Recently I had one of those “fifteen minutes of fame,” actually it was only one minute where I was interviewed on KCRA on the County’s Additional Dwelling Unit (ADU) program.   Interestingly, I’ve had several people tell me they saw me on TV but couldn’t remember the topic.  Oh well, I guess I need to work on my messaging.

The ADU program is an attempt to deal with housing in Nevada County and the State of California.  It allows homeowners to build a small housing structure to their properties or as an attachment to their existing home.  It is meant to be used as a rental or to allow a family member wishing to remain in our community, but unable to afford current rentals in our area.  It also serves the purpose of building what we always referred to as a Granny House.   As was mentioned at our recent meeting where a presentation was made on the process and the availability of a free guidebook, this is only one very small part of addressing our homeless and affordable housing issue.  As one caller pointed out, “people are living in Tuff Sheds.”

One thing that has surprised me, is that some of those folks are living on friends or relative’s properties, have planned for basic needs and are perfectly happy living in their Tuff Sheds or other shelter that provides them with a place of their own.   

I’ve been working with Tom Durkin who is an advocate for the homeless persons and families in Nevada County.  He is creating a film that centers on folks living in locations and facilities that often goes against the codes of Nevada County.  Tom’s assertion is that if there is no violation of health and safety, no action should be taken against them.  This is very difficult for Code and especially Environmental Health departments, especially when most, if not all code cases are complaint driven.  I struggle with the concept myself, but I see examples of exactly what Tom is saying.  The closer I look at these situations, it appears to me there are more of these types of dwellings than you or I would ever expect to be in our County.   What is the next option for persons evicted from these locations—living in a car, or even worse the streets or homeless camps.

A year ago, I couldn’t imagine being involved with Tom’s project.  I was more focused on the homeless we see on the street and finding services and housing for them.  But now, working with Tom, I see so many more people and families that are living just one step away from the streets and camps.  Is there some type of compromise that can be reached at the government level to allow them to remain living under their existing habitats?  Is there a compromise that can be reached with neighbors who would file a complaint?

I don’t have the answer to these questions, and the answer could very well be, no because codes need to be enforced. At the same time, I’m hopeful that Tom can complete his project, and that we’re able to see examples where it can be determined whether there may be those situations that rather than eviction might be more of a periodic review to determine the health and safety aspect.  

The County continues to prioritize the homeless and housing issue.  The County has taken every opportunity to find grants and avenues for high density housing, continues to work on affordable housing for the workers such as fire, police, and teachers, offer programs for first time buyers and at our recent meeting awarded a grant to Habitat for Humanity where we recognized that this organization has built 45 homes in our Grass Valley and Nevada City neighborhoods.

The housing problem is a major concern for the State of California and for our County.  I congratulate our teams that are deeply involved with solving this issue.  I empathize with their frustrations, and I envision housing and homelessness to be a County priority for the near future, if not, much longer.

Ed Scofield, District II Supervisor.