City to consider new approach to emergency shelters

Emergency homeless shelters could be allowed year-round in commercial zones (pink, 60 beds, and yellow, 25 beds) without a permit; and seasonally in high-density residential zones (blue, 15 beds) without a permit. Click the image to view a larger map.) Image: City of Berkeley and Berkeleyside
Emergency homeless shelters could be allowed year-round in commercial zones (pink, 60 beds, and yellow, 25 beds) without a permit; and seasonally in high-density residential zones (blue, 15 beds) without a permit. Click the image to view a larger map.) Image: City of Berkeley and Berkeleyside

Berkeley’s Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing in September to consider changes to the municipal zoning code to make it easier to open emergency homeless shelters in certain commercial and high-density residential areas, according to a notice sent out by email late last week.

The changes could allow providers to open shelters without the use permit that is currently required. State legislation, Senate Bill 2, mandates cities to have at least one zoning designation that allows shelters to be located without discretionary government review.

In some commercial areas, emergency shelters with up to 60 beds could be allowed year-round without a permit; in high-density residential areas, the commission is slated to consider winter season shelters only, with a limit of 15 beds.

The Planning Commission may select some of the zoning districts listed aboe to allow shelters “as-of-right,” meaning without discretionary review. Chart: City of Berkeley
The Planning Commission may allow shelters “as-of-right,” meaning without permits, in some zoning districts (above). Chart: City of Berkeley

According to the notice sent out by the city, “The Planning Commission may select some of the zoning districts … to allow shelters ‘as-of-right,’ meaning without discretionary review. The Commission may allow shelters as-of-right in some districts and with discretionary review (Use Permit or Administrative Use Permit) in other districts. Zoning for emergency shelters as-of-right is necessary for compliance with Senate Bill 2 (SB2).”


The proposed changes would be exempt from environmental review, according to the city, “because it can be seen with certainty that addition of an allowable land use – emergency shelters – in commercial districts and as an incidental use in residential districts would not have a significant effect on the environment because the use is consistent with other allowable land uses within the districts and is not expected to result in physical changes to the environment.”

New construction associated with a new use, however, would be subject to permit review under the zoning ordinance.

Berkeleyside has requested additional information from the city, and will continue to follow this story.

A meeting to discuss these issues is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. Written comments or questions concerning this project should be directed to Planning Commission secretary Alex Amoroso at aamoroso@CityofBerkeley.info or 510-981-7410. Snail mail can be sent to Alex Amoroso, Land Use Planning Division, 2120 Milvia St., Berkeley, CA, 94704. Correspondence must be received by noon on Sept. 10. See the city notice here.

Related:
New talks on homelessness in Berkeley start Thursday (08.14.13)
Berkeley Food and Housing Project wins $1m grant (07.23.13)
Op-Ed: Berkeley needs a year-round youth shelter (05.30.13)
People’s Park focal point for countywide homeless count (02.01.13)
Berkeley moves towards a consensus homeless plan (01.31.13)
After Measure S failure, it’s time to act on homelessness (01.24.13)
Has it gotten harder to be homeless in Berkeley? (01.02.13)
Measure S: Will it help or hurt the homeless? (10.31.12)
Measure S: We can do better with civil sidewalks (09.19.12)

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