Plan for homeless ‘safety parking’ lot appealed

By: 
Terrance Vestal
Managing Editor

Issue to appear before county supervisors at a later date

The Inyo County Planning Commission’s approval a “Safe Parking Lot” for the homeless on the Bishop Church of the Nazarene property at 900 W. Line Street has been appealed.
Cathreen Richards, director of the Inyo County Planning Department, confirmed Monday that an appeal was filed late last week.
The Eastern Sierra Continuum of Care, a coalition of human service providers, proposed to operate a Safe Parking Lot with up to 15 vehicles on the Bishop Church of the Nazarene property. Persons experiencing homelessness and living out of vehicles would be permitted to park overnight in spaces along the church’s west property line, only between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily, and must leave the premises in the morning. Trained staff will supervise the parking lot and ensure that participants comply with established rules and regulations. In addition, targeted vulnerable populations that include families with children and persons with disabilities, will be linked with essential services and housing.
The Eastern Sierra Continuum of Care is made up of service providers in Inyo Mono and Alpine counties dedicated to ending the cycle of homelessness.
Richards said the concerns apparently are regarding the parking area’s proximity to the Bishop Union High School Farm on Sunland Road.
She said on Monday that a date the issue would go before the board of supervisors had not been determined.
A conditional use permit for the proposal was considered by the Inyo County Planning Commission on Jan. 22 and approved after considerable discussion. This was conditioned on review and approval by the County sheriff and Bishop Police chief of an action plan with measures for adequate supervision and site and building security. The project administrator, Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action, must also comply with applicable codes and submit a report after one year to the Inyo County planning director, who may refer the permit back to the planning commission if there are substantiated violations of conditions or impacts to the community.
There have been a number of concerns expressed on social media regarding the proposal, including student safety, the status of those staying at the parking lot (possible sex offenders), and the safety of those staying at the parking lot, among others.
Larry Emerson, Housing and Planning Director for Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action, Inc., a partner in ESCoC, said on Monday that he had heard about the appeal but hadn’t received anything from the county.
Emerson said the proposal was moving forward and a security measures plan is currently in the works with the assistance of the sheriff, the chief of police, the school district and the church.
If and when the security measures plan is approved, Emerson said a community meeting would be scheduled to keep area residents informed.
Emerson said he hopes the community meeting would occur before the appeal goes before the board of supervisors. He said the community meeting had not been scheduled yet as of Monday.
He said he is hoping the security measures plan is completed by next week and it will be released to the public.
“It’s hard to address the concerns until I have seen the appeal,” he said.
Emerson said he has been in contact with the school district.
“We’ve heard their concerns and we plan on addressing them in the security plan,” Emerson said.
For more information regarding the appeals process, call the Inyo County Planning Department, (760) 878-02673. The department’s mailing address is Inyo County Planning Department, P.O. Drawer L, Independence, CA 93526.
Emerson at IMACA can be reached at (760) 873-8557, ext. 109, or lemerson@imaca.net.
During the meeting of the board of supervisors last week, homelessness in the region and funding mechanisms that are available to address the issue were discussed.
The board approved a approve a Memorandum of Understanding redirecting Inyo County’s allocation from the Homeless Housing Assistance Program to the Eastern Sierra Continuum of Care in order to combine funding and maximize coordination on homeless housing issues.

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