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Placer zoning change offers more options for permanent homeless shelters

January 10, 2017

 Placer County will have more options now when seeking locations for homeless shelters for temporary, emergency stays after the county board of supervisors voted today to change its zoning ordinance to allow more flexibility.

The change was approved by a 4-1 vote, with District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes voting against.

The action is a next step in Placer’s ongoing effort to identify several locations for permanent shelters to better serve the homeless throughout the county. All of the board members have expressed support for moving the county’s current temporary shelter at the Placer County Government Center campus to a more suitable location as soon as possible.

Under the zoning text amendment, shelters will be allowed in industrial, industrial park and heavy commercial areas. Shelters were already allowed in several types of commercial and multi-family residential areas. The change also adds new development standards for shelters, as well as concrete plans for neighborhood relations and security. It emphasizes the need to site shelters as close as possible to social services such as case management, job service programs and grocery stores or close to transportation between the facility and services.

The current shelter sits in a heavy commercial zone. Without the zoning changes, the shelter would be forced to move out of its existing temporary location at the end of March.

Voting in support of the change, District 2 Supervisor Robert Weygandt spoke about the importance of a carefully-managed transfer of services to a different shelter location in greater Auburn for the well being of shelter guests as well as the community. “As we move forward, to me, the optimum path will be one where we transition from this site to one that is ready to go. We’ve developed some really good partners in the North Auburn area, and I’m not interested in turning back the clock and wasting the investment we’ve made.”

District 4 Supervisor Kirk Uhler also said he wants to see the current shelter move as quickly as possible, adding, “the best way to do that is by keeping the most parcels and the most options on the table as we look toward a future permanent home for a shelter in the greater Auburn area.”

Placer County planning staff recommended adding the approved zoning types because they are generally separated from residential areas by light commercial, storage or retail areas, reflecting concerns expressed by the community about the proximity of a shelter to homes and schools.

Conditions of the changes approved today include assuring neighboring residents and businesses that emergency shelters are operated with adequate staff and that neighbors have an avenue to express concern about operations and safety. A shelter will be required to meet minimum staffing levels to ensure adequately trained staff and management or supervising staff are on site or available. In addition, a required neighborhood relations plan will detail how a shelter operates, including times of intake and discharge, daily operations, how and when outdoor space will be used, and rules of conduct for the clients arriving and leaving the facility.

A security plan will also be a required part of a shelter operation. This will addresses operating the shelter safely for its clients, employees and the surrounding community and would typically include details for outdoor lighting, security cameras and transparent procedures for managing clients and their activities while at the facility.

Leading up to the board’s meeting today, staff made presentations to nine municipal advisory councils, four of which have heavy commercial zoning designations within their boundaries. The item was also heard by the Airport Land Use Commission and the Placer County Planning Commission, and county staff reached out to the cities of Auburn, Rocklin, Roseville and Lincoln.

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