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)

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

Print Friendly
Tagged ,
  • guest

    Now if only Albany would get a shelter, instead of rousting out the homeless with no place for them to go but to neighboring towns. Hey Albany, its the United Nations Internal Day of Charity – how are you celebrating?

  • Joshua A

    Something some cities do as well is allow houses of worship to run small, part year shelters as an ancillary use. That might be worth considering.

    Albany will also have to allow shelters in at least one zone per state law, but that does not mean they will get built or that they will change their official or unofficial policies.

  • Rob Selover

    Thank god- now for the old chicken-and-egg question: will this draw homeless from other communities around the Bay? If so, I say develop more housing until our streets are filled with decent, healthy, clean, sober folks

  • Joshua A

    For policy wonks out there, for a work project I put together some resources on the state law, SB 2, which required changes to how cities treat homeless shelters. You can find material here.

    http://21elements.com/Emergency-Transitional-and-Supportive-Housing/View-category.html

  • guest

    Maybe someone can sue Albany to stop the eviction from the bulb until the city complies with SB2. Aside from the bulb, Albany has also pushed the homeless up Solano to the Berkeley border using the police. Maybe they can be enjoined from doing that until they have a shelter.

  • guest

    I’m all for pushing Albany to open an emergency shelter, including by compelling them through legal means, but the squatters in the bulb are a problem and need to be evicted, regardless. It is completely unacceptable to allow people to claim portions of the the public’s property as their own, use dogs to guard their camps, and generally create a scary, hostile environment for members of the public who wish to access the park. I know, I know, I’m sure it’s just a few bad apples. But how do you know until you are being chased by a pit bull or screamed at by an addled “resident” whether they are a good or bad apple?

  • guest2

    By kicking a bunch of entitled jerks (and their dogs) out of our park. And by Charity, do you mean the $60,000 dollars Albany has committed to helping these campers leave?

  • guest

    Once the homeless and their dogs are gone, the dogs of Albany homeowners will fill the void, out of control, off leash, and unapologetic. Folks will show up in cars with multiple off leash dogs. In Albany, that is redevelopment. See http://www.well.com/user/pk/CDAWGS/

  • B2B

    Why does the click-through say homeless shelters and not emergency shelters?

  • guest

    Having a homeless shelter downtown has not improved the climate downtown or the environment for students at Berkeley High who share the park with the BOSS residents. If we want to try to improve downtown for our community locating the largely mentally ill drug and alcohol abusers in our downtown is not the best plan. Can we at least keep the shelters a few blocks away from Berkeley High and the center of our downtown & Arts District? We aren’t putting shelters on 4th Street or Solano Ave. Don’t we have enough issues to deal with downtown already? Has downtown been written off to save the rest of the city?

  • joshua a

    because they are mostly the same in policy speak. when people talk about a building with cots where people sleep and can stay for a month or two, that is called an emergency shelter. state law refers to emergency shelters so most cities follow that lead to be consistent. most normal people call it a homeless shelter. State law has other categories like transitional housing, which is a place where someone without permanent housing can stay for multiple months.

  • street

    What do you mean by “improved the climate downtown or the environment for students”? Berkeleyside has been reporting for a long time now and they haven’t produced a long list of “BOSS residents” causing problems for high school students.

  • Alina

    for a second there i thought you were talking about people’s park, not the bulb.

  • guest

    Poor people. They’re everywhere. They’re all around us. Soon they’ll outnumber us.

  • guest

    I may as well have been. Same same.

  • Guest

    yes, same. except that albany is apparently about to clean up the bulb while PP will stay same old same old except maybeget some new residents from the bulb. b/c it’s in berkeley where it is acceptable to allow people to claim portions of the public’s property as their own,…. etc

  • guest

    Have you spent much time hanging out in the park with mentally ill homeless drug addicts and alcoholics acting in socially inappropriate ways? Do we really want thousands of our kids to continue having daily exposure and interactions with these types of “role models” when they go to school? You will notice that not many city employees enjoy their lunch in the park. Why do you think that is? What used to be considered socially unacceptable negative behaviors are becoming more and more normalized in Berkeley.

