Homeless Shelter Plans

In a marathon City Council meeting the council heard opposing comments on homeless shelter plans.

In one of the longest Fullerton City Council meetings in recent memory, the panel delayed a decision Tuesday night on a multi-jurisdictional agreement that would set guidelines for an emergency homeless shelter close to an elementary school in east Fullerton.

Council members like Mayor Pro Tem Doug Chaffee wanted this rewritten and brought back another time to show that a multi-jurisdictional agreement would work. He said that the language, especially in regards that the County would “explore funding” was not enough for the agreement to be considered at this time.

Mayor Bruce Whitaker argued that had the homeless shelter been an effort by non-profit organizations instead of the County of Orange, the City can easily cooperate with them on identifying an ideal location and working with neighbors. He said the current deal was a “real-estate driven” one.

In January, the Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to purchase property at 301 State College Boulevard for $3.15 million. Residents who live near the proposed shelter decried the proposal during a March town hall meeting and  at City Council meetings, citing safety issues and its close proximity to Commonwealth Elementary School.

Many of the speakers during public comment expressed opposition to the State College Boulevard site, with one speaker representing the Fullerton Neighborhood Watch saying that the neighborhood is “100 percent opposed” to the proposed shelter.

“There is nothing that gives me comfort that this will be properly screened,” said Barry Levinson, who said that that the zoning ordinance would threaten a city ordinance that restricted child sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet from a school or a park. The proposed shelter is less than 2,000 feet from Commonwealth Elementary School.

Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes assured residents that the police would coordinate with the shelter operator to ensure the community’s safety and prohibit registered sex offenders from using its services. He added that the city should have a better management approach to the homeless, which may include enforcing city bans on camping.

Not all the speakers opposed having the shelter near Commonwealth Elementary School, including an unidentified Placentia resident who said that a shelter would alleviate the homelessness problem.

“You have a wonderful opportunity to support a shelter, somewhere in our county, preferably in Orange County,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Council also narrowly approved a motion that would create a zoning ordinance for emergency homeless shelters in the city under California’s Senate Bill 2 (2007). The language involving multi-jurisdictional agreements had been a source of contention between Council Members before the vote.


Story by Ed Carrasco

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