Turlock Planning Commission unanimously approved City of Turlock staff’s proposed additions and amendments to Title 9 of the Turlock Municipal Codes (Zoning Ordinance) on Thursday, June 2. The amendments and additions address Senate Bill 2 (SB2), various requirements of the Housing Element, and other minor technical changes to the Zoning Ordinance.
The purpose of SB2 is to address homelessness within the state. The Bill does not require that the city constructs a homeless shelter, but it requires that the city provides a zoning district for an emergency shelter. An emergency shelter is defined as housing with minimal supportive services for homeless persons that is limited to occupancy of six months or less by a homeless person. No individual or household may be denied emergency shelter because of inability to pay.
Katie Melson, Assistant Planner for Development Services, added that under the SB2, the shelter can be constructed without public hearing and with minimal development.
Commissioners and the public present were all supportive of a shelter being built.
“They (property owners and neighbors) all do realize that we need a homeless shelter. Nobody disagrees with that,” said Mike Brem, Chair of the Planning Commission.
The debate was agreeing upon the boundaries where the shelter would be housed.
Despite public suggestions, commissioners decided to keep the zoning districts as proposed. The area is roughly bounded by A Street on the north; Center and F streets on the east, Linwood on the south, and Lander on the west. This area was chosen because of its proximity to available services, land availability, and the convenient walking distant to bus transit. This area has the potential to accommodate approximately 1200 beds.
Debbie Whitmore, Deputy Director of Development Services, said that six or seven property owners have responded to be willing to use their property as homeless shelters. Due to this response, this amount of property would accommodate 636 beds. In January, the staff originally proposed a limit of 100 beds for the proposed zoning overlay district. City Council considered the limit, and changed it to accommodate 200 beds in February.
Trina Walley, Director of Turlock Downtown Association, said that she has spoken with property and business owners around the downtown area. She commented saying, “There is still a lot of concerns about the impacts.”
Walley requested the commission to explore the impacts if the shelter was moved to 1st and C Street.
Dennis Olson, owner of downtown salon Red Hot Designs, also requested that the shelter be moved to C Street. Olson said that the previous shelter located on B Street caused their salon’s crime to go up, and they had instances of sexual activity in their parking lot during the day. They were concerned about the safety of their clients as they walk from the salon to their cars, and continue to question their safety if the shelter zoning is not moved to C Street.
Harvest Christian Center, located near the downtown area, also requested that the boundaries be from A Street to C Street, due to the many problems that were a result of the previous shelter on B Street.
Jeanine Bean, Vice Chair of the Planning Commission, questioned how moving the shelter southward from A Street, as requested by the public, would affect the number of beds that can be accommodated.
Whitmore answered that moving the shelter to B Street would result in losing two properties, and 91 beds. Moving to C Street would have the same results. Relocating to D Street would create a greater loss, losing a total of four properties and approximately 300 beds.
The shelter is also not to be closer than 300 feet to a park or school.
Gale Barnett, a resident near the downtown area, had concerns about the potential proximity of the shelter to her home. She requested that there should be a boundary to prevent loitering and urinating in neighbors’ yards, as it is a big problem.
“It is a danger to children, not only children,” said Barnett.
Other changes made to the developmental standards include a new security plan. For every twenty-six or more beds, there must be one licensed security guard present, and for every fifty-one or more beds, there must be two licensed security guards present. Staff has proposed that a parking lot would be located within 500 feet of the site, and devoted to the shelter. The parking lot requires one vehicle parking space per employee, one vehicle parking space for every ten beds, and one bicycle parking space for every three beds. New provisions for pet accommodation have also been set. Pets must be individually crated with owners while at the shelter, and must be leashed when not in their crate. This differs from the previous ordinance, as it required that owners had to obtain kennel permits if they had more than three pets.
Additionally, outdoor activity will be limited to the hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and must comply with City Noise Ordinance. If within 150 feet of a Residential Zone, outdoor areas must be screened.
Brem closed the discussion and stated that it is important to ensure the shelter is managed correctly because if downtown has another B Street condition shelter, the City has failed.
“We need a well run business that is sensitive to the community and to neighbors,” said Chairman Brem. “We all know how difficult this will be.”
He added that constructing a shelter may not happen soon, but they have set the conditions in the event an emergency shelter is needed.
All Commission Members were in favor of the motion, and approved the Zoning Ordinance as it was proposed by City Staff.
The Turlock City Council will make the final decision at an upcoming Council Meeting.