Proposed Antioch transitional housing gets a boost with zoning change recommendation

A motel to temporarily shelter and serve the homeless with wraparound services in Antioch moved a step closer to reality with the Planning Commission’s recommendation Wednesday to change zoning to allow such use.

Commissioners, on a 6-to-0 vote, with Commissioner Martha Parsons absent, agreed to recommend a new overlay district and municipal code change that would pave the way for the Executive Inn at 515 E. 18th St. to be used for transitional housing. The city has proposed spending $1 million a year to lease a motel and convert it into bridge housing geared mainly for homeless adults now living in encampments, but before any plan could be approved, a zoning change was required.

“The city has a desire and interest to address this unhoused resident situation and to link services to housing and there are efforts underway to do that,” Forrest Ebbs, the city’s community development director, said.

Ebbs explained that the city did not currently have areas earmarked for transitional housing and the creation of an overlay district would allow that additional use. He likened it to the recent districts approved to allow cannabis businesses in the city.

Some commissioners questioned the vagueness of the proposed project and questioned how such housing would affect the partially residential neighborhood, which also has a charter school nearby.

“The idea is this (transitional housing) is a new venture that the city is partnering in and there remains some unknowns, but the city of Antioch as an entity will have the opportunity to influence the operation here,” Ebbs said.

Ebbs explained that in the past, the county has run such operations and they haven’t been subject to local land-use regulations. “Typically, these things have not been administered under our authority.”

Rosanna Bayon Moore, assistant city manager who is handling the project, said the shelter would be geared toward unhoused adults and staffed 24 hours a day.

“These individuals would have the opportunity to reside in a location with wraparound services that they can have access to,” she said. “The provider would be able to link all of the participants with a wide variety of services through Contra Costa County, basically the safety net that’s associated with it.”

But Commissioner Timothy Barrow wanted to a look at site specific application rather than consider a new overlay district.

“If this is going to be an experiment, or the first on the board, we should treat it as a site specific application,” he said. “Because is something should go right or wrong, we would still be in our purview to vote it up or down … due to potential violations down the road or neighbors complaining whether or not this fits in the fabric of their community.”

Andrew Becker of the Antioch Homeless Coalition also had questions about creating an overlay district, saying the city already has areas where such transitional housing could exist.

“My concern is that we have properties here in Antioch, specifically the property on the Delta Fair Boulevard, that the city allocated to the county for a supportive emergency shelter, transitional housing,” he said of the still undeveloped western Antioch parcel.

Becker added that his nonprofit, Here Today, Home Tomorrow, was already working with developers toward creating transitional housing projects though none has come to fruition yet. The Delta Fair property, which his group is looking at, already has emergency shelter zoning in place but is still under county control, he said.

He also noted that the state already allows transitional housing in residential areas, though the community development director said no applications have come through for projects in those zones.

Ebbs encouraged the commission to approve the zoning because of the time it takes to change an ordinance, noting the details of an operating agreement would still have to be worked out and a use permit approved.

If the council agrees, the use permit could be returned to the planning commission for final approval, he added.

“Time is of the essence on all things related to the homeless,” Ebbs said. “Every delay is significant.”

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Author: Judith Prieve