Nevada City’s planning commissioners recommend homeless shelter regulations | TheUnion.com

Nevada City’s planning commissioners recommend homeless shelter regulations

Nevada City's planning commissioners recommended a draft ordinance regulating homeless shelters to the city council Thursday — with a few slight tweaks that the commissioners hope will allow shelters to operate more easily.

County residents expressed concerns at Thursday's planning commission meeting about the lack of available beds and facilities for local homeless people and some asked whether the city could declare a state of emergency in order to expedite and streamline the process of establishing emergency shelters.

"When you have an emergency like the Oroville dam, you just make housing happen," said Nevada City resident Charles Durrett, referring to those who were housed in temporary emergency shelters when the Oroville dam spillway failed this winter.

Durrett said people sleeping outside is an emergency that deserves immediate attention.

Nevada City resident Greg Zaller said the city's proposed homeless shelter regulations create "a larger obstacle" for homeless advocates trying to provide shelter.

"It seems like the government needs to get out of the box here, because there's this large population of homeless people that are being forced to camp or sleep in people's backyards right now," Zaller said.

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After listening to the public's concerns, planning commissioners opted to loosen some of the restrictions in the draft ordinance, including a regulation that would have required an emergency shelter to provide one toilet for every eight beds.

Commissioners opted to limit the number of beds to two for every 150 square feet of living space at a shelter rather than impose a toilet-to-bed ratio. They also removed a proposed regulation that would have forbidden a homeless shelter from opening within 300 feet of another shelter.

"I sure thank the public for all their impassioned seriousness," said Planning Commission Chair Stuart Lauters. "I hope they understand that we're serious about this too and we're not taking it lightly."

The proposed ordinance requires emergency shelters to provide sleeping facilities, secure personal storage areas, showers and restroom facilities. It also allows shelters to optionally include laundry services, child care, counseling centers, recreation rooms and kitchens.

Regulations on a maximum length of stay for clients, facility management standards and parking requirements, among other factors, are included in the draft ordinance.

Commissioners unanimously recommended the ordinance to city council.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.