We submitted that document and the mayor’s office invited us to come meet with them,” Jarvis said. “We asked if we could get it in writing and they said, ‘No, trust us.’ Months went by with no action from the city.”

So Jarvis appealed on June 10.

Back in May, Jarvis and his lawyer, Kelly DeLaat-Maher with Smith Alling PS, requested an interpretation of the Office Park zoning code, the zone the day center is proposed to be located in. And acting Community Development Director Scott Sproul deemed a day center permit-able in the Office Park zone.

“While the interpretation request uses the terms ‘homeless shelter,’ ‘day shelter,’ and ‘homeless day shelter’ interchangeably, the proposed use at issue is in fact a ‘day center,'” the Sproul wrote in the code interpretation. “Unlike a shelter, the day center use will not provide temporary residence for individuals or families. The day center will provide services to clients and makes no distinction to categorize such clients as ‘homeless’ or otherwise. Accordingly, this interpretation addresses the question of whether a ‘day center’ is permitted use in the [Office Park] zone.”

However, in the appeal, Jarvis argued the city has used “day shelter” in several different instances, including the Federal Way Day Shelter Coalition’s pilot project business plan, and a “day shelter” is not permitted in Office Park zoning.

Specifically, his appeal pointed out the coalition and Catholic and Community Services, who are the lessees of the center, said they propose “a day shelter pilot project to meet the daytime needs of homeless adults and serve as a resource hub for them in Federal Way.”

Four days later on June 14, Jarvis attended a Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce meeting and things changed.

“The city said they’ll take care of these things, including the Safe City camera,” Jarvis said in an interview.

Chief of Staff Brian Wilson sent an email on behalf of the mayor after the meeting. The email stated the day center’s permit requirement would include installing a Safe City camera on 13th Place South as well as erecting a fence between the building that houses Joe’s Deli (1230 S. 336th St.) and the day center, which will be located at 33505 13th Place S.

“I wouldn’t say it was pressure,” Wilson said when asked why the meeting prompted the city to agree to the mitigation. “I would say that, as part of this request, there’s been concerns about things going on with that neighborhood. Some we were aware of, some we weren’t.”

Wilson acknowledged the day center’s proposed site is a “pretty active area” due to the Multi-Service Center, King County Public Health and Valley Cities’ close proximity. As a result, he said the city is committed to the following:

• Enforcement of no overnight parking on 13th Place South

• Installation of no overnight parking signs on 13th Place South

• Exploration of ordinances that can legally address loitering and sleeping within vehicles

• Enforcement of parking regulations

• Police patrols on 13th Place South and around the surrounding businesses

• Code compliance and enforcement of city code and regulations in the area

• Adherence to current zoning codes and regulations in the area

Jarvis said he’s happy with the city’s response and dropped the appeal right after he received the city’s response in an official letter on Thursday.

“I look forward to working with all involved parties to get the center opened with minimal impacts to neighboring businesses,” he said.

For more information on the day center, visit