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City’s housing plan certified by state — finally

POSTED December 20, 2011 10:04 p.m.

More than a year and a half after Turlock first approved its new Housing Element Update – a document which describes how the City of Turlock will meet housing needs through 2014 – the California Department of Housing and Community Development certified the document last week.

“The primary delay was the fact that they wanted us to actually tell them what we were going to do to comply with (Senate Bill 2),” said Turlock Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore.

The Turlock City Council approved the plan, which details Turlock’s efforts to meet both the amount and type of demand for housing units, in March 2010. The differing needs of residents from various income levels, ages, and mobility levels are addressed, as are programs to improve neighborhoods, remove county islands, and make housing more affordable.

But state certification was not initially granted, as the initial document did not detail how Turlock would address Senate Bill 2 – a measure requiring all cities to declare a zoning area where homeless shelters which meet certain standards may be constructed and operated without discretionary permits.

Without a certified Housing Element, the state may withhold housing grants or transportation funding. Additionally, the city can find itself vulnerable to legal challenges, should the Housing Element lack the state’s backing as a valid document.

At the time the Housing Element was drafted, Turlock was in the midst of a more than 18-month long self-study process, determining how best to implement SB2. Because the city had not completed review, planners were reluctant to include an interim SB2 implementation in the Housing Element, and instead waited for the review to conclude.

In July, the Turlock City Council approved creation of an SB2 zone generally bounded by Lander Avenue on the West, A Street on the northwest, South Center Street on the northeast, and F Street on the southeast. A peninsula stretches from that zone south along Lander to Linwood, and another peninsula travels southeast five blocks between Golden State Boulevard and First Street. The zone includes no residential or downtown core areas.

Following that approval, planners reworked the Housing Element to include the SB2 implementation and a few other, minor clarifications, and resubmitted the Element to the state. In the end, it took letters of support from local nonprofits which work with the homeless to secure the state’s certification.

“We had a little bit of a conversation still after that, but they finally agreed it was a good ordinance,” Whitmore said.

The Housing Element will now go before the Planning Commission and the City Council in January for final approval. That approval will codify the element into the general plan and city ordinances.

A draft version of Turlock’s Housing Element is available for download at http://gpupdate.turlock.ca.us/

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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