Update to Auburn housing code addresses homeless shelters

Planning Commission to hold public hearing on changes today
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn Planning Commission is working to clear up some potential gray areas by updating the housing portion of its zoning ordinance.

At its regular meeting today the commission will hold public hearings to discuss four recommended ordinance amendments, including one that would allow emergency shelters, transitional housing and supportive housing in certain areas.

Emergency shelters generally offer minimal support services to the homeless with occupancy limited to six months or less, according to the city staff report.

 The current ordinance does not address such a use, or those in the other amendments, and if they are adopted then it will streamline the process for developers, said Reg Murray, senior planner for the City of Auburn.

“Technically it doesn’t say you can do that (in the current ordinance), and we would have to then work through how we might be able to get there if there’s a means of doing so,” Murray said.  “It’s not a matter of changing something (from needing) a use permit to allowing it by right; it’s to get the code to allow them period.”

For example, if the amendment for emergency shelters is passed, it would eliminate the need for a developer to get approval from the Planning Commission, as well as a use permit, which is subject to a public hearing, to set one up in the specified areas.

Emergency shelters would be permitted in industrial zone districts along the railroad near Lincoln Way and Borland Avenue as well as a spot off Sacramento Street, Murray said. There is also a section that addresses “temporary shelters” to ensure the Gathering Inn’s efforts to assist the homeless are not made non-compliant with the new code.

In 2007, it became state law for jurisdictions to identify at least one zone district that can accommodate at least one year-round emergency shelter, and emergency shelters must be allowed as a permitted use, according to the city staff report.

That law, Senate Bill 2, also mandated jurisdictions to amend their codes to permit transitional housing and supportive housing, the report said.

Transitional housing would be permitted in medium density multiple-family residential zones spread throughout the city in areas such as the one off Nevada Street near Palm Terrace Apartments, Murray said.

When Auburn last updated the housing element of its zoning ordinance in 2008, it set the goal of adding these amendments to the code in the future, Murray said. Those regulations are typically updated every five to seven years, he said.

The other amendments cover residential care facilities, single room occupancy units and provisions for reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities.

The recommendations will likely go before City Council in April for its review and potential approval, he said.

The Planning Commission will meet 6 p.m. today at City Hall immediately following the Historic Design Review Committee meeting.


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews