When Rabbi Shimon Gruzman, shliach to Castro Valley, California, attempted to open up a Jewish preschool, he quickly ran into bureaucratic issues. After visiting the Ohel, he received a surprise message about a new law…
As told by Rabbi Shimon S.Z. Gruzman – Castro Valley, California
In the month of Elul 5777 we decided to open a preschool in our home. At the time the law in California mandated that a home daycare center could only apply for a permit with a capacity of eight students for the first year. The state inspectors came to inspect our home to ensure it was up to code and that all the safety measures necessary for a home daycare center were in place, and we received this permit with ease.
By the end of the school year we wanted to apply for a permit to have a higher capacity of students in our preschool, but this presented a unique challenge. In addition to renewing our state permit, it was necessary to apply for a permit from our local county because opening a larger daycare presented a zoning concern.
A small preschool of eight children was still considered normal home usage. Having more children in our home on a daily basis meant that our home was becoming more of a business and a more public space, necessitating a conditional use permit, so we would need to apply for an amendment to the zoning of our home.
In our county, when one applies for a change to their zoning, the county sends letters to all the neighbors within a certain radius of the home notifying them about the prospective change. If a neighbor notifies the county that they object to the zoning change, the issue is then discussed at a public hearing.
Enduring a public hearing is never a positive experience and we had good reason to suspect that someone would try to cause us trouble with our growing preschool, but we had no choice. There was no other way for us to secure the necessary permits to grow our school.
Sure enough, after we applied to the county for the larger permit, a certain neighbor raised an objection and we were notified that a public hearing would soon be scheduled to review our request.
On the night of Yud-Beis Tammuz 5779 I was at the Ohel and I wrote a lengthy letter to the Rebbe about our new preschool, the tremendous success we had during the first year and our desire to expand it. I described the challenge of securing the permit since a neighbor had raised an objection and that we would need to have a public hearing to review our case.
I asked the Rebbe for a bracha that we should receive the permit without difficulty and succeed in providing a proper chinuch for more Jewish children.
Throughout the summer we waited to hear from the county about our hearing date, but there was no news. On Motzei Shabbos Selichos I received an email from a neighboring shliach, Rabbi Yisroel Resnick. It was an email he received from a member in his community about a new law that was just enacted by the State of California several weeks earlier.
SB-234 is a law that aims to make it easier for daycares to open throughout the state. From now on, a larger home daycare would only need a permit from the state and the Fire Marshall, but would no longer require a permit from their local jurisdiction. In other words, our dreaded public hearing was now completely irrelevant!
I approached the county and showed them the new law. I was advised to withdraw my application and to reapply for the new permit once the new law went into effect on January 1, 2020.
A few months later we reapplied for the permit and received it with no unnecessary hardships, thanks to the Rebbe’s brachos.
Join thousands of Chassidim who strengthen their Hiskashrus with the Derher magazine each month!
Subscribe today to start receiving your copy.