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Finding a home for the homeless

City officials to decide on zoning changes for permanent center location

Posted: January 26, 2009 9:32 p.m.
Updated: January 27, 2009 12:21 p.m.
City officials are planning to meet the requirements of a state law that mandates cities to provide permanent locations for homeless shelters.

In February, the city Planning Commission will decide on zoning changes developed to comply with Senate Bill 2, which was signed into law in 2007.

If the Planning Commission signs off, the changes will go before the City Council for final approval.

Santa Clarita has complied with S.B. 2 by zoning two areas for potential shelters: Centre Pointe Business Park and the Valencia Industrial Center, said Paul Brotzman, director of community development.

The change includes a 300-foot buffer zone around any schools.

If the zoning change is approved, a nonprofit organization could operate a shelter on the site, Brotzman said.

For a little more than a decade, the Santa Clarita Community Development Corp. operated a temporary winter shelter. Operating between December and March, it gives the valley's roughly 150 homeless residents a place to get a hot meal, shower, sleep and receive assistance in pursuing work and getting their lives back on track.

When it comes to the possibility of a permanent location for aiding the valley's homeless, Tim Davis, executive director of the development corporation, remains optimistic.

"We have had (several) meetings with the city. We're very pleased with how it's going," he said. "Paul Brotzman and his people have done a really fine job."

Establishing a permanent shelter has always been a goal, Davis said.

Davis said in the past that finding land was the main issue. Now, he said, the focus is shifting to where funding could come from.

Brotzman echoed that.

"We're talking not thousands ... we're probably talking millions of dollars," Brotzman said.

"A lot of (support) has to come from fundraising within the community," he said. "There has to be a lot of community support."

The new law has no effect on the winter shelter, which is in the first third of a nine-year agreement with the city on where it can be located.

For the past three winters the shelter operated at a location on Golden Valley Road near Fire Station 104.

Next winter it will start a three-year stint off Drayton Street, followed by three years on the property of Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.

Davis said the development corporation's goal would be a permanent shelter and a transitional living program to help people get their lives back on track.

A permanent shelter would operate similarly to the temporary program, in that it would be closed during the day, Davis said.

In shaping the ideas for a permanent site, Davis said the development corporation looked at programs such as Project Achieve in Glendale, Union Station in Pasadena and the Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles.

Al Ferdman, chairman of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, said he's not heard any strong opposition to a shelter.

The greatest concern of Canyon Country residents had been the winter shelter's location prior to the establishment of the rotational agreement, he said.

As for a permanent shelter, Ferdman said it's possible, but will be very difficult.

"We've been quietly supportive of the homeless shelter," said Randy Wrage, an associate for Spirit Properties, which developed Centre Pointe.

Wrage said he and Spirit president Larry Rasmussen donated money to the shelter.

"We have not come out against it," he said.

About 10 to 15 of Centre Pointe's 240 acres remain developable, Wrage said.

While there is support for the shelter, Wrage does not expect Spirit would contribute to a permanent site.

"We're not interested in getting into the homeless shelter business," he said.

"The reality of a (permanent) homeless shelter is much less than the fear of it," he said. "Barring somebody being terribly philanthropic ... I just don't see it happening."


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