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Gideon Shelter Working Group Update 2023W21

The Gideon Temporary Alternative Shelter Site / Clinton Triangle working group had five meetings last week, three with HAND and CEIC to work on the Good Neighbor Agreement and two with representatives of Mayor Wheeler, HAND, and CEIC. Here’s the complete list of meeting recordings and notes, caught up from the May 8 update. Apologies for not including links in last week’s update.

I’m following a new convention of putting the week number in the title of these updates so they’ll be ordered correctly.

We’ve gotten through the first two-thirds of the GNA, including sections on expected response times in the three zones we’ve created around Gideon Shelter (now called the “UA Zone”/Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3) as well as standards for clean air, noise, and companion animal care for our neighbors in the camps.

The more I get into the law around the zoning of the site, the more concerned I get. Here’s where my reasoning is currently at:

      • The site is zoned EX
      • The site is characterized as an outdoor shelter
      • Under code 33.285, that limits the site to 200 people
      • It also seems to limit it to 60 structures, at odds with the 100, with expansion to 140, in the plans I obtained
      • The square footage per person is mandated at 35 square feet in 33.285. That means these 64 square foot prefabricated shelters can’t be used for two people.
      • The mayor has authority to “Adopt rules for the expeditious issuance of permits necessary to address issues that arise from the emergency or disaster” from  Ordinance 190756, directive C, which gives him the emergency powers in PCC 15.08.020.B12

      Now, in the email from Hank Smith that I quoted in the May 1st update, he seems to say that the Mayor can make zoning changes under their interpretation of the emergency order:

      I am working on a detailed answer to the questions of zoning and max persons, but I can see you have dug quite deeply into the zoning laws. While doing research please also reference Ordinance 187371, which has been extended until March 22, 2025, through Ordinance 190756. These are emergency orders that impact emergency housing services and refer to Title 15 of the City code that describes authority under emergency (and points specifically to section 15.08.025).

      email from Hank Smith in response to the zoning/timing analysis above

      That is not how I read it. The mayor doesn’t have the power to change the code, only to issue permits under the code expeditiously.

      Now, I know the city can grant code variances, but they must be narrow and tailored and permissible under the code itself, right? If someone granted a variance under the code, I want to know who did it and see their reasoning. Thus, I’ve asked Commissioner Rubio for information on the permits granted.

      I am interested in pursuing this to protect the rule of law and to protect our neighbors who will be, at some point, mandated to live in these camps. If the Mayor can make arbitrary changes to the zoning, adding an arbitrary number of prefabbed living quarters and snipping off 6 square feet of living space here and there, what’s to prevent changes that more seriously impact all our neighbors, housed and unhoused?

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