Although the topic was discussed extensively over five months last year, including four public hearings, the following notes may help provide further clarity.
The topic originates to the adoption of AB109 (Public Safety Realignment Act) by the California Legislature in 2011 to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring California to reduce prison overcrowding. AB109 provides for certain community-based programs and services for non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offender inmates and parolees, including housing.
Although AB109 does not impose direct requirements on cities, Clayton’s municipal code did not previously regulate parolee housing. Absent any regulation, such use would have been permitted as of right in any residential zone.
In 2016, the Clayton council adopted a moratorium prohibiting parolee housing. The moratorium was set to expire in October 2018 and could not be extended further, prompting the council to consider and adopt permanent legislation prior to its expiration.
If the council had not adopted Ordinance 843 last year, as of October 2018, parolee housing would have been principally permitted citywide – without any permit, notice or hearing requirements.
Instead, the council chose to regulate parolee housing, limiting the areas, requiring a conditional use permit and hearing process and providing for approval criteria for the Planning Commission upon review of any application. The council’s action resulted in Clayton having the most restrictive parolee housing application process in the county.
While this focuses on parolee housing, in the larger context it is important to note that there are other types of residential group housing options: sober living housing environments that could include parolees, adult group care or registered sex-offenders. State law and state licensing regulations preempt all from local control if they involve six or fewer occupants.
At our March 5 meeting, county officials administering the county’s program for parolee reentry programs clearly indicated that the path for parolee housing in any city in the county would be through a state license for sober living environments or transitional housing, exempt from local control or local permit regulations.
Only Councilman Jeff Wan advocated for adoption of a complete ban on parolee housing, a position noted to be legally indefensible. Out of 482 California cities, only one city has adopted a ban since the passage of AB109. The American Civil Liberties Union subsequently sued, causing that city to repeal its ban. That resulted in citywide as of right permissibility, along with almost half a million dollars in attorney fees.
Neighboring cities have adopted regulations similar to ours, with some variation in scope – e.g. whether to allow the use as of right in certain zoning districts vs. requiring a use permit, or by imposing buffer zones relative to sensitive uses similar to what Clayton did.
There have been no parolee home applications or inquiries to our city since October, when the city’s permanent regulation became effective.
Mayor’s Office Hours: 9-10 a.m. Saturday, March 16, at Cup O Jo downtown and 4- 5 p.m. Friday, March 22, at City Hall, third floor. Stop by for any questions or comments.