  • street

    This being a high school I think the kids are old enough to see what kind of world their parents have made for them.

  • emraguso

    I’m not sure what you mean by “the click-through” (do you mean to the flier sent by the city, or?) — but we are waiting to hear back from the city to learn more about exactly what kind of shelters they’re talking about. It wasn’t entirely clear to me, and I think part of the process will include the adoption of definitions for these terms. Thanks ‘joshua a’ for the context.

  • Woolsey

    Maybe we should limit our homeless shelter capacity to maybe twice our share based on population. Otherwise we just enable the surrounding communities to do nothing.

  • Hildah

    Pretty soon Berkeley will become a City of the very wealthy, the homeless, or those protected by Prop 13. Kiss the middle class goodbye because the cost to maintain the shelters and the homeless on the street will raise the taxes even further.

  • guest

    The middle class is being squeezed out of existence nationwide, not just in Berkeley.

  • iris fleur

    I wonder where all those homeless people on the bulb came from? How many became homeless while working or residing in Albany…. 100%, 10%, 01%?

  • Truth Sayer

    Lets not forget to notify New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and other big cities that we are now building new homeless shelters and they can soon provide bus passes to their homeless so they can come to Berkeley. We should start a Welcome Wagon though. After all, “That is the Berkeley way.”

  • Hildah

    Very true but why must Berkeley follow the rest of the nation?

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I’m as concerned or more about the large number of street people sleeping out in the Downtown area. BPD seems to do no meaningful enforcement of the existing laws and just points at the Council, saying that they’ve been told to deprioritize it.

  • Pattie Wall

    Why do you think that Berkeley has more than its proportional share of homeless people? By last official homeless count, Berkeley has the same share per capita as Oakland. There is certainly more complaining in Berkeley about homeless people, but the actual number is just over 600 people.

  • Pattie Wall

    Did you know that the Berkeley shelters are full nearly every night? Where would you have people sleep? It’s legal to sleep on the street between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. By contrast, it’s illegal to sleep in public parks when they’re closed at night.

  • Pattie Wall

    The OPTIONS program is located at 1931 Center Street. It’s a drug and alcohol treatment program that serves a large number of folks on parole and probation. Spitting distance from Berkeley High.

  • Woolsey

    Berkeley’s proportional share of California’s homeless is about 420 individuals assuming the estimates of total homeless in the state are correct. Interestingly, Albany, Piedmont, Orinda, and many other cities and towns in the area provide no emergency shelters and quite possibly no other services. Getting the homeless in shelters has to be a project of every locality, not just a few.

    Why do we have more complaining? Because Telegraph and Peoples Park have so many seemingly healthy young folks that aren’t even trying to support themselves other than by asking for handouts. At the same time we have day laborers that barely speak English trying very hard to do any work anyone will give them. It is difficult to feel sorry for the “life style” vagrants and their ubiquitous pit bulls.

  • guest

    Clearing the bulb does not solve homelessness. Albany has already cleared the bulb multiple times. One time it put people in portables for a few months, and then threw them out on the street. One time it pushed people over to the train tracks.

  • guest

    pose the flip side statistical question, how many past residents of Albany have been or are homeless now, somewhere else in the world? Albany is like many places, it has people who are down on their luck, crazy, criminals, veterans, sick, poor etc. There are many ways to become homeless.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    And yet I see people sleeping in civic center park after hours.

    I would have people sleep on the bus back to their hometown. They didn’t all become homeless here.

  • tele

    SB 2 requires that municipalities assess the actual annual and seasonal need, based on what people are actually there. An assessment based on some concept of a “fair share” would not satisfy this requirement. For that legal reason your idea is a non-starter.

    Your perception of those “healthy young people” and those virtuous “day laborers that barely speak English” do make it clear where you’re coming from. If everyone agreed with that perception more people would probably share your conclusions. The problem is that your assessments of these two groups seem to be formed from afar. People a little bit closer to the situation find that yours is not a good description of either group. It’s a compelling picture you paint but it just isn’t a realistic picture.

