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Area for homeless shelters topic of public forum
Southwest Turlock garners most interest
Senate Bill 2 requires the City of Turlock to either partner with another community to provide shelter services, or create a zone that allows shelters by right. - photo by Journal file photo
An area in the southwest of Turlock will likely become a city-approved zone for homeless shelters, should the City Council follow the guidance of citizens at Thursday’s city-hosted Senate Bill 2 community workshop.
The bill, intended to address the more than 360,000 homeless in California, requires all cities to either partner with neighboring communities to provide, build, and operate an emergency shelter by August 2011, or create a zone that allows the development of emergency shelters by right.
Thursday’s meeting drew about 30 Turlockers to Westside Ministries for an hour and a half long discussion of the zoning alternative, as the city has been unable to secure regional partners despite initial interest from the cities of Patterson and Merced.
The City of Turlock now has to designate a zone — such as industrial or heavy commercial — where emergency shelters are permitted by right, and do not require a Conditional Use Permit or review by the Planning Commission or City Council. The City could also opt to adopt a zoning overlay whereby a specific area of Turlock would be designated for shelters rather than a zoning type.
Turlock currently requires Conditional Use Permits for “interim housing” in most zones, though shelters are completely prohibited in some zones.
“What the state is looking for is to basically eliminate the barriers that prevent homeless emergency shelters from being built in the City of Turlock,” said Turlock Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore.
Community members on Thursday preferred the notion of a zoning overlay, floating suggestions that seemed to center on southwest Turlock. Many homeless service providers are already located in the area, and convenient bus routes are nearby.
“We were looking at areas where there already is a fair amount of traffic,” said Jeff Woods, director of the Turlock Gospel Mission.
The industrial area south of City Hall, an area bounded in part by West Main and Linwood Avenue, the diamond of land between Lander, F Street, and Golden State Boulevard, and a strip of land between D and C streets from First to Lander were among the suggested overlay zones.
Even when the new zone is adopted, the City of Turlock will not be required to build, fund or operate a shelter. The zoning change will simply make it easier for providers to construct shelters — though some providers noted that building a shelter in Turlock would be difficult without local or state funding.
SB2 does allow the City of Turlock to implement some clearly defined restrictions on permitting, which shelter providers would be required to meet. The City can legislate a maximum number of beds, length of stay, on-site management and security, as well as design standards such as aesthetic and parking requirements. Some cities have mandated laundry rooms, phone booths and limited outdoor recreation hours in their ordinances.
Consensus at Thursday’s meeting seemed to be reached on a maximum guest count between 50 and 75, and landscaping and design requirements in keeping with existing Turlock standards. Adequate lighting, on-site management and some required parking spaces were also common themes.
Some attendees suggested mandating kennel space for homeless with pets, showers, kitchens and density maximums for shelters.
Opinions were mixed on so-called “privacy fencing” around shelters, adopted by the City of Red Bluff, which some saw as segregating the homeless out of sight. Others considered the additional privacy to be a benefit to the homeless.
The results of Thursday’s meeting will come before a joint meeting of the Turlock Planning Commission and the Turlock City Council in April. Drafting of the zoning ordinance will begin after receiving council direction at that meeting.
“We didn’t have the whole city showing up, but at the same time we got a lot of good ideas tonight and we definitely will be sharing those with the council,” Whitmore said.
To comment on the proposed ordinance, contact
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.