Published : Monday, December 2, 2019 | 5:13 AM
In her run for District 2 Council representative, Tricia Keane offers, not broad platitudes, rather an urban planner’s pointed proposals for addressing what she views as Pasadena’s most pressing problems and those are housing and people that don’t have it.
“They are related to each other,” she told Pasadena Now in a Nov. 22 interview.
One way to tackle homelessness, Keane suggested, is to simply keep doing what Pasadena is doing, because it has served to reduce the statistical number of people on the streets.
“I think we’re up to about 4,000 units of affordable housing,” she observed, “but people keep falling into homelessness and rents still are out of reach for a lot of people who live in Pasadena.”
What’s being done is working, but there needs to be more, according to Keane, and one solution is “supportive housing,” which puts homeless people under a roof, but goes further with wrap-around services such as counseling, job placement, and other vital life necessities.
“One of the ways to provide more supportive housing is to take some of the barriers off the table for those projects, such as the cost of land acquisition,” she explained. “There are jurisdictions that have explored using city-owned property for those types of projects. I think we should be doing the same thing.”
What isn’t being explored, she continued, is the concept of homeless prevention.
“Over half of our homeless population last year reported experiencing homelessness for the first time, Keane noted. “And so that’s also saying that we’re not stemming the pipeline into homelessness.”
Homeless prevention works just like it sounds.
“It’s a way,” she explained, “to really help that household or that individual who is on the verge of homelessness: that one car accident away or one medical bill from not being able to make rent.”
The specific solutions include temporary financial assistance, rental and mortgage assistance.
Pasadena, at present, has limited funding for prevention programs, much of which is being done locally by private organizations, churches and nonprofits.
“That’s great, but we should be bolstering their work, partnering with them to make the assistance broader,” she said.
A second form of homeless prevention Keane could be expected to support as City Councilmember are tenant protections.
“Obviously the City took a huge step to adopt eviction protection recently,” Keane said, “but we need to make sure people are being educated; that tenants know what their rights are, and that they have the resources to enforce them. And also that landlords know what their responsibilities are.”
As such the City’s role would not just be legislative, but also informational and delivered via outreach, she said.
Affordable housing, Keane suggested, needs to be something more than a policy category.
“Affordable housing is one thing, but we need housing that’s actually affordable to a broad spectrum of the Pasadena community,” she said.
The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Pasadena is close to $2,000 a month, said Keane, who noted that affording it requires an income of close to $100,000 a year, while Pasadena’s median income is below that.
And that means Pasadena households are rent-burdened, paying a greater percentage of their income on housing than they should.
“We’re building affordable or market-rate housing, but we’re not really focused on that missing middle, that housing that is for our workforce,” she noted. “Smaller, neighborhood-scale housing. That sweet spot between the larger multifamily apartment building and the single-family house.”
Keane said that Pasadena has a history and tradition of bungalow courts and charming duplexes that were complementary to the surrounding neighborhood.
“I think we need to look at our zoning code and figure out if there are barriers to that housing type that are preventing it from getting built today,” she proposed. “We can do things like allowing for form-based zoning that really looks at the character of the neighborhood and bases what’s permitted there on the form and context of that area.”
She would also be an advocate for transit-based housing, that is, apartments built close to rail and bus hubs that pull people out of their cars and shorten the distances between themselves and their necessities.
Keane is a deputy director of the City of Los Angeles’ Planning Department and a member of the Rose Bowl Operating Company’s board of directors.
She has served on Pasadena’s Recreation and Parks Commission, Planning Commission, and as chair of the Design Commission.
Keane filed nomination papers on Nov. 11 for the seat being vacated by Margaret McAustin and soon thereafter secured an endorsement from McAustin.
“I think this is an exciting opportunity to really help Pasadena move forward and continue building on all the good things that we’re doing while, acknowledging we have some challenges and that there’s a lot that we can do.
“That’s the beauty of our city,” Keane concluded. “We are a place that can actually make good things happen.”
Keane faces Felicia Williams, Alex Heiman, Kevin Litwin and Boghos Patatian in the election.