By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
City told to allow provisions for homeless shelters
Homeless man
The city is taking steps to allow homeless shelters to be set up in industrial zones in Ceres to accomodate persons like this man who was seen atop the Hatch Road overpass huddlng with his pet puppy he was placing into his warm coat.

The City Council took action last week that carves out areas of Ceres that can be used as emergency shelters.

Ceres currently has no homeless or emergency shelters but the cities of Modesto and Turlock do. The state is requiring all cities to have in their Housing Element of the General Plan an ordinance that outlines where emergency shelters may be established "by right."

The emergency shelter law was enacted in 2007 by Senate Bill 2 and suggested that jurisdictions in California amend their zoning codes to specifically permit emergency shelters as a principal use in certain zones. Prior law said that shelters could be built after a conditional use permit was obtained.

"It doesn't necessarily state that the city must have an emergency homeless shelter," said Tom Westbrook, Director of Community Development Department, "it just says there needs to be areas for them where they can be provided."

The city designated the Light Industrial zone as where shelters can be permitted. Such shelters would be designed for sheltering no more than 30 homeless persons for six months or less on a first-come, first-served basis. Such a shelter would only be permitted to take persons in 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. and vacate by 8 a.m. with no guarantee for bedding for successive nights. They may not be located directly adjacent to any residential zones and no camping would be permitted outside the facility.

Other requirements call for shelters to provide:

• Clean sanitary beds and sanitation facilities;

• A minimum of one toilet for every eight beds;

• A minimum of one shower for every eight beds;

• Segregated sleeping quarters if both men and women are housed with reasonable accommodations for families;

• Proper supervision, including a security guard, keeping control of drugs and alcohol use and graffiti.

The city is updating its Housing Element and the changes will be a part of the new Housing Element that will be in effect from 2015 to 2023.

The council also approved the first reading and introduction of a zoning ordinance text amendment to ensure reasonable accommodations for disabled persons.

Westbrook said if there is to be a new development built in Ceres that caters to disabled persons that the developer can ask for certain waivers, such as expedited plan checking or hedging on setback requirements.

Because it's already a state law, any developer can come in and ask for "reasonable accommodations" said Westbrook.

"This just basically just puts it into our ordinance and that's what (the state) Housing & Community Development wants to see when we submit the next round of our Housing Element, which we hope to do later this spring or early summer."

Earlier this year the City Council took steps to revamp its Housing Element of the Ceres General Plan which clarifies the city's second residential unit on a single lot policy; and makes changes to the so-called Density Bonus.

During a Jan. 26 public hearing the council approved two ordinances. The first amendment spells out the criteria for a second dwelling unit on the same parcel. The change states that the city's goal is to "promote the development of second units in appropriate locations to increase the availability of affordable housing."

In 1982 the state enacted its "second-unit law" which is designed to encourage cities and counties to promote the building of granny flats, in-law apartments, or accessory apartments to help ease rental housing deficits, maximize limited land resources and existing infrastructure, and assist low and moderate-income homeowners with supplemental income. The city has allowed secondary units on a single parcel - given that it meets certain criteria - but never had its own ordinance to regulate second-units. Instead city planners have always relied on the state's standards.