Closer Look: Affordable Housing Agreements Made Fuller Seminary’s Real Estate Sale Unaffordable

Published : Wednesday, October 30, 2019 | 5:21 AM

City officials told Pasadena Now that attempts to sell Fuller Seminary’s 13-acre campus parceled throughout downtown Pasadena stalled after the seminary officials discovered they could not get out of affordable housing agreements that prohibited them from selling some units at market value.

In a letter to Pasadena Now, school officials said one of the reasons they are staying in their current location is “differences” with the City that affected the sale price.

“I think as they got through the sale process, the City’s position and understanding of what was available to be converted to market-rate versus what had to stay affordable became an issue that Fuller was not fully aware of,” said Councilman Andy Wilson.

Fuller has a Master Plan and an Affordable Housing Agreement that would be transferred to any buyer of the property upon completion of the sale.

Fuller had about 170 units of affordable housing in its inventory. According to an agreement between Fuller and the City, the units must remain affordable “in perpetuity.”

“Fuller has always been a valued member of the Pasadena community and they’ve made a lot of contributions to Pasadena,” said Mayor Terry Tornek “We like having them here. We were never happy about them leaving. I think from a development point of view, if they had been successful and sold their campus, we would’ve made certain that the reuse of the campus would have been good for Pasadena.”

According to Planning Director David Reyes, officials at Fuller Seminary have requested a meeting with City officials to discuss their future, but so far the meeting has not been scheduled.

Fuller President Mark Labberton announced in May 2018 that the seminary would move to Pomona by 2021 and sell the Pasadena properties, citing “meticulous financial excavation, budget scrutiny, and painful cuts” as part of the reason for relocation.

At that time, real estate experts said they expected the property to be sold in about a year.

After the sale was announced, local housing advocates — fearful affordable housing could be lost in any real estate sale deal — called on the City to help broker a deal that included affordable housing.

“What [Fuller] wanted to do apparently was to sell the units, and turn them into market-rate housing, which of course we would have opposed,” said Michelle White, Executive Director at Affordable Housing Services.

“We already lost some units and there were protests around that, so I’m glad to see that the city stood its ground, and required [Fuller] to adhere to the master plan that they had agreed to many years before.”

A Fuller Seminary spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for comments.

The current campus, founded by evangelist Charles E. Fuller, who decades ago hosted a popular radio broadcast called “Old Fashioned Revival Hour,” opened in 1947 with just 39 students enrolled. Today, more than 400 students roam the school’s halls in pursuit of post-graduate degrees in theology, psychology, and intercultural studies.

Fuller’s houses located in the Ford Place Historic District are protected, as they are on the National Register of Historic Places, but other buildings owned by the school could be repurposed or razed — those include 248 apartments, a recently built library, administrative offices, an auditorium and lecture halls.