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From Tenant Protections to Vaping: A Peek at New Local Legislation

There’s no shortage of information about legislation passed by the Washington State Legislature each year but—as a former local government employee—I like to keep my eyes on what cities and counties are working on throughout the year.

In this post, I take a brief look at legislation that passed recently in cities and counties, and a couple of interesting things in the works in Shoreline and Burien.

Tenant Protections for Rental Housing, City of Kenmore

Housing and homelessness continue to be regular items on local council agendas, and homelessness prevention efforts have seen some activity recently. The State Legislature passed ESHB 1440 this session, which mandates a 60-day notice for all tenants for rent increases of any size; effective July 28, 2019.

The City of Kenmore passed an ordinance in May requiring landlords to give a 90-day prior written notice of rent increases that would be more than 10%. Any deviation from this provision would require mutual agreement between the landlord and tenant.

Kenmore city councilmembers talked about some of the rationale for this additional 30 days in their May 20th meeting. In the current housing market, with few vacancies and high rents, intended outcomes are that it may deter larger rent increases and will give tenants an additional month to find a new home, reducing the potential for the tenant to become homeless.

This ordinance was tied to Kenmore City Council’s Goal 3: Increase and preserve the options for affordable housing stock. The recitals portion of the ordinance (Ordinance No. 19-0484) cites an average rent increase of 55% for the period 2012-2017, with a vacancy rate of 5.2% in fall of 2018.

Preserving and Prioritizing City Resources, Everett and Tukwila

The City of Everett’s police department responds to an average of 406 alarm calls per month, 94% of which are false alarms. The police department looked at police and industry studies and found that requiring alarm companies have procedures which verify alarms before calling police can reduce the number of false-alarm police responses by between 60%-90%.

Based in part on that information, Everett Police Captain Greg Lineberry proposed an ordinance requiring alarm company operators to obtain a permit, be subject to fees for false alarms, and educate their customers on use of their alarm. The ordinance takes the city out of the business of collecting false alarm fees from residents by making alarm companies subject to the fees. Check the city’s staff report for more information about this decision and view Ordinance 3679-19 as it was passed. The City of Renton passed similar legislation with Ordinance No. 5886 on December 14, 2018.

Tukwila’s Ordinance No. 2601 creates the position of Ethics Officer. This position will review ethics complaints before initiating an investigation and provide advisory opinions for elected officials when requested. Applicants are required to have prior experience as a hearing examiner for municipalities in Washington state or be a licensed attorney in good standing with the Washington State Bar Association.

Other legislation of note:
  • Ellensburg approved a council salary increase from $250 per month to $500 per month; the mayor receives an additional $500 per month. Ordinance No. 4819 codifies the first increase since 1995.
  • The City of Colville passed an ordinance in January 2019 adding electric and hybrid vehicles to a list of reserved space uses.
  • Pierce County made ferry queue jumping a $48 traffic infraction on June 30 with the passage of Ordinance 2019-20.
  • Kittitas County revised its prohibition against fireworks discharge with KCC 9.30.030, which includes defining conditions that prohibit fireworks that would override any existing permissions.

Addressing Opioids and Vaping, Skagit County

Skagit County adopted two new chapters related to public health. Chapter 12.25 requires opioid-related health care incidents to be reported by health care providers to the county. Providers must notify Skagit County Public Health within 72 hours of a reportable condition, which is defined within the chapter. The new chapter lists 13 types of opioids and requires reporting via a form from Public Health or secure means of communication. Failure to report is a class 3 civil infraction enforceable under Chapter 7.80 RCW.

The county also adopted a new chapter in the County Code prohibiting smoking and vaping in public places, Chapter 12.51.

A New Environmental Operations Specialist, Clark County

The Clark County Council approved the Public Health Department’s request to add the staff position of Environmental Operations Specialist (EOS).

This 2-year position would be situated in the Solid Waste Operations program and would serve to mitigate the impacts of certain special wastes through the evaluation of current county programs, outreach, and education strategies. Ultimately, the EOS would develop and monitor program improvements and coordinate outreach and education events to reduce improper disposal of residential and commercial hazardous waste and personal medication wastes.

Work in Progress

City of Shoreline studies becoming more film-friendly

Shoreline’s Economic Development Program Manager Nathan Daum presented a discussion and report on current practices and issues for handling filmmaking requests and projects in the city. Daum’s report may be helpful to any jurisdictions looking to implement or understand some of the obstacles and best practices to permitting filming, and it includes a proposed ordinance that will be voted on in June. Read Daum’s report and see the proposed ordinance here.

City of Burien works on rental housing policies

In response to events surrounding the sale and renovation of the Fox Cove apartments in September, 2018, the City of Burien has held a number of community conversations and is developing a suite of policies to address issues raised by the sale. The proposed rental housing policies include:

  • Just-cause eviction protections
  • Addition of a housing ombudsperson program
  • Requirement of 60-day notice of termination for month-to-month tenants
  • Requirement of 120-day notice of termination in the event of sale, change of use, demolition, or rehabilitation

The brief on the proposed policies includes projected funding and staffing needs, and a synopsis of all policies under consideration.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Laura Crandall

About Laura Crandall

Laura Crandall worked for MRSC as a Public Policy Consultant and Finance Analyst from August 2018 to September 2020. She no longer works for MRSC.

Previously, Laura worked as a Management Analyst with the City of Burien and as an Analyst in the Finance Department with the City of Tukwila. Laura has an MPA from Seattle University with a focus in local government. She was selected for an ICMA Local Government Management Fellowship after graduating.

Laura served as executive director of a nonprofit for six years, and has experience in organizational and program development, staff management and mentoring, budgeting, and benefits.