Del Mar City Council discusses zoning for emergency shelters

By Kristina Houck

The Del Mar City Council on Oct. 7 continued its vote on an ordinance that would allow emergency shelters in the city’s north commercial zone — a move that would put the city into compliance with state legislation.

“There is no plan to build, operate or install any emergency shelters,” said Kathleen Garcia, Del Mar’s planning and community development director. “That does not show up on the city’s capital improvement program, nor is it required by the state. The only thing that is required by the state is that it is not precluded. Therefore, a minimum of one zone needs to be identified.”

The council adopted its housing element in May 2013, which was certified by the state in June. The plan, which includes a number of goals, policies and programs to address the city’s housing needs, did not identify a zone for emergency shelters. Defined by state law, an emergency shelter offers up to six months of temporary housing for the homeless.

Under the proposed ordinance, shelters must be located at least 300 feet from homes, schools or other emergency shelters in the north commercial zone, a roughly 15-acre section of the city that has 28 developed buildings and is located along the major transportation corridor. Shelters would have a maximum of 10 beds and would be open to people for six months, with a 60-day waiting period between stays. Shelters must also have on-site security.

“State law requires that the use of a homeless shelter must be allowed by right, which mean that it has no special permit,” said Garcia, who noted that shelters could also be used for emergencies such as a fire or flood. “That is a requirement by the state of California that all jurisdictions must comply with.”

Concerned about property values, two Del Mar residents suggested the city designate the Public Works Department or other city-owned land instead.

“I think we’re opening a door that we may not want to open. Why do we want to allow the homeless to live right next to the single-family properties in Del Mar?” asked resident Sharyn Daly. “Why don’t you make us all happy and designate property that the city owns? Then the city can decide whatever they want to do with it.”

Council members continued the matter to the Oct. 21 meeting, so staff could explore whether the 300-foot requirement could be expanded, determine the temporary nature of the ordinance, and provide a map of the zone.