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Council Takes Up Housing, Homelessness, Bulb Issues

Homelessness, housing and the Albany Bulb are all part of the Albany City Council's menu of issues to deal with Tuesday night.

Albany City Council, Sept. 3, 2013. Photo credit: Charles Burress
Albany City Council, Sept. 3, 2013. Photo credit: Charles Burress
The Albany City Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21, includes three items related to housing, homelessness and the city's efforts to clear the Albany Bulb of the several dozen people who've been living there illegally in makeshift shelters.

Extension of Berkeley Food and Housing Project contract

Last June, the council agreed to pay $30,000 to the nonprofit Berkeley Food and Housing Project for three months beginning July 1 to help Bulb dwellers get social services and find alternative housing. The contract was renewed for another $30,000 and three months through the end of December, and then again for three weeks through Jan. 21.

On the agenda Tuesday night is a proposal to extend the contract for a year at a cost of $76,000, of which $50,000 would come from the city's General Fund and $26,000 would come from Community Development Block Grant funds.

"The extension will allow BFHP to build upon the outreach and engagement done to date, including offering housing assistance and support to willing homeless individuals, and housing retention support to people who have been housed," says a proposed resolution of approval.

The city staff report accompanying the item provided a summary of BFHP's work for the city to date:

"They have engaged with 60 individuals and of those 60, 40 have been willing to complete a housing assessment. Of the 40 individuals who completed the assessment, 33 have shown interest in housing and have been willing to share personal information necessary to complete an HMIS intake. BFHP has housed 7 individuals of which 5 remain in housing. BFHP continues to provide services to assist clients in retaining their housing."

The city has named the effort "Project HOPE," or Homeless Outreach and Engagement Program.

For more details on the item, see Caryl O'Keefe's Jan. 20 blog post, "PROJECT HOPE for Homeless - 1 year Extension Recommended."

Federal lawsuit against Albany Bulb eviction

The council's closed-session agenda includes discussion of the lawsuit filed Nov. 13 in U.S. District Court against the city seeking to block the planned eviction of Albany Bulb encampments.

In the suit, which was amended in December, 19 residents of the Bulb and the non-profit Albany Housing Advocates allege that the city's efforts, particularly its temporary homeless shelter, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Constitutional rights, including that of due process, protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to privacy.

Closed sessions are not public, but any action taken by the council in a closed session is supposed to be reported in the open meeting.

Related articles on the suit:
Zoning code amendments for transitional and supportive housing, emergency shelters

Another proposed measure on the agenda would make it easier to establish transitional and supportive housing as well as emergency shelters. The changes are being proposed to bring city law into compliance with state requirements, according to the staff report.

The city currently requires that an emergency shelter be issued a conditional use permit from the Planning & Zoning Commission, a process that also entails notification of nearby owners and occupants.

However, a state law that became effective Jan. 1, 2008 (SB2) eliminated this step and requires city's to designate at least one zone where such shelters can be placed "by right," according to the staff report.

The city's planning commission discussed the issue at its Oct. 9 meeting and agreed that the Commercial Mixed Use (CMX) Zoning District be designated, the staff report says. If an emergency shelter requires new construction, however, it would still be subject to design review and notification of those living and doing business nearby, the staff report says.

The same measure would also allow transitional and supportive housing by right in residential and mixed-use zoning districts.

Transitional housing refers to rental units made available on a temporary basis to those in need of housing assistance for a fixed period, and supportive housing refers to housing with no limit on the stay and that is linked to social services.

The changes are tied to the city's long-delayed effort to meet state requirements on updating the Housing Element of its General Plan. The Housing element is supposed to describe how the city plans to meet its quota of needed housing, particularly affordable housing.

The city faces another suit, filed Oct. 2 in Alameda County Superior Court, alleging that the city's Housing Element violates state law and asking the court to block a
ny zoning changes or variances outside of those related to affordable housing. 

The suit says homelessness in the city and the encampments on the Albany Bulb are caused by the city's failure to foster affordable housing. Two of the three plaintiffs in that suit – Amber Whitson and Albany Housing Advocates – are also plaintiffs in the federal suit seeking to block the Albany Bulb eviction.

A community meeting has been called for Jan. 28 about Albany's future housing policies and the city's effort to bring its Housing Element into compliance. It is being hosted by the Diverse Housing Working Group, a community advocacy group focused on implementation of the Housing Element. More information about the group and meeting can be found in Peggy McQuaid's Jan. 20 blog post, "Community-Wide Briefing and Dialogue re Housing in Albany."

The council usually meets on Monday nights, but it is meeting Tuesday night this week because Monday was the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. The open session of the meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

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christopher papazoglow January 22, 2014 at 04:31 PM
.....maybe they can sense that i'm a "cat" person, lol...
christopher papazoglow January 22, 2014 at 05:16 PM
Oh, and 4 of those times i was bitten 'because' "he/she doesn't like bicycles". Oh, okay, MY bad.....
dorthy manser January 22, 2014 at 05:24 PM
Neither do I, but I certainly wouldn't bite you : )
thorn January 22, 2014 at 05:33 PM
So the point here is the dogs on the Bulb pose no threat, and nothing needs to be done... this is simply a troll barrier it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point proceed at your own risk
Brian Parsley January 22, 2014 at 06:47 PM
I don't mean to say dogs on the Bulb pose no threat jut no greater threat than other off leash dogs.

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