  • Woolsey

    “based on what people are actually there”. What a great incentive to push people out so you don’t have to house them. Our neighboring towns can say: Guess what, they’re all in Berkeley and SF so we don’t have to provide any services. SB2, as you describe it, will put all the burden on communities that provide some help and are tolerant because that is where the homeless will be. The affluent communities, the Danvilles of the world, just have to put a little police pressure on, and at most maybe give the homeless a BART ticket to Berkeley or SF.

  • tele

    If you believe that some communities use “a little police pressure” and other forms of “dumping”, first of all, I agree. My suggestion is to support Tom Amiano’s “Homeless Bill of Rights” which will come up for a vote next year.

    The homeless bill of rights will give advocates tools to push back against abuses of police power. Depending on its final form it may also compel localities to — with state funding — provide adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities. I think that might not eliminate but would probably help with the frequent complaints about urine smells and human feces.

    This shelter law (which has no other name beside “SB 2″) is meant to help address a small part of the “dumping” problem by requiring every community to permit adequate emergency shelters. It’s a weak law in that it does not compel localities to provide shelters but it does prevent localities from refusing to permit adequate shelters. It’s a small step.

  • oldapeman

    The bed size suggested seems too large. It seems it will tend to establish a homeless ghetto in the unlucky neighborhood where someone chooses to fund a shelter. Of course there is the NIMBY alternative which would allow locating facilities somewhere other than your own neighborhood so long as you find a way to fund it. People in the south Berkeley flatlands could set up a shelter in the northside hills as a matter of right, simply by renting out a location. There is no reason Berkeley residents could not set up a facility in Albany under the same arrangement. If you want Albany to get its fair share of homeless, fund and host a facility there. Albany can’t stop it. Nor can Piedmont, Lafayette or Moraga.

  • GVEST

    How about your place? How many homeless people did you let sleep on your couch or in your back yard last night?

  • B2B

    Thank you Joshua. I was confused there for a minute. I had it in my head that it was somehow about setting up emergency shelters in case of emergency, for displaced resident…. well actually, in a way, it is.

  • guest

    like hitchhiking across the country when you hear that berkeley is so friendly to the homeless

  • emraguso

    If you’re interested in homelessness issues in Berkeley, you may be interested in our latest story: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/09/11/berkeley-considers-visionary-homeless-housing-project/

  • emraguso

    We received some further clarification from the city about this:
    Q: What exactly is an emergency homeless shelter?
    A: “Emergency shelter” is the term used in SB2, which references the definition in Section 50801 of the CA Health and Safety Code (copied below). The term “emergency” is not related to a specific event, such as an earthquake. 50801 (e) “Emergency shelter” means housing with minimal supportive services for homeless persons that is limited to occupancy of six months or less by a homeless person. No individual or household may be denied emergency shelter because of an inability to pay.
    Q: What’s the situation with UC Berkeley? it looks like, as per city zoning, seasonal shelters could be considered on campus; how would that work?
    A: The UC Berkeley campus is R-5 (High Density Residential). The zoning districts selected to allow seasonal, by-right 15 bed shelters includes R-5 as well as the other higher density residential districts (R-4, R-SMU, R-S). As a state educational institution, the UC is not subject to local land use law. Therefore, the city changing the allowable uses in the R-5 district has no impact.
    Q: Are there currently emergency homeless shelters operating?
    A: A list of current homeless services, including a category for Emergency Homeless Shelters, is available on this website: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=5554
    Q: Why is this happening now?
    A: Compliance with SB2 is the first of several tasks necessary for a compliant 2014 Housing Element, which is a prerequisite for state grants. In order to allow time for other Housing Element tasks staff recommends the city adopt zoning for compliance with SB2 by the end of 2013. The Housing Element is a required chapter of the General Plan.
    Q: Can you offer a bit more about the background?
    A: Adoption of zoning to allow homeless shelters as-of-right is necessary for a “compliant” Housing Element, and a compliant housing element is necessary to be eligible for certain housing and transportation funding sources. Our next Housing Element update is due in 2014.

    As noted in the story, there will be a city meeting next week (information at the bottom of the story) about this topic.

  • emraguso