Fremont City
California

Staff Report
3579

DECLARE A SHELTER CRISIS PURSUANT TO GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 8698, ET SEQ., AND INTRODUCE AN ORDINANCE AMENDING FREMONT MUNICIPAL CODE TITLE 15 (BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION) - Consider adoption of a resolution declaring a shelter crisis in the City of Fremont pursuant to Government Code Section 8698, et seq. based upon the presence in the City of a significant number of homeless persons who are at risk due to their inability to obtain shelter, and adopting local building and life safety standards for certain new emergency housing facilities that may be used or constructed to help address the crisis; consider introducing an ordinance amending Fremont Municipal Code Title 15 (Buildings and Construction) to adopt Appendix N of the California Building Code and Appendix X of the California Residential Building Code during the pendency of the shelter crisis; and consider a finding that the adoption of the resolution and ordinance are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3) in that the proposed shelter crisis declaration and ordinance are not a project that has the potential for causing a significant environmental effect

Information

Department:City Attorney's OfficeSponsors:
Category:Code Adoptions & Amendments

Item Discussion

Executive Summary: According to the 2017 EveryOne Home point-in-time count and survey, 479 homeless individuals were living in Fremont as of January 30, 2017, out of a total homeless population in Alameda County of 5,629.  Only 41 percent of those 479 individuals were sheltered at the time.  The homeless population in Fremont is believed to be growing.  Government Code Section 8698, et seq., allows a city council to declare a shelter crisis based upon the existence of a situation in which a significant number of persons are without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety.  After declaring a shelter crisis certain immunities and exemptions from state law will apply to the city that will facilitate addressing the shelter crisis, and funding may be made available from the state to assist efforts to combat homelessness.  The city also becomes eligible to adopt new emergency appendices to the California Building and Residential Building Codes, which provide minimum standards for emergency housing and related facilities.

Body

BACKGROUND: According to the 2017 EveryOne Home point-in-time count and survey, 479 homeless individuals were living in Fremont as of January 30, 2017, out of a total homeless population in Alameda County of 5,629.  Only 41 percent of those 479 individuals were sheltered.  Unsheltered individuals are at risk due to exposure to the elements and lack of security from crime.  Fremont’s homeless family count included 46 households with children, for a total of 119 individuals, in addition to 36 unaccompanied transitional age youth, one unaccompanied minor, and 27 veterans.  A significant percentage of the City’s homeless population reported having physical and mental health problems, disabilities, or alcohol or drug addictionsA summary of the EveryOne Home count and survey for Fremont is included as Informational 1, and the full report is included as Informational 2.  The homeless population in Fremont is believed to be growing. 

 

The California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council administers the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), which is a $500 million block grant program designed to provide direct assistance to cities and counties to address the homelessness crisis throughout California. HEAP is authorized by Senate Bill (SB) 850, which was signed into law by Governor Brown in June 2018.  To be eligible for funds, a local jurisdiction must declare a shelter crisis pursuant to Government Code Section 8698, et seq.  Fremont may be eligible for HEAP funds to help address its homelessness problem.

 

Government Code Section 8698.1 allows a city to declare a shelter crisis based upon the existence of a situation in which a significant number of persons are without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety.  When a declared shelter crisis is in effect, certain immunities apply to a city relating to its efforts to address homelessness, and public facilities thereafter constructed or converted to use for emergency housing (i.e., “additional public facilities”) are exempt from state and local building code and other housing, health, and safety requirements, to the extent necessary to address the shelter crisis.  The statute recommends adopting alternative minimum building and life safety standards that should nonetheless apply to such additional public facilities.

 

The City has existing public facilities that are currently used for emergency housing on a seasonal basis, and the Planning Commission recently recommended that the City Council amend the Zoning Ordinance to facilitate use of existing religious facilities to provide seasonal shelter to homeless individuals.  (The proposed Zoning Ordinance amendment will also be considered by the City Council at its September 18, 2018, meeting as part of a package of proposed code amendments, entitled the “Summer 2018 Code Amendments” (PLN2018-00269).) Even with a shelter crisis declaration in effect, the exemptions from building code requirements apply only to additional public facilities constructed or converted to use for emergency housingTherefore, City facilities already in use for emergency housing, as well as religious and other private facilities constructed or converted to use as emergency housing, are required to come into compliance with current building code standards for residential occupancies, including provision of fire walls and automatic sprinklers.  These requirements may hamper efforts to house the homeless

 

To address this concern, in April 2018, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) drafted emergency building standards for emergency housing facilities.  HCD’s action resulted in the incorporation of two new voluntary appendices into the 2016 California Building Standards Code, including Appendix N to the Building Code and Appendix X to the Residential Code.  These appendices may be adopted and implemented in a jurisdiction with a declared shelter crisis, and are intended to facilitate construction of new facilities, both private and public, to provide quick, safe, and cost-effective means for assisting homeless people.  The Appendices will remain in effect until October 15, 2018, and HCD anticipates at least one 90-day readoption before the regulations are adopted permanently. 

