By Colin Walsh
Paul’s Place homeless shelter was announced on the front page of the Davis Enterprise yesterday noting how the very rapid growth of the Davis homeless population has overtaxed the old H street facility. This 4-story proposal will include 28 units, 4 emergency beds, “program space to connect people with public benefits, housing and employment opportunities and health and human services, as well as the basic services needed on a daily basis by those living outdoors: food, clothing, showers, restrooms and laundry facilities.” (link)
With the increasing local homeless population there is little doubt that solutions need to be found. Paul’s place would replace the existing well-worn Davis Community Meals 12 bed shelter at 1111H St.
One hurdle the new shelter will need to overcome to be built is the size of the proposed new building. At 4 stories tall it would be the tallest commercial or residential building between 5th St. and Covell. It will be the building in a half mile radius and the current zoning does not allow for 4 a story building.
The proposed location is currently zoned as RESDNTL GARDEN APT (MED) according to the City Website. This falls under City of Davis “Article 40.08 RESIDENTIAL GARDEN APARTMENT (R-3) DISTRICT.” The relevant zoning ordinance states “No principal building shall exceed three stories or thirty-eight feet in height.” (40.08.050 Height regulations)
Additionally, the Garden Apartment zoning states the purpose of the zone is to stabilize and protect the residential character of the district, and to promote, insofar as compatible with the intensity of land use, a suitable environment for family life." City zoning clearly allows for, “Supportive housing” and “Transitional housing,” but some of the additional services offered in the proposal for the project may be outside of the intended use for this zone.
There is a similarity between the zoning issue with Paul’s Place and the Trackside project. Both projects were proposed at 4 stories, in a zone that only allows 3. For Trackside a judge has already ordered the City of Davis to rescind approval and the fate of the project is uncertain (link).
The Paul’s Place Committee Co-chair is the immediate past Mayor, who as Mayor, voted to approve the Trackside project.
It is almost certain the City staff and the Paul’s Place Committee understand the proposed project does not comply with existing zoning but they are likely willing to gamble they can overcome the zoning hurdles. Indeed, the way this zoning non-compliant project is being brought forward will surely put the neighbors in a difficult situation if they want to oppose the project.
The immediate neighbors to the project are apartment complexes, will the owners see a 4 story homeless shelter as damaging to their property values?
There are single family homes within 2 blocks, will these owners perceive this project as a threat to their quality of life?
Will neighbors dare to speak out against tripling the size for Davis’s homeless shelter at a time when homelessness is such a problem?
Will the neighbors dare to take on the still politically powerful and connected immediate past Mayor to do so?
Will the neighbors follow the Trackside neighbors’ path and advocate for a zoning compliant project?
Will any of the neighbors file a lawsuit against the City if the project moves forward?