Council Votes Unanimously to Require That Developers Allocate 20% of Housing Projects to Low, Moderate Income Units

Amendments raise minimum number of required affordable housing units for new developments, create new developer incentives, and raise ‘in-lieu’ fees for developers who opt out of providing lower-income units

Published : Tuesday, August 20, 2019 | 4:43 AM

[Updated] Continuing efforts to create more affordable and moderately priced housing in Pasadena, the City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a series of amendments to the City’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance.

“We are in a housing crisis, this is real,” Director of Planning and Community Development David Reyes told the Council, following a presentation by Senior Planner Andre Sahakian.

“We are deficient in building low-income apartments,” added Reyes.

The new amendments will raise the inclusionary housing requirement to 20 percent; meaning that all new developments in Pasadena must include that minimum allocation low- and moderate-income units.

Developers may also opt to pay an “in-lieu” fee to the City, however, to avoid such requirements. Those fees will also be raised, to levels recommended in the City-ordered David Rosen & Associates Study of August 2018.  The current fee to opt out of including low- to moderate-income units in a project is $500,000 per unit.

“Trade-downs” have also been eliminated in the new amendments. Previously, developers could have built one very low-income unit in a development, which would count as either one-and-a-half low-income units, or two moderate-income units. However, Director Reyes pointed out that “trade-downs” create an overall fewer number of total affordable units.

The amendments are seen as an attempt to counter the State of California’s growing role in eliminating local restrictions on developments in state efforts to rapidly create more housing. Critics, such as Mayor Terry Tornek, say that the state’s regulations crush local control and would “eliminate single-family neighborhoods.”

An affordable housing “menu” of incentives will be created in the new ordinance, for developers who agree to provide an even larger, 25 percent share of affordable units in their projects. The menu includes:

  • An increase in maximum allowable height up to 12 feet beyond current standards over no more than 60 percent of the building footprint;

  • An increase in the maximum allowable floor area ratio up to 0.5 beyond current standards;

  • A reduction of side or rear setbacks by up to 50 percent, provided that the proposed setback is not adjacent to a single-family residential zoning district or designated historic resource;

  •  The elimination of loading requirements;

  • A reduction of minimum parking requirements by up to 50 percent if the project site is located within the Central District Transit Oriented Development area, or within a one-half mile radius of the Metro Fillmore or Allen Gold Line stations.

The City will also streamline its permit approval process for developers, according to a Planning Department report.

The hearing on the issue, which ran more than four hours, drew a packed house of neighborhood community groups, all of whom spoke in favor of the amendments, though some groups called for even more concessions.

“We got a ‘yes,’ but I think we wanted a ‘bigger’ yes,” said Ed Washatka of Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (Pop!). The progressive advocacy group was pressing for a minimum 25% affordable housing requirement.

Councilmember Margaret McAustin also asked the council to be more “aggressive” in dealing with the inclusionary housing issue, and  asked the council to consider, in further discussion, a requirement that developers build a number of affordable two and three-bedroom units in their projects.

“We don’t want to be a city of just one and two-bedroom apartments,” said McAustin.

The new amendments to the ordinance will also be subject to an annual review by the City Council.

Attorney Richard McDonald, who represents number of Pasadena developers, had little reaction to the decision, saying he didn’t think it would make any difference.

 

‘We’ll see,” said McDonald.

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