 

Although helpful in streamlining the creation of new facilities, Appendices N and X still treat existing nonresidential structures converted to use for emergency housing as changes in occupancy requiring compliance with current code requirements for residential use.  However, Section 108 of the 2016 Building Code gives the local building official discretion to allow temporary uses for up to 180 days without full code compliance.  The City’s fire and building officials have worked with the City Attorney’s Office to develop minimum local building and life safety standards for temporary use of existing public and private facilities for emergency housing.  These same standards may be applied to additional public facilities constructed or converted to use for emergency housing pursuant to Government Code Section 8698.1, and to new private facilities except where Appendices N and X provide more restrictive standards.  

 

DISCUSSION/ANALYSIS: Staff recommends that the City Council adopt the proposed resolution declaring a shelter crisis in the City of Fremont.  This will allow the City to apply for HEAP funds and to avail itself of the immunities and building code exemptions given by Government Code Section 8698.1.  The resolution would also adopt the minimum local building and life safety standards described above for public and private facilities constructed or converted for use as emergency housing.  (See Attachment 1 to the resolution.)  Declaring a shelter crisis will also allow the City to adopt Appendix N to the Building Code and Appendix X to the Residential Code.  To take advantage of this ability, staff recommends that the City Council also introduce an ordinance amending Fremont Municipal Code (FMC) Title 15 (Buildings and Construction) to adopt both appendices. 

 

Over the next several years, the City anticipates investment in the construction of affordable, supportive permanent housing to address homelessness on a long-term basis.  The proposed actions will facilitate sheltering homeless individuals in the meantime.  The proposed resolution states that the shelter crisis declaration shall remain in effect for six years, but that the City Council will review it every two years to evaluate progress toward the goal of long-term solutions to homelessness

 

It should be noted that Government Code Section 8698, et seq. provides exemptions from state and local housing, health, and safety standards, but not from zoning requirements.  In Fremont, homeless shelters are allowed by right in industrial districts.  Although not explicit in FMC Chapter 18.60, homeless shelters that are also public facilities are allowed by right in the P-F (Public Facilities) District.  In other districts, a conditional use permit (CUP) is typically required to operate a shelter, although a more streamlined alternative to a CUP will be available for the ancillary use of religious facilities for emergency housing if the City Council adopts the proposed Faith-Based Temporary Shelter ordinance proposed as part of the, summer 2018, Zoning Ordinance amendment process.  

 

The proposed shelter crisis declaration and minimum local building and life safety standards would go into immediate effect.  The prosed amendments to FMC Title 15 would go into effect 30 days following the second reading.

 

FISCAL IMPACT: No direct impact on the general fund is anticipated.  Declaration of a shelter crisis may make additional funding available to the City from the state and other sources, and may provide a more cost-effective means to assist homeless individuals.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW:  Environmental review would be speculative in the absence of specific proposals for the development of emergency housing, and there is nothing unusual about the proposed actions in terms of size, location, scope, or other circumstance that is expected to have a significant environmental effect.  Individual projects providing emergency housing are likely to be exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15301 (Existing Facilities) or 15303 (New Construction or Conversion of Small Structures).  Accordingly, the adoption of the proposed shelter crisis declaration and ordinance amending FMC Title 15 is exempt from review under CEQA pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3), in that neither action is a project with a potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. 

Document Comments

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1.     Adopt a resolution declaring a shelter crisis and adopting minimum local building and life safety standards for temporary facilities and new public facilities used to provide emergency housing.

2.     Introduce and waive the first reading of an ordinance adopting Appendix N to the California Building Code and Appendix X to the California Residential Code, and direct staff prepare and publish a summary of the ordinance prior to the second reading and adoption of the ordinance.

3.     Find that the adoption of the proposed resolution and ordinance is exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3).