The Clovis City Council on Monday voted 3-0 to allow city police to remove "personal property from public right-of-way."

Documented by Rachel Youdelman

What happened: The Clovis City Council on Monday voted 3-0 to allow city police to remove “personal property from public right-of-way.”

The new Clovis city ordinance allows the city to give property owners 72 hours notice to remove their property before police remove it. Clovis Mayor Lynne Ashbeck said the regulation isn’t just aimed at unhoused residents.

She said the goal is to get help for anyone homeless on the streets of Clovis but that the ordinance covers “all circumstances,” not just homelessness.

Dave Roseno, a police department spokesperson, told the council the city would be responsible for storing the property but that arrests were possible.

Matthew Lear, with the Clovis city attorney’s office, said it was “more difficult” now to enforce a “no camping” ordinance. Sleeping on a public street can’t be criminalized, he said.

David Rowell, an attorney who has lived in Clovis since 1991, expressed concern about the ordinance prohibiting “storage of personal belongings in a public right-of-way.”

He said it was a “back-door” way of targeting homeless people and could open the city to lawsuits and controversy. The city should “be careful,” he said, adding that it was “not a good idea” to use this “back-door” means of addressing a problem.

Ashbeck responded, “Fair point.”

Clovis council prepares for General Plan update process

The city council authorized staff and consultants to begin a “comprehensive update” to the city’s General Plan.

The General Plan is a “vision” for how a community will grow, incorporates legal requirements for land use, and considers conservation, safety, air quality, and environmental justice, he noted. California law requires cities and counties to adopt a general plan — frequency is up to local agencies, though the housing element update is required every eight years. The current Clovis plan was adopted in 2014, an update that took 67 months.

The housing element of Clovis’ General Plan will see additional scrutiny following an appeal court ruling that the city needs to provide more affordable housing and do more to reverse segregation.

City officials will have to zone for over 4,400 more medium and higher-density homes.

In California, cities are required to meet the state’s affordable housing goals, partly by having enough land planned and zoned to meet the demand for affordable housing.

The ruling also said the city’s historical housing policies discriminated against people of color and low-income households.

There would be three phases in updating the plan, said Ritchie: First, identify issues and vision; second, determine land use; third, create the document; conduct environmental-impact reviews; hold public hearings, and adopt the update.

Ben Ritchie of De Novo Planning, an environmental planning company specializing in general-plan updates, described “community outreach” efforts and how the public would be involved via an interactive website, workshops, and forming a General Plan Advisory Committee.

 The GPAC would include about 10 or 12 people from across the community. The council should plan for a three-year schedule from initiation to adoption, said Ritchie.

Marijuana fines getting high

The Clovis council also beefed penalties for illegal marijuana growers to $250 for every plant over the legal limit.

“This will allow the City to recoup costs associated with the abatement of the nuisance and is in line with ordinances in similar cities,” city officials said in a staff report. “Additionally, administrative fees assessed will deter future “whole house grows” as cultivators would likely choose a city without such an ordinance and less risk of loss.”

The staff report states that, since 2018, police have conducted “several search warrants related to the conversion of an entire residential dwelling into a commercial marijuana cultivation site.”

“These investigations have often revealed unlawful tampering with utility service to bypass usage detection and unpermitted building adaptations that do not comply with current building code standards,” the city report says.

But when Mayor Pro Tem Vong Mouanoutoua asked if illegal marijuana growing was now a concern, Roseno said, “Currently, we haven’t seen a whole lot.”

Ashbeck noted, however, that “they’re out there.”

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