Turlock Deciding Where Homeless Shelter Can Locate

A new State Law, Senate Bill 2, requires cities designate an area or zoning district(s) that would allow a year-round emergency homeless shelter to be constructed and/or operated through a “nondiscretionary” permitting process. 

The City of Turlock, along with the other California cities, are required by SB2 to join in a multi-jurisdictional agreement to provide and operate an emergency homeless shelter or  individually designate a zoned area where one could be built without having to go through a Conditional Use Permit process, requiring Turlock Planning Commission approval, or the City Council’s approval.
Turlock Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore said that the City of Turlock tried contacting other agencies to partner with while receiving some initial interest from Patterson and Merced, but each has decided to go at it on their own. Turlock has until August 2011 to meet the state’s mandate. While it is not certain what the legal consequences would be if the city does not comply, the state could decide not to award grant monies to cities that are not in compliance.
The City of Turlock held a community meeting hosted by Westside Ministries to solicit public input on zoning options to address the new law’s requirements. Through the meeting’s workshop styled discussions, City staff intended to gather ideas and suggestions on where such a shelter should be located.
There were about 35 people in attendance including city staff and people involved with service providers.
People gathered in groups at 6 different tables, each with a big map, note pad, and markers.
Whitmore explained that the objective of all of this process is to really facilitate the development of an emergency shelter and to eliminate some of the procedures. In developing the procedures the city must come up with standards that are objective, easy to understand, can be implemented by the occupant in a manner that is very straight forward.
Turlock Planning Staff asked the community to look at the big maps they had in front of them and look for what they felt would be an appropriate zoning district(s) or a geographical overlay zoning district.
Suggestions seemed to be looking toward zoning areas south of City Hall, off Lander Avenue or Golden State Boulevard. Many of the service providers are in the area already and would be near the current traffic of those in need. The West Main Street and Freeway 99 area was also mentioned.
The City may put defined ordinance stipulations on an emergency shelter’s accommodations or operations, such as a maximum amount of beds allowed, number of parking spaces needed, required on-site management, landscaping, and more.
Suggestions from the community ranged from allowing 50-100 beds, on-site management (whether 24/7 or just when open is debatable), adequate parking spaces mostly based on workers, bike accommodations, and upholding current city standards for landscaping and aesthetics.
An issue of fencing that some other cities required was viewed differently as some thought it was suggesting “hiding” the homeless population versus providing “privacy” for the homeless population from the surrounding neighborhood.
Some other suggestions that were more unique included providing showers and pet kennels.
While Turlock Planning’s Debbie Whitmore said that they didn’t have the whole city show up, the city did get a lot of good input.

The compliance with SB2 does not mean that the City of Turlock must build or run an emergency shelter itself.

The information collected at the meeting and City Staff’s report will be presented at a joint Turlock Planning Commission and City Council Meeting in April.

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