Council Grapples With Glut of Far-Reaching State Bills Aimed at Increasing Housing, Decreasing Homelessness

The bills could change Pasadena’s skyline, even affect residential neighborhoods

Published : Monday, December 9, 2019 | 5:54 AM

State bills signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October are expected to have significant effects on the approval of housing projects in Pasadena starting next month, according to a housing legislation report scheduled to be presented to the City Council on Monday.

That report focuses on SB 330, AB 1763, and six bills that modify standards affecting accessory dwelling units (ADU).

SB 330 puts a five-year moratorium on some local policies that make it harder to build in communities without enough housing.

AB 1763 expands the existing state density-bonus law by allowing an 80% density bonus for projects with 100% affordable housing.

The bills are part of state efforts to build more housing to combat high costs and the increasing homeless dilemma.

Local officials acknowledge the housing and homeless problems, but decry the bills that would give developers more power to overrule existing zoning ordinances.

The state median price for a house is more than $600,000, more than twice the national level, according to Bloomberg.com.

According to the report, California has four of the country’s five most expensive residential markets—Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Orange County and San Diego.

California’s poverty rate, when adjusted for the cost of living, is the worst in the nation. The state accounts for 12% of the U.S. population, but about a quarter of its homeless population.

The median price for a home in Pasadena is $800,000.

Despite the objections of cities, officials in Sacramento seem undeterred in their efforts to pass and enforce laws that override local standards.

SB 330 also creates a new preliminary application for developers, which only requires a limited amount of information as specified in the law. As long as the required information is provided, the application is then subject only to the plans, ordinances, and fees in effect on the date that the complete preliminary application was submitted, with limited exceptions, such as the need to comply with the most current version of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The City must determine the historic significance of the site at the same time as the application is found to be complete. No more than five public hearings can be conducted after the project is deemed complete. Continued hearings, appeals, and any meeting conducted by the City count as one of the five meetings.

According to the report, SB 330 also establishes the Housing Crisis of 2019 which places limitations on downsizing.

“The city cannot change its general plan, specific plan, zoning ordinance, or subdivision ordinance to lessen the intensity of housing. The bill also prevents moratoriums on housing.”

Local officials could be forced to allow an unlimited density bonus if a project is all affordable housing and is within half a mile of a transit hub.

Those projects could also receive three additional stories above current maximum limits.

Officials in Sacramento have been pushing for bills to increase housing production to combat the state’s housing shortage.

According to McKinsey & Company, an American worldwide management consulting firm, California needs at least 3.5 million more homes by 2025.

Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to meet that goal. However, some studies say it will take until at least 2050 to reach that goal.

“Unfortunately, when considering legislation, Sacramento does not appear to take into account efforts of individual cities such as Pasadena to meet their regional housing allocations and promote affordable housing. For example, while Pasadena has its own local inclusionary housing ordinance, existing State law related to density bonus does not take this into account,” Monday’s report points out.

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