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Willits' General Plan
Early 90s document addressed homelessness, economic development
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
A 1992 General Plan document addressed homelessness and economic development within Willits.
Willits’ General Plan
A 31-year-old document directed the city to help the homeless and to favor development that would create jobs.
General plans are often amended, and the city’s has an updated section on housing; $260,000 was approved last year to begin updating a section on land use.
Willits’ plan reads like a well-intended and practical document for guiding council members and city employees.
The plan identified three scenarios under which Willits could develop:
Scenario 1 projected that our town would be built out to a population of 7,500.
Scenario 2 projected less growth than Scenario 1 and a third outcome was predicted in which the city grew beyond a population of 7,500.
The plan’s authors believed then that Willits’ possessed adequate water for a Scenario 1 build out, but would fall short in a more populated scenario.
Policy suggestions made in the plan included a call to protect valley oaks and the creation of an ordinance to preserve city trees.
An Urban Forest Management Plan approved last year could be seen as a continuation of the plan’s recommendation to preserve trees.
Creation of a woodland reserve located on land between Baechtel Road and Main Street was recommended, too.
Another city park was considered for a wedge of land located near the junction of Commercial Street and Mill Creek Drive.
A map shows the potential park on the north creek bank just west of the intersection.
If the general plan carries any influence today, the city has solid guidelines to help make decisions.
A zoning change to industrial use at the old Quail Meadows campground property is on the council’s agenda tomorrow night.
Operators of a log yard seek to expand storage of logs. The council will not vote tomorrow but a discussion about what to do is expected.
Another area of concern in which the plan offered guidance more than 30 years ago was to assist homeless citizens.
At recent meetings Councilwoman Madge Strong has spoken up about doing something to help homeless citizens.
For example, there are those among us who do not have a warm place to go on freezing cold nights.
An item on Wednesday’s meeting agenda looks to facilitate further talks.
Earlier this month Willits resident Jane McCabe made an appeal to council members for the community to do something.
McCabe explained to the city how the director of Manzanita Services, for instance, has no choice but to put some of the agency’s clients out into the weather for lack of a shelter in Willits.
“If we have homeless animals, they go to a shelter ,” McCabe said, “but we are treating our people like they do not count just because they have the name that we use as homeless.”
A section of the ‘92 plan that addressed housing went as far as to state that the city should use 10 percent of hotel bed tax revenue to fund shelters.
Like homelessness, the general plan offered guidance on another theme before council members this week: how best to approach economic development.
If the plan is to be heeded, the city would need to make decisions that prioritize industrial development and job creation.
In a general plan document, the part where housing is addressed is known as the “housing element” which Willits updated in 2019.
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This updated section of the general plan is good until 2027 or about four more years.
Included in the new housing document was a five-year-goal to allow for development of emergency shelters.
Better yet, the document stated a desired result of allowing for development of shelters.
The following items were pulled directly from the general plan—
Items selected from ‘92 Willits General Plan numbered as they appear in the document.
5.230 Initiate efforts to address the shelter needs of the City's homeless and "at risk" families.
5.360 Assist in meeting the housing needs of special groups identified in the Housing Needs Assessment by working with local nonprofit organizations to establish home sharing and housing rehabilitation information and referral programs.
5.370 Permit emergency homeless shelters and transitional housing on lands designated for commercial and multi-family use.
5.380 Earmark 10 percent of hotel bed tax revenues for homeless assistance programs and shelters. Encourage private contributions to local homeless assistance programs and shelters.
Items selected from ‘92 Willits General Plan numbered as they appear in the document.
1.230 Give priority consideration to infill development of vacant and underutilized land within the City limits.
1.260 In reviewing proposals for changes in land use, priority shall be given to projects which would result in the creation of employment opportunities.
1.270 Until such time as the community reaches a balance of jobs and housing, commercial and industrial development shall be regarded as a higher priority objective than residential development.
1.290 Encourage agricultural activities on lands designated for industrial use until such time as the lands are utilized for industrial purposes.
1.320 Investigate and implement methods of accelerating the project review process for commercial and industrial development proposals which generate employment opportunities.
8.220 Designate industrial employment development and downtown revitalization as the City's two most important economic development objectives.
8.230 Actively recruit new businesses which generate employment while encouraging existing employers to maintain or expand their work forces.
8.250 Continue to facilitate the provision of infrastructure improvements which promote commercial and industrial development.
8.270 Continue to encourage existing area industries in their efforts to retain and expand their local operations.
8.280 Utilize zoning and other regulatory mechanisms to prevent encroachment into industrial areas by incompatible land uses.
8.290 Encourage a diverse range of commercial enterprises to locate within the City in order to strengthen sales tax revenues and expand employment opportunities.
8.320 Continue to initiate efforts to attract new industries to Willits, focusing on businesses which have expressed an interest in the area, including participants in the Solar Energy Expo and Rally and respondents to the Northern California Industrial Development Executives Association advertising campaign.
8.330 Establish mechanisms for determining the needs and concerns of existing area employers and take action in response to the input received.
8.350 Offer accelerated permit processing for development proposals which will result in the creation of employment opportunities.
8.380 Adopt, by December 1992, an updated Strategic Marketing Plan which identifies and targets commercial and industrial enterprises that can be attracted to Willits.
8.390 Develop, by July 1993, a Community Profile of Willits containing information required by industries seeking to relocate to Willits.
2019 Housing Element
Items selected from ‘19 Housing Element numbered as they appear in the document.
Policy HE-3.B Seek and support programs that address the housing needs of special groups such as seniors, single young adults, persons with disabilities, farmworkers, those in need of temporary shelter, single-parent families, and large families.
Policy HE-3.H Promote the development of housing for those with special needs, such as transitional and supportive housing, emergency shelters, and single-room occupancy units, consistent with state law.
Program HE-3.E: Emergency Shelter Development The City will continue to provide financial assistance, as budget allows, on an annual basis for homeless assistance programs and shelters, as well as continue to encourage private contributions to local homeless assistance programs and shelters by providing information from area homeless service providers and the CDC of Mendocino County about homeless needs and services at City Hall and other public locations. (Ref. Policy HE-3.B)
Five-Year Objective: Allow for the development of emergency shelters.
Expected Results: Allow for the development of emergency shelters and programs.
Program HE-3.J: Low Barrier Navigation Centers Per AB 101 (2019), review the City’s zoning ordinance and make revisions if necessary to allow low barrier navigation centers for the homeless per Government Code 65660-65668.
Five-Year Objective: Consider the potential to accommodate low barrier navigation centers for the homeless by examining existing government constraints and barriers.