After years of debate, the Turlock City Council approved a zoning area near Downtown Turlock to accommodate emergency homeless shelters as required by State law.
Council voted 4-1 on the issue Tuesday night, with Vice Mayor Amy Bublak opposing the proposed zoning area size.
The push for the homeless shelter is due to Senate Bill 2. The Bill does not require that the city construct a homeless shelter, but it requires that the city provides a zoning district for an emergency shelter to be built. Under SB2, the shelter can be constructed without public hearing and with a minimal development process.
The zoning 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 distance to bus transit. This area has the potential to accommodate approximately 1200 beds.
At previous meetings, business and home owners within the Downtown area were requesting the area be condensed, specifically southward from A Street. A previous emergency homeless shelter in Turlock had been operated at 400 B Street and the We Care Program currently operates a shelter during the cold months at 221 S. Broadway, between A Street and B Street.
Vice Mayor Bublak addressed their concerns, as the boundary at A Street would have a negative impact on them, and she also suggested having a smaller zoning area, possibly pushing the boundary to C Street.
Mayor John Lazar said that since his time serving on Council beginning in 1992, this has been an ongoing issue.
“We can’t wait any longer,” he said. “There is really a need. We see it every day in the parks, in the alleyways, and the doorways in the Downtown.”
Despite previous public concern, public input on the issue Tuesday night was supportive of the zoning the Planning Commission recommended to the Council.
“There comes a point in time when we must deal with the issue because it’s no longer we, they… it’s us,” said Council Member Bill DeHart. “It’s the right thing to do.”
According to Deputy Director of Development Services Debbie Whitmore, there currently are eight property owners within the area willing to use their property for the shelter. The contribution from these owners would accommodate an approximate 660 beds.
“People are concerned, literally, that if we build a shelter more people will come,” said Turlock Chamber of Commerce CEO Sharon Silva. “But the truth is if we don’t build a shelter, they’re still going to come.”
Now that Council has approved the zoning, they will vote on the item once more at their next meeting on Tuesday, June 26. At that meeting, a roll-call vote will formally read the ordinance amendments into law.
Staff will then submit the ordinance to California Housing and Community Development Department for review and approval.