City leaders examine shopping carts, low-income housing

Federal Way City Council roundup.

Federal Way city leaders heard updates on the shopping cart ordinance, voted to create a city Human Resources department and talked housing needs during their Jan. 17 city council meeting.

Shopping cart updates

City staff are nearly ready to enforce the shopping cart ordinance passed in 2022, though not all the pieces are in place yet. The city has ordered vehicles that aren’t expected to arrive for a year, for example, City Administrator Brian Davis said, but “this is not stopping us from moving forward. We’ll do double duty on some of our vehicles, if we have to.”

Police Chief Andy Hwang said the department had not yet given those pushing the carts any warnings, but indicated that it may be time to start.

“Once we get those (critical supplies that have been ordered), we can start a basic implementation of the program,” Davis said. “If someone calls right now … we won’t do the full process … but we will get in the practice of working with code compliance and police and contacting the individual as a matter of practice if nothing else.”

City staff clarified a few details on enforcement of the ordinance: Police patrol officers will stop people who are improperly possessing a cart, then contact city code compliance staff to collect the cart and any belongings the person can’t carry on their own. The officer will stand by during this collection process.

The city won’t collect cash, medicine, ID cards or papers, credit cards, jewelry, electronic devices or important papers, Davis said, and staff will provide a large plastic bag for the person’s belongings. Items they do collect will be itemized with instructions for their retrieval printed on the Notice of Infraction given to the shopping cart users. Unclaimed items stored for more than 60 days will be destroyed.

The ordinance applies to anyone pushing a shopping cart in a public right of way.

Housing needs

Recommendations on making housing more affordable and available from the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) concerned council members and prompted a bill Tuesday night to have the mayor write a letter to the Sound Cities association, which represents 38 cities in King County. AWC is a nonprofit that will report those housing policy proposals to the state Legislature this session.

AWC’s research reports that market-only solutions will not suffice to fill housing needs, which are the greatest at lower income levels.

“Any successful package of proposals … must involve more than just zoned capacity and supply-side trickle-down solutions,” a briefing from AWC on their housing solutions group process reads. “There is a need for significantly more investment in housing for people at income levels that the market cannot and will never serve.

Community Development Director Keith Niven shared a few recommendations from the AWC’s Housing Solutions proposal to state lawmakers, released in December, that would be particularly relevant or which could spur major changes in Federal Way.

One recommendation proposed that three-quarters of residential lots in a city must allow at least three units of housing per lot, or alternatively, that cities must allow three units per lot within a quarter-mile walking distance of schools and community parks.

That would be a big deal, Niven said: “From a character standpoint, this would dramatically change Federal Way because a majority of our city is single family zoned.”

Councilmembers Jack Dovey and Erica Norton both shared frustrations that Federal Way has already accepted its fair share of low-income housing and been treated as a “dumping ground” for those projects.

“Reading this, I have some really grave concerns,” Dovey said. “I don’t know of any neighborhood in this city that wants to have three duplexes, or tear a house down and put up three houses on it. It’s going to screw up our whole city and our zoning. … This is, like, Ground Zero of giving up all the rights our city has. … (But) we should be proactive so we have already dealt with the inevitable that is coming out of Olympia. … This is like war … we should be charging the hill, putting up the barriers, getting the cannons ready, and not just say no, but say ‘not in our backyard.’ ”

“We have a disproportionate amount of low-income housing,” Norton said. “We are paying the price, with taxes, a lack of taxes, and with the kind of fallout that comes from that kind of housing. We’ve already accepted enough of it, and I feel like King County, they don’t treat Federal Way very well, or anyone around us in South King County. … I went to one (of AWC’s conferences). I know who’s running the thing — they’re a global, kind of, everybody do the same thing, cookie-cutter kind of situation — and I don’t think that fits every city.”

Ferrell asked to start by sending a letter on the council’s behalf to Sound Cities with their concerns about the recommendations, and the council voted to let him do so.

Also on Tuesday

The council kicked off the packed, three-hour meeting Tuesday evening with a promotional swearing in of Federal Way Police Lieutenant Jeff Mundell, who was previously a corporal with the department. Mundell began his career at FWPD in 2007. Prior to that, he served six years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, and he recently retired from 20 years serving in the Washington Air National Guard. He was promoted to corporal at FWPD in 2017. Chief Hwang lauded Mundell’s service history and broad experience across the police department. “Called to service, Jeff has served our country, state and community in some way since he was 21 years old,” Hwang said. “We are fortunate to have Jeff as a leader for our agency.”

• The council unanimously approved an ordinance creating a Human Resources department for the city. Davis said at the previous meeting that doing so would bring the city in line with other cities of its size.

• The council unanimously confirmed Amy Glandon as the city council’s executive assistant.

• The council took a first reading on, and unanimously voted to forward to their next meeting an ordinance to various city code amendments on topics like boundary line adjustments, hearing notice requirements, affordable housing definitions and community design guidelines.

• The council took a first reading on, and unanimously voted to forward to their next meeting an ordinance creating a city clerk department. It would essentially codify the city clerk’s role already in existence, Ferrell said.

• The council unanimously approved an ordinance creating a procurement standard for compost products used in government-funded projects. A law passed by the legislature last year aims to reduce methane emissions by keeping organic materials out of landfills and requires large cities to set certain standards for, reach out to the public about, and report to the state purchasing of compost.

• The council unanimously approved an ordinance adding new weight and load regulations to the city code. Public Works Development Services Manager Cole Elliott said at the previous meeting that the city has seen an increase in oversize- and overweight-loaded vehicles in recent years. The ordinance will have the city try to work cooperatively with haulers to minimize damage to city infrastructure.

• The council unanimously approved an ordinance allowing alternates on the city’s planning commission to serve as full members when needed to form a quorum. The proposal would also require all planning commission members to be residents in the city, rather than residents or property owners. (The current commission is made up of all Federal Way residents.) Community Development Director Keith Niven said the change would help the planning commission cancel fewer meetings and get through more work, and keep the future of the city more in the hands of people who live in it.