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Council, Planning joint meeting revisits signs, housing issues
Homelessness in Turlock will be addressed during a joint meeting of the Planning Commission and City Council on Tuesday. - photo by Journal file photo

The Turlock City Council and Planning Commission will hold a special joint meeting on Tuesday to discuss a number of topics including enforcement of the Sign Ordinance, education on the Active Transportation Plan and homelessness.

All of the issues on Tuesday's agenda were discussed at the last joint meeting held in August.

Greater enforcement of the Sign Ordinance has been an ongoing request of the Planning Commission.

Signs placed in the public right-of-way currently violate the City Ordinance and are a big issue for the City of Turlock Neighborhood Services Department, according to Fire Marshal Mark Gomez.

In a December Planning Commission meeting, Gomez reported that Neighborhood Services staff removed 3,505 snipe signs — temporary signs posted to trees, utility poles, fences, posts or other support structures —in 2014, and 2,930 signs as of Nov. 30, 2015.

"I'm talking about the repeat defenders, the noncompliant, if any process has been in place it's being ignored," said Planning Commission Chair Soraya Fregosi about violators of the Sign Ordinance in August.

In a letter to Planning Commission Chair Fregosi, Mayor Gary Soiseth said City staff would like to hold off on increased enforcement of sign spinners and snipe signs as the City is currently working on updating the Sign Ordinance.

Public education on planning-related issues, such as the Active Transportation Plan and high-density residential development, will also be addressed at Tuesday's meeting.

The City Council approved the ATP in September. The Plan includes projects, standards, policies and programs designed to encourage and support biking and walking in the community. High-density housing is encouraged in the Plan as it creates walkable/bikeable communities.

High-density housing also ties in with the joint meeting's next topic of discussion — affordable housing.

"Much of our housing is really not affordable for our citizens," said Fregosi at the August joint meeting.

A report by the California Coalition for Rural Housing put numbers behind the area's housing crisis.

Over 70 percent of extremely low and very low income residents of Turlock experience overpayment (paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing) and 50 percent have a housing cost burden of over 50 percent.  Overall, 36 percent of owners and 54 percent of renters in Turlock had a cost burden of over 30 percent in 2011.

The City of Turlock has been working on increasing the number of affordable housing units available — through projects like Crane Terrace, a senior apartment complex on Canal Drive, and the Avena Bella development on Linwood Avenue — but financing has become difficult to obtain since the governor disbanded redevelopment agencies in 2011, according to Maryn Pitt, assistant to the city manager for economic development and housing in Turlock.

Pitt is expected to give an update on Tuesday on the City's work to increase affordable housing opportunities in Turlock.

The Council and Planning Commission will also talk about homelessness in Turlock, a topic some commissioners believe needs more attention.

"I've been sitting on this commission for eight or nine years and I feel it's a topic we haven't made much headway on... I feel like it's an issue that definitely deserves some talk on...and something we need to address," said Planning Commissioner Nick Hackler in August.

Both affordable housing and homelessness are issues the City addresses in its Housing Element, a mandated document the City must prepare as part of its General Plan in order to receive funding through the state department of Housing and Community Development.

Tuesday's joint meeting will be held at 5 p.m. in the Yosemite Room of City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.